Set in the soaring nave of Christopher Wren’s St Nicholas Cole Abbey, The Wren’s quite possibly the most delightful coffee shop setting I’ve had the pleasure to step into. The only relevant question is what took me so long, since it’s been on my list from the day it opened!
Situated between St Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames, the church is accessed via a flight of steps, leading up from the busy dual carriageway that is Queen Victoria Street. You can sit outside if you like, either at a small, shady cluster of tables, tucked away around a corner at the bottom of the steps, or on the large, sun-drenched terraced at the top. For me, however, the real pleasure is in the gloriously spacious interior.
The coffee is from London’s Workshop, with the seasonal Cult of Done blend on espresso and rotating single origin beans on the V60 filter. Loose-leaf tea is from Merseyside’s Brew Tea Co and there’s a range of soft drinks. At lunchtime, there’s a choice of quiche, salad, soup and sandwiches, while for breakfast there are pastries, toast and granola. The food offering is rounded off with a small but interesting cake range.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
A coffee shop in a consecrated church? That’s The Wren for you. Deserved winner of the inaugural Coffee Stop Award for London’s Best New Coffee Shop, The Wren is a delight. If you can ignore the traffic, there’s plenty of outside seating, but I steadfastly pressed onand stepped inside (you have to, anyway, to order your coffee). I have to tell you, it’s glorious. While I like my small, intimate Coffee Spots, The Wren, at the other end of the scale, is simply magnificent with its sense of space.
Coming through the tall, double doors, The Wren spreads out before you, occupying most of the nave. Far, far above, past the tops of the arches of the five tall windows piercing each of the long walls, soars the (flat) ceiling. Not as ornate as some, its understated elegance blends with the rest of the interior. Indeed, the only flourishes are the gold-leaf Corinthian capitals of the pillars between the windows and the ceiling’s gold decorations.
Wood panelling, a couple of metres high, runs around three of the four walls, while at the far (right-hand) end, on a slightly-raised platform, enclosed by a simple, low wooden balustrade, is the altar, lectern to the left, font to the right. Behind them soar three stained-glass windows. At the opposite end, immediately to your left, three high stone archways have been closed off with wooden screens, each pierced by double doors, leading to toilets, offices and The Wren’s storage space.
The seating occupies the remaining (immense) space. The counter’s to your right, a long, simple affair running along one wall, with plenty of space for cakes, grinders, two-group La Marzocco and a filter-rack with its own grinder. Arranged neatly across the tiled floor are 11 well-spaced four-person tables, while in the corner directly opposite the door are two glorious three-person sofas. The power sockets are under lift-up hatches in the floor, not all of which are aligned to the tables, so choose carefully if you need to charge your laptop/phone.
The coffee matches the glorious surroundings. I had Workshop’s Ethiopian Duromina (I also tried it at Sharps Coffee Bar) followed by a decaf piccolo. My pour-over arrived in a metal jug with a lovely green tulip cup. It benefited from being left to cool: rather anonymous when hot, its flavours evolved/emerged as the temperature dropped, so by the time it was lukewarm it was really quite exciting. The piccolo, using Workshop’s Fazenda Pantano single origin decaf, was also excellent, sweet with just a hint of bitterness that was the perfect foil for the milk.
I was tempted by the bite-sized (well, three bites) friands. I had Vanilla and Strawberry with my pour-over and Almond and Dark Chocolate with my piccolo.
The Vanilla and Strawberry friand was amazing: a light, well-textured vanilla sponge, with a crunchy, sugared top and a slice of strawberry on top. It was the perfect accompaniment to my pour-over (originally I was going to have them the other way around, but changed my mind at the last moment). Although Almond and Dark Chocolate isn’t a combination I’d have thought of, it works well, although the chocolate was the more dominant flavour, not quite achieving the balance of the previous friand. It also had a gooey centre, reminiscent of a brownie.
October 2014: You can find out what happened when I visited The Wren as part of the Coffee Spot’s 2nd birthday celebrations!
|114 QUEEN VICTORIA STREET • LONDON • EC4V 4BJ|
|Monday||07:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Sofa, Table Outside|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 17:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||07:00 – 17:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa (£0.30 under £3)|
|Friday||07:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||3rd July 2014|
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