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.
It’s with unexpected pleasure that I find myself writing about a new coffee shop (although pedants might argue with the use of the word “shop” here) when we’re right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all the problems that 2020 brought to the hospitality industry, speciality coffee has been doing rather well here in Guildford, with several new openings, including the Ceylon House of Coffee.
The subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Lily London, is on a slightly smaller scale, occupying one of two old telephone boxes at the High Street end of Tunsgate, nestling around the back of the grand edifice that is Tunsgate Arch. Serving its own coffee, imported from Brazil by the owner, and roasted by Plot Roasting, Lily London offers 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.
The Flying Coffee Bean (these days FCB Coffee) is a chain of coffee kiosks on stations in London and the South East. The Guildford one’s been a fixture for several years, but, until recently, I never gave it a second thought. I distinctly remember when, a couple of years before I started the Coffee Spot, I took my coffee (a two-shot latte) back to get an extra shot because all I could taste was milk. The barista didn’t look best pleased, explaining that this was how the customers liked it, at which point I decided to take my custom elsewhere.
Fast forward to six months ago and, for various reasons, I revisited the Flying Coffee Bean. Expecting disappointment, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only could I taste the coffee, it was really nice-tasting coffee too! 12-second extractions were a thing of the past and the milk was steamed so it held decent latte-art.
Consider me converted!