London cafes with a twist07 Oct 2014
Alex Stewart highlights a handful of London cafes that have taken an imaginative approach to stand out from the crowd.
If you’re a coffee drinker in London right now you might feel that you exist in a utopia where around every corner lurks a small, vibrant artisan café, shelling out quality flat whites at affordable prices. And though it’s doubtless a boon for consumers, cafés themselves exist in the market equivalent of a really crowded lift where everyone is a touch on the heavy side.
Now, obviously, there is no substitute for quality and superb customer service but, in an increasingly competitive and saturated market, cafés are now going the extra mile to differentiate themselves from the herd. This might be in terms of design, or product, but often we now see cafés that double up as something else, or offer a host of activities to complement the basic drink and food aspect. The cafes below represent a handful of stand outs in this genre that you may not have visited yet.
On a stretch of the towpath nearest Kingsland Road canal bridge, The Proud Archivist has a gallery and hosts spoken word and comedy events. My favourite recent event was Jennie Webber’s superbly entertaining ‘Wild Life Drawing’, a drawing class dedicated to live animals, including donkeys, snakes, and parrots. Check their website for current exhibits.
The Proud Archivist serves Caravan at 2-10 Hertford Road, N1 5SH.
Of course, we all know that bicycles and coffee jostle with each other in many people’s affections for pride of place. As well as the excellent Rapha and Look Mum No Hands! you would do well to try Cadence in Crystal Palace, perhaps less polished than the other two but still brimming with fun and complicated gear ratios.
Cadence serves Nude Espresso at 2A Anerley Hill, SE19 2AA.
Part of a recent trend of cafés existing alongside creative endeavours, Lanark serves superb coffee above a basement area housing a wood and metal work studio. Lanark’s owner Greg is also going to expand the downstairs area to create a pop-up retail space, while the studio is already in full swing, creating bespoke furniture and unique metal-work, among other items.
Lanark serves Alchemy at 262 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ.
Describing itself as a design studio and risograph press, Scawfell Street also serves artisan coffee among a wide array of beautifully printed t-shirts, posters, and books. There are items from other presses too, such as Hato, an exhibiting gallery, and you can enjoy all of it while supping beautifully made coffee in very relaxed atmosphere.
Scawfell Street serves Has Bean at 6A Scawfell Street, E2 8NG.