(Many thanks to Andy Batten-Foster for this write-up)
Does Clifton village need another place to eat and drink? This slice of Bristol is where the happy, shiny people go to shop, so it sustains more restaurants, cafes and bars per square mile than anywhere else in the city. Somewhere new has to offer a unique proposition to bother the competition, and on first viewing the Lahloo Pantry might just have the necessary USP to survive and prosper. It’s a “Boutique Tea Shop” that offers more than twenty different exotic blends of tea (along with brunch, lunch and afternoon tea menus) that has grown out of the very successful Lahloo Tea, selling a wide range of loose leaf teas from around the world, along with all sorts of related tea-drinking paraphanalia. (you will find the online shop here)
Given that this is the company’s first physical site, it is immediately obvious how much attention to detail its owner Kate Gover has lavished upon the Pantry’s design. It’s a compact little site in the village’s King Street, so she’s had to make the most of what space is available. As you walk in there’s a bar to your right, where you order, and then you’re faced with a choice of going up or downstairs. Up means stools at some long, natural wood bars – ideal for a quick cuppa – and down means stylish metal tables and chairs where you might make your tea (and maybe a plate of something) last just that little bit longer. There are even a few tables available on outdoor decking. The whole place feels very cool and airy. Lots of glass and grainy wood combine with discreet lighting and a palette of soothing light greys to produce a very relaxing ambiance.
The Lahloo Pantry enjoys playing with some wild descriptions of its many teas. Jade Cloud, for example, is “fresh and invigorating like a crisp Autumn day”, while Genmaicha is “Japanese matcha powder blended with roasted brown rice and sensha.” The tea menu tells us this particular tea is “A meal in itself, nutty, grassy and ideal for breakfast”. Various others are described as “captivating”, “herbaceous”, “mysterious” and with “a huge Sicilian Bergamot citrus zing”.
Not knowing where to start, I asked for a recommendation from the friendly and knowledgeable staff and was immediately pointed in the direction of a Lahloo Pantry style Matcha. This green tea was served almost like a dessert with hot milk and manuka honey. It contained, apparently, “Four ounces of ceremonial grade, top-of-the-top Matzukaze Matcha”, and was “topped by a cloud-like froth.” It was nothing like PG Tips and at £3 seemed something of a bargain considering those ingredients.
The Pantry also offers a range of snacks and lighter dishes – like the delicious mini-pizza I had; a palm-sized slab of hand stretched dough topped with crispy prosciutto, fig and creamy mozzarella all on a bed of sweet caramelised onions. There are also tarts, salads, soups, cakes, brunch dishes like soft boiled eggs with soldiers, and an afternoon tea menu at £13.50 per person that included, on the day of my visit, mini smoked salmon tartines, tarragon chicken, radish, truffled egg and watercress sandwiches, scones, and lemon drizzle cake with, of course, a pot of Lahloo tea.
The Lahloo Pantry has every chance of developing into a really unusual little pit-stop for Clifton shoppers. The teas are really exciting and I suspect experimentation will reward returning visitors, whilst the food works as either upmarket snacks or can be combined into a more satisfying lunch. And – amazingly for a place that so obviously worships at the altar of tea – it will even sell you a cup of coffee…
Find Lahloo Pantry on the Bristol Bites Directory…