An Alternative Guide to Coffee in East London

Living in East London it seems as though a new coffee shop is popping up every five minutes. With so many cafes vying for your affections it can be a little confusing which one you should visit. There are books out there and even festivals, all hoping to point you in the right direction. So I thought I’d add my two cents and let you know about my favourite coffee spots in East London. The one thing that makes this post stand out from all the others? I can’t drink caffeine. You’re probably sat there with a look of shock on your face, wondering how I can even begin to explain myself. Well I’ve actually come upon some amazing cafes that also offer decaffeinated coffee. In the self-confessed land of coffee snobs, that’s a pretty big feat! It’s also not that easy to find decafe coffee that actually tastes like, well, coffee. Ben is usually in tow too though, and he does drink coffee, so I always end up asking him “Hows’ the coffee?” Boy do I miss coffee!
Anyway, sit back, relax and enjoy my alternative guide to coffee in East London.

Yellow Warbler – Northwold Road, Stoke Newington
YW is new to the world of coffee and to Stoke Newington. It’s off the main high street but that doesn’t mean that it packs any less of a punch. Looking at the menu you wouldn’t expect any decafe, however their table menu would prove you wrong. I ordered a cappuccino and found it to be chocolatey and sweet. Still, it had a genuine coffee taste to it, rather than an artificial flavour like some decafe. The South American street food on offer is also worth a mention, although it is a little on the pricey side.

Brick Lane Coffee – Brick Lane
Whilst you’re browsing the numerous vintage clothing stores on Brick Lane you may find yourself a little thirsty. Luckily, Brick Lane Coffee is smack bang in the middle of all the excitement. Their choice of coffee is impressive, ranging from banana frappes (which are amazing in the current heatwave) to a dirty chai (that’s a chai latte with a shot of espresso). They do also offer decafe and soya milk options for those who may not want to partake though. The coffee ‘alternatives’ are delicious and are definitely worth trying out.

Beyond Retro Cafe – Stoke Newington High St, Dalston
Beyond Retro don’t only cater to vintage loving fashionistas. Their Dalston store also offers somewhere for you to put your feet up after you’ve had a tough day shopping. They offer a variety of coffee-centric drinks, as well as decafe and soya options. The drinks are reasonably priced without forgoing quality. I also love their gluten-free food options, and the free Wi-Fi, of course.

The Hawkhurst Vault – Brick Lane
Ok ok, THV is actually a tea room, but it does also sell coffee. So what better alternative for the non-coffee drinker than tea? That way you and your coffee loving friends can enjoy the best of both worlds. Shhh don’t tell the coffee lovers I mentioned tea.

Ozone Coffee Roasters – Leonard St, Shoreditch
Ozone take coffee pretty seriously, which can be a little daunting for those who don’t drink it regularly. However the surroundings in Ozone’s Shoreditch cafe will definitely put any worries to rest. With two massive floors there’s plenty of space and atmosphere to soak up. I couldn’t see any decafe options on their menu, but I did love their inclusion of hot chocolate – my caffeine-free choice when decafe isn’t around. The chilli hot chocolate is to die for, and their coffee certainly impressed my friends.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my mini round-up of the best alternative coffee stops in East London. If you’ve enjoyed it and are still on somewhat of a caffeine high, check out Currys post about the UK’s love for coffee.

Photo Diary: Food & A Photography Masterclass

Waking up early on a Saturday is not something most people would do, and when I say most people, I mean me. That said, the lovely people from Simplyhealth had me leaping out from beneath my covers for a special workshop that included food and photography – two of my greatest passions in life.

The event started with a mini masterclass with the photographer Paul Hames. He taught us the basics of using a D-SLR on manual mode, something which can seem a little intimidating at times. I will admit that I’ve been lazy in the past and flicked my camera onto auto and just gone with the flow. So this gave me the kick up the derrière that I needed. It also gave me the push that I needed, to finally decide on buying a Canon…now I just need to figure out which model.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand! After Paul had shown us around the basics of a D-SLR, he took us out for a wander around Kings Cross, to try out our newfound photography skills. We headed to the viewing platform behind Kings Cross Station, which gave me a view of the area that I’d never seen before. It was the perfect place to take some snaps of London. It began to get a little crowded though so we headed alongside the canal to take some portrait shots in the gorgeous sunshine. Sarah, Jess and I became a threesome for the project and found a nice shady spot to take our photos. Both ladies were the perfect models. Although I may have got a little carried away taking photos of Sarah’s gorgeous tattoos. All that snapping finally took it’s toll on us though, and we were ready for food! Luckily the Kerb street food market was on so we headed over and wandered off in search of sustenance! Marlene and I paired up and headed to Bill or Beak for one of their amazingly juicy sandwich-burgers…I’m still not sure what to class it as. We soon found a shady spot to to keep our delicate skin from burning (it still didn’t save me) and to enjoy our food. After we’d all enjoyed our food we headed back for some more photography chit-chat with Paul, who taught us how to take a good photo.

I had such a wonderful day and was so inspired by Paul that I’ve been taking photos like there’s no tomorrow…on manual, of course. So thank you to everyone who made the day so great!

