The Black Chapel

An espresso at The Black Chapel in Wandsworth, pulled on a 1958 Faema Lambro.The Black Chapel occupies a unit on the west side of Chapel Yard, a sheltered, pedestrian space just off Wandsworth High Street. There are a couple of outside tables and three stools inside, but that’s about it. You really come here for the coffee, the vegan snacks/treats, and, of course, to be insulted by hang out with The Black Chapel’s legendary owner, Ant.

There’s a rotating cast of guest roasters, with a single option on espresso and another on pour-over. Ant operates an interesting system: when one coffee runs out, he grabs a bag of whatever takes his fancy from his stock cupboard and on that goes in its place… The coffee is pulled on a vintage 1964 Telechrome lever espresso machine, although while I was there, it was under repair, replaced by an even more venerable lever machine, a 1958 Faema Lambro. There’s also filter through the Clever Dripper.

When it comes to food (although not coffee, where cow’s milk is available along with non-dairy alternatives), The Black Chapel is vegan, with a small selection of sweet and savoury delights, including avocado on toast, all prepared on-site. I arrived just as the cinnamon buns came out of the oven…

November 2018: The Black Chapel is now under new ownership, having been taken over by Doctor Espresso. You can see what I made of it when I visited in July 2019.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • In Wandsworth, close to where the Wandle runs into the Thames, is Chapel Yard...
  • ... where you'll find this interesting set up.
  • It's the home of The Black Chapel, an old school espresso bar and vegan kitchen.
  • On the other side of the yard is Memorial Hall, on the site of the original Black Chapel.
  • The Memorial Hall dates from 1882, but its history goes back a long way before that.
  • The first Black Chapel dates from 1573, home to non-conformists, then Huguenot refugees.
  • These days (since 2003) it's been the home of the National Opera Studio.
  • This is the view if you come in from the Memorial Hall side of Chapel Yard.
  • The outdoor seating is a bit of a moveable feast: this is how it looked during my visit...
  • ... and here's the view from in front of the shop.
  • Talking of the shop, The Black Chapel occupies one side of the yard, with the man himself, owner and head barista, Ant, standing in the door.
  • Naturally there's a Tardis in the yard. Every coffee shop has one, don't they?
  • While you're sitting outside, you can watch the planes on their approach to Heathrow.
  • You order inside, although when the doors are wide open the distinction is moot.
  • While there's not a lot to The Black Chapel, there is a small seating area off to the right...
  • ... with these three low stools by a cluttered table...
  • ... while up above is retail shelf...
  • ... and up above that, high in the corner, some vintage coffee gear.
  • In the middle, directly opposite as you enter, there are retail bags of coffee...
  • ... while above that, on old Routemaster bus boards, the day's choices on filter & espresso.
  • Slightly to the left of the door is the food offering, all vegan...
  • ... with cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven, taking pride of place.
  • Finally, off to the left, is where Ant makes all the coffee, working on this one-group...
  • ... Faema Lambro espresso machine, which dates from 1958...
  • ... and which is a temporary replacement for this 1964 two-group Telechrome.
  • This is not mine: it's the Frappers Delight, an Athens-inspired iced coffe (I think).
  • I, meanwhile, was sticking to the espresso...
  • ... although Ant also made me some of the pour-over to try, both coffees from Dark Arts.
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Once upon a time, Ant ran Bambino Coffee in Crystal Palace, which I tried to visit back in 2013. Sadly, it had closed a week or two earlier, so I went to Brown & Green instead. Fast forward four years, and I finally met Ant at the Glasgow Coffee Festival, where he was running my Japanese coffee cupping. Embarrassed at having gone all the way to Glasgow to meet him when his coffee shop was only in Wandsworth, I promised faithfully that I would visit. A mere 15 months later, here I am…

The Black Chapel is in the heart of Wandsworth, just off the High Street at its junction with Buckhold Road. It’s on the ground floor of a modern block of flats (one-time abode of fellow coffee bloggers, Bean There At), facing out onto Chapel Yard, which takes its name from an old chapel (now no longer standing) which in the 16th and 17th centuries was a place of worship for non-conformists and Huguenot refugees from France and the Netherlands.

The yard is a pleasant spot, with access from both ends, although the natural entry point is straight off Buckhold Road. At the other end of the yard is the Memorial Hall, which stands on the site of the old chapel and is now home to the National Opera Studio. The Black Chapel is to the left, a long, shallow structure, its front all glass, while the bulk of the seating is a pair of four-person tables located out in the yard itself. There’s also a Tardis (aka an old police call box) against the opposite wall, which makes a nice back-drop to your coffee.

You enter in the centre, with a small, narrow seating area off to the right, three low stools clustered by a cluttered table. Indeed, cluttered is a good description of The Black Chapel, which is replete with old, and often very interesting, coffee kit. As well as the two espresso machines, there’s a Victorian syphon machine, which takes pride of place next to Ant’s winning entry for the Creators Cup.

In the centre is a shelf with retail bags of coffee and the menu, while above, two old Routemaster destination boards have the day’s coffee offerings chalked up on them. Extract’s cherished Unkle Funka had run out when I got there, replaced by a Guatemalan Finca San Antonio from Dark Arts Coffee. Darks Arts was also on the filter board, with another Finca San Antonio, this one from Costa Rica.

I started with an espresso, the Guatemalan Finca San Antonio proving to be a smooth, fruity coffee. At Ant’s instance, I followed this up with a cup of the filter coffee (Ant makes a large Clever Dripper at a time, keeping the coffee warm in a thermos), the Costa Rica San Antonio proving similarly smooth, although a little less fruity.

Chatting with Ant, I realised that I had (for once) timed my visit well. Ant has recently put The Black Chapel up for sale as a going concern, including the espresso machines, tables and other bits and pieces. So, if you ever fancied owning your own coffee shop (and no, you need not apply if you want to turn it into a mobile phone shop), please get in touch (with Ant, not me!).

1 CHAPEL YARD • WANDSWORTH • LONDON • SW18 4HZ +44 (0) 7850 573923
Monday 09:00 – 16:30 Roaster Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:00 – 16:30 Seating Stools (inside), Tables (outside)
Wednesday 09:00 – 16:30 Food Cakes, Savouries
Thursday 09:00 – 16:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00 Wifi N/A
Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 Power N/A
Chain No Visits 18th August 2018

For an alternative viewpoint from a couple of years ago, here’s Bean There At’s take on The Black Chapel.

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6 thoughts on “The Black Chapel

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