Cafe Tour of London: What’s going on in the Capital?

As the owner of a cafe up here in’t north it is always worth nipping down to the big smoke to see what is going on down there.  The capital’s cafes and bars are usually setting their own trends or following the trends that are being created in other major cities so it’s good to keep your eye out.

At Baltzersen’s we’re not afraid to take other people’s ideas and use them to improve our own offer in some way, so it can be very inspiring to see what goes on.

Here are some of my observations:

1.  Use of Space

It is amazing to see how cafes use their space.  Rents are higher in London  so places have to adapt to their surroundings.  Every place I visited seemed to have their main function be it coffee or food, but this was then complimented by other functions: bar (Shoreditch Grind), bike workshop (Look Mum No Hands!), music shop (Brill), deli retail (Scandinavian Kitchen) or coffee roaster (Ozone Coffee Roasters).

Menu of drinks and cocktails for Shoreditch Grind COffee Shop

2.  Volume

It is no surprise I suppose that the volumes that some of these cafess are dealing with is huge.  Taylor St Baristas near Bank in the centre of London was exceptionally busy with 5 baristas working 2 coffee machines.

A ciabatta with a piccolo from Taylor St Baristas nr Bank Tube Station London

Chicken and avocado ciabatta with piccolo at Taylor St Baristas

The small team at Workshop Coffee on Clerkenwell road do an excellent job of dealing with the huge number of customers they serve.  The girls serving on the day I visited were in constant communication with one another so everyone knew exactly what was going on at all times.  It must be both exhausting and exhilarating working a shift under that kind of constant pressure.

3. Food

Like anywhere the food was not universally great but some places really stand out.  Kaffeine on Great Titchfield St has been recognised for it’s food, coffee and service – it’s pretty much faultless.  It’s menu is small but perfectly formed and changes on a weekly basis.  It always includes foraged ingredients, and the selection of salads I tried whilst visiting was really excellent.

Counter with two baristas working at Kaffeine in Great Titchfield St, London.

Small but perfectly formed counter space with all food ready to serve.

Piccolo coffee with 3 types of salad from Kaffeine.

Great salads with fantastic ingredients and faultless coffee
Baby lobster, sea buckthorn berries, hedgebed, creamed pea dressing
Roasted piccolo parsnips and chantenay carrots with saute cavalo nero and wet walnuts
Brussels sprouts with rosemary, hazelnuts, russet apples and cooked in apple cider

It wasn’t just the savoury food though.  At Talkhouse Coffee on Portobello Road I enjoyed my first St. John doughnut.  St. John doughnuts have achieved legendary status and I now know why.  Incredibly soft and fresh, filled with a gloriously shiny runny custard with flecks of vanilla.  At £2.20 it was worth every penny.
Doughnut and coffee in Talkhouse COffee

Kenya Ndimaini on aeropress and St John custard doughnut

I have already been experimenting with a doughnut for Baltzersen’s, but it’s work in progess

Doughnuts on a baking tray at Baltzersen's cafe Harrogate

Doughnuts cooked and ready for filling

Inside a Custard Doughnut

I may have gone a bit overboard on the custard – if that is possible.

4. Coffee

Coffee was a little bit hit and miss on this trip.  I will admit to having high standards and expectations of many of the shops I visited.  Many delivered, some did not various reasons – it’s hard to maintain consistency.  I guess there is also an argument to say that I didn’t visit the coffee shops that are right out ahead of the curve in terms of offering new and exciting brew methods,  but I only had so long and there are a lot of places in London.  Overall I have to say that some of the great coffee shops we have here in Yorkshire (Laynes Espresso, La Bottega Milanese, Spring Espresso, Bean and Bud, Perky Peacock, Harlequin and more….) are perfectly capable of producing coffee to rival anything I tasted whilst down in London.  We shouldn’t underestimate what we have on our own doorstep.

Ozone branded coffee cup

Espresso from Ozone Coffee Roasters

5. Scandi Representation

I couldn’t visit London without hitting up a couple of the Scandinavian destinations on offer.

Fika is a Swedish bar/restaurant on Brick Lane.  Styling is similar to our own (they have been open a lot longer) with plenty of wood and their own quirky featues such as an astroturf silhouette of a deer enjoying a cuppa at one of the tables!  There is also a roof garden upstairs.

Fika interior, Brick Lane

Mix of twinkly and industrial lights, functional seating, kitsch collection of bric-a-brac, wood panelling and fresh flowers – interior at Fika.

It’s got a small but interesting menu including classics and more modern takes on Scandinavian cuisine.  I would have eaten if I hadn’t been distracted by the 24hr bagel shop next door and eaten a salt beef bagel.  I did however enjoy a glass of Swedish cider, which was sweet much like other ciders of it’s ilk (Rekorderlig, Kopparberg).

Bottle of iced Swedish cider, Fika Brick Lane

Iced Cider

Salt beef on fresh baked bagel

This was great. The kind of authentic food from other cultures that make London an attractive place to live and work.

Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street is a cafe cum deli that do a wide range of Scandinavian food and are real beacon for Scandinavians in the capital.  They are very active on social media, selecting the stories of the day from across the region and promoting them via twitter and their blog.   The main offering for lunch are Smørrebrød (Danish Spelling) in a variety of flavours.  I went for the meatballs on beetroot puree, home-cured herring in mustard sauce and seafood Skagen.  All very tasty and service was very quick.  I sat in the basement seating area where I had a light overhead that did not allow for a great photo, but I have included it anyway.

3 varieties of Smørrebrød from Scandinavian Kitchen, London.

The Smørrebrød are all nicely presented and tasted great.

Bageriet on Rose Lane is the retail outlet for the Swedish bakery owned and run by Swedish baker Daniel Karlsson.  It’s a tiny place with seating for about 10 people or so but lots of cake available to take away.   Their website is beautifully designed with some really nice imagery and some explanations of their products.  I had to have a slice of their signature cake the Prinsesstårta, it includes cream, custard, marzipan and jam in the same cake and yet managed to be incredibly light

Prinsesstårta at Bageriet London

Prinsesstårta teamed up with Swedish Autumn tea – cinnamon and spices.

 Conclusion

It is no surprise to me how much I was able to write about my trip down to London.  There is always something new and interesting to see in the world of cafes and coffee and I only scratched the surface in my 2 days.  If you are planning a trip down and would like a couple of recommendations don’t hesitate to drop me a line, I’ll be happy to give you my opinion – for what that’s worth!

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2 Responses to Cafe Tour of London: What’s going on in the Capital?

  1. Fletch says:

    Great news on the doughnuts, I would be more than happy to help you taste-test if required…..

  2. Pingback: Barista Diaries: The View From The Hoppers - pt 1 - Baltzersens

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