buckwheat promises

You know that overwhelming urge, the one that comes suddenly on a Sunday afternoon around 4:00, for a buckwheat sandwich and some crepes?

And then comes that crushing disappointment with the knowledge that no place houses both these beautiful dreams under one roof.  And finally, the familiar ache that turns into quiet sobs as you pick at your beans and toast.


malokoTucked under unassuming blue awnings is a tiny little paradise – a new café called Maloko, on the corner of Camberwell Church Street and Camberwell Grove lane.  The décor is simple but unique –   the floor bursts with colour, green drums for tables, coffee bags for a ceiling.  It’s light and airy and filled with happy vibes.

The owner’s usually there to greet you, a young guy bursting with smiles and good wishes.  His joy in opening the new business, and hope for its success, is palpable and catching.

Not many choices on the menu (yet!) but what glorious few they are!  crepes

Crepes, crepes, beautiful crepes – crepes filled with chocolate, lemon, Grand Marnier,  with unicorns and sunshine.

And yes, buckwheat sandwiches filled with cheese, spinach, yams – vegetarian stuff.  The coffee is quite good (this coming from a coffee snob) – I had a macchiato and was well pleased.

The prices are typical Camberwell – cheap!  And Maloko has great hours – everyday from about 8am to 10pm-ish – though I’m sure this will adjust with time, I’m hoping it doesn’t.

Because that buckwheat urge can strike at any time.


that fussy Muse

Atmosphere matters terribly to the sensitive writer.  For writing to happen, everything must be just so.  Just so much light, preferably low in lamps, not too interrogating, not judgemental.  Not dark and spooky.  Just so much noise, preferably a blend of uninteresting chatter and music.  Music must not be too catchy or loud, and maybe nothing from the ’80s, because I know all the words to every song that came out of the ’80s.  Noise must find a snug corner in the subconscious and stay there, buzzing gently.

I haven’t even gotten to the chairs and tables yet.  Not to mention the coffee.  To be honest, I can forgive slightly less than terrific coffee for great atmosphere.

I’m writing this from Bermondsey Street Coffee, which excels in coffee but not in atmosphere.

bermondsey st coffee

I couldn’t write great things in here, I know this.  This is one of those passing-the-time places.  A place to surf the net, or write down some jumbly thoughts, maybe a blog entry.  Nothing too serious or important.

The chairs are great – comfy and leather, and arranged well for conversation and general chilling – but not for solitary pondering and writing.  I can see too many people from where I sit.  Artsy people.  Reading people.  Studying people.  But mostly talking people.  They move, they walk by, they distract and alarm the nervous birds of thought and idea that may wish to land in my head.  They flitter away at the slightest provocation, these birds.

The room throbs with music that is too carefully selected for ‘hip’ and ‘eclectic’ to fade into the background.

Who can write great things with Michael Jackson singing in the room?  Who can do that?

Nobody can.


Like any savvy Londoner, the instant I see sunshine I hit the streets.  Because you just don’t know when you will see that sun again!  Yesterday was glorious.  Glorious!  Armed with a treasure map, my friend and I went out seeking the perfect coffee shop.  We ambled over Tower Bridge into Shoreditch, snaking our way through tourists, sucking in every atom of sunshine and dazzling London-ness we could suck.

Shoreditch loves to surprise you.  Rows and rows of respectable Victorian buildings line the alley, the narrow street curves, and then SMACK! there’s a cartoon acid trip or scrabble board painted onto an otherwise reasonable brick wall.

Photo courtesy of Alexia

Somehow we ended up on Brick Lane (do all roads lead to Brick Lane?), found Redchurch St., and THERE, behold! Allpress Espresso.  It’s across from The Painted Lady salon and a gigantic graffiti squirrel, but it doesn’t look hipster.  In fact, its storefront is kind of boring.  The music is chill (acoustic guitary, but not, like, peppered with industrial sounds or whiney folk political rants) and the décor is simple and pleasing.  We slid onto a wooden bench, and sipped very decent lattes.  The sandwiches were toasty and salty, with cool things in them.  Success!

O London!  You gave us not one, but TWO beautiful weekend days!  We forgive you for the past 5 weeks of unholy cold and rain!  We forgive you!!

(Better get off the internet and back outside, before you change your mind.)

self aware

Once you set foot inside the densely-packed warehouse off of Brick Lane in Shoreditch, something in you snaps.  The self-awareness courses through your veins like a shot of fair-trade, Ethiopian espresso (with citrus notes.)   You’re at The London Coffee Festival, and it’s offiical.

You are a coffee snob.  (And dangerously close to hipster.)

That’s right, I went to The London Coffee Festival with a couple of like-minded friends.  We waited in the cold, splattering rain in a queue that wrapped around the warehouse for 20 minutes just to get in.  You can judge all you want, judgey McJudgerson, but it was freaking awesome.  Booth after booth of coffee samples, carefully prepared from shiny espresso machines.  Barrista contests!  Not one, not two, but THREE espresso martini bars.  Places to lounge and sip your excessively delicious sustainably-sourced fifth shot of espresso in bean bag chairs, the live acoustic guitar music mellowing out your electric caffeine high to a pleasant buzz.

My lactose-intolerant friend found a new soya product especially made to froth in her espresso machine.  I almost bought a reusable coffee cup designed to look like a disposable coffee cup.  Is this madness?  Or genius?  I don’t care!  I want it!  We stopped at a booth and waited for 10 minutes for this guy to magic us some coffee I couldn’t pronounce.  We wanted to see what ‘gamey’ coffee tasted like.  Give me 100g of that, that stuff I can’t pronounce!!  It does taste ‘gamey’!  I believe you!  I can taste the ‘hint of apple’, I swear!

Are we coffee snobs?  Yes.  But self aware snobs.  And that makes us better than other snobs.