Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia

A gorgeous single-origin Ethiopian espresso, roasted in-house, and served in a classic white cup at Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia.Fitzrovia, that small slice of central London between Oxford Street and Euston Road, has more than its fair share of excellent coffee shops. For many years, one of my favourites was Curators Coffee Gallery on Margaret Street, and I was saddened to learn of its closure earlier this year. However, my sadness wasn’t too long-lasting, since wandering around in July, I spotted a welcome sign in the vacant window: Kiss the Hippo.

For those that don’t know, Kiss the Hippo is a coffee shop/roaster with an improbable name and eye-catching logo. It began last year in Richmond, where you’ll find its flagship café, roastery and training centre, all rolled into one, with the Fitzrovia branch, which opened exactly one month ago, being its second location.

Spread over a spacious ground floor and a bright basement, anyone who visited Curators will instantly recognise the layout, although the décor is markedly different. The coffee, all roasted in-house in Richmond, is seasonal, with the George Street house-blend joined by a single-origin and decaf on espresso, with two more on pour-over, plus a batch-brew option. If you’re hungry, there’s brunch until 2 pm (3 pm at weekends), plus cake and toasties throughout the day.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On Margaret Street, in Fitzrovia, is a welcome sight. It's the new branch of...
  • ... Kiss the Hippo, following the original branch in Richmond. Mind you, I had an inkling...
  • ... it would be there. This is what I found in July this year, which itself was a welcome...
  • ... sight, bringing coffee back to a much loved location, vacant since Curators closed.
  • Stepping inside, there's a window bar to the right of the door and tables on the left.
  • The counter, meanwhile, dominates the right-hand side...
  • ... although Kiss the Hippo keeps on going...
  • ... with this little seating area at the back.
  • The view of the counter from the back...
  • ... opposite which is a handy shelf running alongside...
  • ... a flight of stairs on the left-hand side, the top of which are at the back.
  • These lead down to the basement. Let's take a look.
  • There's more seating at the bottom, with this padded bench against the left-hand wall.
  • The seating at the bottom of the stairs.
  • There's more seating at the front of the basement, to the left of the stairs.
  • There are two of these four-person booths by the window at the front of the basement.
  • A more detailed view of one of the booths.
  • The window looks out onto a narrow lightwell, with the door leading to a fire escape.
  • There's more seating on the opposite side...
  • ... with three two-person tables lining a padded bench against the wall.
  • Meanwhile, there's this neat second-hand book shelf in the middle of the right-hand wall.
  • The corridor running alongside the stairs leads to the toilets at the back.
  • Time to go back upstairs.
  • Obligatory light fitting shot (upstairs).
  • Obligatory light fitting shot (downstairs).
  • There's a large set of retail shelves on the right-hand wall at the front.
  • There's coffee-making equipment, plus the full range of Kiss the Hippo's coffee.
  • As well as the coffee, there's a breakfast/lunch menu until 2 pm (3 pm at weekends).
  • If you missed out on breakfast/lunch, there's always cake...
  • ... and a selection of savoury croissants...
  • ... or, around the corner, a small selection of toasted sandwiches.
  • The coffee (and other drinks) menu is on the wall behind the counter.
  • The Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine takes pride of place on the counter...
  • ... with the filter station (with Kalita Wave filters) at the far end of the counter.
  • However, I was drawn to the Kees van der Westen and the guest espresso.
  • This was a gorgeous single-origin Ethiopian espresso, served in a classic white cup.
  • I paired this with a wonderful cinnamon roll...
  • ... and to soak up all the caffeine and sugar, followed it with the vegetarian toastie.
  • And finally, a parting gift from the staff, a lovely Sicilian jam tart.
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Kiss the Hippo has inherited a large spot and, following Curators’ lead, has resisted the temptation to cram too much in. If anything, there’s slightly less seating, resulting in an even more spacious layout. A generous window runs the store’s (considerable) width, stretching from ceiling almost to the floor, with a glass door on the left. Diagonally opposite the door, the counter dominates, taking up much of the right-hand wall, with a large set of retail shelves between it and the window. The full range of Kiss the Hippo’s coffee is available in retail bags.

The seating upstairs is split into three distinct areas, adding to its appeal. At the front, the five-person window-bar is ideal for people-watching, while against the left-hand wall, a padded bench has four small, round tables, each with a chair (a welcome upgrade from the low, round stools of Curators). Beyond the counter, a small niche in the right-hand side of the back wall has a padded bench, with a further three round tables, again with chairs. It’s fairly bright back here, with a lightwell to the left and a skylight above.

The remaining space is occupied by the stairs to the basement on the left-hand side, which run towards the front of the Kiss the Hippo, leading to a small seating area at the front of the basement, about one third of the size of upstairs. Meanwhile, a corridor runs back past the stairs to the toilets.

At the bottom of the stairs, two small tables line a padded bench against the left-hand wall. There’s a large window at the front, matching the one above, looking out onto a narrow, deep light-well which houses a flight of stairs leading to a door (directly under the door upstairs). Sadly, it’s staff-only. There are two four-person booths, each with a large table, in front of the window, while opposite them, against the back wall, is another padded bench with three two-person tables, again with chairs.

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to coffee and I was really torn, with pour-over being provided by a prominent row of four ceramic Kalita Wave filters at the far end of the counter, including Japanese iced coffee options. Meanwhile, a concise espresso-based menu is served from the beautiful Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine.

In the end I was won over by my barista’s description of the single-origin espresso, an Ethiopian Buku Sayisa. I have to say, he didn’t let me down: my espresso was rich, complex and fruity, with a nice kick of acidity at the end. Easily one of the best I’ve had this year. I paired this with the last of the cinnamon rolls, another recommendation from my barista, who was on top form. This had a really rich dough, with lots of cinnamon, topped by a sweet, sticky (but not too sticky) icing.

By this point, I’d had far too much coffee and sugar, so I decided to soak some of it up with a vegetarian toastie (I was far too late to sample the excellent-looking brunch menu, having arrived an hour before closing time). My toastie, which had excellent, crunchy bread, was packed with cheese and roasted vegetables, all topped with pesto and was very tasty indeed. Finally, after I got talking with the lovely staff, I was offered a parting gift of a lovely jam tart, filled with Sicilian apricot jam. It was delicious.

It’s a small world, by the way, as I ran into some of the Cult Espresso team, who’d stopped in for coffee before heading back up to Edinburgh!

51 MARGARET STREET • FITZROVIA • LONDON • W1W 8SG
https://kissthehippo.com
Monday 07:00 – 18:30 Roaster Kiss the Hippo (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:30 Seating Tables, Window-Bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 18:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:30 Payment Cards only
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Wifi No
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 25th October 2019

You can also see what fellow coffee blogger Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato made of the new Kiss the Hippo.

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to London for more great Coffee Spots.


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  1. Pingback: Curators Coffee Gallery | Brian's Coffee Spot

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