A flat white, seen from above, with tulip pattern latte art in a white cup on a white saucer.Silhouette joined a growing number of speciality coffee shops and roasters in the Hackney area, opening in February last year. Located just off Mare Street (close to the now-closed and sadly missed Look Mum No Hands!) it’s close to the likes of Climpson and Sons and others at London Fields (with the roastery just around the corner) and Terrone at Netil Market.

Silhouette itself is a delightful little spot, south-facing and on a corner, so it catches the sun, both from the generous windows at the front, as well as from the equally-generous windows along the west-facing side. Inside, the focus is on the coffee, where Silhouette offers both espresso and pour-over (using the Kalita Wave), filling its hoppers with whatever takes the fancy of owners Lee and Syirin (Syirin had just returned from a trip to Berlin, so the shelves held a smattering of bags from the likes of Five Elephant and Concierge (a new one on me).

Silhouette also does loose leaf tea, hot chocolate, cold-pressed juices and smoothies. There’s a menu heavy on toast/bagels, things on toast/bagels and salads. With a nod to Syirin’s Malaysian heritage, Silhouette also runs monthly Malaysian Supper Clubs on a Saturday evening.

October 2016: Some good news and some bad: Lee and Syirin ran a successful Kickstarter to fund a second coffee shop, but in an unexpected twist, the original Silhouette has had to close with immediate effect. It will be sadly missed.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Silhouette, on the corner of Bayford St & Elizabeth Fry Road, just off Mare St, Hackney.
  • A panorama from just inside the door...
  • ... and the view looking back towards the door.
  • The bulk of the seating is provided by these two window bars at the front/side.
  • There's also a communal table in the middle of the room, although that might be gone now.
  • There are also two armchairs on the right-hand wall and another on the left, by the counter.
  • Little and large, sharing a coffee table.
  • The chairs are flanked by shelves stacked with things for sale. To the left, coffee & tea kit...
  • ... while to the right, a more eclectic selection.
  • The counter is all the way at the back of the store, with a large, open space behind.
  • I was there in the middle of December, so the Christmas decorations were up...
  • ... but I was more interested in the lovely lights which hung in the windows.
  • Specifically I was interested in the lights and their reflections in the wndows.
  • See what I mean?
  • Although the lights themselves, with their open metalwork frames, were amazing.
  • The walls also house posters for classic French movies.
  • Interesting reading material.
  • The counter is a simple, uncluttered affair.
  • The menus are on the wall to the left.
  • Hot chocolate by Kokoa Collection: I'm being stalked!
  • The coffee part of the business is against the left-hand wall, filter first, then espresso...
  • ... where the two-group La Marzocco does most of the heavy lifting.
  • The coffee itself, especially the filter coffee, is on the opposite wall.
  • James Gourmet was the official filter coffee while I was there...
  • ... although Syirin had just returned from Berlin with a pile of goodies...
  • I was given a sample of the Five Elephant to take away with me (just enough for a cup)...
  • ... and a similar amount of this from Concierge.
  • Interestingly, this was a filter blend: 80% Guatemalan, 20% Ethiopian.
  • It's probably over now, but Silhouette was running a lucky dip for charity. £2 gets a bag.
  • I donated £5 and hauled out two, both Kenyans, from Modern Standard and Caravan.
  • There's also a limited selection of cake. To the left, pastries, to the right...
  • ... well, it's a new one on me. It's actually Kuih Bakar, Malay Pandan cake.
  • ... although I am calling it 'Green'. I took a slice of Green home with me. It was delicious!
  • For the more traditionally-minded: pastries and croissants.
  • However, I was there for breakfast: a lovely flat white...
  • ... and some classic sour dough toast with butter and jam.
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Silhouette is the brain-child of Lee and Syirin, from Wales and Malaysia respectively, who previously ran a pop-up in China Town during 2014. I’d met Lee at the London Coffee Festival in 2013, and since we’d also conversed a bit on twitter over the years, he recognised me the instant I walked in the door.  So much for going incognito… In fact, with the exception of Notes, Canary Wharf, I was recognised in every coffee shop I visited that weekend!

There’s not a lot to Silhouette (in a good way). Its square floorplan promotes a simple, open layout, with the door at the front on the right and the counter at the back on the left (behind which is the kitchen). In between, there’s a modest, communal table in the centre of the room (although that maybe going/being replaced fairly soon), with the remainder of the seating around the other three walls. There’s also a bench outside the front window on Bayford Street.

The bulk of the seating is provided by two window-bars, one for each window. The one to your left, as you enter, looks out over Bayford Street, and has three high-backed bar-chairs, while the one along the front part of the left-hand wall is shorter, with two chairs, looking out onto Elizabeth Fry Road. A solitary armchair sits at the end of this window-bar, while on the opposite wall (ahead of you as you enter) is a pair of (mismatching) armchairs sharing a coffee table. Silhouette is small (and cosy) enough that you can sit and chat, but it’s not so small that you can’t mind your own business if you prefer. Having had my cover blown on entry, I went for the sit and chat option.

Silhouette is a product of Lee and Syirin’s passion for coffee. They only take small batches of espresso and filter beans from a rotating cast of roasters (with an emphasis on southwest England and the Welsh borders). The coffee goes into the hopper and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I spectacularly failed to make a note of what was on espresso, save that it was from Assembly, the first time Silhouette has had its beans. All I can tell you is that it was lovely in my flat white and went very well with my sour dough toast, which I had for breakfast.

The filter was from James Gourmet (from Ross-on-Wye), with four single-origins on offer (it’s still rare to find James Gourmet in London). These were joined by a couple of bags from Workshop and four from the aforementioned Berlin roasters. Silhouette prefers the Kalita Wave, but will also use the Aeropress and Chemex if you ask nicely.

There’s also food, which is all freshly-made on site, with the bread bought in from a nearby bakery. One or two Malaysian dishes appear on the lunch menu during the week. Silhouette caters mostly to the immediate neighbourhood and Syirin summed up the philosophy as “we only make things we’d eat ourselves”.

There’s a small selection of pastries, plus Kuih Bakar, a moist Malaysian cake made of coconut milk, flour, eggs, sugar and pandan leaf, which gives it its distinctive (disturbing?) green colour. Despite my misgivings, I took a slice home with me, consuming it the next day: it was excellent!

December 2016: Silhouette was a runner-up for the 2016 Most Passionate About Coffee Award.

February 2017: You can see what I made of the new Silhouette inside Hummus Bros. on Cheapside.

1 BAYFORD STREET • LONDON • E8 3SE +44 (0) 7873 863697
Monday 07:30 – 15:00 Roaster Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 15:00 Seating Window Bars, Armchairs, Bench (Outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 15:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 15:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 15:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 10:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 11:00 – 15:30 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 19th December 2015

In the interests of disclosure, I should point out that I backed the Kickstarter campaign to set up Silhouette. I should also point out that I completely forgot that I backed it, only noticing when I went to back Silhouette’s second Kickstarter, which allowed Lee and Syirin to open the Cheapside branch.

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