Sibling to the similarly monikered Clerkenwell outfit, this freewheeling Hackney social
hub/art gallery/cycle-themed shop is ideal if you fancy networking on a one-to-one basis, firing up your hardware and connecting to other www.blue sky thinkers. Espresso shots are all part of the
regular service, as are all-day brekkie staples, open sandwiches, savouries, cakes and other sugary carb hits. In need of something stronger? Sardinian white wine or Prosecco (a steal at £19 a
bottle) should fit the bill. Otherwise, beery choices include Beavertown's 8-Ball, Gamma Ray, Black Betty and Smog Rocket, plus Black Chilli IPA and a couple from The Kernel Brewery. Hirsute
Hackney hot shots please note: after a couple of bottles of Russian Imperial Porter at 10.5% abv a pop, you’re in danger of going head first over those Raleigh handlebars. Cue a nightmare on Mare
Look Mum, No Hands London Fields
It may be stuck with a kooky and rather ponderous bureaucratic moniker, but black-fronted DCSA is essentially a new-breed coffee shop set up by a couple of young guys from down under. Once an
ironmonger’s, it has been recast and reconfigured as an uncluttered, caffeine-focused social hub supported by local designers and artists (their works are displayed on the café’s bare brick walls).
As well as a range of coffees ground from seasonal beans, the drinks list also runs to hand-blended, loose-leaf teas, hot chocolate and juices. If solids are required, there are croissants and
bowls of muesli for breakfast, followed by sandwiches, bagels and quiche at lunchtime; during the afternoon, caramel slices, Portuguese tarts and ricciarelli cookies come into their own. You can
also hire the Department’s private room for coffee-fuelled meetings around a communal table.
Department of Coffee & Social Affairs
As a lively Shoreditch social, this Book Club goes from strength to strength. By day, The Queen of Hoxton's multi-faceted sister doubles as crash pad/proxy office/cultural space/ cafe-bar/all-day diner catering to slackers, surfers and jobbing creatives here for breakfast, hairs of the dog and an all-day menu of comfort food. Come nightfall, free thinkers and enthusiastic drinkers get oiled on craft brews, cocktails, punch jars and fair-value vino. In the basement, regular uproars often involve big-noise DJs such as Roots Manuva and Norman Jay ‘MBE’. Literary salons; poetry slams; stand-up comedy; drama and dance tuition; leftfield films; art installations; hip-hop pub quizzes; bake-offs; craft workshops; ping pong: to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, ‘if you're tired of The Book Club you're tired of life’.
The Book Club
Exotic Brixton Market is the location for this cheap and cheerful daytime caff, which morphs into a rustic ersatz, Spanish-style backstreet bar come evening. Its quirky ‘luggage’ theme nods to a
past incarnation, while exhibits by local artists are featured in a punky, anarchic gallery space above. Enjoy a selection of wines at peasant prices, plus sherries, Hispanic lagers and £5
cocktails – including basil and ginger beer mojito, old fashioned and Electric Avenue (a vodka, marmalade and pomegranate invention). To nibble there are assorted pintxos skewers involving cheese,
chorizo, hams, spicy bites and piscine familiars; otherwise, go for sharing boards if you are particularly hungry, or order soups, salads, churros and trad Spanish desserts. It’s no el Bulli, but
for good fun and a chance to try Ferran Adrià’s fruity, floral Estrella Damm Inedit beer, this is just the ticket.
Seven at Brixton
Located on the ground floor of a shared events space, art gallery and hot-desking hub, Forge & Co’s self-styled ‘canteen’ is less strip lights and dinner ladies, more hip Scandi-style hangout. The light, airy feel is echoed in a bright and breezy menu that majors on the Brit classics, with various sharing boards adding to the communal feel of the place and a grill delivering everything from steaks to Cornish sardines and flaky sea bass with skin-on chips. Elsewhere, our potato dumplings served with portobello mushrooms and shaved Mossfield cheese had a surprisingly rubbery consistency, although they scored top marks for flavour. To finish, chocolate fondant was fine, but lemon tart lacked the expected zing. With friendly staff and a dedicated Lounge for drinks, Forge & Co has pitched itself as a top Shoreditch spot for work or play.
The Modern Grill at Forge & Co
This St Martin’s Lane workhorse aims to provide a place for freelancers and brand new businesses to work (and indulge in the odd coffee, cake and grilled sandwich, of course). The outfit claims to have helped at least twenty new enterprises get off the ground, but if your ambitions are less lofty, come by for breakfast with a French accent (ham and Gruyère crossaints, croque monsieurs) or soups, sandwiches and salads at lunchtime. Industrious endeavours are lubricated by a long roster of Has Bean coffees (you can even order a Chemex for two) or there’s Waterloo teas, beers from Meantime brewery and Bibendum wines.
Timberyard Seven Dials
This post-industrial refectory on Old Street’s ‘silicon roundabout’ opens for continental-style breakfasts, and offers an all-day roster of cakes, soups and sandwiches (try the BRAT – bacon,
rocket, avocado, tomato and aïoli). The ‘grind’ of the title refers to freshly roasted and brewed coffee in all its forms, from skinny lattes during the day to espressos in the evening, and the
house blend is available to take away, too. After that, groove the night away with designer beers such as Brooklyn Pale Ale, bargain-priced wines and cocktails, which are served to Blue Note-era
jazz and other cool sounds. Order a frozen Hemingway daiquiri or a rhubarb and ginger negroni, then book into the venue’s own recording studio if you fancy a step up from pub karaoke but can’t
brave going on The Voice.
The name is every kid’s proud boast when they’ve mastered two wheels – ‘look mum, no hands!’ Bikes double as art in this agreeably laid-back café-bar, and the venue hosts cycling-related workshops
– plus the odd comedy night. Watch as the latest Euro racing is beamed in live, or bypass the action and head for the pretty courtyard. To drink, perhaps a glass of Chardonnay, a bottle of Slag
(the house beer) or a smoothie – for those in charge of their own set of drop handlebars. Solid fuel comes from sandwiches, pies, stews, cakes and pastries – although the hottest ticket is
breakfast (try the Stornoway black-pudding fry-up or thyme-roasted mushrooms on sourdough toast). True to the spirit of Boris Johnson’s London, staff will fix machines while their owners have a
caffeine fix before getting back in the saddle.
Look Mum, No Hands Clerkenwell
Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien has converted this post-war laundry into a creative hub, with first-floor units rented out to musicians and designers. In addition to an events/club space that hosts cool all-nighters, the site now incorporates a pared-down post-industrial canteen and bar. Here you can sip easy-drinking wines such as Languedoc red (from £4.50 a glass) or Picpoul (£26). Cocktails, from £9, include Penicillin, Grasshopper and Martinez, as well as Belle (Caorunn gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur and muddled red grapes) and The Kick – a chilli-charged vodka Julep. Food ranges from posh bacon butties or buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast (served from 10am), via lunches of Lebanese and Med-inspired salads, soups, wraps and pastas, to Eurasian-influenced dinners such as lamb ragu with couscous, or three-seaweed broth, crispy yaki-nori, carrot and rice noodles. Eat inside or in The Laundry’s former drying yard: now a hangout for white-as-a-sheet Hackney hipsters.