Bea Vo on her new Butterscotch Tea Room, its hanging desserts and buying 3,000 paper flowers

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Bea Vo on her new Butterscotch Tea Room, its hanging desserts and buying 3,000 paper flowers

Related tags Afternoon tea Breakfast

The founder of cake shop and cafe Bea’s of Bloomsbury and now owner of US-inspired restaurant group Soul Food Enterprises launched her latest venture Butterscotch Bakery last year. Next month she will open Butterscotch Tea Room, a more afternoon tea focused version in Marylebone.

This will be your second Butterscotch in a matter of months. You don’t hang around…
I hadn’t planned on opening another so soon. We were bidding on a different site for Stax Diner (Soul Food’s burger brand) with the same landlord. I sent them a Butterscotch Christmas hamper and they liked it so much they offered us this space and asked whether we would host a pop-up for the bakery there. I gave up my Christmas holiday to Morocco to work on it.

What’s the plan for it?
It will be over two floors. The larger downstairs will serve afternoon tea and the tiny ground floor will be a typical cafe space - it’s about the size of Jacob the Angel [in Neal’s yard] with seating for 10 people. There will be another Goldilocks Porridge Bar (as with the Butterscotch Bakery in White City) and it will serve soup for lunch and cakes as well as Square Mile coffee. Downstairs will be for afternoon tea and will seat 40-50 people. Butterscotch in White City is great but you can’t do afternoon tea there. It’s a Monday to Friday site and built like a co-working space - there’s loads of power cables so people can stay all day long on their laptops and have coffee and cake - but here is perfect for it.

When does it open?
We aim to have it up and running by Valentine’s Day, with a soft launch on 12th​ and 13th​ February.

What will the space look like?
The site is really cool. There will be a giant paper flower wall that took inspiration from a Chanel fashion show. We’re going to be using materials, such as concrete, metal and paper – it’s not what you would consider feminine styling. It’s not about fabric and frills and colour but it will be more monochromatic with white, greys and copper. I wanted marble tables but in order to meet my budget they were made a little bit smaller than usual. This created the problem of how to fit everything on them, which is why I came up with the idea of hanging desserts.

Did you say hanging desserts?
Yes. We’ve run a copper bar across the ceiling from which we will hang little baubles of glass using transparent wire. We will fill these baubles with desserts like trifles and chocolate mousse, so they will hang from the ceiling.

That sounds rather unusual
I wanted to do afternoon tea again but I was unsure how to approach it having not done it since my Bea’s of Bloomsbury days. The challenge was how to do it differently. Downstairs we’ll serve it all day - there will be a breakfast and evening service too. Our version of breakfast afternoon tea will include things such as crumpet with butter and jam, mini fruit salad, a mini porridge pot, coddled egg and toast, mini smashed avocado on toast and pastries. In the evening we’ll be serving prosecco and tea-based cocktails and mocktails. Bea’s of Bloomsbury was put on Time Out’s list of afternoon tea places before we launched afternoon tea – the space wasn’t designed for it. It is nice this time round to be able to design a room that will only serve afternoon tea.

"I wanted to do afternoon tea again.
The challenge was how to do
it differently"

So it will be more inventive than your Bea’s of Bloomsbury days?
London has changed so much in 10 years in terms of people’s palates. When I opened Bea’s I had a yuzu and pistachio macaroon on the menu – it was something from my Nobu days and I was really excited about having it, but no one would buy it. They wanted classics like a Victoria sponge and treacle tart. Peanut butter was an out-there flavour. But since then so many places have really pushed forward. I can put out something interesting now and people won’t say ‘that’s weird!’.

Talking of interesting, the Goldilocks Porridge bar has been a hit…
Everyone who has discovered it loves it. I was originally going to do waffles and French toast because my friends love it, but when I asked them what they ate for breakfast Monday to Friday, nine out of 10 said porridge. I eat cold pizza for breakfast, porridge is not in my repertoire, so I had to work out how to do it so I would want to eat it. It can be healthy with toppings such as chia seeds, but there’s also naughty stuff like fudge sauce –people can decide whether it’s a good day or a bad day. It’s done so well that we’re going to do one in Boondocks restaurant (in the City) as the area is full of workers.

"I eat cold pizza for breakfast,
porridge is not in my repertoire"

What are your plans for your other restaurants?
We are keeping are options open and waiting to find the right sites. Stax Diner does well in a sub 800sq ft space, which is quite rare. It can fit into locations other concepts may be too large for. If we find a larger space we’ll do another Boondocks.

Finally, how long will Butterscotch Tea Room be open for?
18 months. But if it goes well we’ll hopefully find another home for it. I’ve bought 3,000 paper flowers and I want to make good use of them.

Related topics Casual Dining

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