An independant coffee shop in my home town; Beckenham. Really? Imagine…
I didn’t dare believe it might be any good. I first heard whispers from Lucky’s last week, who tweeted that they had a new stockist with a post code dangerously close to my own. On Friday, Dan from Caravan Coffee then tweeted they had a new account in Beckenham. Really? I tweeted him straight back, and it transpired Fee and Brown were opening this very weekend. I quickly followed their Twitter account, but alas they remained resolutely tight lipped. I tried not to get my hopes up, what were the chances of Beckenham getting a proper coffee shop?
I walked past on my way home from work Friday evening, peering into the shop, watching people beavering away inside readying things Saturday’s opening. It all looked so unfeasably promising, like a cafe you might find in a trendy part of London. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Beckenham? Probably not. It is a small town filled with near to nothing inspiring, I’ve certainly never written about anywhere here before, it’s a sea of chains and charity shops. We may not have a Starbucks or McDonalds, but I think that’s mainly to do with a lack of parking/loading space, but we have just about every other name going; Cafe Nero, Costa, all the pizza chains, many of the pub chains, Nandos, even a Wimpy. Although actually I have a bit of a soft spot for Wimpy, it reminds me of spending evenings with my Granny, who always ate her burger with a knife and fork, brown derby’s for dessert were a special treat, I noticed they’ve granted it a swanky refurbishment recently, I can’t say it’s going to tempt me in though. We have a Waitrose, M & S, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, you’re not going to go hungry here, we used to have a Coffee Importers (I can still remember the smell, although I was too young to remember going in) but we have NEVER had a decent coffee shop, with good coffee.
Saturday arrived and you can imagine where I was headed. I walked past first, on my way to Waitrose to pick up some baking gumph; it was rammed and I was concerned I may not get a seat. After some loitering in the baking aisles I hit Fee and Brown about 3pm as it was calming down a bit. I stepped through the doorway and was almost immediately greeted warmly by owner Del, with child firmly fixed to hip. She just about recognised me from my Twitter avatar and introduced me to everyone whilst telling me all about the cafe. The couple are actually from North London but have friends in the area and recognised a major gap on our high street. So far so good.
Please let the coffee be good.
Del’s husband, Ercan, is behind a grand display of cakes and sandwiches, these are from various suppliers, most local, including The Cinnamon Tree Bakery, and they look fantastic but I don’t try on this occasion due to an afternoon of baking I have planned. Their shop manager, hailing from Melbourne, is presiding over a La Marzocco, and looks to be taking things very seriously. He hands me my espresso, with very Tapped and Packed spoon, I take it to a window seat, willing it to be delicious….And?
It is, it is!!
I am beyond thrilled. You have no idea how exciting this is. I don’t HAVE to traipse into London for a coffee fix. Of course I will, but I can also now roll out of bed and stumble up the road for good coffee too. Brilliant.
It’s not just the spoons that remind me of the wonderful Tapped and Packed. No, the design of the place is very much in the same style. The bolted down, functional tables and benches I remark are I’m sure the same, I’m told they were bought before T&P had them, but the process of procuring the location was such a long one that they’ve lagged behind somewhat. More similarities too; ceramic sinks filled with ice for their soft drinks, and neutral colour scheme seem to emulate the other cafe. Whatever, it’s a good look and I don’t see Tapped and Packed opening anywhere nearby to ever be concerned. Beckenham is a family orientated town, so any cafe is going to have to have some focus on this, and yes, it has. There are a number of little folk around, but the space is large enough to accommodate without them being intrusive. Although open plan, there is an area at the back that is set back with a large communal table that would be ideal for families and groups of friends; I envisage it becomming the setting for many epic brunches and breakfasts.
Initially the coffee will be exclusively Caravan, and yes the focus here is very much on quality tea and coffee, there’s talk of using Climpson and Sons and Hasbean in the future; only whole milk is served, and I’m excited to learn of a brew bar being introduced shortly. I mentioned Lucky’s earlier, and yes, Fee and Brown stock a selection of their remarkable little chocolate enrobed cake bites, Del actually gave me a couple of the miniature ones to try, but, well, you know I’m already a fan.
I went back this afternoon for another nose and a spot of post gym lunch, and I find it reassuringly busy, clearly Beckenham was crying out for real coffee (and tea). I arrive lateish and sadly they’ve almost run out of the sandwiches I was drooling over yesterday, so I have a satisfying slab of ginger and carrot cake. It’s worth mentioning that the prices are considerably cheaper than their London counterparts; an espresso is just £1.60. The idea here is for the cafe to evolve gradually as it settles into Beckenham life, opening hours may shift and there’s also talk of getting some local artists in to add a splash of colour to the space.
I see myself spending a LOT of time here. I’m already scoping out the best seat in the house, plan on having my own personal coffee cup and plate, you know, that sort of home from home thing. I’ve only been twice so far, but Fee’s is already jostling for a spot amongst my favourite coffee shops.