From my city to yours: Celeste Wong on café culture and the best coffee shops in London
What are your favorite London coffee shops?
I love Rosslyn Coffee, near St Paul’s Cathedral in the city. It has a minimalist vibe, but there’s a personality there. An essence of old-fashioned knowledge and attitude that is quite hard to find these days among so many cookie-cutter coffees. It’s very close to the Tate Modern which makes for a great day out.
Pavilion in Victoria Park, East London has a beautiful setting and excellent pastries – I go there for a cinnamon roll and flat white.
Both of these cafes always have good coffee and good service, which are the two things that can be the hardest to replicate over and over again, no matter when or how often you visit a place.
I love the Japanese aesthetic and way of serving at Omotesando Koffee in Fitzrovia. The space is minimalist and there is an unusual process where you are greeted at the door to order in a kind of reception area. Then you walk into a light, wooden, angular cafe with very little seating. There is a sense of calm and tranquility – a Zen atmosphere. Of course the coffee is fantastic and well made.
I am a nostalgic person. I like cafes that are more improvised and less organized. Places that are low budget, a bit rough around the edges and have an individual style – like the Birds Hill Café in Bermondsey, which operates in a converted garage. It used to be that people used milk crates to sit outside instead of chairs, which became an aesthetic. There’s a difference between using milk crates for budget purposes and buying them to fit an image.
What are your favorite global cities for cafe culture?
I’ve always loved Berlin’s cafe scene. It has been particularly strong over the past eight to ten years. Coffee quality and attention to detail are excellent, with cafes like The Barn, Bonanza Coffee, Five Elephant, The Visit Coffee Roastery and Coffee Profilers leading the way. It’s a cool vibe that’s somewhere between super luxury and casual cool, but never exclusive.
I spend a lot of time in Lisbon, Portugal. The industry there has a lot of room for growth, which is quite exciting. I love Porto, which has a strong specialty coffee scene – especially at C’alma, Combi, SO Coffee Roasters (there’s also an outlet in Lisbon) and My Coffee Porto.
The United States can be a bit hit and miss in my experience, with a slightly different relationship to coffee compared to the rest of the world. It can be difficult to tell the difference between companies that were created out of passion and graft and those that are the result of having received a lot of money from developers. Either way, there are amazing cafes in New York, Portland, and Los Angeles that have had a big impact on the coffee industry around the world.
Four coffee hotspots in London
1. Cliffson & Sons, Broadway Market
Its quaint, old-fashioned exterior stands out on the main course of the Broadway Market at London Fields. The coffee served here is roasted near Cliffson’s Arch. There’s an excellent variety of specialty and single-origin coffees to order, with barista classes and home-brewing classes also available by reservation.
2. Crol & Co, Bermondsey
Part antique shop and part coffee shop, this cafe has been a labor of love for owners Vanessa and Nico. It is decorated in the style of Vanessa’s quirky taste and adorned with photos of the Belgian royal family. The sister site of London Bridge near Borough Market is also worth a visit.
3. Origin Cafe, Shoreditch
Specialty coffees are served at each of this independent coffeehouse chain’s three locations, but its flagship store in Shoreditch carries the full range. It is also a certified B Corp.
4. Attendant Coffee Roaster, Fitzrovia
This café has a dubious reputation: in Victorian times, it was a public urinal. Its ornamental features were preserved during the restoration, which was completed in 2013. It is one of five stores in the Attendant portfolio.
Celeste Wong co-hosts the London Coffee Festival 2022, which runs from March 31 to April 3. Learn more about Celeste Wong on her website or follow her on Instagram.
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