Look Mum No Hands South Bank Pop-up

An espresso in one of the lovely Look Mum No Hands mugs. Sadly if you want one of these for real, you'll need to go to the Old Street store, not the pop-up on the South Bank.In another new venture for the Saturday Supplement, I present the first ever Saturday Short. Saturday Shorts are Coffee Spots in their own right, but for which I can’t justify a full write-up.

This first Saturday Short comes courtesy of Look Mum No Hands!, something of a legend on the London coffee scene, if only for its interesting name (it’s up there with Bristol’s Didn’t You Do Well in those stakes). I’ve long wanted to try it out, but have never had the time/reason/excuse.

So, imagine my surprise and delight when, on a whim, I decided to walk across the Hungerford Bridge (which connects Waterloo and Charing Cross Stations) on the Parliament rather than the St Paul’s side.  Cutting across to the other side of the bridge I spotted an interesting-looking coffee stall nestling under the bridge itself… And the rest, as they say, is history…

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Hidden away under the Hungerford Bridge on the South Bank is a summer pop-up cafe with more than a semi-permanent look about it. It's even got tables and (concrete) benches! But who is behind it, I hear you ask...
  • Why, none other than Shoreditch's finest, Look Mum No Hands!
  • The set-up is worth a second look: a stand-up bar on the right, seperate chiller cabinet for the soft drinks, taps for the beer, trailer-mounted espresso machine! This is some set-up...
  • The view from the other side.
  • Food, cake, hot drinks... Look Mum No Hands has got the lot!
  • I'm definitely trying the vegetarian scotch eggs the next time I go!
  • Part of the extensive cake selection... I'll have... um... all of them please!
  • And all of these too!
  • The rest of the cakes!
  • As it turned out, I had a free nata instead, one of the very generous offers Look Mum No Hands was running.
  • If beer is your thing, then you shouldn't be disappointed either...
  • So, down to business. Let's have a look at the espresso machine.
  • The business end of the espresso machine. Is it me, or is that mounted on a slope?
  • Don't let the fancy cups fool you though. Drinks are served in strictly takeaway cups...
  • As witnessed by my fine flat white (complete with free nata). With apologies to Sara the barista for the poor quality of the picture...
  • That said, if you talk very, very nicely to the staff, you might get lucky...
  • I got Sara to make me an espresso, purely for photographic purposes. Here Sara demonstrates her technique for making espresso in a windy environment. Perhaps 'Look Mum Both Hands' would be a better name for the pop-up though.
  • The perils of making espresso in a windy location. Don't tell Sara I took this picture though; she'd kill me if she found out!
  • Baristas are (quite rightly) proud of their craft. Here is the same espresso after Sara has cleaned it up for the camera!
  • Of course, having had an espresso made purely for photographic purposes, I proceded to take a series of shots such as this one, for which an empty cup would have served just as well... The next picture, by the way, has no caption...
  • After all that effort, it would have been a shame to let the espresso go to waste, so I drank it. Very good it was too!
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Combining a passion for coffee and cycling, Look Mum No Hands!, which is out in Shoreditch on Old Street, has long intrigued me. So I was delighted to discover that it’s behind a new pop-up coffee stall that I’d heard about on the South Bank, particularly as I stumbled upon it by accident one Wednesday lunchtime.

Although this is a pop-up, don’t let that fool you: this is almost a full-on coffee shop. Featuring a trailer/caravan with a very large, purpose-built counter, a stand-up bar and tables at the side, and an espresso machine mounted on smaller trailer on the other side, it would put many full cafés to shame! Since it’s right under the bridge itself, it’s fully under cover, making it perfect even on a rainy day.

The pop-up serves an impressive array of goodies. There’s a full range of espresso-based drinks (alas, only in takeaway cups; don’t be fooled by the pictures in the gallery) as well as tea (builders’ or posh!) and hot chocolate. Even more impressively, there’s London-brewed craft beer: in all, six draught and five bottled beers are on offer.

If you’re hungry, there are sausage rolls and scotch eggs (including a vegetarian one) and a truly impressive range of cakes. When I was there, there was a special offer; a free nata (Portuguese custard tart) with every cup of coffee bought. Since the natas normally go for £2, this was very generous and not something that happens every day. Count yourself lucky if it’s running when you’re there!

Look Mum No Hands! uses Square Mile’s Red Brick espresso blend, which I approached with some caution, given my past struggles with it. I plumped for a flat white, knowing it goes well with milk, which was made by the excellent Sara. She also made me an espresso in one of Look Mum No Hands! lovely cups, as well as talking me through the perils of making espresso in something akin to a wind-tunnel! The espresso was intended purely for photographic purposes, but I ended up drinking it anyway! The flat white was excellent and I even enjoyed the espresso. Maybe my palette is finally starting to appreciate third-wave espresso!

The Look Mum No Hands! popup is a very welcome addition to the South Bank coffee scene, especially since it’s open late, seven days a week. The good news is that it’s now become a permanent fixture, popping up each summer. You can see what I made of it when it came back again in 2014 and most recently in its 2016 incarnation.

QUEEN’S WALK • UNDER HUNGERFORD BRIDGE • SOUTHBANK CENTRE • LONDON • SE1 8XX
www.lookmumnohands.com +44 (0) 7763 938078
Monday 10:00 – 23:00 Roaster Square Mile (espresso only)
Tuesday 10:00 – 23:00 Seating Bar (Standing), Benches and Tables
Wednesday 10:00 – 23:00 Food Cake, Hot Dogs
Thursday 10:00 – 23:00 Service Counter
Friday 10:00 – 23:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 10:00 – 23:00 Wifi N/A
Sunday 10:00 – 23:00 Power N/A
Chain Local Visits Original: 12th June 2013
Updates: 8th June 2014, 28th May 2016

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