It is no news to those who follow my Instagram feed that recently (well, it’s been over 9 months actually) I have been drinking a lot of caffeine, mostly when walking, occasionally bored out of my head, the dog and the baby in the pram. Since baby O was one week old, I have been ‘going out for coffee’, usually meeting my best friend after a gym class (when I am lucky enough to manage one), my NCT friends (4 of us bonded really well and live near one another), my husband after some errands or sometimes, even just by myself.
Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee? – Albert Camus
Going out for coffee has been the highlight of my maternity leave and now that is coming to an end, I realise how precious those moments have become, a daily treat that lifts my spirits, gives me an energy boost and allows me to sit down mostly undisturbed (as baby O is usually calm in the pram). I will sorely miss my coffee outings in the vicinity, the slow moments leading to a final rush (‘oh it’s nearly O’s lunchtime! Gotta go”) and the lack of care in what I wear for these morning breaks.
In an homage to the last few months, I’d like to share some of the places that, within walking distance from my postcode, have made the first few months of motherhood a tad less harsh and stressful. They are in order of current preference.
St George’s Circus
They only opened about 3 months ago, but I had spotted their baby blue (how appropriate) front as they started refurbishing the existing shop, right on St George’s Circus. Until then only a location of passage for me on my way to Mercato Metropolitano, it immediately became a destination once the coffee shop opened. When I asked owner Simone why this location, he told me that, while their main and original roastery is in Fulham, he lives down the road so it was a no brainer. I absolutely love their coffee, smooth and rounded.
They offer plenty of choice of alternative milks, soft drinks, teas as well as a good selection of breakfast goods and lunchtime snacks. The interior is small but always enough room for prams and they allow Amber inside, so she’s always now really happy to go in. They also have a couple of tables outside right by the circus, and open as early as 7.30am which is now perfect for me, as, due to a temporary house move to Elephant & Castle, I walk every day pretty early to the park via London Road, conveniently past 80 Roasters, so that often I pick up a take away coffee to warm my cockles now that winter has arrived. The staff are always so friendly and helpful, particularly Julian, the manager.
Brilliant place, my only negative comment is that they are closed on weekends!
Coleman Coffee Roasters
Jack Coleman opened up this branch of his roastery (the original is in Bermondsey) a couple of years ago and quickly became our favourite on the Marsh. He roasts the coffee beans in Peckam in a 1950’s machine, while he also makes wooden furniture as well as being a keen boxer. The shop is located in what used to in the post WWII years a grocery store, fitted by Italian prisoners of war. Jack has kept the marble slabs inside and outside in the garden using them as tables.
The menu is somehow restrictive (but is it of last month the addition of breakfast pastries!), there are great oat meal pancakes cooked on the spot and Iranian nougat, a number of cordials and of course, coffee. The coffee is strong, bitter, with touches of acidity and in my view, better with milk however my best friend Sarah is partial to their black coffee. The beans are available to buy too, and as decaf option. In the summer, we loved sitting in the green, lush small garden at the back. Of course it is dog friendly. Shame there are no alternative to lactose milk, but fingers crossed this might change soon too.
Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven. – Jessi Lane Adam
47 the Blend
Not as close as the others,I discovered this tiny cafe (located in what looks like a single car garage off Marshalea Road) while on my way to my NCT classes back in April. They have some pastries on offer too, teas and of course, a really good flat white. The staff are friendly and while there isn’t really too much space to linger or get comfy (the entrance is open and there are only tall stools for sitting), it is a welcome rest stop for a quick break or of course, perfect for a take away. They recently changed their name into something Hilly but online it is still coming up as 47 the Blend.
V.3 a short lived project run by the Vaults theatre company. It took the place occupied on Lower Marsh by a long standing watch repair shop. While I had never entered it before, as soon as it became an open space, quirky cafe’ with art gallery (in the basement) I started coming in regularly.
