Crystal Palace’s loss is Balham’s gain. I was supposed to be going Bambino Coffee in Crystal Palace, but when I got there, it was closed (permanently, as it turned out), so I turned around and went back to Balham where I had previously passed the highly-commended M1lk.
Located a few strides away from Balham Train and Tube Stations along Balham High Road, M1lk is a delightful place. Although the address is Bedford Hill, if coming from the station, you’re better off cutting down Hildreth Street on your right. You’ll find M1lk at the end, on your left. In the summer, tables spill out onto the pavement of the pedestrianised street, while in the winter, a large awning gives protection to a row of four tables and benches.
Inside, you are spoilt for choice with some excellent coffee, all-day brunches and lots of cake (unless you arrive at four o’clock, when most of it has been eaten!). The espresso is from London’s Workshop, while the filter coffee (made with an Aeropress) features beans from Koppi, making M1lk the Swedish roasters’ only permanent outlet in London.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
M1lk occupies a lovely spot on the corner of Bedford Hill and Hildreth Street (home of the Hildreth Street market). Although the address is Bedford Hill, the door’s on Hildreth Street, while the building itself still retains the name of one of the previous tenants, Alma’s (a “real ale takeaway pub”). M1lk’s been there for 18 months, so obviously exterior redecoration is not high on the list of priorities (although I’ve seen photographs where the exterior was branded as “Milk”: confusing!).
There’s a good choice of seating, with four long tables/benches outside on the pedestrianised Hildreth Street. In the summer, the windows on this side slide right back, effectively opening the whole café to the street. However, in the colder months, these remain sensibly closed to keep the warmth in. Despite this, the outside seating is still pretty warm, courtesy of a large awning, complete with plastic side-panels, which encloses the outside benches in a manner reminiscent of French pavement cafes.
Stepping inside, you find yourself in a funny wedge-shaped plot, with the counter at the thick end to your left, the kitchen (behind bars!) ahead of you and the café proper to your right. This tapers away almost to a point at the junction of Bedford Hill and Hildreth Street, with the seating cleverly fitted into this tapering space. Despite the weird layout, M1lk feels really spacious, helped by large windows on three sides and a light, natural décor, including a white ceiling, whitewashed bricks and bare floorboards. In all, there are six 2-3 person tables tucked in on the Hildreth Street side, with a communal ten-person table with stools on the Bedford Hill side. The atmosphere is completed by fairly loud music, but not so loud as to inhibit conversation.
I reached M1lk late in the day, which proved to be a tactical mistake since the all-day brunch menu looked delicious (it was a day of unintended visits; I had just had brunch at Brown & Green in Crystal Palace, so really couldn’t partake, no matter how good it looked). I was also told off (quite rightly) by Barista Alex since nearly all the cake had gone! My final misfortune was the coffee. M1lk is London’s only permanent outlet for Swedish roasters Koppi, but I wasn’t really in a position to try it out, given how late in the day it was. However, plans are already afoot for a return brunch/filter coffee visit!
Instead I had to “settle” for a shot of Cult of Done from Workshop on the espresso machine. This tasted much as I remembered it from my visit to Talkhouse a few of weeks earlier, although this one wasn’t quite as short. It did, however, come in a delightful shallow blue cup with an oversized saucer, which pleased me no end!
I also had the most amazing hazelnut cake. This is perhaps one of the best slices of cake I’ve had in a long time (which includes anything I’ve produced myself). If you don’t like hazelnuts, steer clear of this one since the nuts dominate the taste (in a good way). It had a perfect structure, crumbly enough to be light, but moist enough to hold itself together. The layer of hazelnut buttercream on the top added just the right amount of sweetness.
|20 BEDFORD HILL • BALHAM • LONDON • SW12 9RG|
|www.m1lk.co.uk||+44 (0) 208 772 9085|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Benches Outside|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 17:00||Food||Breakfast/Lunch (all day), Cake|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:00||Cards||Cash only|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||08:00 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Mobile||3G, Voice|
|Chain||No||Visits||25th October 2013|
You can see what my fellow blogger A Southern Belle in London made of M1lk.
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