A long time ago (at least, it feels that way) when I regularly visited London, I’d often wander past the Southbank Centre Food Market. Conveniently on the route from Waterloo Station to Hungerford Bridge (as I stubbornly still call the Golden Jubilee Bridges) it was made even better by the presence, at the foot of the stairs, of the Bean About Town coffee van, a lovely, old Citroen, run by the equally lovely, but not so old, Claire (who shares, by the way, her nationality with the van, both being French). It was one of the first places I wrote about on the Coffee Spot.
However, things change, I ceased to be such a regular visitor, and I didn’t notice when the van disappeared from the bottom of the stairs. Then, last Sunday, with an hour to spare, I decided to wander out of Waterloo and have a nose around the market, whereupon I stumbled upon a big sign saying “Coffee” at the far end of the market.
That’s new, I thought to myself. Only it wasn’t. It was the old Citroen van, with Claire still there, pulling shots. “What’s going on?” you might well ask. What’s going on indeed!
You can see what I found out after the gallery.
The original Bean About Town van was part of a small fleet (which included barrows and carts) with several pitches around London. Unbeknown to me, at the end of last year, the owner decided to sell up, offering each of the pitches (and all the equipment) to the staff working/managing them. Thus Bean About Town was no more, but in its place sprang up several new, independent coffee businesses which, I feel, is excellent.
One of these children of Bean About Town is For the Good of the People Coffee (Good People for short). It inherited the old Citroen van, the La Marzocco espresso machine and Claire, the barista who has worked the Southbank Centre Food Market for as long as I’ve been aware of it. As I said, the pitch has changed, the van moving from the foot of the stairs at the southern end of the market to the foot of another set of stairs at the northern end, nearing the seating area at the rear of the Southbank Centre. Just wander around until you see the big sign saying “coffee”.
The layout is pretty simply. The side of the van comes down to reveal the espresso machine and grinder, while there’s a table in front, which acts as a counter and, to either side a long, collapsible bench. These serve the dual purpose of delineating the customer space from Claire and her colleagues’ working space and providing some seating, although you do have to sit with your back to Claire and colleagues which seems rude. Finally, there’s a large umbrella over the whole set-up providing shade/shelter from the rain (take your pick).
When it comes to the coffee, Claire is still serving excellent shots of espresso, with iced options available for the summer. There’s also hot chocolate, chai latte and tea. It’s all espresso only and if you don’t see what you fancy on the comprehensive menu, just ask: I’m sure Claire will make it for you. Of course, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Talking of coffee, Good People uses The Grand Howl, a small coffee shop/roaster in Hackney that I’d not come across before. With typical timing, I’d arrived the one weekend when Good People had been really busy and had run out, falling back on Caravan’s Daily Blend. I had a shot of this in my Kaffeeform cup, a nicely pulled, well-balanced shot, although I’ll have to pop back when The Grand Howl is back on!
In closing, there is a very small selection of cake, but this is the Southbank Centre Food Market, so you’re not exactly short of cake (or food) options from the other stalls!
October 2022: For the Good of the People has now moved, along with the Real Food Market, to Euston Station. The coffee has also changed, with Coffee Compass now roasting a bespoke blend (Canopy) on behalf of For the Good of the People. And Claire has moved on too, although I don’t know where, sadly.
|SOUTHBANK CENTRE FOOD MARKET • BELVEDERE RD • LONDON • SE1 8XX
|+44 (0) 20 7960 4200
|The Gran Howl (espresso only)
|12:00 – 20:00
|Cards + Cash
|11:00 – 20:00
|12:00 – 18:00
|Original: 5th October 2012
Update: 4th June 2017
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