It’s time for tea with Johnny Vercoutre

Just the other day I was standing like a sardine on a Central Line rush hour train with my cumbersome camera bag reflecting what a ridiculous time for me to be travelling when the unexpected happened: a young man got out of his seat and offered it to me. It took me by surprise, but not for the reasons you might think. I was, in fact, rather unsettled by my reaction. Instead of being just grateful, I was asking myself “Do I look pregnant? Am I starting to show my age?”. It took me a good 10 minutes of going through all the possibilities before realizing that the man was just being a gentleman. This was how it used to be and how it should still be and my reaction just confirms that we are now of an age where manners between strangers is just not commonplace. I was, however, beaming for the rest of the train journey.

This is just the predicament of Johnny Vercoutre, a modern-day dandy and owner of the 1940’s-transporting tearoom ‘Time for Tea’ on Shoreditch High Street. His choice of dressing and living in the 1940’s derives not from a vainglorious or superficial level but from the mental attitude of that era. He states that if people of that era set out to do something they would take the time to do it properly and the goals where not concerned with celebrity and money. It may seem charming to the likes of you and me but there is something very relevant in 1940’s values. You would make do and mend, grow your own vegetables, and socialising meant talking to each other and reconnecting rather than dancing to loud music and strobe lighting in order to lose yourself. The pace was slower and there was time for attention to detail and for manners. Johnny then reconfirms by saying how good it feels to help a lady with a pram on to a bus and that this is something that should come naturally.

What comes with the attitude also comes with his appearance and Johnny does certainly like to stand out. He loves the whole tweed and pinstripe get-ups, sports a first-rate soup-strainer and avidly collects period cars and motorbikes. Like any enthusiast he strongly believes that you should always stand up for what you believe in and not cower to conforming to the ideals of the masses. Teased for wearing black eyeliner at school and more recently called Hitler by the ignorant local Indian community he remains undeterred in his lifestyle.

Time For Tea came about just over a year ago, not only to compliment Johnny’s way of life but to reignite the flagging ritual of the afternoon tea. It has proved to be a roaring success and something of a cult favourite amongst the locals of Shoreditch. Quietly contemplating my surroundings over a cup of tea and brilliantly unpretentious slice of banana bread, baked by his mother Lulu, there appears to be a constant stream of like-minded dapper characters, popping in to touch base with Johnny and his sidekick and co-worker, Graham. It seems to have grown into quite a 1940’s revival scene of sorts.

On a lasting note, Johnny says he gets his biggest kick out of ambling down the road in his “Postman Pat”-style burgundy 1950’s van. It’s neither flashy or fast but sincere and sweet…and the amount of smiles it raises is priceless. Sums it all up really.

For a spot of Sunday tea and cake and a chance to marvel at some tip-top taches, venture no further than Time for Tea. You don’t have to dress up, but you’ll feel more at home if you do.

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NEXT WEEK ON LONDON INSIGHT:

Taking in the street art and graffiti of Shoreditch

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About londoninsight

A compassionate photographer working to better her understanding of her town, her village, London.
This entry was posted in Alternative Living, Fashion, Food and Drink, Interesting Men, People, Vintage and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to It’s time for tea with Johnny Vercoutre

  1. Matt Tsang says:

    Thanks Steph..

    Great Insight! I pass this place all the time.. Will definitely try to pop in for a scone and a cuppa.

  2. Minna says:

    Lovely chap Johnny with charming daughter. Good to see you on Saturday, sure I was whittering on about nothing (not used to the pop these days!). Loved the bobbed hair, hope you got home safely.
    Minn x

  3. Fuzzy says:

    Offering your seat up to someone who’s need is greater than yours is “as it should be”. The idea that a man should offer his seat on a train to a woman for no reason other than her gender is retarded. The 40’s was a decade of racism, sexism and homophobia and the idea that self obsessed hipsters hark back to some golden age is absurd.

    • Yes, offering your seat to someone in need is indeed “as it should be”, but I’m afraid it hardly happens anymore.(regardless of gender) I always give my seat up and it’s something that angers me greatly when other people do not. Manners are in decline which is more the point I was making. However, these modern-day dandyists are moreover aesthetically concerned, rather than reliving what you call an age of racism, sexism and homophobia. Its their lifestyle choice and one that does not harm anyone. To call them self obsessed and absurd is a tad harsh. I think you should lighten up a bit and try and see the charm of it. There’s enough anger in the world as it is.

      • Kate Mitty says:

        Bit late replying to this – nearly two years (!) but only just found your webpage … I think it’s polite and well mannered when someone kindly holds the door open for me, or even opens it for me, and the rarity of it now. I have always given my seat up for someone elderly or pregnant, and I think it’s such a shame people have no time any more for such simple and ‘costs nothing’ thoughtfulness. What a pity we can’t go back to those days when people knew the meaning of being neighbourly, as today there is an arrogance which has taken over our society where manners are practically non existent and vile language have become the norm.

  4. I allways give up my seat if think someone more deserving needs it,like a pregnent woman or elderly person.In this day and age a of people prefer to look the other way, only the other day i noticed a young man on the bus pretending to be asleep so as not give up his seat to a pensioner.Does he think he will never grow old,some day it may be him who requires aseat.

  5. Pingback: Time for Tea, time for Me – a lazy Jubilee weekend | Into The F- World

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