It feels harsh to call The Penny Drop an international chain, but that’s what you get for having two coffee shops, one in Melbourne and the other in London. Melbourne came first, opening as a pop-up in 2015, before finding a permanent home in 2016. A year later, the penny dropped in London, with the opening in June 2017 of a coffee shop on Tottenham Street, just off Tottenham Court Road. Technically this puts The Penny Drop in Fitzrovia, enhancing the area’s already excellent reputation for speciality coffee.
The two Penny Drops are very different, with Melbourne offering a 100-seat restaurant/coffee shop, while The Penny Drop in London occupies a small space which seats 20 at most, and that includes the benches outside. What’s more, it’s a throw-back to the sort of coffee shop that I remember in the capital 10 years ago, but which now seem increasingly rare. With coffee from a rotating cast of roasters, offering two options on espresso, another on batch brew and more on pour-over through the V60, all of which change every week or so, The Penny Drop is a genuine coffee shop, its food offering limited to a small selection of cakes and pastries.
Nostos Coffee opened in May this year, occupying a small, quirky space next to Battersea Park station, the penultimate stop on the line into London Victoria, and just across the road from Battersea Park. Despite being a newcomer to the area, there was a steady stream of customers during my visit, each one being greeted like a long-lost friend by the barista, Edison.
The coffee, by the way, is excellent, with Kiss the Hippo and Ue Coffee Roasters providing contrasting options on espresso (plus decaf), along with multiple choices from the current guest roaster on pour-over through the Kalita Wave filter. There’s batch brew if you’re in a hurry, plus tea, hot chocolate and a selection of iced drinks. If you’re hungry, this is all backed up with a selection of cakes/pastries from a range of local bakers.
In true Coffee Spot fashion, I have visited Kiss the Hippo’s (currently two) locations in reverse order, starting with the Fitzrovia coffee shop in October last year before visiting this, the original coffee shop/roastery in Richmond. Kiss the Hippo, perhaps the UK’s most unusually-named coffee business, opened its first coffee shop in 2018. Occupying the first two floors of a three-storey building in the heart of Richmond, the spacious and bright ground floor contains the counter, laptop-free seating and, right at the back, the roastery. The smaller upstairs is more welcoming to laptop users and, as well as additional seating, contains a training room and a small library.
All the coffee is roasted on the Loring S15 Falcon at the back of the store, with the seasonal George Street house-blend joined by a single-origin and decaf on espresso, while there are two more single-origins on pour-over via the Kalita Wave. If you’re hungry, there’s brunch until 3 pm (4 pm on Fridays and the weekend), plus cake throughout the day. Naturally, all the coffee’s available to purchase in retail bags, along with a selection of coffee-making equipment and merchandising. Note that Kiss the Hippo is cashless, so bring your cards!
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.