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 in 2018 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.
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|
|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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