Vagabond N7

The interior of Vagabond N7, looking from just inside the door to the counter.How did it take me this long to visit the delightful Vagabond N7? For those not in the know, Vagabond N7 is the bigger offshoot of Vagabond N4, sitting on the Holloway Road at the north end of Islington. One of the gems of the London coffee scene, that I even visited it at all is down to The Café Cat who invited me along to talk coffee, café culture and Wales. I can’t even claim ignorance since my fellow coffee-bloggers have been raving about it for a while now…

What I’ve been missing is a lovely place with that just-moved-in-and-haven’t-decorated-yet unfinished look that is all the rage in trendy coffee shops. It’s the sort of look that, if you get it wrong, you just look naff, a wannabe trend-setter who missed the boat. Of course, if you get it right, like Vagabond, it looks the most natural thing in the world.

It helps that the coffee, from Has Bean, is excellent and the barista, Gabriel, is knowledgeable, passionate and committed. Rather disturbingly, it was the third Has Bean I’d had in a week that I liked and the first that I’d positively raved about. I think I’ve gone mad…

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Vagabond N7 on Holloway Road.
  • The door is offset to the side, a rather strange arrangement.
  • The A-board promises much...
  • ... and the view through the door confirms that promise.
  • The view from just inside the door.
  • There's an eclectic collection of tables. This one is by the door.
  • While this larger table is between window and counter.
  • Many coffee shops use jam jars for a variety of reasons: Vagabond N7 uses them for jam!
  • The view from the back of the store.
  • A little passageway at the back leads past the kitchen...
  • ... to a sheltered garden behind the shop.
  • Back inside, Vagabond has lots of great little features such as this fireplace.
  • However, down to business. Vagabond uses Has Bean, which no longer fills me with dismay.
  • First, food: there's a comprehensive menu...
  • ... and lots of cake...
  • ... which is worth a second look.
  • So, to the comprehensive drinks menu.
  • Interesting selection of beans... The Tate espresso, however, had just finished, replaced by a Has Bean Yirgacheffe.
  • Vagabond also offers the chance to sample the espresso 'as is' and with milk.
  • However, I wanted to try the filter and had the Guatemalan as a V60.
  • It came with a slice of chocolate Guinness cake. This was excellent, rich, moist & not too sweet.
  • The Cafe Cat had this very fine-looking piccolo.
  • An espresso and an americano being prepared for other customers. I love the blue cups.
  • And finally, the beautiful Yirgacheffe espresso that Gabriel fortunately talked me into trying!
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Stepping into Vagabond N7, it was love at first sight. What a gorgeous place! Its beauty belies the awkwardness of the space: long and thin, there’s just enough room for the counter on one side and a few small tables on the other, with one larger one tucked between counter and window. Beyond the counter, at the back, there’s space for a couple more.

Vagabond has nailed the unfinished looked: bare brick walls, patched up plaster and wooden floorboards combine for a harmonious whole. The seating is an eclectic mix of wooden tables and benches, which all look handmade. Out back is a garden which shares the interior’s unfinished look. All-in-all, it’s an excellent place to drink coffee.

Like fellow Holloway Road newcomer, Brewsters N7, Vagabond (which has been around a little longer than Brewsters) brings fine coffee to north Islington. Disappointingly, for my simple mind, the new Vagabond is south of its parent, Vagabond N4 (I’m sorry, but as the number increases, logically one should get further north, so N7 should be north, not south, of N4!). This, by the way, is the only criticism I can make of place.

While I was at Vagabond, I had some very fine coffee. Since Vagabond is a Has Bean establishment, I started with a filter coffee, the Guatemala Finca San Sebastian as a V60. The barista, Gabriel, was very focused while making it. While he was in mid-pour, Sally (aka The Café Cat) arrived. I asked Gabriel for a piccolo for Sally, getting the merest nod of the head in acknowledgement (which was all that was needed, I should add) as he devoted 99.9% of his attention on the task in hand: making my coffee. From that point on, I knew I was in for a treat.

The coffee was lovely and smooth, while Sally expressed her satisfaction with the piccolo. However, the best was yet to come when I got chatting to Gabriel afterwards. I’d intended to try the guest espresso, from Tate Britain’s in-house roaster, Ben Presland. Sadly, it’d just run out and Gabriel was keen that I try the new guest, a Yirgacheffe from Has Bean.

Now, I have fairly firm opinions on single origin espressos (generally, I don’t appreciate them) and on Has Bean (although my recent, positive experiences at The Barista’s and the Shrewsbury Coffeehouse is forcing a re-assessment), so Gabriel was starting at a disadvantage. However, he was persistent and I’ve learnt to go with my baristas, so I relented and Gabriel made me an absolutely sublime espresso.

Regular readers will know that I don’t have a great palette, nor do I have a particularly broad vocabulary for flavours, although I’ve moved on from my original binary description of like/don’t like. What I’ve discovered is that coffee I don’t like (fruity/acidic coffees) attack the sides of my mouth, while the coffees I do like caress the back of my throat. So, the best way I can describe the Yirgacheffe was that there was no side-of-the-mouth feel to it. Instead, it went straight down the back of my throat.

I won’t go out on a limb and say it’s the best espresso I’ve ever had, but I’ve certainly never tasted anything like it before (or since, although it was only three weeks ago!). Highly recommended!

Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, benches, bench outside
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast/Lunch/Brunch, Cake
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Cards Cash Only
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Power No
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Mobile 3G, Voice
Chain Local Visits 26th September 2013

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16 thoughts on “Vagabond N7

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  3. I like the idea of that tasting flight/experience/set/what have you
    …don’t see many green cups, it seems.
    I, too, had selected “that chocolatey thing” JUST ahead of the banana bread.
    Final opinion? 😉 Your tasting description actually made a whole load of sense to me! May it continue.

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  9. The reason N7 is south of n4 is that postcodes are allocated alphabetically. Not by location. Within the N area holloway is higher up than stoke newington! Weird isn’t it!

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