Wowcher Reviews Café in the Crypt

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I’ve been to my fair share of food establishments. Like most people who live in London, I love trying new places and discovering hidden gems across the city, but despite these culinary crusades, I have never munched my way through sandwiches and cake at a place with ‘crypt’ in its name. It’s unique. It’s interesting. It’s free food. So here I am, accompanied by Josh and Anina, undertaking the very difficult task of eating afternoon tea at Café in the Crypt, one of Wowcher’s most unique foodie experiences yet!

St Martin-in-the-Fields is quite imposing from the outside. Based on the outskirts of Trafalgar Square, the 18th century church features a grand pillared portico to shield the entrance and a soaring spire that pierces the sky. It’s not the kind of place you’d expect to find a delicious afternoon tea, but then again, appearances can be deceiving.

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The interior of the building is quite simplistic in its beauty. The clear vaulted windows filter in soft beams of sunlight, gold chandeliers hang above the polished flagstone flooring, and a feeling of peace permeates the air. That’s a given in holy spaces, of course. There’s also a lone saxophone player practising in front of us – did he know we were coming?! Definitely not, but it’s pretty magical anyway. The church holds free orchestral and choir concerts daily, and although we aren’t lucky enough to see one for ourselves, the sound of classical music resounding thorough the arched space must be extraordinary.

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The entrance to the crypt is next door to the church, so we descend through the glass doors to head below ground. The café itself is pleasantly busy, but not overwhelmingly so. The vaulted ceiling gives the feeling of open space, and each bricked pillar is illuminated from below, which adds to the historic atmosphere and makes the whole place feel special. It’s actually quite a soothing escape from the outside world – it’s hard to believe the hustle and bustle of London is carrying on above us, just a spiral staircase away.

My favourite unique aspect of the café is the floor. Paved with tombstones, some legible, others faded and cracked with age, it’s easy to get lost wandering around as you attempt to decipher them. All are original and were excavated from the area around the church. There aren’t many afternoon tea experiences that can lay claim to a grave-paved ground!

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Of course, the real selling point is the exclusivity of Café in the Crypt’s afternoon tea. Not only are we waited on hand and foot, but we have the whole apse to ourselves, a secluded little nook in the wall that’s an original feature of the church itself. The circular recess is completely bricked from floor to domed ceiling, with handmade crescent tables and comfortable leather sofas that fit snugly against the curved walls. If you stand in the middle of the dome, you can literally hear your own voice echoing around you. It’s oddly fun to have a conversation in this manner, but I won’t blame you if you’re too busy relaxing on the sofa and drinking your sparkly Prosecco to give it a try.

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And what about the food, I hear you ask? There’s no compromise on quality in the crypt! We’re served our tea promptly, with a glorious two-tiered array of light finger sandwiches, sweet treats and handmade scones, alongside a pot of tea and a glass of Prosecco each. The scones are served with jam and cream, and there’s dainty macaroons, cheesecake shots, delicate cakes… it’s all heavenly (pardon the pun). Have I tried a gin-marinated cucumber sandwich yet? What about a chocolate and coconut sponge? Go on, then.

While we eat, we’re told a little of the history of the church’s patron, Saint Martin. Legend has it that Saint Martin cut his cloak in half, sharing it with a beggar on a cold winter’s night, inspiring the gift of giving that is still a huge part of the church’s philosophy today. Much of Café in the Crypt’s profits are fed back to the local community and other essential charities.

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All too soon, our delicacies are devoured and we’re back in the real world, where pavements are made from boring concrete and the only echo we hear is the rumble of the tube beneath our feet. My conclusion? The location was unexpectedly elegant and the food was delicious. If I take anything away from the day, it’s to never underestimate a crypt…

If you want to try Café in the Crypt’s unique afternoon tea experience for yourself, take a look at our scrumptious deal here!