It’s almost impossible not to like The Fields Beneath, located underneath North London’s Kentish Town West train station. From the moment I saw it, I was sold, but if I’d been in any doubt, the warm and friendly greeting I got from baristas Jess and her colleague Vanessa would have won me over. Although they “only” work there, their affection for and dedication to The Fields Beneath puts some owners I know to shame.
It helps that The Fields Beneath serves excellent coffee from regularly rotating roasters, which means you’ll always be in for a surprise! However, it’s served without a hint of pretension and none of the snobbery that sometimes plagues such places. Jess was equally happy discussing the finer points of roasting with me and serving a “black coffee” to the next customer who came in.
It also helps that the cakes, pastries and bread (I tried the lot) are divine and that The Fields Beneath is a lovely place in which to eat them/drink the coffee. The only downside I can see is that the line serving the station, part of the London Overground network, doesn’t actually connect to any of the stations that I regularly use!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Previous experience (eg Hart’s Bakery) of places under railway arches led me to expect somewhere dark and possibly cramped, but The Fields Beneath is the complete opposite. Although smaller than Hart’s, a glass wall down one side and a big glass door meant that there was lots of light and it felt wonderfully spacious. Stepping inside, you’re greeted by a lovely tiled counter, bare-brick wall behind, and the roof arching a full quarter of a circle above you. The roof and remaining walls are covered in white, corrugated sheeting, adding to the bright feel. There’s only one table inside, an eight-seater to your left by the glass wall, made from an old door (with the hinges still on!). Outside are two fold-up tables with another nine chairs.
The coffee menu is delightfully concise. The Fields Beneath serves espresso or filter; a very small coffee (macchiato/piccolo/cortado) and a milky coffee (flat white/latte/cappuccino). The coffee comes in 20kg batches from different roasters and when it’s gone, The Fields Beneath moves onto the next one!
During my visit, the espresso was Round Hill’s Kenyan Karani, which barista Jess described as very acidic. At her recommendation I had a macchiato/cortado/piccolo. I did ask if there was any difference between the three, but in The Fields Beneath there isn’t: it’s just a very small (milky) coffee! I wholeheartedly approve, although I never did get to the bottom of whether ordering a flat white, latte and cappuccino (“milky coffee”) would produce three identical drinks.
Jess’ first attempt came in a latte glass, but common consensus held that it was too frothy, so Jess offered to make it again. I said I didn’t mind, but then mentioned my intention to photograph it. Suddenly it was whisked away, never to be seen again! The second attempt came in a Butterworth & Son espresso cup and was very photogenic. Jess was right about the taste too; very acidic! I’d have hated it as an espresso. Although I enjoyed it as a piccolo, it was still too acidic for me.
Vanessa, the self-titled cake connoisseur, recommended the apricot crumble to go with my coffee. Regular readers will know I now rarely go against recommendations, so although it wasn’t my first choice (I was eyeing up the frangipane), I went for it. This was an excellent decision: sweet cake, topped with a sugary, crisp crumble and just enough fruit to get the flavour without overpowering everything else.
I was also given an almond croissant and Florentine to try. The croissant was a delight with a gorgeous patisserie-cream filling. Although the Florentine wasn’t my sort of thing, it was piled high with fruit, not something you often find.
The Fields Beneath has sandwiches and sells bread and milk (something of a rarity in coffee shops). I think Jess and Vanessa liked me since (although with another customer) I was given a baguette to take away. This formed my breakfast the following morning and was absolutely lovely too (baguettes are sadly often badly done in this country).
Most of the cakes are baked by (co-owner) Gavin’s mum, with Galeta providing the rest. The bread and croissants come from Seven Seeded, while Pip supplies the savoury(!) doughnuts and tarts. On Saturday, the Fields Beneath has St John’s doughnuts, but with its own custard filling.
|52A PRINCE OF WALES ROAD • KENTISH TOWN • LONDON • NW5 3NL|
|www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fields-Beneath/||+44 (0) 7912 435754|
|Monday||07:30 – 18:00||Seating||Tables (inside and out)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 18:00||Food||Sandwiches, tarts, savoury doughnuts, cake|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||07:30 – 18:00||Cards||Visa, Mastercard|
|Friday||07:30 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||07:30 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Mobile||3G, Voice|
|Chain||No||Visits||19th August 2013|
You can also see what my fellow coffee-bloggers, Liquidjolt, Who’s For A Brew? and Faerietale Foodie made of the place.
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Afraid I’d have stuck firmly with the frangipane -taking a creme brulee home with me. Was bread + jam an eat-in option? That’d make a damn fine choice too…
I think so. I’ll check next time I’m there. Bread and jam is a much underrated option in my opinion!
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