With great coffee shops opening up at a dizzying rate around the Capital, it’s fairly impossible to keep up, so I tend to make a point of visiting the ones that pique my interest the most, whilst trying to remain faithful to my favourites. With my visits mainly being limited to weekends, this can still be quite a task; some of the cafes located in the City don’t open at all on these days, and there’s always the danger of constantly persuing the new and abondoning those cafes I really love. I can’t tell you why 46b Espresso Hut entranced me so much, luring me east once again, why it had more of a pull than many of the other places I see opening every week on Twitter. I think sometimes I’m drawn to those cafes that appear slightly mysterious, the ones that feel like more of a local secret, and slightly magical, more obvious names are easy enough to read about elsewhere, and sometimes I just want what feels like a bit of an adventure. This weekend was one of those moments; a day amid the Olympic revelry, that couldn’t decide if it wanted to bathe me in glorious sunshine or blast me with torrential rain, I travelled over to Hackney once again, this time on a tip off from London’s Best Coffee App. I had an ulterior motive too, as I often do when travelling halfway across town; I’ve been meaning to try Lilly O’brien’s London Borough of Jams for AGES and it just so happens to handily be a hop skip and a jump from the cafe, at Chatsworth Road Market; perfect.
A chat to the lovely Lilly and I’ve secured myself a jar of her delightful Peach and Fennel jam, an absolute bargain for £4; the jams are all made by her own fair hands, and the seasonal combinations are utterly delicious; I struggle to choose between gooseberry and vanilla, loganberry, strawberry and verbena or apricot and dill. Each jar is simply but beautifully labelled with provenance and dates, I’m quickly hooked and there’s no doubt that I’ll be back to feed my new found addiction.
Jam purchased, I head back to the little cafe. And it is indeed little, not much more than a welcoming open door and corridoor of seating, with counter at the back and a miniature courtyard out the front for sunny days. Oh, but of course it’s much, much more than that; the little room emanates an easy warmth and friendliness that is mirrored by owners Eva and Dominic, I imagine that it’s the embodiment of a romantic roadside coffee shack in some far flung clime. Simple, white washed walls bring to mind Greece, they’re decorated with a cocophony of framed pictures, mirrors and curiosities. Sweet folding chairs adorn the lower part of the non seating wall, shelves are filled with an abundance of plants and flowers, leaflets and information on local events and services, and wall units and shelves are filled with books and bottles, a teddy hides on the lowest shelf. Right at the back is a large blackboard marked up with a selection of made to order sandwiches made with local produce, a couple of cakes sit on a counter, and some pastries from Yeast Bakery, a stack of brownies from E5 Bakehouse look incredible. However, I already know what I’m ordering…
My double, Squaremile red brick, espresso is made expertly and with care, the cherry red crockery reinforces that cheery atmosphere. My toast is delivered in a pleasing pile on a wooden platter daubed with a splash of yoghurt and fresh adornment of peach. If you’ve not tried Hackney Wild sourdough from the E5 Bakehouse then you really must, it’s some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted and I could eat much of it alone with the butter served in a ramekin by it’s side. Even better though is the option of jam, that very same jam I’ve just bought from up the road, and I’m brought not one, but three varieties (pickled strawberry is AMAZING) which is unutterably perfect for indecisive condement lover me. I can’t resist a second espresso to prolong this little slice of paradise in Hackney; quite possibly the most charming cafe I’ve had the pleasure of visiting yet.
I wander off dreamily to capture a spot of Olympic action at Ruby’s Chariots of Fire cocktail party, mentally planning multiple visits with my new loyalty card, to get my London Borough of Jam fix along with happy caffeination.