While the coffee isn’t their USP (as they are more of a bar in the evening) they offer plenty of choice of drinks (soft drinks, alcohol, hot drinks) and the staff are always lovely. There’s plenty of rooms for dog and babies and the prices are very fair and cheaper than the rest (£2 for a coffee). It will close down in February 2018 when the entire building will be renovated, sadly but for now we’re enjoying stopping here a lot.
Borough Produce Cafe’
This is the place where I enjoyed my very first coffee out since becoming a mum, when O was barely a week old. We became huge fans of this local cafe as soon as they opened, because, much differently from the others, they offer cafe’ food such as toasties, bagels, sandwiches, yogurt and granola and cakes as well as various hot drinks and many soft drinks. So with @bmcboy this is the option of choice. They have plenty of tables, a spacious outdoor space at the back and are open on Sundays too, however personally we felt in the recent weeks the quality has been up and down.
The coffees are good, more the ‘Italian’ type of roast than the antipodean but are a bit pricey for the quality and the fact that during the week the back room is used as storage by the market sellers (who come in and out, leave the door open or slam it and so forth), it is actually no longer our top pick. Always pleasant in case the others are full and dog friendly of course.
I became aware of coffee wednesdays at the Refinery soon after joining the NCT course. I knew the place from ‘before’ but had not been in years. Every wednesday between 10.30 and 12.00pm they set out an area with floormats and cushions and free muffins as well as free coffee for parents with babies. It seems that the owner decided to host these sessions when she became a parent and did not have a safe, welcoming local place to go with her little one. Whether this is true or not, I love going there because, apart from a very good free coffee, you always meet other mums and other babies for a sanity chat and the staff are superb too, juggling toddlers and newborns alike while serving us. They told me I’d be welcome to bring Amber as well which is a plus.
The Young Vic Cafe
Another place I had been familiar with for ages, and had not actually stopped by until walking with baby and pram. Particularly, on a very rainy and dreary and stressful October morning (we were temporarily moving home that day), I repaired inside and they welcomed us, pram and wet dog. They offer a cooked breakfast menu, plenty of pastries and snacks (Doisy & Dam chocolates and delicious almonds amaretti) as well as good coffee. Very pleasant room as well.
We do not visit Four Corners as often, although the coffee is good, there are plenty of cakes and sandwiches too as well as protein balls (for a pricey £2), and alternative milks too. They are dog friendly as well and offer some cooked dishes for breakfast and lunch too (avo & egg on toast, soup). The staff are often a bit surly and when the place is busy, the service is slow. In March it took about 20 minutes to get my avo on toast! But the quality is good so at off peak times, we do come by occasionally and I spent a couple of quick baby free breaks in the first few months of motherhood, just me and Amber, escaping the house.
Even bad coffee is better… than no Coffee at all. – David Lynch
The Green Room
Belvedere Road (Southbank)
Well this is an actual restaurant and they don’t open until 11am weekdays so not technically a coffee shop, but they are a non profit, they are part of the National Theathre and they are pram and dog friendly, as well as having great outdoor space (both with grass and paved areas). Staff are always friendly, is spacious inside (I’ve been with friends with plenty of prams between us!) and their coffees and hot chocolates are great, as well as their desserts (they do a chocolate sundae to die for and a baked to order giant cookie). I’ve been here meeting friends with babies and also friends without babies as it’s always easy to get to, easy to find and spacious enough for all of us.
Illy at Park Plaza
Westminster Bridge Road
Indeed, this is a chain and not a small one at that, either. it’s within a big hotel and not dog friendly so I wouldn’t normally insert in a blog post however, in the summer, their outdoor terrace is really pleasant as it’s in the full sunshine, it’s on a side road so relatively quiet from traffic, and their coffee is pretty good. They also have a range of Italian cakes and sandwiches and soft drinks. We had a lunch al fresco here with the family back in March, of which I have fond memories even if the food was a little hit and miss (the cakes are better!)
I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless. – Napoleon Bonaparte