Duncan's blog

June 17, 2016

Google Maps – displaying lots of markers

Filed under: Google Maps,Javascript — duncan @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I was inspired by this amazing site by Jill Hubley which uses publicly-available data of all the street trees in New York City, to see if the same data was available on the London DataStore.  I couldn’t find the same thing for the whole city, although I did find just two of the 33 borough councils had published this data on the nation-wide data.gov.uk site (but not the London-specific DataStore for some reason).

However, while looking for the trees data, I did find a dataset of all the allotments in London.  Pretty exciting stuff, I think you’ll agree, and something I’m sure something everyone wants to see mapped.  And I thought it might be an interesting exercise in seeing how to handle slightly larger amounts of markers than I usually do, so…

Firstly, they provide the data in three different files.  Two of them are zipped bundles containing a bunch of files in formats that aren’t familiar to me, but I assume are standard for GIS software used across the public sector.  The third is just a plain-old CSV file, so that’s what I’ve gone for.

There are 741 allotment locations listed.  I’ve imported that into a Google Spreadsheet, and got rid of the columns I didn’t think were necessary.

So initially I just want to grab all this data, and add it to a Google map as standard markers with infoWindows attached.  Nothing new here.  I exported my slightly amended version of the spreadsheet as a new .csv file, then used this site here to convert that into JSON structure.  That did a pretty nice job of giving me an array with each allotment being an object like this:

    "Name": "Abbots Way",
    "Location": "Alongside railway line",
    "Borough": "Bromley",
    "Organisation": 0,
    "Facilities": 0,
    "Comments": 0,
    "Latitude": 51.393386,
    "Longitude": -0.047422

For the fields Organisation, Facilities and Comments this data seemed to be fairly inconsistent across the various councils, but mostly they were blank, which has ended up as zero in the JSON.

I then simply set this up as a JSON structure, and minified it using this site (reducing it from 206Kb to 103Kb).  At this point it makes sense to get the data via AJAX, rather than embed this as a giant variable into my javascript code.  I’m using jQuery’s $.ajax() method instead of their $.getJson() method, just because I’m running this locally, not using a webserver, and I needed to specify the mimetype using the beforeSend callback (thanks to this answer on StackOverflow).

	dataType: "json",
	url: 'allotments-min.json',
	beforeSend: function(xhr){
		if (xhr.overrideMimeType) {
	success: function(data) {
		var allotments = data.allotments;

		for (var i = 0; i < allotments.length; i++) {


Then I simply add the markers, setup an event listener to update the infowindow with the relevant content, and extend the map’s bounds to fit them all in:

function createMarker(allotment) {
	var marker = new google.maps.Marker({
		position: {lat: allotment.Latitude, lng: allotment.Longitude},
		map: map,
		title: allotment.Name


	var content = '<strong>' + allotment.Name + '</strong><br>';
	if (allotment.Location) {
		content += 'Location: ' + allotment.Location + '<br>';
	if (allotment.Borough) {
		content += 'Borough: ' + allotment.Borough + '<br>';
	if (allotment.Organisation) {
		content += 'Organisation: ' + allotment.Organisation + '<br>';
	if (allotment.Facilities) {
		content += 'Facilities: ' + allotment.Facilities + '<br>';
	if (allotment.Comments) {
		content += 'Comments: ' + allotment.Comments + '<br>';

	marker.addListener('click', function() {
		infowindow.open(map, this);

And this produces a map that looks like this:


Well that works, and it’s simple, but there’s really too many markers tightly grouped together, and you can’t filter them down by Borough for instance.  What can we do to improve this?  The Google Maps API documentation lists several things you can do when working with large datasets.  Let’s try a KML Layer.  I need to convert my data to a KML format for starters.  I used this handy site to do that for me, turning my 59Kb .csv file into a 466Kb .kml file.  Each allotment now turned into an XML structure like this:

