For I have known them all already, known them all: Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons
The above bit of poetry is from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot; presumably where Prufrock Coffee take their name. But possibly it’s not those lines that inspired it, but this bit from another T.S. Eliot poem, Preludes, published in the same book as the above, Prufrock and Other Observations
The morning comes to consciousness Of faint stale smells of beer From the sawdust-trampled street With all its muddy feet that press To early coffee-stands.
After all, Prufrock started out as a coffee cart before moving to its current location. Regardless which (or maybe it’s from some other source), it seems somewhat more highbrow than the usual coffee shop name! With the exception of, er, Starbucks of course, being a character from literary classic Moby Dick.
Prufrock is on Leather Lane, just up the road from the previously-reviewed Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. These are the two coffee shops I go to the most often, so it was about time I also reviewed Prufrock.
I have to confess to feeling slightly intimidated the first time I went in here. On their drinks menu board they don’t have the usual selection of americano, latte, cappuccino, flat white, and so on. Instead they have just the following:
- espresso £2.20,
- + milk
- 4oz £2.60
- 6oz £2.80
- 8oz £3.00
I wasn’t sure which I needed, so gingerly asked if I could get a latte… which I could, obviously! It should go without saying that these guys can probably make pretty much any kind of coffee I might have wanted, as I’ve since learnt.
It was also the first coffee shop I’d been in that had a separate brew bar, and they also have a lot of technical coffee-making equipment around the place. Including a Has Garanti roaster in one corner.
But one thing that I found comforting was their Nuova Simonelli Aurelia espresso machine, which had a great cartoon illustration all over it, including a coffee bean flying over the sky in the style of Halley’s Comet as seen on the Bayeux Tapestry, among other things. The illustration was by Martin Kingdom, who has more photos of it here. Unfortunately that espresso machine has been retired and can currently be seen in the coffee shop window. It’s been replaced by a newer model, which is all lovely and shiny, but not so entertaining to look at!
So chances are if you’re reading this you’re already very familiar with Prufrock – they are regularly featured as one of London’s best coffee shops. They were set up by Gwilym Davies (how many baristas do you know with their own Wikipedia page?) in 2011, who previously ran coffee stands in Columbia Road and Whitecross Street. Gwilym was crowned World Barista Champion 2009, so he knows his stuff. These days I believe he’s based in Prague, so usually during the lunch time service it seems to be director Jeremy Challender running the show.
The café can get a bit busy at lunch time, being popular for obvious reasons (as well as its prime spot on the brilliant foodie destination Leather Lane). But it’s not a problem getting a seat, as it has a lot of square tables with wooden seats and stools, and a long bench that runs along a couple of the walls. The seats always remind me of primary school for some reason…
They do a small selection of soups and sandwiches, as well as cakes, although I’m usually just having the coffee. If anything I’d have to say I think their food slightly over-priced, which is probably my only criticism of this place.
Prufrock run a coffee training centre in their basement. They also sell a large range of supplies for brewing up your own perfect cuppa at home. In summary they’re pretty much one of the best and most knowledgeable places for coffee in London that I’m aware of. And they do a consistently good job at latte art, as you’ll see from my photos below!
Some other reviews: