A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip to southwest London, taking in the likes of Beanberry Coffee, Woof Coffee and The Press Room in Twickenham. At the end of my trip, I found myself in Ealing and, since I was there, I decided that I would carry on going west. Really west. All the way out to (wait for it…) Hanwell! Well, maybe not that far west, but, as London goes, quite far, and not exactly known as a hot-bed of speciality coffee.
What had dragged me onto the No 427 bus and out along the Uxbridge Road was the prospect of breakfast (and coffee) at the interestingly-named Fade-to-Black, which, since February, has been serving espresso using Ozone’s Empire Blend to the fine folks of Hanwell, with tentative plans to add a single-origin batch-brew. This is backed up with a decent breakfast/lunch menu, complete with sandwiches and a good range of cake.
Fade to Black has a simple, welcoming interior with windows on two sides and a range of seating, including window-bars, should you want to get some people-watching done. There’s also a spacious basement which, while normally off-limits, is used for functions and events such as yoga.
The Watch House, on London’s Bermondsey Street, south of the river, is one of those “new” coffee shops (like Lundenwic and The Black Penny) which I’m embarrassed to say has been open for several years. In the case of The Watch House, it will be four this September (and has also opened two further branches!). In my defence, while I come into London via Waterloo, I rarely spend any time south of the river, which, if it has more gems like this, is entirely my loss.
The Watch House is housed in a small, octagonal building dating from the 19th century, which was built to house the watchmen looking after the neighbouring church (hence the name, The Watch House). It’s a gorgeous physical space, if, like me, you like old buildings, reminding me a little of York’s Perky Peacock, another coffee shop housed in an old tower.
The coffee is as gorgeous as the surroundings, with the Empire blend from Ozone on espresso, where it’s joined by three single-origins on batch-brew, which change on a weekly basis. If you’re hungry, there’s breakfast, lunch and plenty of cake, with bread from two local bakeries, The Watch House supporting various local suppliers.
Tab x Tab is the latest (and much needed) addition to west London’s speciality coffee scene, opening at the end of July on Westbourne Grove, not far from Paddington Station. The brainchild of husband and wife team Mathew and Charmaine, it brings top quality coffee to an area of London that has, up until now, been sorely lacking it. It’s also got a Mavam espresso machine, which, I believe, is just the second one in the UK.
The shop’s set back from the busy street, so you can walk past it if you’re not paying attention. Long and thin, with the long side running along Westbourne Grove, it’s a bright, open space with plenty of outside seating, features it shares with Treves & Hyde, the home of the UK’s other Mavam.
When it comes to coffee, Tab x Tab has teamed up with local roaster, Ozone and Amsterdam roaster, Bocca, which I’d not come across before. There’s a seasonal house-blend on espresso, plus a single-origin guest, joined by another single-origin on bulk-brew. Currently a selection of pastries and light bites are available, but as the kitchen behind the counter gets up to speed, expect a full brunch menu to appear.
I’ve been meaning to get to Iris & June for a long time. It had already been on my list for ages when I ran into the owner, Jodie, at the True Artisan Café at last year’s London Coffee Festival. I was so embarrassed, I rashly promised to pay Iris & June a visit. With this year’s London Coffee Festival rapidly approaching, I thought I’d better pull my finger out! The problem is, the area around Victoria Station, where Iris & June calls home, just isn’t somewhere I go very often. So, when some friends suggested meeting up in Pimlico on Monday evening, I seized my chance with both hands!
Iris & June is one of those coffee shops where the focus is just as much on the food as it is on the coffee. However, whereas a lot of coffee shops would be happy with a decent espresso and maybe some bulk brew, Iris & June puts as much effort into its coffee as many a dedicated speciality coffee shop. Ozone’s Empire Blend is on espresso, but it’s the pour-over where Iris & June really shines, with three single-origins from Ozone & guests, available as V60, Aeropress or bulk-brew.
So, last Wednesday (a week ago today), I popped along to Four Corners on London’s Lower Marsh, ostensibly to celebrate its first birthday, which, naturally enough, was the day before. Let’s face it, celebrating first birthdays is commonplace, but who celebrates first and one day birthdays, eh? No-one, that’s who, and it’s about time that changed!
Being serious for a moment, while it was in my mind that Four Corners was one and one day old, the real reason for my visit was to catch up with my friend and fellow coffee-blogger, Kate (aka A Southern Belle in London) before she disappeared to the Americas for the summer. Four Corners was a convenient place to meet and I was keen to see what had changed since my first visit there last summer.
As it turned out, the answer was not a lot, Four Corners being much as I remember it from August last year. So much for this being an update! In fact, the major change I noticed was the absence of the roadworks directly out front, which plagued For Corners for the first few months of its life. Other than that, it was the same wonderful place!
London’s Lower Marsh is not the most appealing part of the capital. Even the name doesn’t conjure up particularly positive images. Lying behind Waterloo and not particularly on the way to anywhere, I’ve only recently become aware of it, despite Waterloo being my gateway to London for the past 15+ years. However, there it is and, in recent years, it has started to shed its poor image, becoming home to the likes of the Scooter Cafe [coming soon to the Coffee Spot, although I’ve been saying that for a year now!] and now, just across the road, to Four Corners Cafe.
Four Corners is, if you’ll excuse the pun, going places. Taking inspiration from the phrase “four corners of the world”, it’s a travel-themed Cafe, decorated with maps of the world and dotted with globes. Continuing the travel theme, its neat loyalty card is in the form of a miniature passport.
Not that this counts for much if the coffee is poor, but thankfully it’s not. As well as a decent coffee menu, powered by London Roasters, Ozone, Four Corners offers loose-leaf tea from Yumchaa and a small range of toasted sandwiches and pastries to die for (according to fellow coffee-blogger, Kate, aka A Southern Belle in London) from a bakers just around the corner.
BREAKING NEWS (April 2014): Four Corners won “Best Use of Social Media” the inaugural London Coffee Stops Awards!