The Cheltonian > Articles

Harlequin Tea Rooms And Curios

Nostalgia And Vintage Galore In A Curios Place crack

Is it a shop? Or is it a cafe? I am not really sure when I walk into Harlequin Tea Rooms & Curios. I am surrounded by nostalgia - vintage clothes, jewellery, handbags and other ‘bits and pieces’ as the owner Juliet describes her wares. But there are also tables and chairs, so I sit down as I have to wait a few minutes for Juliet to join me – she has been at her other shop, Scarramouch in Henrietta Street, finishing off a piercing. Scarramouch has been in Cheltenham for over 25 years, originally just down the road from Harlequin and is well known for its hippy clothing, incense sticks, shisha pipes and flamboyant decor – decor as flamboyant as Juliet herself.

I order a fair-trade cappuccino while Juliet chooses a very civilised pot of tea and we chat, about everything and anything including our Jack Russell dogs. She has two of them, as I do. Harlequin, she tells me, is ‘doggy friendly’ for well-behaved pooches (that’s mine out then – Pancake is chewing up my son’s whoopee cushion under the dining room table as I type), like her own Fifi, who is often seen asleep on the leopard print sofa in Scarramouch.

As well as dog lovers, students also come to Harlequin because it’s retro and older people (I think she means our age) bring their daughters in for the same reason. Conversely, younger folk bring granny because of the bone china tea pots, cups and saucers and cake stands – it makes them feel good. In the black and white floored open kitchen there are shelves full of teapots, most are used daily but some are also for sale.

Juliet tells me that most of the vintage items are mainly from the 1920s upwards, though a few occasionally date as far back as Victorian. There are a lot of 70s and 80s dresses, handbags and boots. The boots are usually around £15 which sounds like good value to me. Dealers come in these days to buy the vintage clothes. The bits and pieces, she says, are also very popular because people are not just buying the item, they are buying the history. An item may remind you of a time in your life or even of a particular person. I have already spotted some Lenthéric Tweed Talc, which reminds me of my late mother.

Juliet offers me a tea cake or a scone with jam and cream – they are very popular with the customers, as are the locally made cakes. I say no thank you as it’s nearly lunchtime but make a mental note to come back soon and try one. I am supposed to be meeting my husband, but I feel so comfortable sitting here that I have totally forgotten! He turns up and the spell is broken! I am out of the vintage dream and back to the reality of the High Street.

Harlequin Tea Rooms & Curios is well worth a visit. It’s one of those unique and individual places that Cheltenham is famous for and can be found at:
270 High Street, Cheltenham, GL50 3HQ.
Tel: 01242 252 933