My 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.
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|
|www.talkhousecoffee.com||+44 (0) 20 7221 8992|
|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|
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