After the venerable Federation Coffee, Balance, on Ferndale Road, is one of the more established names in Brixton’s speciality coffee, recently joined by the likes of Stir Coffee Brixton and Brixton Blend, plus, across the road, the new Volcano/Assembly Roastery. Established in 2014 by the owner, Ali, who I had the pleasure of meeting, Balance is a tightly-focused shop selling espresso-based drinks, with beans from The Roastery Department and Assembly, freshly-blended juices and a small selection of pastries, toasties and sandwiches.
It’s a tiny place too, with just enough space inside for the counter, espresso machine behind, where you can order and wait for your coffee. If you want to sit down, you need to head outside (although you’re welcome to stand at the counter like I did and drink your coffee) where you’ll find a bench and a couple of two-person tables on the pavement.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Blink and you might miss Balance, on the south side of Ferndale Road, which links Clapham to the west with Brixton to the east. Firmly on the Brixton end of the road, it’s a few minutes’ walk from Brixton’s tube and train stations, making it very popular with morning commuters. Not that I do mornings, turning up at two o’clock one Friday afternoon for a flat white and the last toastie…
Balance occupies a single-story building butting up against the (overground) railway line behind it. There’s a window to the left, the door in the middle and a blank wall, painted with some abstract art, to the right. The seating is all outside, a long bench under the window and a couple of two-person tables in front of the wall. An awning projects from the front of the shop to provide both shade and protection from the rain, plus the pavement is quite broad, so you are well set back from the traffic.
Stepping inside, you might think that Balance extended to the right of the door, but in fact it’s just the space to the left. Indeed, you can see the whole interior through the window. Directly ahead of you, the back wall houses the menu and a takeaway station, while to the left, there’s a display cabinet by the window with the counter next to it. I could probably just touch the back wall and the front door with arms fully outstretched.
The business end of Balance is between the display cabinet/counter and the back wall, where the staff (the owner, Ali, and barista Thomas during my visit) produce an impressive array of freshly-blended juices, espresso-based coffee, plus toasties and sandwiches (two veggie options, two fish options) and other goodies. There’s a house blend from The Roastery Department (the roasting arm of the Department of Coffee & Social Affairs) and, from across the road, a rotating guest single-origin from Assembly.
I had a flat white with the house-blend, an interesting mix of 70% El Salvador / 30% Rwanda, which turned out to be a lovely. Smooth, sweet and very well-balanced, it went down a treat. I was impressed to note that it was served in a glass rather than a disposable cup. I also had the last of the sandwich selection, a crunchy, tasty cheese and onion toastie. My only regret is not sampling the tasty-looking pastry selection.
December 2017: Balance was a runner-up for the 2017 Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
|179 FERNDALE ROAD • LONDON • SW9 8BA|
|https://twitter.com/BalanceCafeSW9||+44 (0) 20 3784 2439|
|Monday||07:00 – 15:00||Roaster||Roastery Department + Assembly (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 15:00||Seating||Tables + Bench Outside|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 15:00||Food||Cake, Sandwiches|
|Thursday||07:00 – 15:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 15:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 16:00||Wifi||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||25th November 2016|
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I am always amazed by the ingenuity of cafe owners and how they make a fab place in such a small space!
Your blogs are such a help to us as an ideas bank for the new cafe we are designing here!
You’re not the first person to say that 🙂
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