Iris & June (COVID-19 Update)

A black circle with the words "Iris&June" written in white inside itFor a long time, Iris & June, on Howick Place, between Victoria and Westminster, was a lonely beacon of coffee excellence in the local area. Yes, there was the venerable Flat Cap Coffee stall, but if you wanted somewhere to sit down, for many years after it opened in early 2014, Iris & June was the only game in town. All that has changed in the last couple of years, but just because there are plenty of other options in the area these days, this doesn’t mean you should overlook Iris & June, which reopened in July after the COVID-19 closedown and is just as good as ever, which I discovered when I visited last week.

Like many coffee shops operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, Iris & June has had to make compromises, reducing its opening hours and stripping out some of the seating to maintain social distancing. However, when it comes to what matters, don’t be fooled: this is the same old Iris & June, with excellent Ozone coffee on espresso and filter, along with its innovative daily lunches. And, of course, the same high standards of service which makes Iris & June stand out from the crowd.

You can see what else I found after the gallery.

  • Iris & June, on Howick Place, as seen approaching from Victoria Station...
  • ... and seen here coming in the opposite direction from Westminster.
  • And here's the view looking from directly across the street, where it looks remarkably...
  • ... like it did when I visited over four years ago in 2016.
  • If you're having trouble finding it, there's a handy sign, visible from down the street...
  • ... which again hasn't changed since 2016 (except back then I took the photo in portrait).
  • The first obvious change is in the window by the door, which is all down to COVID-19.
  • I like this approach: clear policies, clearly explained. I find it very reassuring.
  • Suitably informed, let's go in.
  • The next obvious change: customers need to wait to be seated.
  • While you're waiting, you can check out the revised opening times, posted on the door.
  • Inside, the layout hasn't changed much. The counter is still on the left-hand side, looking...
  • ... similar to how it did in 2016 (although back then there were no Perspex screens).
  • The bulk of the seating is to the right, seen here in 2016, when there were lots of tables.
  • Here's the view from the back, again from 2016. The big change now is that the seating...
  • ... is much more widely spaced, although there is a new table by the right-hand window...
  • ... which replaces these two square tables which were there before. The window-bar...
  • ... which used to seat four, now just seats two, for obvious reasons.
  • On the other side of the door, the smaller window-bar used to seat two...
  • ... but is now out of use all together, presumably because it's too close to the door.
  • There used to be a row of four-person tables down the centre of Iris & June...
  • ... but this is now down to just two tables, much more widely spaced than before.
  • One of the two tables, in glorious isolation. Similarly, there used to be...
  • ... six two-person tables running along this bench, but they've been reduced to four.
  • So, to business. The counter, sporting its new Perspex screeens is much as it ever was...
  • ... as can be seen from this picture from 2016.
  • The drinks menus are still on the wall behind the counter...
  • ... while the daily lunch menu is stuck on the Perspex screens these days.
  • The lunch choices when I was visiting one Tuesday afternoon.
  • The only change of note is that the La Marzocco Strada has been replaced by a Linea.
  • Details of the coffee are still displayed on the counter. This is the decaf...
  • ... while this is the single-origin filter that was on offer during my visit.
  • Talking of which, that's exactly what I had, prepared in the V60 and served in a glass.
  • With apologies for the rather dim lighting, here's my coffee, which I paired with...
  • ... this lovely chocolate and caramel slice, which is where I'll leave you.
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From the outside, Iris & June initially looks very much like it did in pre-COVID times, with benches outside either window, flanking the central door. However, as you get closer, you’ll notice a rash of notices in the window, all related to COVID-19 precautions. Perhaps most useful of these is a list of what are, for want of a better term, Iris & June’s COVID-19 policies and procedures. This lays out what Iris & June is doing to keep everyone safe, as well as letting you know what is expected of you as customer. I found it both helpful and reassuring.

The next change comes when you step inside. The layout is broadly similar, with the counter on the left and the seating on the right, but rather than just finding a table, you’re greeted by a sign asking you to wait to be seated.

Iris & June has cut back on the seating, taking the left-hand window-bar out of use entirely and dropping the right-hand one down from four people to two. Similarly, where there used to be a line of three four-person tables down the centre, there are now just two, while the long, padded bench against the right-hand wall only has four two-person tables along it instead of six. All very sensible changes.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Iris & June had a really relaxed afternoon vibe when I visited last week, calling in for coffee and cake. Although the staff seat you, you still order and pay at the counter before being shown to your table, a sensible move which means you don’t have to get up once seated.

The counter has the customary Perspex screens at the front, where you order/pay. You’ll also find the cakes here (facing the front) and the daily lunches. When it comes to coffee, Ozone’s Empire Blend is still on espresso, along with a decaf option, but whereas before you could expect to find three single-origin filters from Ozone and various guest roasters, available through the V60 or AeroPress, for the moment there’s just a single option from Ozone, available as a V60 or batch brew.

The single-origin during my visit was the Cerro Azul, a washed coffee from Honduras, which I decided to have as a pour-over. I was shown to my table, where a bottle of water and a glass arrived without my having to ask. This was followed by the coffee, which was served in a glass. Fully bodied and fruity, it was excellent, with a deep, well-rounded flavour. I paired this with a chocolate and caramel slice, with a thick, biscuit bottom and a gooey chocolate top that was even richer than my coffee. Perfect.

Monday 08:30 – 15:00 Roaster Ozone (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 15:00 Seating Tables, Window Bar, Benches (outside)
Wednesday 08:30 – 15:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 15:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:30 – 15:00 Payment Cards Only
Saturday 08:30 – 15:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:30 – 15:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits Original: 21st March 2016
Update: 18th August 2020

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4 thoughts on “Iris & June (COVID-19 Update)

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