	<name>Abbots Way</name>
		<SchemaData schemaUrl="#csv_20160528085652">
			<SimpleData name="Name">Abbots Way</SimpleData>
			<SimpleData name="Location">Alongside railway line</SimpleData>
			<SimpleData name="Borough">Bromley</SimpleData>
			<SimpleData name="Organisation"></SimpleData>
			<SimpleData name="Facilities"></SimpleData>
			<SimpleData name="Comments"></SimpleData>
			<SimpleData name="Latitude">51.393386</SimpleData>
			<SimpleData name="Longitude">-0.047422</SimpleData>

Great! So according to Google’s docs, it’s simply a case of adding a KmlLayer like so:

var kmlLayer = new google.maps.KmlLayer({
	url: 'http://www.example.com/allotments.kml',
	map: map

Firstly the KML file has to be publicly accessible, so I had it uploaded to my server (I’m only running the HTML file locally on my laptop).  However it didn’t like that; I had to add KML (application/vnd.google-earth.kml+xml) to my list of mime types in IIS, otherwise I got a 404 error.

This still didn’t seem to work, and I stumbled across something which suggested any KML file over 10Kb should really be turned into a KMZ file instead.  That was simply a case of zipping up the KML file, and changing the file extension to .kmz.  Oh, and then adding KMZ (application/vnd.google-earth.kmz) as a mime type in IIS as well.

This still didn’t give me my full results; markers appear, but clicking each one just gave me the title, none of the other data.  Turns out the lovely KML format I was working with contained lots of elements Google Maps API aren’t supporting (here’s the full list of what they do).  So I had to reformat it, mainly replacing all the SimpleData elements with Data elements instead, and getting rid of a Schema declaration at the top, and ending up having each allotment in this format:

	<name>Abbots Way</name>
		<Data name="Name"><value>Abbots Way</value></Data>
		<Data name="Location"><value>Alongside railway line</value></Data>
		<Data name="Borough"><value>Bromley</value></Data>
		<Data name="Latitude"><value>51.393386</value></Data>
		<Data name="Longitude"><value>-0.047422</value></Data>

Finally that started working, giving me this kind of result…


At this point there’s steps I could take to tidy up the layout of the infoWindow, but why bother?  End result: a lot of faffing around for not much different from before.  In retrospect, it seems KML is really a format more for the benefit of Google Earth than Google Maps, and I’m not sure I came up with anything useful just by changing my code to use that file format.  Other than learning what’s needed to use KML files with the Google Maps API for future reference.

What about applying some marker clustering just to reduce the huge number of markers?  That’s not too tricky, I just set everything up like in my original example, included the MarkerCluster JS file, and added this line in after I’d put all the markers into an array:

var markerCluster = new MarkerClusterer(map, markers, {imagePath: 'markerclusterer/images/m'});

The only gotcha I had was I needed to add the imagePath for the marker images to appear correctly (you may not need this, depending where your JS file is).  And this then gave me:


Zooming in a bit you start to see different icons and individual markers, e.g.


Well a bit better for reducing the amount of markers displayed at any one time, and giving you an idea of how they’re grouped across the city, but still far from ideal.  What I really want is to break it down by the various boroughs.

Next step, FusionTables.  This article by Dan Nguyen was very useful: Intro to Data Mashing and Mapping with Google Fusion Tables.  It took a bit of trial-and-error, importing data from Google Spreadsheets to Google FusionTables.  I ended up with one file in Google Spreadsheets. It contained two spreadsheets:

One with all 741  allotments and their coordinates:

The other with all 33 boroughs and the coordinates for the polygons defining their boundaries:

This data came from this publicly-available KML file; I’m not sure how accurate or up-to-date that is, and it may not tally with the data to do with the allotments (e.g. boundary changes since that KML file was made may put some allotments in the wrong councils on the map).  In this second sheet I added a new column, for a count of the allotments per borough.  This used a simple formula, using COUNTIF to tally up how often the name of each council appears in the other sheet:


You’ll notice in the above screenshot that in the row for Bromley the ‘geometry’ column is blank; this was also the case for several of the other councils.  It seemed to be a problem importing from the KML file into Google Spreadsheets.  I think I ended up turning this into a FusionTable, then manually editing the values for any missing polygons.

