Monday, 25 May 2015

Taking tea (and coffee) with Lycra monkeys

Sunday 24 May: For the first time this year we rode to Westerham, just Andy and I. It was a case of heads down and get there and we got there with the intention of taking breakfast at the Tudor Rose tearoom (Andy's treat – thanks, Andy).

When we reached the green after a pleasant ride, I noticed that Andy was looking for something and soon realised that he wanted to see the cycle shop and café combined that I had brought to his attention recently. Avid readers might recall that, a year or two ago as Andy and I sipped tea and munched cereal bars on Westerham's green we often fantasised about taking on the lease of an old Barclays Bank and transforming it into a cyclists' coffee shop, jam-packed with biscuits and cakes and offering a repair service too. But, of course, we were never serious about it and, as Andy said yesterday as we trudged morosely across the grass towards the roadside, our version of the Westerham Cyclery's caff and repair shop would have been half-hearted and certainly not as swish. I take the latter point about it not being as swish, perhaps, but would it have been half-hearted?

Amazing cake and cappuccino that's better than Costa.
I've already critiqued the place in a previous post, claiming it was too 'boutiquey' in its appearance, but that was based on standing outside and then having just a brief wander into the building before heading straight to the Tudor Rose – much more my cup of tea and, dare I say it, more in tune with what my version of a bike repair shop and caff would have looked like. But now, having experienced the Westerham Cyclery caff first hand, my opinion has changed. Let's face it, the guy in charge knows what he's doing and he's done a fantastic job. Yes, it is a bit 'boutiquey'. There are wooden floors and leather sofas and flatscreen televisions showing cycling on Eurosport, there are copies of Bradley Wiggins' autobiography, a few perfect-bound cycling magazines here and there, a range of energy snacks for Lycra monkeys concerned about 'precious grams' and putting in a good time and some signed Tour de France cycling shirts in frames on the wall. In other words, the place screams Lycra monkeys and so does the clientele – no ragged trousered mountain bike riders here... until now.

In fact, we did feel a little out of place what with me, unshaven and unkempt-looking in my tatty old Tesco ASBO specials and trainers, my right leg tucked into a grey sock. Andy, as it happened, looked relatively respectable as, unlike me, he'd taken the trouble to shave. It was as if two cast members from a Spaghetti western had bowled up to a posh restaurant with no intention of dressing for dinner. And we were early by about five minutes and were ready, had he not allowed us in, to make our way diagonally across the green to the Tudor Rose for a full English. But he opened early just for us, unlocking some wooden doors to the left of the caff proper to reveal parking racks for bikes and some comfortable outdoor seating at the back – this place covered all bases. There was a bike showroom upstairs, a bike accessories area to the right of the serving counter and, in addition to the energy bars, a selection of three tasty-looking cakes.

Andy ordered a cappuccino, I ordered tea and we both opted for coffee and walnut cake. It was all good. In fact, we both thought the cake was out of this world – very tasty. The cappuccino – which Andy said was better than Costa – had a chocolate bike stencilled into the froth (a nice touch) and, well, all-in-all, this was the perfect place for cyclists – especially Lycra monkeys. There was even a cycling club that operated out of the café and some of its members arrived as we enjoyed our cake, tea and coffee. Unlike us they were clean-shaven and clean generally: no Tesco ASBO specials just Lycra monkey gear, fresh complexions and perfectly combed hair. In comparison, we looked like a couple of vagabonds with bikes to match. We were, after all, from the other side of the tracks and let ourselves down by mentioning the C-word (Croydon). We should have said Caterham and Sanderstead, perhaps.

After paying £8 for two pieces of cake, a cup of tea and a cappuccino (extortionate, yes, but it's the going rate these days) we strode across the green towards the roadside.

"We wouldn't have done a better job," said Andy.
"No, you're right; that was perfectly in tune..."
"...with the Lycra monkeys' needs."
"Yes, it was," I said. "My coffee shop would have been a little more leftfield: underground music from the juke box, framed black and white prints of whacky existentialist novelists like Albert Camus, and Philip K Dick paperbacks on the tables," I said.

We mounted the bikes and headed out of town on the long haul towards the hill. As we neared the top we heard voices behind us. It was the Lycra Monkeys from the café – the junior greedheads and the senior management, as Julian Cope would probably have described them. They were headed in the direction of Botley Hill. When we reached the top we saw them parked up on The Ridge and wondered where they were going.

"Down Gangers, probably, and then along the A25 back into Westerham for tea and cake," I said.

Andy said nothing. We got our heads down for the ride along the 269 into Warlingham. It had been an enjoyable ride and we'd reached Westerham, which was good. Twenty two miles.

"Until tomorrow, then," I said.
"Yeah, I should be alright," Andy replied.
"Text me if there's a problem."

I rode the last four miles alone, riding up Sanderstead High Street, passing the pond, crossing the Addington Road and freewheeling down Church Way towards home and a hot cup of tea in the garden. Perfect.

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