Once a month, we’ll be following the newest member of the London Coffee Festival team, Karen Anderson, as she explores the streets of London on the hunt for the best coffee shops, delicious eateries, and the coolest haunts for unwinding after a stress-filled week.To kick-off the series, she went on a classic tour of Inner East London.
Not one for lasting until midday without at least one double espresso, I stopped off at Shoreditch Grind before heading to Hoi Polloi where I had a reservation for brunch. Hard to miss, with its cinema-style signage and bright red seats, this day-to-night espresso bar offers its own Grind House Espresso blend, a tempting selection of fluffy pastries, and a carefully curated menu of coffee-based cocktails; famously invented in the 90s for a supermodel who wanted something that would wake her ‘the f*** up,’ the Grind Espresso Martini is an absolute must.
Coffee savoured, I made my way to the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, home to hot-spots including High Street Window — a ‘day-to-night beacon of daily raw, farm-fresh wellness and weekend night-time indulgence,’ — Bulldog Edition — the hotel lobby where one can enjoy coffee by Square Mile Coffee Roasters in an unashamedly hip environment — and finally my restaurant of choice, Hoi Polloi.
Having been welcomed by monochrome, Art Deco-style floor tiles, a Nike-wearing waiter and a string quartet (somehow, the juxtaposition works), I was sat at a table for one and given a newspaper-inspired menu. Too late for breakfast (go before midday if it’s granola, yoghurt and seasonal poached fruit you crave) I skipped to page six – the lunch/brunch section. Despite eyeing up someone else’s buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, I opted for the healthier option of Eggs Royale washed down with a Mighty Green juice. That’s cucumber, kale, spinach, apple, parsley and lemon to you and me, a combination that allegedly encourages weight loss and encourages brain function…I’m yet to notice the effects, but it tasted pretty good!
Stomach satisfied, I made my way around the corner to SCP’s flagship store – two floors boasting beautiful furniture, home accessories and gifts by designers such as Jasper Morrison and Bec Brittain. Named in the top 30 of London’s Best Interior Shops by the Evening Standard, it even has an in-house coffee shop with a handmade La Marzocco machine at the helm; take a pew there whilst you ponder the purchase of that Charles Eames inspired chair that caught your eye.
Now fully in the mood for shopping, I walked the short journey to Redchurch Street where you can continue the food and homeware themes. Visit stores like Labour and Wait for design-led household basics — apparently there is such a thing as a cool mop afterall — and Albion for fresh fruit and mammoth artichokes. It’s worth noting that this cute café-come-food-store is located within The Boundary building, where you can now frequent its ‘secret’ rooftop bar and grill all year round. If dining al fresco isn’t your thing, take the striking staircase down to the restaurant. And why so special? It’s been painted by artist Manuel Grinon Montes of Pincel Signs & Murals, who incidentally collaborated with us on last year’s London Coffee Festival.
If you like chocolate – and let’s face it, who doesn’t – then you should pop into Mast Brothers, a New York based chocolate makers where the chocolate bars, confections and beverages are all hand-crafted under one roof – they even have a Modbar. 30-minute tours are available and run daily (3pm and 5pm weekdays, 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm at weekends), priced at £10 per person. You can also buy individual chocolates for £2.50. Vanilla and Smoke was my flavour of choice; deliciously rich and unique, it’s definitely worth a try.
Continue down the street, look right and you’ll quickly be faced with a conundrum – to get your next caffeine fix from Allpress, or the Soho House & Co’s Barber and Parlour – a large space offering healthy food, drinks, and a place to relax (including the Electric Cinema or for the pampered chaps out there, Neville Barber). This time, I grabbed a soy Flat White from Barber and Parlour before booking a manicure for later in the week at The Cheeky Parlour. In exchange, I vowed to myself that I’d visit Allpress’ new roastery in Dalston over the next month. Apparently it’s incredible.
Whilst in the area, it’d be rude not to wander through Brick Lane, a visual and all-round sensory feast featuring vintage clothes, antiques and mouth-watering food stalls. It’s also home of The Old Truman Brewery, where The London Coffee Festival, 2016 will be held over not one, but two expansive floors.
And wander I did, until I stumbled across my penultimate stop, Paper & Cup. Enticed by an intense smell of coffee and bright blue façade, I stepped inside to find an intimate coffee shop – a not-for-profit social enterprise created by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Bookworms like myself will be happy to learn that you can also buy second-hand novels and non-fiction books there for just £2!
No exploration would be complete without a wee tipple to celebrate the day’s successes. If you agree, why not try a cocktail at Jaguarshoes Collective in Shoreditch? An old bag and shoe wholesalers, this hip and happening place now plays host to club nights, live music performances, lectures, workshops, fashion shows and art fairs. Desperate to steal the last of the sun’s rays, I sat on the street sipping a Rose and Raspberry Bellini. Trust me, it’s the perfect way to end a splendid Sunday.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of the Weekend Guide, out next month.