So at this point I imported both the spreadsheets into FusionTables as separate tables.  In FusionTables you get an option to turn your table into a map.  You can then choose Publish > Get HTML and JavaScript, and get all the code you’d need to turn that into a web page.  Doing that with each of these tables, I got two separate maps;

One with all the council boundaries:


And the other with small markers for all the allotments:


In Fusion Tables it was easy to setup the colour schemes and add the ‘# of allotments‘ legend.  All I need to do now is combine both of these into one map.

So initially I want to just display the council boundaries, so this FusionTablesLayer does that:

var boroughsLayer = new google.maps.FusionTablesLayer({
    map: map,
    suppressInfoWindows: true,
    query: {
        select: 'geometry',
        from: '15nhaHjAOYp2CrBJRJoP5bXkytmgfuRXYvGwsIuIk'
    styles: [{
        where: 'count = 0',
        polygonOptions: {
            strokeColor: '#000000',
            strokeOpacity: 0.3,
            strokeWeight: 1,
            fillColor: '#edf8e9',
            fillOpacity: 0.1
        where: 'count > 0',
        polygonOptions: {
            strokeColor: '#000000',
            strokeOpacity: 0.3,
            strokeWeight: 1,
            fillOpacity: 0.5,
            fillColor: '#bae4b3'
        where: 'count > 15',
        polygonOptions: {
            strokeColor: '#000000',
            strokeOpacity: 0.3,
            strokeWeight: 1,
            fillOpacity: 0.5,
            fillColor: '#74c476'
        where: 'count > 30',
        polygonOptions: {
            strokeColor: '#000000',
            strokeOpacity: 0.3,
            strokeWeight: 1,
            fillOpacity: 0.5,
            fillColor: '#31a354'
        where: 'count > 45',
        polygonOptions: {
            strokeColor: '#000000',
            strokeOpacity: 0.3,
            strokeWeight: 1,
            fillOpacity: 0.5,
            fillColor: '#006d2c'

The query gets all the polygon data.  Then we want to give each polygon a different style based on the number of allotments.  If you omit the ‘where’ part, you can set a default style; however you can only set up to 5 of these styles, and because I’m wanting five different colours based on the allotment count, I need to just specify all the styles for each possible option (and so I end up repeating all the properties apart from the fillColors).

This is the HTML for the map and legend:

<div id="map"></div>
<div id="legend">
    <p id="legend-title"># of allotments</p>
        <span class="legend-swatch" style="background-color: #edf8e9"></span>
        <span class="legend-range">0</span>
        <span class="legend-swatch" style="background-color: #bae4b3"></span>
        <span class="legend-range">1 - 15</span>
        <span class="legend-swatch" style="background-color: #74c476"></span>
        <span class="legend-range">16 - 30</span>
        <span class="legend-swatch" style="background-color: #31a354"></span>
        <span class="legend-range">31 - 45</span>
        <span class="legend-swatch" style="background-color: #006d2c"></span>
        <span class="legend-range">46+</span>

The values for the fillColor property obviously match up with the background colours on the legend. This adds the legend onto the map:


Now what I want is if you click on any of the councils, it shows you just the allotments there.  This does that:

allotmentsLayer = new google.maps.FusionTablesLayer();

boroughsLayer.addListener('click', function(FusionTablesMouseEvent) {
        map: map,
        query: {
            select: 'col6',
            from: '1kBhYAiZGBsIzZ-iXQZ0VC8Lhr32IUf_WOp-cYntm',
            where: "'Borough' = '" + FusionTablesMouseEvent.row.name.value + "'"
        options: {
            styleId: 2,
            templateId: 2

So firstly I’ve got a global variable for the allotmentsLayer.  Each time I click a new council, I set its map property to null, removing any markers that were previously visible.  The FusionTablesLayer‘s click event handler gives you a FusionTablesMouseEvent, which lets you know which row in the FusionTable that equates to.  From this, I can get the name of the council, and I can then use that to query the FusionTable with all the allotments.

I’m also specifying an options property on the layer here.  This isn’t documented in the Maps API, but when you get the generated HTML + Javascript from FusionTables, it includes those depending on how you style your markers.  And they seemed to be required; I wasn’t able to style my markers otherwise from what I could see.

What I’m also doing is outputting the name of the council and the number of allotments it contains.  And providing a ‘show all‘ link so you can see all the allotments at any time.

<div id="borough">
    <strong id="name"></strong> <span id="count"></span>
    <p><a href="" id="showAll">Show all allotments</a></p>

I wrap these up in a div and treat it like the legend, and add it directly onto the top-middle of the map:


And in the click event listener, I update the value of the HTML:

$('#name').text(FusionTablesMouseEvent.row.name.value + ': ');
$('#count').text(FusionTablesMouseEvent.row.count.value + ' allotments');

The ‘show all allotments‘ link has its own event listener, which just does the query again, but without a ‘where’ clause:

$(document).ready(function() {
    $('#showAll').on('click', showAllAllotments);        

function showAllAllotments(event) {
        map: map,
        query: {
            select: 'col6',
            from: '1kBhYAiZGBsIzZ-iXQZ0VC8Lhr32IUf_WOp-cYntm'
        options: {
            styleId: 2,
            templateId: 2

And what all this gives is this:


You can see it working here.  This is more or less what I was hoping to end up with.  I would have liked to fit the bounds of the map to fit each council as it was selected.  And to have a list of all the councils, perhaps as a dropdown you could choose from.  I’m sure  these things must be possible.

From a data point of view, it would be good to include things like the length of the allotment waiting lists, or to have slightly more useful data about each allotment than just what the DataStore provided.

Next steps:

  • use a different mapping system such as CartoDB or MapBox
  • map what tree data is available for London

Some useful resources:


March 13, 2014

Leather Lane street food

Leather Lane is a historic street in the centre of London, connecting the busy roads of High Holborn and Clerkenwell Road.  On week days it is full of market stalls, as it has been for at least 400 years.  Traditionally these would have been mostly clothes stalls, but contrary to what you might expect, that’s not how it got its name; it’s apparently from an anglicisation of the name of a merchant, Le Vrunelane.  Although these days it’s predominantly street food, there’s still lots of stalls selling clothes, bags, houseware, etc.  On the weekends the stalls (and indeed almost all its cafés and shops) close up, as the city centre loses its office workers.

I’ve worked about 10 minutes walk away from here for the past few years, although it took me probably a year before I was even really aware of it.  These days I go several times a week for lunch.

My two favourite destinations are the previously-reviewed coffee shops Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, and Prufrock.  However I decided it might be nice to write about some of its many food stalls and cafés.  This will be brief to start with, but I hope to expand upon it over the next year or so.

This will likely quickly become out-of-date too, due to the peripatetic nature of market stalls.  So don’t rely on it for accuracy; instead I hope it gives you a flavour of the variety of what’s available in the area.  So, in no particular order:

Daddy Donkey
I can’t write about Leather Lane without mentioning Daddy Donkey.  This started as a small van, grew in time with popularity to a larger one, before eventually opening as its own permanent venue.  It’s always busy, and continues to have a queue out the doors most lunchtimes (despite customers being able to place their orders in advance and collect from a side-window).  They do the typical selection of burritos and tacos, and they’re decent portions.



Korean street food served from a great-smelling streamline caravan.  I’ve tried their dak galbi (spicy chicken) and bulgogi (strips of beef).  In both cases lots of nice tasty meat, which you can get served in a box with sticky rice and salad or as wraps.


Food Gangnam Style

As well as the YogiYo caravan at the top of the street, there is also a small Korean stall about half-way up, opposite Prufrock.  I tried their bibimbap, a mixture of rice, salad, kimchee, fried egg and beef or spicy pork.  I chose the beef, which was plenty hot enough, so I’m not sure if I’d have coped with the pork!  It came in a big plastic bowl with a lid, which can be re-used as a food container, unlike the disposable boxes you typically get from food stalls.  They were also sellling bulgogi sandwiches and fried dumplings.


London Paella
A small stall bedecked in the red and yellow Hispanic stripes.  The staff seem very friendly.  They do medium and large boxes of chicken paella (£4 / £5).  A medium box I thought was plenty.  I declined the offer of a whole chilli, and also extra spices, which was a good decision as it seemed spicy enough already.  I noticed a large cinnamon stick in the paella pan, which the chef told me was his own idea.  Their loyalty card offered a free portion after 6 stamps, which is pretty generous compared to the more-typical 8+.  Also their chicken wraps seem quite good.


Moroccan Box

For £5.50 you get a flatbread served in a box covered with generous quantities of couscous, lentils, salad and some meat with a tasty parsley sauce drizzled over it.  For another 50p you can get some baba ganoush added, which I haven’t bothered with.  I’ve tried both the chicken and beef, and both times I’d have preferred more meat.



They have a busy café at the north end of the street, but towards the end of 2013 they also opened up a market stall towards the other direction.  The café often has a queue at the door, so I guess they’re just catering for demand, and covering both ends of the street!  Their scotch egg was quite tasty, although would be better served hot.  The Chicken of Aragon pie was hot, and yummy as always.


Black Sheep Coffee

A small coffee van that’s recently appeared about half-way along Leather Lane.  They have some strong competition from two of London’s best coffee shops, Prufrock and Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, just a short distance away.  But their coffee was of a comparable standard.  The guy running the stall seems friendly, and I get the impression they’re good at latte art, which I always take as an encouraging sign.



Another Spanish food stall, they were doing chorizo baguettes (£4.50), chorizo tortilla (£4), tortilla with salad (£3.50).  They’ve also started doing chicken + chorizo baguettes, pretty nice.  Friendly staff here too, and the food authentically hispanic.


Greek Expectations

Great name, doing combinations of steak, chicken, chorizo, halloumi, sausages and pork with salad, fresh herbs and olive oil, all rolled up in a wrap.  The only problem is just choosing an option from their great menu.

P1110058P1120924P1120923  P1120925


Japanese sandwiches!  The teriyaki chicken was tasty but a real mess of sauce.  The okonomiyaki  (Japanese omelette) I had with pork and egg.  You might be thinking that of course it had egg, being an omelette, but this was actually a fried egg placed on top.  The okonomiyaki seemed to consist of shredded cabbage, pickled ginger and what might have been potato, giving it a texture more like tortilla (i.e. Spanish omelette) than a normal omelette.  It was also drizzled liberally with a tasty sauce and mayonnaise.

P1110044 P1110057P1110043P1110137-001 P1110139

Quiche & Roast

Doing several different vegetarian and vegan quiches, served in a box topped up to bursting point with a medley of vegetables (including potatoes, sweet potatoes, courgettes, aubergine, carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, lentils, cauliflowers).  A huge quantity of great tasting (and smelling!) meat-free grub.

P1110066 P1110067P1140163

Brad’s Rockin’ Jambalaya

This is a new stall that’s recently appeared, doing jambalaya in a box or as a wrap, with chicken and andouille (smoked pork) sausage, and optional prawns or calamari.  Seemed alright, bit spicy, but that’s no bad thing.


Carnivore Spitroast

This stall’s always got a queue, and for good reason.  I had a delicious ciabatta roll filled with herb-encrusted pork and apple sauce.

P1110219 P1110220

Killer Tomato

Specialising in vegetarian Mexican street food (but not tortillas or tacos!), they’re still tweaking the menu, so it’s something different on offer each week.  Things I’ve tried so far include:

  • pambazo, a chilli-soaked bun filled with some spiced potatoes and random ingredients, served with tortilla chips;
  • tabbouleh , a Lebanese salad done Mexican-style;
  • chilaquiles, corn tortillas with refried beans, sweet potatoes and more;
  • esquites, a cup of sweetcorn salad served with lime

Everything’s tasted pretty good, somewhat spicy for me (I’ve still not braved the ‘drowned sandwich‘) and seems authentic (and not just the burritos familiar from every other ‘Mexican’ street food outlet).    Keep an eye on this one for their frequent menu updates.



