Talkhouse Coffee

Talkhouse Coffee, as seen from the opposite side of Portobello RoadMy visit to Talkhouse Coffee has been a long time coming. I got nagged about it at the London Coffee Festival, but it still took me another six months to make it over to the top end of Portobello Road… (This, by the way, isn’t strictly true. The day I ended up at Bean About Town and The Fields Beneath in Kentish Town, I did actually go to Talkhouse first, but it was a Monday, so it was closed… Planning fail!).

However, it was worth the wait/aborted attempt. Talkhouse is a fantastic place, with multiple spaces, each with its own character. The staff are very welcoming and friendly, the coffee excellent and the cakes superb. The sandwich I had (red pepper and hummus on brown bread; very spicy) was pretty decent too! It’s also full of nice little touches, such as table service and a bottle of water turning up on your table without you having to ask.

The focus, however, is very much on the coffee, and what a choice there is! Four options on the Aeropress (two from Square Mile, two from Workshop), bulk filter and Workshop’s Cult of Dome on the espresso machine. You can’t go wrong.

July 2015: Sad news, but it looks like Talkhouse has had to close

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Talkhouse Coffee at the top of Portobello Road
  • A promising start!
  • The view from just inside the door: that's one of the least cluttered counters I've seen in a long time!
  • The cakes are to the fore, just as it should be, next to a neat bar in the window.
  • A better view of the window bar.
  • The seating opposite the bar: minimalist, but effective.
  • At the back of the main space, a corridor leads down past the kitchen to the back room.
  • There's also another bar here if you need more seating. There's power and the wifi sort of works!
  • The room at the back, with proper chairs and working wifi!
  • And this big table!
  • There's also a door to the lovely garden. Sadly it was rather wet while I was there.
  • More of the lovely garden. Two hardy souls did sit out there during my visit!
  • The back room, as seen from the garden.
  • Another view of the bar in the corridor. It's surprisingly bright in here.
  • The front part of Talkhouse, as seen from the corridor.
  • Another view of the neat tables.
  • There's also a little bar at the end of the counter, where you can sit and watch the baristas at work.
  • The brew bar, at the end of the counter, is worth a second look.
  • It's even got its own, fancy on-demand grinder.
  • There's a nice shelf of coffee-making equipment behind the counter.
  • In fact, Talkhouse is full of nice touches, including this neat way of showing the cup sizes.
  • I also liked the system for the sugar spoons.
  • Clearly in the presence of greatness!
  • If you don't want to drink it there, you can also take the coffee home with you...
  • ... and the tea too!
  • So, down to business. The hot drinks menu... Choices, choices...
  • And something to go with it... Yet more choices!
  • There's lots of sandwiches and cakes to choose from...
  • I went for this one, red pepper and hummus on brown bread
  • I decided on a filter coffee, which came beautifully presented in a carafe on its own tray.
  • I wasn't going to have anything else, but then I crumbled. A brownie, perhaps? Or a doughnut?
  • In the end, I decided that the cinnamon bun was the perfect accompaniment.
  • It's so good, it's worth a look on its own.
  • And when half-eaten!
  • The view of the espresso machine from my table...
  • Again, I crumbled, and decided to put Yon through his paces. That's Elyse in the background, by the way.
  • Everything is correctly weighed at Talkhouse.
  • Yon, hard at work, making my espresso.
  • And here it is! The bottle of water is a nice touch.
  • Delightfully short. Super tasty :-)
  • And finally, some of Elyse's handiwork to finish with.
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Like Vagabond N7, Talkhouse Coffee inhabits a strange space, long and thin, with a garden at the back. Stepping inside, the store stretches out in front of you, counter to the right, seating (in form of three high tables projecting from the rough-brick wall) to the left. There’s also a bar in window and another at the end of the counter.

Seating is on bar-stools, which could be an issue, but fortunately if you venture beyond the counter and down a narrow corridor past the kitchen on the right and another bar on the left, you’ll find the back room. This has four two-person tables and one eight-person table, all with conventional chairs. From here, another door leads to the lovely garden.

Talkhouse goes for the stripped-back look, with concrete floor, and white-washed plaster or rough-brick walls. The front has high ceilings, but, despite large windows onto the street, it isn’t very bright, requiring plenty of well-placed lights. In contrast, the corridor is surprisingly bright (when it’s sunny) with diffuse light coming from a skylight and window at the back. Finally, the back room has a low ceiling with a mix of whitewashed walls and wood.

Although I liked Talkhouse, I wouldn’t initially describe the décor as warm or welcoming. The front half doesn’t encourage you to linger: with music in the background, coupled with the grinders and espresso machine, it’s a noisy, echoing space. The back room, in contrast, while looking rather austere, felt much more warm and welcoming, the sort of place you could stay all day. It helps that the wi-fi, which doesn’t stretch to the front, works perfectly well back here.

Any lack of warmth in the décor is more than made up for by the wonderful staff, though. Led by Elyse, they were very friendly and helpful, greeting the constant stream of regulars by name. The barista was Yon, who had just joined Talkhouse, and it was quite amusing to watch all the regulars asking him when he’d started as they came in (the previous Friday, if you’re interested).

Despite the lure of the back, I sat up front, enjoying the hustle and bustle, watching the coffee being made, and chatting with the baristas. And what coffee it was! I started with Workshop’s Santa Clara from Guatemala as an Aeropress, served in a lovely carafe, beautifully presented on a small tray, complete with pre-warmed cup. The carafe had a lid to keep the coffee warm; I appreciate little touches like that. Despite looking like tea, the coffee was excellent, not too weak and very smooth and well-balanced.

I followed this with an espresso, Workshop’s Cult of Done. It had an immediate punch to it that hit me in the roof of the mouth, which I thought I wasn’t going to like. However, it actually went down surprisingly smoothly. It was also delightfully short; no more than two mouthfuls.

I wasn’t going to have anything else, but I crumbed, sneaking in a cinnamon bun. It was that or the St John’s Doughnut (with custard). In choosing the bun, I was hoping to avoid a sugar-rush, but the bun was pretty sugary too, although not overly sweet, sickly or sticky. The bun part was lovely, with crunchy cinnamon sugar in between the layers.

275 PORTOBELLO ROAD • LONDON • W11 1LR +44 (0) 20 7221 8992
Monday CLOSED Seating Tables, Bars
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Lunch, Cake, Pastries
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Table
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code, back room only)
Saturday 09:30 – 19:00 Power A few
Sunday 09:30 – 17:00 Mobile 3G, Voice
Chain No Visits 3rd October 2013

You can see what my fellow bloggers, The Faerietale Foodie, A Southern Belle in London, Gladieater and Audrey Fiodorenko made of Talkhouse.

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11 thoughts on “Talkhouse Coffee

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  3. They really do appear to have it all beautifully worked out. Yes, the cakes and buns look bloody good. But for goodness sake, Brian!
    You see a St. John doughnut; you BUY IT.
    Even with custard, ffs…

    With them on board, bet the bread’s rather good too 😉
    Passing up custard…hmmph…

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