In London, there are some gorgeous areas that are reserved for small, independent shops. The beauty of this is that you get areas where various concepts can be explored with the same vigor and imagination as in pop-up shop format. Now, before bicycles, vinyl and thick-rimmed glasses, coffee was associated with books, bookworms and academics with a voracious appetite for both books and food! A stone’s throw from the British Museum is a book/coffee shop that seeks to revive the sacrosanct connection between reading and caffeine.
The London Review Bookshop is worth an article in of itself, but unfortunately this is not within my remit. Needless to say, the marriage of words and beverage is a welcome one to a student and coffee fiend. The London Review Cake Shop is actually an oasis for both tea and coffee lovers alike, with a wonderful selection of different teas that I wish I knew more about than I do. The food is simple, and yet originally thought out, with simple lunch options, as well as indulgent cakes, which are produced for occasions as well as eaten by casual diners. My lunch consisted of a bacon baguette with salad and a maple mayonnaise. The crispy bacon and crispy lettuce balanced the chewy baguette well, and the flavours were sweet, sour and salty all at once. But I wasn’t about to leave the London Review Cake Shop without trying the cake! To follow my baguette, I enjoyed a rather lovely carrot cake (with plenty of icing to let you forget you’re eating vegetables). It was moist, sweet with just the slightest hint of crunch that you expect from a quality carrot cake.
The room itself is quite cramped, especially as this is a real destination for small groups looking to lunch together. However, the bright and wood-bedecked interior makes up for this, and the close quarters don’t encroach too much on the experience. Slightly confusing is whether it’s table service or not, but we were assured by the waitress that it was table service. However, I did get up a couple of times to ask for things because it felt easier.
The coffees are all written on a blackboard, and there was no flat white, so I opted for a latte. It was well-made, and I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. Monmouth espresso was being used, and I think that’s the natural choice for this coffee shop. The Monmouth espresso in milk is very sweet and compliments cake well. The likelihood is that their customers have a sweet tooth, and Monmouth cater well to that. The coffee I had started slightly bitter, which had me worried, but it was followed up by the full flowing taste of a Monmouth coffee. Plenty of body, and plenty of flavour. The Monmouth blend is not shy, but nor is it obnoxious.
Many coffee shops are cool to come to on your own. But this is certainly a place to catch up with friends. It’s ironic that even though the London Review Cake Shop is attached to the London Review Book Shop, I would probably not find it congenial to studying. But somehow that’s besides the point. The focus of the London Review Cake Shop is not on coffee, but they certainly make a good one. They understand coffee as something that can accentuate the experience of books, or the experience of cakes, and that’s okay. Conversely, I pair my coffee with cake, but the coffee always comes first. And that’s okay too.