A small restaurant doing Asian street food, eat-in or take-away.  I think they only intermittently have a market stall in the street, just doing steamed buns filled with pork belly or roast duck.  £3.50 each or two for £6, which seems like a good deal.  I’ve tried both the pork and duck, each served with cucumber, spring onion, hoisin sauce and chilli sauce.  Pretty nice, not too spicy.  The only problem is they need to sort out their logistics on this stall; the first two times I tried them I had to wait at least 5 minutes for their steamed buns to heat up sufficiently. and they had to turn customers away (but no problem third time).

P1110820 P1110821P1110873


Warung Tempeh

This is a new stall doing Indonesian tempeh , a sort of sliced soybean cake, served in wraps with a variety of sauces and vegetarian fillings.  That’s not a very good description, but it’s the first time I’ve heard of it. The guy running the stall is outgoing and friendly.  So far I’ve tried the satay sauce, which seemed to be pretty popular, and spicy tahini with pomegranate molasses, which I preferred because of its more subtle blend of flavours.

P1110889 P1110941P1110890 P1110891


Major Spice

Doing chicken wraps, for a relatively reasonable price of £4 regular or £5 large; regular seemed plenty for me.  Pretty hot.



Sunny’s Olive Tree

This is a stall doing salads and olives, and always seems popular, judging by the length of queues it usually has.  I got a decent amount of salad (including lettuce, cabbage, peppers, potatoes, houmus, sundried tomatoes, couscous, quinoa, dolmades, beetroot, chickpeas) and  olives, stuffed in a box with a chunk of focaccia bread.  All for £3.50!



Pizza Pilgrims

A new stall, doing wood-fired pizza from the back of a little three-wheeler van.




‘Italian street food’, which basically means gourmet burgers, and torta fritta (fried dough puffs) served with cold meat.  The pork and blue cheese burger was very tasty, as was the beef + parmesan burger.  The beef carpaccio with the torta fritta was delicious; I wasn’t quite so keen on the torta fritta with three different types of sliced pork.  It was still pretty nice, but I think it paled in comparison to the carpaccio.  I liked the fact that all the cold meats were sliced freshly to order on a big meat slicer.  They’re updating the menu, replacing the torta fritta with something else.

P1130115  P1130131 P1130117P1130616 P1130617P1130813P1130554


King Jerk

A fairly new stall which seems to be very popular. I tried their jerk chicken to begin with… I got one piece of chicken wing with lots of rice + beans. They gave me a fork but no knife, so it ended up being greasy finger food (dunno if that’s normal or an oversight).  I’d have preferred a more meatier ratio of chicken to rice.  More recently I tried the curried goat, which had more generous proportions of meat, and was really tasty.  I’ll be getting that again, and I also want to try their beef.



Sausage Man

A little van doing baked potatoes with salad, and, er,  sausages (from a choice of about five including cumberland, pork + leek, …) in a bun with onions, relish and cheese.  Generous portions at a decent price; I think £3 for two sausages with all the trimming, but I’ve paid £2.50 both times when I skipped the cheese.


Boom Burger

A stall I’ve been meaning to try for a long time, finally did it when their queue wasn’t too substantial (I hate queuing for food!).  Opted for the chicken burger for my first time; some tasty chicken breast with fried onions and salad… there were lots of extras available, but, well, they were extra.  I wanted to start with the basics first, then maybe try juicing it up with additional toppings.  Seemed alright, will reserve judgement until I’ve tried at least the beef one too.

They’re owned by the same people as Daddy Donkey apparently, and their van seems similar to the old DD one (before they moved into their permanent premises on Leather Lane).  Couldn’t find them online though.



El Jugo Juice Bar

Serving juices, milkshakes and smoothies.  I’ve only tried one of their juices so far, it was pretty good, and they always seem to be popular.  Prices for most drinks ranging from £2, £2.50 to £3.50 depending on size, with a few extras costing a bit more.

Their loyalty card gives a half price drink after collecting 10 stamps, probably the least generous offer I’ve seen.