Photo Diary: The Underground Cookery School

I’ve never been into the whole housewife lifestyle – cleaning and chores aren’t for me. Yet I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking, which means that I cook 99% of the meals in our household. I do it purely for enjoyment, but of course there are times when I can’t be bothered, or I have run out of recipe ideas. Luckily for me I was contacted by The Underground Cookery School to attend one of their classes, where I would be cooking a 3-course meal (sea bream starter, chicken main, and roulade dessert) with some fellow bloggers and writers. I was eager to learn some new skills, and pick up a few recipes whilst I was at it.

The classes are literally held underground, in the basement of a rather unsuspecting building. Walking into the school I was impressed at the clean cut look of the kitchen and the large, inviting dining table. There were some familiar faces in attendance, and some lovely new ones also. We were all handed a glass of prosecco, canapés and an apron – a brief summary of what to expect from the night. After catching up with everyone we were handed our first task for the night – shelling broad beans. It may not sound very glamorous, but in the kitchen everyone has to chip in! Soon after we were split into two groups to start on the Strawberry Meringue Roulade. Luckily Ashleigh-Jayne was in my group – a self-confessed meringue connoisseur. After prepping our meringue we moved onto filleting our fish and preparing our chicken. Now I’d never done either of these things before, but as a sometimes meat-eater I think it’s important to be more hands on with your food, and understand how it is prepared. So I got stuck in, with a lot more enthusiasm than you’d expect from someone who was just handed a dead fish/whole chicken. I won’t go into details as I know some of my readers will be veggie/vegan etc. and I don’t want to cause any upset. After we’d washed our hands (very thoroughly) we went back to our meringue and prepared our cream, which we then smothered on top of the meringue and covered with strawberries, before carefully rolling to complete our roulade.

The cooking part of the class may have been fun, but the real entertainment came when we sat down to eat! My favourite dish of the night had to be the sea bream, with the roulade coming a close second. In fact they were all delicious! We were served by the chefs, and were given a complimentary wine to go with our courses. Conversation flowed, alongside the wine, thanks to the lovely company I shared. Food is fun, but it’s really made by the company you share it with. So a big shout-out goes to LilyCharlieJesseLucyCassie and Plum! Also, thank you to Anneliese for hosting us, and the wonderful chefs of The Underground Cookery School. I had a night to remember, and I will certainly be trying out some of the skills I learnt, in my own kitchen!

Find out more at The Underground Cookery School.

Where to Eat in London: Fingers Crossed

Fingers Crossed | Cafe | Stoke Newington | Website
– reservations not available –

Fingers Crossed is a local cafe I came across in my London Coffee Guide. I don’t drink coffee but I know my stuff, thanks to an overly enthusiastic sibling. So when I read that they also offered amazing food, I knew I had to check them out. I headed there around midday on bank holiday Monday, with my fiancé.

Fingers Crossed is in a rather unexpected location. However thanks to the cleverly designed logo on the front window you’re unable to miss this hidden gem. Inside is a very basic rustic chic setting, with one long communal table and several single tables. I don’t mind the idea of communal tables so we sat down, next to the cakes. Of course. It was busy, with most of the tables being taken up by talkative groups, all who had ordered food. Originally we only went in for cake, but after seeing the food come out my fiance just couldn’t resist. I choose the brownie with a cheesecake topping, and he went for the tomatoes and eggs, with Sicilian sardines. Presentation wise, the food was similar to the cafe – providing a quality product that doesn’t need dressing up. The brownie was superb, and is the best invention to happen to cakes since…ever! The baked cheesecake topping added a texture and taste to the egg-less chocolate brownie that I just haven’t come across before. I was tempted to bring back a bag full, but managed to resist. The fiancé said his brunch option was delicious, and he loved that he could taste everything in the dish that had been mentioned on the menu. According to him it was the tangy sweet tomatoes that brought the whole dish together though. I asked him if he would eat it again. His answer? “Definitely”, and he wanted to try the other similar dishes too.

The barista came over to us after we’d eaten and asked us if we wanted to “…try something different”. Of course we said yes, and soon enough two espresso glasses were placed in front of us. “It’s iced coffee” he told us. He spoke about it with such enthusiasm that we weren’t surprised when we tasted how good it was. It was incredibly fruity and refreshing. I only had a few mouthfuls as I can’t drink coffee really, but I enjoyed it immensely. He told us it isn’t really popular in the coffee world yet, but if everyone was to try the one he gave us I know they’d be won over. After we had finished our iced coffee (I gave the rest of mine to the fiancé), we went up to pay. They don’t take cards here, so you will need to bring cash. Don’t worry, you won’t need to bring much though, as we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was pretty cheap.

I noticed that there were freshly cut flowers scattered around the cafe, which I always love. However it was the service that really made me smile. There were only 3 people working in the cafe: the hostess, barista and chef. All 3 of them were delightful and chatty, whilst making sure everyone had everything they needed. I will definitely be going back to Fingers Crossed, and I will be bringing everyone I know with me!

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.