At the start of 2021, when I was wondering if there would be any coffee shops I could write about, an unexpected bonus arrived in my hometown, Guildford in the shape of Lily London, a coffee shop in a telephone box! Since then, Lily London has opened three more coffee shops in telephone boxes in (appropriately) London, Eastbourne and Edinburgh.
The London telephone box is on St Thomas Street, around the back of London Bridge station and almost directly under the UK’s tallest building, The Shard. Passing through the capital last weekend, I thought it was about time that I paid it a visit. For those who don’t know, Lily London serves its own coffee, imported from Brazil by the owner, then roasted by Plot Roasting. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, along with retail bags of the coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Sarah’s Leytonstone is brought to you by the eponymous Sarah, who runs B-Tempted, the gluten-free bakers whose cakes you’ll find in various places as diverse as coffee shop chain, Notes, health food supermarket, Whole Foods Market, and supermarket, Morrisons (you can also buy cakes direct from Sarah via B-Tempted’s webshop). Sarah’s Leytonstone is Sarah’s latest venture, serving coffee, cakes and good cheer from the front of the railway arch that houses the B-Tempted bakery.
The set-up (for now) is a relatively simple. There’s a pair of tables on the quiet side street in front of the arch, while inside is a neat counter with the espresso machine, till, cakes and, of course, Sarah herself. For the moment, the coffee is from Perky Blenders, with a standard espresso-based menu, plus batch brew. However, things are evolving all the time, with plans for some indoor seating once COVID-19 restrictions allow, plus an expanded offering.
Gray is one of those chance discoveries that I delight in. I was on my way from Stratford to Sarah’s Leytonstone and very nearly took the bus. However, at the last minute I decided to walk, and while strolling along the High Road through Leytonstone, I passed a coffee shop that caused me to do a double-take (the A-board actually caught my eye). So I backed up, took a closer look, and then decided to go in.
Gray describes itself as a family-run coffee shop, selling food, furniture and homewares. It instantly reminded me of Curio Espresso and Vintage Design in Kanazawa, although on a smaller scale. There’s a neat front section, where you share the space with the vintage furniture, while at the back is a cosy room with more conventional seating. You can also sit outside where there’s a pair of tables.
Gray serves a concise espresso-based menu using Workshop’s single-origin Snap espresso, plus tea and hot chocolate. If you’re hungry, there is a range of tempting cakes, along with dedicated breakfast and lunch menus, with slightly expanded options at the weekend, including brunch, all cooked in the kitchen behind the counter.
On my way through London a couple of weeks ago, I caught up with Bermondsey’s resident coffee blogger, Bex, when we had lunch at WatchHouse’s new Roastery & Café, after which I sought out one of Bex’s more recent finds, Lantern Coffee. Located a five-minute stroll away on the other side of the train tracks, Lantern Coffee is a recent addition to Bermondsey’s growing speciality coffee scene, having opened in April 2021. It’s the in-house coffee shop of Little London, a combination, in equal measure, of offices, artists’ studios and flats, arranged around a triangular courtyard. As well as serving the residents, Lantern Coffee is open to the public, with seating in the spacious interior or outside in the sheltered courtyard.
Lantern Coffee offers a concise espresso-based menu from Workshop, with Square Mile on batch-brew, plus plans for a pour-over option in the near future. There’s also tea, soft drinks and hot chocolate from old friends, Kokoa Collection. If you’re hungry, Lantern Coffee offers a small, savoury lunchtime menu with filled croissants, sausage rolls and three bespoke sandwiches, although there are plans to expand the range. There’s also a selection of pastries from The Bread Station, along with various snacks.
WatchHouse, the Bermondsey coffee powerhouse, has come a long way since it opened its doors in the eponymous WatchHouse on Bermondsey Street back in 2014. These days there are seven WatchHouses, two in close proximity to Bermondsey original, south of the Thames, and another four over the river, including the one-time Brooklyn Coffee (now WatchHouse Spitalfields) and Somerset House (once occupied by Fernandez & Wells).
For many years, WatchHouse used Ozone, but along with its expansion came the decision to roast its own coffee, WatchHouse opening a dedicated roastery and café (the subject of today’s Coffee Spot) in a railway arch on Maltby Street in August 2020. Now all the coffee is roasted here on a re-built 1959 Probat UG22, which you can admire through the glass wall at the back of the café.
