Okay, to be transparent with everyone, that is a click bait title.
I was indeed in London for two weekends and a work week, and I didn’t get to spend much on coffee because I just couldn’t buy coffee most of the time. I dropped by a few interesting shops (including one just on the South End of London Bridge) but these shops only accepted card payments. I was in London for business and my lovely company gave our per diem as cash. The only time I can use my corporate card was for transportation, hotel booking, and airfare. Why not just use my personal card? I don’t have a personal card.
Within the City of London, they have a lot of coffee shops, so you know this is an actual coffee drinking city. The stereotype of them preferring tea over coffee isn’t really true – or at least not in the busy city. Of course there’s Starbucks and Costa Coffee, but there’s also a Pret A Manger everywhere. There are also a lot of proper coffee shops but again, these only accept card payments. I had to go out dejected of about three shops because of this, including one right at the Southern end of London Bridge.
My first coffee experience was from a Café called Treves and Hyde. It was modern-designed in the ground floor of a modern apartment building, rare in this part of London. They only have espresso and batch brew. I asked the barista what beans they used for the latter and she said “Colombian, the one in a white bag?” because yes, all Colombian coffee comes in a white bag. It tasted like Colombian Supremo but then again you would default Colombian coffee as Colombia Supremo.
There’s also a black sheep up the street but I never got to try it. Also, this Black Sheep closes really early, I think 6pm? Funny when you’ve tried the Black Sheep in MOA.
Architecture in London is really stunning. You can go to any street and there will literally be something that will catch your eye. It also changes depending on what part of the City you are in. I stayed in a place within the Whitechapel district which was once the poorest part of London. You will see a lot of brick buildings around here, basic lodgings and not as grand as Victorian architecture in the City of Westminster, but beautiful in their own right. You see so much of them that you can tell which were erected recently vs those that are actually hundreds of years old.
Like I said, there a lot of chain shops scattered around the city but there are secondary shops in areas where there is a huge concentration of people. One of those will be Caffe Nero. There’s one in the ground floor of our office, one outside the Westminster tube station (a scene in Harry Potter was shot there BTW), even one at the lobby of Heathrow terminal four. Also, and this is so lovely, a lot of shops on street level have their toilets in the basement. And they always, always make sure their basements are much better than what you see upstairs.
I got to try two shops that have amazing basements: The Nero in our office has small chairs and noise on the main section, but a quiet downstairs with a plush couch and a shelf filled with old books; Caffe Vergnano, which I chanced upon outside the Chancerry Lane tube station, was a combination of elegance and industrial upstairs, but a pair of pink chairs below showed a more fun side. BTW, Caffe Vergnano’s espresso was so smooth I ordered two!
Speaking of something in the ground floor of our office building, there is an interesting “fast food” restaurant there: Leon. My boss got lunch here once and I got a flat white. While the flat white from the aforementioned Nero was decent enough – beneath the warm milk you get the a pleasant chocolaty taste of their espresso – Leon’s tasted more like milk flavored with bitters.
As I’ve said, Londoners drink coffee a lot. As I was looking for some proper coffee shops to visit, I chanced upon “Curators Coffee Studio” in Cullum Street – so near our office and the beautiful Leadenhall Market. True to form, they only accepted card payments. The only way I got to try was because our trip sponsor was with us, and she used her card to buy our coffee. She has been in London for about 2 years now and has never heard of this place, and this I just find amusing.
It’s a place that fancies itself in curating for its clientele the best coffee they can ever get. It’s in a quiet place in the financial district, and although it has an ever so small sign outside, you would have to know where it is to find it. It’s proud of its coffee but isn’t afraid to feature guest beans. Remind you of a shop here in the Philippines?
I got to go to a lot of touristy places while in London. I got to see the London Eye up close (didn’t ride it though). I got to take pictures of the Houses of Parliament (aka the Palace of Westminster), the covered up Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus (both with the sun out and during night), and Leicester Square.
I got to see the West End production of the Phantom of the Opera, had to walk up several flights of stairs just to get at my balcony seats, but got to drink Stella while they were performing Masquerade. I got to try an official walking tour (Harry Potter) and did a tour of my own to where Jack the Ripper’s victims were supposed to have been found. I dropped by Tower Bridge a bunch of times because it was so close by and got to visit 221b Baker Street, as a kid who read the compilation of Sherlock Holmes novels and stories that was everything. BTW, the platform of the Circle Line for at the Baker Street Tube Station is probably the most beautiful I have seen!
But, most importantly, in my only two trips outside of the Philippines (so far) I was able to try something a few people can: I got to work at an insurance company in Wall Street (technically Water Street) and Fenchurch Street! A lot of people can visit these places for vacation or transfer here for work, but not everyone will have that opportunity!
So, I do regret not being able to try more coffee shops while in London but it also made me appreciate the coffee scene in the Philippines more. Like we have so many accessible (proper) shops here, let’s not take that for granted.
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