Watch out for their website though, it has a 16Mb, 29,527 x 11,811 pixel image copy of their menu!


Victus & Bibo

I’ve been meaning to try this stall for ages; they always have a lengthy queue for their Turkish wraps.  I finally did, and tried their lamb mince and halloumi, which was yum.  They also do chicken and I think lahmacun.


Where it’s at


November 11, 2013

FreeState Coffee

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 8:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

P1000086This café opened up in February 2013 and almost immediately started getting good reviews.  It’s on the corner of Southampton Row and Sicilian Avenue, just up from Holborn station.  It’s opposite a Patisserie Valerie, next door to another coffee shop, and a few doors down from Orchard, so it’s in a good location but it’s got plenty of competition.

Unlike all its neighbours though, FreeState is a real artisan coffee shop.  It’s ran by the same people behind New Row Coffee, and is on the site of what used to be a Pret; how often does that happen, an independent replacing one of the big chains?  They have a La Marzocco espresso machine, and also a brew bar for filter coffee.  They do a range of nice ciabatta sandwiches, cakes etc, but it’s really the coffee people come here for.

There’s a few small and medium tables and a handful of bar stools.  They have some old-fashioned fold-up cinema or theatre seats, and a gym changing room bench/coat rack acting as an internal divider.  They seem to do a decent business in take-away coffee, but I usually sit in.  Sometimes it can be a bit busy, but it’s pretty close to Café le Cordon Bleu, Espresso Base and Wild & Wood if you need a nearby alternative.

The service is always good and friendly, and the whole place has quite a laid-back attitude.  The coffees themselves are very consistent, with some nice latte art, as you’ll see from my photos below.

In the summer I often got an iced latte to takeaway here, but I then had to dilute it with a lot of milk back at the office!


A lot of other reviews, all positive, which should give you an idea of its popularity:

FreeState Coffee on Urbanspoon

November 6, 2013

London Underground labyrinths

As part of their Art On The Underground project, Transport For London commissioned Mark Wallinger to create a labyrinth for every one of the 270 London Underground stations, to commemorate 150 years of the Underground.

Interesting fact: these are labyrinths, not mazes, the difference being a labyrinth only has a single path you can take through it apparently.

I’m not sure if they’re going to be a permanent fixture, but I suspect they’ll remove them all at the end of 2013.  Which would be a shame, especially given it’s already November and not every station seems to have a labyrinth at this point.  So they might install the last ones in the last two months of the year, then swiftly remove them again, thus reducing any opportunity to see them all.

I don’t expect I’ll manage to do that anyway… I was only photographing them if I happened to notice them on my day-to-day travels, and I don’t use the Underground that frequently.  Then I started taking it a bit more seriously quite recently, and notched up several more.

Update: TFL didn’t manage to install them all in 2013, however they’ve confirmed these are going to be permanent fixtures to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the underground.  They completed installing them all in June 2014.

The numbering system represents the order the stations were visited as part of what was the record-breaking Underground Challenge (visiting all the stations in one day) in 2009 (I think); it’s since been done quicker than that.  The Labyrinth website lists all the stations.

