Tina We Salute You had my heart at first glance. A solitary coffee shop down a fairly random street bustling with locals, which I found immediately evocative of the brilliant cafes dotted throughout the ‘burbs of Australia. Most of which just quietly provide a service; a place to hang out as much as to eat cake, sarnies, salads and drink great coffee in a culture that joyfully advocates such, and I find it so wonderfully emulated right here. It probably doesn’t hurt that when I first venture all the way to Dalston to visit, on the back of many postive whispers, it’s a romantically balmy, late summers day and the pavement outside is busy with chattering, happy people drinking coffee on basic tables and chairs.
Owners Danny and Steve, in some sort of epiphany, named the shop after a kitsch painting of ‘Tina’ that presides over the bar and the interest in art doesn’t stop there. One of the cafe’s most unique features is that two visits could provide you with two completely different surroundings; every eight weeks the interior is white washed and a local artist is invited to completely take over and transform the space. On my first visit last year, the walls lent a gothic fairytale feel to the inside of the cafe, all dreamy, surreal, black and white illustrations. In stark contrast, the art by Stephen Cheetham on my most recent visit is highly cheerful; a mock living room dipicted in childlike, cartoon style. Antipodean influences are reinforced in this communal room, a large central table designed for sharing is home to a little arrangement of brunch staples including obligatory Vegemite. Comfy sofas and a quirky rocking chair are prize loitering spots, with a long bench running along the window providing additional casual seating whilst enabling as many people as possible to squeeze into their favourite cafe, or at least that’s certainly how it feels; everyone appears to be thoroughly enjoying their time here, catching up on socialising, work time or simply accompanied solitude.
Beans are from Square Mile and coffee is superlative. Last summer I was offered a single origin variety as an aeropress but that option doesn’t seem to be available currently, perhaps it was just a trial…? Food options, chalked up on a large blackboard by the bar are largely brunch based, with a small range of sandwiches and bagels containing interesting enough fillings to please this fussy sarnie eater. My dense and chewy bagel is deliciously well stuffed with serrano ham, cheese and red onion jam, but diminuitive enough in size to allow a small dessert. Unfortunately (or do I mean fortunately?!) the cakes here are less demure; a stick to the ribs sticky toffee and ginger slab was more than I could manage and yet I just couldn’t stop it was so good. There’s usually a range of brownies, blondies, cupcakes and a couple of epic looking full scale cakes as well; most of my visits have uncovered something interesting sounding or different, that I’ve not been able to resist trying. There’s recently been some sumptuous images tweeted of some new brunch menu options that really need to be sampled sometime soon too….
I find Tina We Salute You a breath of fresh air from the rash of formulaic, too cool for school cafes. Yes, it’s in that hipster East London location that so many of the cool places to be now reside, and yes, it’s filled with what appear to be interesting and trendy, arty types. But, the service here is impeccable and super friendly; you’re treated like a local even if you’re not, and let’s face it, despite it being one of my absolute favourite London cafes I’ve only actually made it there a handful of times due to it’s practically foreign destination.
Every town should have a warm and welcoming neighbourhood cafe, indicative of it’s area and it’s community, serving great coffee. I wish Tina We Salute You was mine.