A few of the UK’s most delightful thrift-shop-and-café combos…
Antique, retro, or just plain old – whatever you want to call it, vintage is in vogue in a big way (even togs from the 90s have come back into fashion – who saw that coming?). Yet although rummaging through the racks to find the perfect Mad Men-style dress or hand-me-down vase is a fun way to spend an afternoon, it can also be pretty tiring work – luckily, the thoughtful folk at these boutiques also run on-site cafés, meaning you needn’t go far to drop after you shop.
Cox & Baloney, Bristol
Purveyors of limited-edition retro-inspired pieces and genuine vintage clothing, Cox & Baloney is about as sweet a boutique as you can get – think floral wallpaper, racks of floaty dresses, and old dressers displaying pretty teacups, teapots and other homewares. This shop and tearoom is kitsch, cute and unashamedly devoted to all things vintage, right down to the super-adorable mismatched chinaware and cake-stands they serve their divine afternoon teas on. These towers of deliciousness feature yummy sandwiches on the first tier (we went for moreish Brie and cranberry), an assortment of homemade cakes on the second, and scones with cream and jam on the top. Even if you aren’t there for a full-on afternoon tea, I dare you to try and leave without being tempted to have at least one slice of their delicious homemade cakes (note: it’s pretty much impossible).
The Vintage Emporium, London
Think thrift-store shopping means spending hours trawling through rails of tat in the hope of finding that sought-after item? Not so at The Vintage Emporium – their team spends oodles of time sourcing the very best vintage pieces from the Victorian era through to the 1950s, meaning you’ll only find quality togs here. Thankfully for those feeling peckish, they put equal effort into their food and drink offering in the tearoom upstairs. Here you can munch through a range of delicacies and sip on one of their huge selection of teas and herbal drinks to your heart’s content, all the while admiring the pretty vintage decor.
The Birdcage, Bristol
Arty types flock here in droves to shop, eat and hang out, and it’s easy to see why. Billed as ‘yesterday’s clothes, today’s coffee and tomorrow’s music’ on its website, The Birdcage is a vintage shop, daytime coffee-and-cake hotspot and evening social hub rolled into one ultra-cool package. From their fabulously retro lampshade light fittings to the eclectic assortment of memorabilia adorning the walls, there’s something interesting to see at every turn – including a rail packed with retro sartorial gems. Their menu of fortifying fare is also something to behold; the selection changes daily, but you can usually expect a tempting range of fresh pastries, cakes, sandwiches, toasties and more. Wash it all down with a refreshing beverage – perhaps choose your own frappé flavour combo, pep yourself up with an Americano, or revitalise with a fresh mint tea.
Though Kindles and eBooks are increasingly popular with the literature-loving crowd, sometimes there’s nothing like reading a good-old paperback. Cue Leakey’s in Inverness, the kind of shop that bookworms dream of stumbling upon – a treasure trove of novels old and new, with shelves upon shelves stacked with second-hand editions of classics and lesser-known books. This is the sort of shop you’ll want to linger in for hours and hours, so it stands to reason they should offer their customers some sustenance in the form of tea, coffee, light bites (including creamy homemade soups and generously filled bagels) and devilishly good cakes in their charming on-site café. A good book, a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a big slice of cake – could there be a better combination? I think not.
Beyond Retro, London
The Beyond Retro stores in Brighton, Brick Lane, Soho and Dalston have been favourites amongst thrift-shop-loving guys and dolls for some time now. Luckily for peckish vintage vixens, their shop in Dalston now includes a rather hip café next door. Expect pastries from artisan bakery Flour Power, tasty pies, mini quiches, warming soups and crisp salads – plus, of course, a beautifully presented counter of delish cakes to choose from. Their coffee comes courtesy of Small Batch, a company famous for their organic beans and ethical trading practices. Vintage fashion bloggers will be pleased to know that they also offer free Wi-Fi, so you can type up that all-important post about your latest Beyond Retro finds while sipping one of their skilfully brewed (and ethical) lattes.