It’s been far too long since I wrote about a coffee shop. It’s not like there’s been a shortage of exciting ventures and new openings cropping up all over the place, I’ve just been slack I’m afraid; my attention recently far more focused on a more toxic inebriation, and now I have the inclination again to while away my time drinking good coffee in comforting surroundings it seems most of them are shut for the festive season; that’ll teach me! Despite being a thoroughly South East London lass I rarely visit my nearby cafes, I guess my reasoning is I use a cafe as a kind of pit stop, a home from home if you will, and if I’m close to my own then there seems little reason to use someone elses, hence the disinclination to partake of others hospitality unless far away in Central, West, North or East London.
As it happens, with near to nothing open on my own doorstep I decided to travel slightly further afield, but this side of the river for a change, and found it almost as much of a jouney. Oh well, in doing so I managed to finally visit the lovely Birdhouse on St John’s Hill Battersea; just two months old, it joins a small burgeoning community of independant businesses in the area. In fact it’s just across the road from Ben’s Canteen, somewhere else I managed to visit in the same week and who’s British Burger I can heartily recommend. I didn’t get a chance to sample their coffee on that visit but fully plan to return shortly as I have my eye on their hearty looking brunch menu too.
The Birdhouse shop front is inauspicious and I almost walk past, but turning back and peering in there’s no doubting it’s coffee credentials. It’s late afternoon when I visit, and being that strange no-mans land time between Christmas and New Year, there are only two other customers. I order a double espresso and take a seat at the back of the cafe, perched on a stool at a tall bench that backs alluringly onto a radiator; essential spotting when you feel the cold like I do. Settling in, the first thing that strikes me about the space is it’s not small resemblance to an apothecary; from the medical style cabinets to the brown glass jars that act as water vessels, the rows of bottles everywhere I look, to the concise menu clipped to a lightbox behind the counter, not forgetting the dangerous looking scalpel esque butter knives! The room feels impeccably well designed, serious dark steel grey accented with vibrant flashes of mustard that resonate around the room, even the slice of lemon in my water appears well thought out.
Most importantly of course is that the coffee is good, beans are from Climpson and Son and a short list of espresso based drinks are made using a, grey of course, La Marzocco. A long, heavy wooden slab holds a small array of temptations and I succumb to a slice of their aromatic and delicious banana bread, a hefty slab, I manage to slice it in half so as to be slightly less indulgent, but it’s lightness compels me to finish my plate along with a second espresso.
A brief chat to one of the two cafes owners, affable Cuban born Alex, reveals a keen knowledge of the London coffee scene, he states his personal favourite as Kaffeine impressed as he is with the balance of quality and service the cafe achieves so well. It looks a though he’s emulating that complete package approach; not looking to break any boundaries, they already have a fast growing number of loyal locals that are grateful for the addition to their landscape. He tells me his plans to have a filter option on the menu over the next few months, nothing fancy mind, no syphon wizardry here, just a simple aeropress option. As I leave, I catch sight of some dainty looking rasberry friands emerging from the kitchen; and it’s those, the great coffee, and superlative friendly service find me cursing the distance to this charming cafe, but also planning a speedy return.