WatchHouse’s offering is fairly simple, with a concise espresso-based menu plus batch-brew and pour-over. The latter offers a choice of a single-origin from WatchHouse or a guest roaster, which, during my visit, was from Monogram in Calgary, the options changing every month. This is backed up with a selection of Good & Proper Tea, hot chocolate and, if you’re hungry, a range of cakes and savoury options.
Today’s Coffee Spot was a chance discovery during last week’s Coffee Spot of tour Chiswick. Having been lured over the border into Hammersmith by my friend Adele’s recommendation of Coffee Notes, I was actually on my way there when I walked past Coffee Station and thought “that looks interesting”. So in I went and the rest, as they say, is history.
Coffee Station occupies a modest spot on the south side of King Street in Hammersmith, with a small outside seating area, but the true delight is inside, where the look and feel reminded me of Curio Espresso and Vintage Design in Kanazawa. I visited while Coffee Station was restricted to outside seating only, so was denied the best part of the shop, the large, bright seating area at the back, where the furniture (handmade by the owner) sits under a large skylight with a living wall as a backdrop.
The coffee is from Ozone, the Empire Blend being served from a standard espresso menu, along with a selection of Suki Tea. There are also various smoothies and freshly squeezed juice, while if you’re hungry, there’s a small but classic brunch menu, various salads and a range of cakes.
The Aircraft Factory in Hammersmith first came to the attention of the speciality coffee world as the West London outpost of Origin Coffee. However, in November 2019, it became the second location for Cable Co., which began life in Kensal Rise, and which now has a third coffee shop just off the Portobello Road in Notting Hill. Not that you would necessarily know, since The Aircraft Factory is not the sort of place you stumble upon.
There’s not a lot to Cable Co., which occupies a small, glass-walled spot on the right-hand side at the entrance to The Aircraft Factory. There’s a bench outside and a three-person bar against the wall inside, but that’s it for seating (for now). The coffee menu is similarly concise with an exclusive single-origin Colombian, plus decaf, from Climpson and Sons on espresso, backed up by a selection of pastries and cakes.
Back in the day, before I’d started the Coffee Spot, Ealing’s Electric Coffee Co. was one of a handful of speciality coffee shops in London. Fast forward 10+ years, and it’s fair to say that it’s now one of a handful of speciality coffee shops in Ealing, such has been the growth of the London scene. And that’s not the only thing that’s been growing. Since opening in 2008, Electric Coffee Co. has expanded its original coffee shop, started its own roasting operation, opened a second location (in St John’s Wood) and now there’s a third, on Goldhawk Road.
When I visited last week, seating was limited to the four outside tables, but as of this morning, the interior seating should be open, including the multi-roomed basement and the sunny room at the back. There are also plans for a small, outdoor terrace accessed through the basement. The coffee offering is fairly simple, with a concise espresso-based menu featuring the Rocket 88 blend. This is backed up by a range of toasted sandwiches and other savouries, plus cakes. Retail bags of coffee are for sale, where they’re joined, unusually, by a small range of Italian groceries.
Coffee Notes is a small coffee stand at the front of Ravenscourt Park Station on the District Line. A relatively new addition to Hammersmith, Coffee Notes set up shop in the summer of 2020, just as the area was reopening after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unusually for a station coffee stand, Coffee Notes is open seven days a week, serving both locals and commuters alike, although if you want to catch Harry, its charismatic owner, note that Sunday is his day off.
There’s not much to Coffee Notes, just a long, thin coffee stand with fold up sides, which means that the focus is firmly on the coffee, which Harry sources himself before having it toll roasted in London. There’s the usual espresso-based menu, with several iced options, plus tea, but otherwise that’s it. Unsurprisingly, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Having started my coffee tour of Chiswick at Chief Coffee, I then inadvertently spent the rest of it in Hammersmith, so I thought it best that my final stop should be The Coffee Traveller, a lovely spot by the Thames and very much in Chiswick. Located on Thames Road, a quiet street in a residential area, it’s in a row of eight terrace houses with shops on the ground floor and has a lovely, quirky interior which, come Monday, you’ll be able to sit in again. Until then, you have to sit outside, where you’ll find a pair of old school desks on the pavement, under the shade of an awning. Best of all, however, is the secret garden at the back, a wonderfully relaxing spot, the perfect place to end a long day spent visiting coffee shops.
The coffee is from old friends, Caravan, the Daily Blend served from a standard espresso menu, along with tea, hot chocolate and smoothies, plus craft beer and wine by the glass or bottle. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, the kitchen at the back offers the like of pancakes and omelettes to go with filled croissants, bagels, rolls and sandwiches, plus lots of cake.