Balance

My flat white, in a glass, at Balance in Brixton.After the venerable Federation Coffee, Balance, on Ferndale Road, is one of the more established names in Brixton’s speciality coffee, recently joined by the likes of Stir Coffee Brixton and Brixton Blend, plus, across the road, the new Volcano/Assembly Roastery. Established in 2014 by the owner, Ali, who I had the pleasure of meeting, Balance is a tightly-focused shop selling espresso-based drinks, with beans from The Roastery Department and Assembly, freshly-blended juices and a small selection of pastries, toasties and sandwiches.

It’s a tiny place too, with just enough space inside for the counter, espresso machine behind, where you can order and wait for your coffee. If you want to sit down, you need to head outside (although you’re welcome to stand at the counter like I did and drink your coffee) where you’ll find a bench and a couple of two-person tables on the pavement.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Balance on Ferndale Road in Brixton, almost directly opposite the Assembly/Volcano roastery.
  • You can sit outside beneath the window on this bench...
  • ... or to the right at one of two tables. That's the owner, Ali, by the way.
  • The A-board outside on the pavement is both philosophical and, on the other side...
  • ... practical. If you value something, don't devalue it by discounting it!
  • The window, by the way, says what Balance is all about in a nutshell.
  • Stepping inside, there's really not much to Balance. This is pretty much it.
  • To the left, there's the display cabinet with the fruit/veg for the smoothies at the bottom...
  • ... and the pastries on top.
  • It's a nice selection of pastries, too.
  • There are toasties/sandwiches: I arrived at the end of the lunchtime rush & had the last one!
  • Next to this is the counter, where you order and collect your coffee.
  • To the right, on the wall, a clever hanging tray arrangement acts as the takeaway station.
  • And that's it. All apart from the obligatory light-fitting shot: exposed bulb in a jam jar.
  • The menu is on the back wall above the takeaway station.
  • The coffee is on a shelf on the left-hand wall behind the counter...
  • ... with the bespoke house-blend from The Roastery Department.
  • The La Marzocco espresso machine is also on the left-hand wall with its two grinders.
  • The guest espresso in the second grinder is from Assembly across the road.
  • Let's get down to business. I love watching espresso extract...
  • ... particularly into a glass where you can see the crema developing.
  • My flat white surveys the entirety of Balance from its place on the counter.
  • My flat white in more detail.
  • And that last toastie I said I had? Well, here it is, a lovely cheese & onion toastie.
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Blink and you might miss Balance, on the south side of Ferndale Road, which links Clapham to the west with Brixton to the east. Firmly on the Brixton end of the road, it’s a few minutes’ walk from Brixton’s tube and train stations, making it very popular with morning commuters. Not that I do mornings, turning up at two o’clock one Friday afternoon for a flat white and the last toastie…

Balance occupies a single-story building butting up against the (overground) railway line behind it. There’s a window to the left, the door in the middle and a blank wall, painted with some abstract art, to the right. The seating is all outside, a long bench under the window and a couple of two-person tables in front of the wall. An awning projects from the front of the shop to provide both shade and protection from the rain, plus the pavement is quite broad, so you are well set back from the traffic.

Stepping inside, you might think that Balance extended to the right of the door, but in fact it’s just the space to the left. Indeed, you can see the whole interior through the window. Directly ahead of you, the back wall houses the menu and a takeaway station, while to the left, there’s a display cabinet by the window with the counter next to it. I could probably just touch the back wall and the front door with arms fully outstretched.

The business end of Balance is between the display cabinet/counter and the back wall, where the staff (the owner, Ali, and barista Thomas during my visit) produce an impressive array of freshly-blended juices, espresso-based coffee, plus toasties and sandwiches (two veggie options, two fish options) and other goodies. There’s a house blend from The Roastery Department (the roasting arm of the Department of Coffee & Social Affairs) and, from across the road, a rotating guest single-origin from Assembly.

I had a flat white with the house-blend, an interesting mix of 70% El Salvador / 30% Rwanda, which turned out to be a lovely. Smooth, sweet and very well-balanced, it went down a treat. I was impressed to note that it was served in a glass rather than a disposable cup. I also had the last of the sandwich selection, a crunchy, tasty cheese and onion toastie. My only regret is not sampling the tasty-looking pastry selection.

179 FERNDALE ROAD • LONDON • SW9 8BA
https://twitter.com/BalanceCafeSW9 +44 (0) 20 3784 2439
Monday 07:00 – 15:00 Roaster Roastery Department + Assembly (espresso only)
Tuesday 07:00 – 15:00 Seating Tables + Bench Outside
Wednesday 07:00 – 15:00 Food Cake, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:00 – 15:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 15:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 16:00 Wifi No
Sunday CLOSED Power No
Chain No Visits 25th November 2016

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