Ealing Broadway TFL labyrinthEast Acton TFL LabyrinthMaida Vale TFL labyrinthWarwick Avenue TFL LabyrinthPaddington TFL labyrinthMarylebone TFL labyrinthBaker Street TFL labyrinthOxford Circus TFL LabyrinthPiccadilly Circus TFL labyrinthCharing Cross TFL labyrinthEmbankment TFL LabyrinthWaterloo TFL labyrinthLambeth North TFL LabyrinthElephant & Castle TFL labyrinthBorough TFL labyrinthLondon Bridge TFL labyrinthSouthwark TFL LabyrinthBermondsey TFL labyrinthCanada Water TFL labyrinthCanary Wharf TFL labyrinthNorth Greenwich TFL labyrinthCanning Town TFL labyrinthMile End TFL labyrinthStepney Green TFL labyrinthAldgate East TFL LabyrinthAldgate TFL LabyrinthTower Hill TFL LabyrinthMonument TFL labyrinthMansion House TFL labyrinthWestminster TFL labyrinthSt James's Park TFL LabyrinthVictoria TFL labyrinthSloane Square TFL LabyrinthVauxhall TFL LabyrinthStockwell TFL LabyrinthBrixton TFL labyrinthOval TFL labyrinthKennington TFL labyrinthTooting Bec TFL labyrinthTooting Broadway TFL labyrinthColliers Wood TFL labyrinthSouth Wimbledon TFL labyrinthWimbledon Park TFL LabyrinthSouthfields TFL labyrinthEast Putney TFL labyrinthPutney Bridge TFL LabyrinthParsons Green TFL labyrinthFulham Broadway TFL LabyrinthWest Brompton TFL labyrinthEarls Court TFL labyrinthQueensway TFL LabyrinthTottenham Court Road TFL labyrinthHolborn TFL labyrinthChancery Lane TFL labyrinthSt. Paul's TFL labyrinthBank TFL labyrinthBethnal Green TFL LabyrinthTottenham Hale TFL LabyrinthGoodge Street TFL labyrinthChalk Farm TFL LabyrinthBelsize Park TFL LabyrinthHampstead TFL LabyrinthHendon Central TFL LabyrinthKilburn TFL labyrinthGreat Portland Street TFL labyrinthFarringdon TFL LabyrinthBarbican TFL labyrinthMoorgate TFL labyrinthOld Street TFL LabyrinthAngel TFL labyrinthCovent Garden TFL labyrinthLeicester Square TFL labyrinthGreen Park TFL labyrinthHyde Park Corner TFL labyrinthSouth Kensington TFL labyrinthGloucester Road TFL labyrinthHigh Street Kensington TFL labyrinthBayswater TFL labyrinthEdgware Road TFL labyrinthPaddington (Circle, Hammersmith & City lines) TFL LabyrinthRoyal Oak TFL LabyrinthWestbourne Park TFL labyrinthLatimer Road TFL labyrinthHammersmith TFL labyrinthHeathrow Terminals 1,2,3 TFL labyrinthStamford Brook TFL labyrinthBarons Court TFL labyrinthTemple TFL labyrinthBlackfriars TFL labyrinthEaling Common TFL labyrinthChiswick Park TFL labyrinthTurnham Green TFL labyrinthRavenscourt Park TFL labyrinthWest Kensington TFL labyrinthPimlico TFL labyrinthEuston TFL labyrinthKilburn Park TFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthLadbroke Grove TFL labyrinthLiverpool Street TFL labyrinthWhitechapel TFL labyrinthKing's Cross St. Pancras TFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthWalthamstow Central TFL labyrinthSeven Sisters TFL labyrinthFinsbury Park TFL labyrinthMarble Arch TFL labyrinthLancaster Gate TFL labyrinthHolland Park TFL labyrinthWhite City TFL labyrinthNorth Acton TFL labyrinthWood Lane TFL labyrinthShepherd's Bush Market TFL labyrinthGoldhawk Road TFL labyrinthBond Street TFL labyrinthHarlesden TFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthStonebridge Park TFL labyrinthRegent's Park TFL labyrinthRussell Square TFL labyrinthSt. John's Wood TFL labyrinthSwiss Cottage TFL labyrinthFinchley Road TFL labyrinthWest Hampstead TFL labyrinthWillesden Green TFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthWood Green TFL labyrinthTurnpike Lane TFL labyrinthManor House TFL labyrinthArsenal TFL labyrinthHolloway Road TFL labyrinthCaledonian Road TFL labyrinthWarren Street TFL LabyrinthWest Ham TFL labyrinthUpminster Bridge TFL labyrinthHornchurch TFL labyrinthElm Park TFL labyrinthDagenham East TFL labyrinthDagenham Heathway TFL labyrinthBecontree TFL labyrinthUpney TFL labyrinthEast Ham TFL labyrinthUpton Park TFL labyrinthBromley-by-Bow TFL labyrinthBow Road TFL labyrinthEdgware Road (Bakerloo line) TFL labyrinthHammersmith TFL labyrinthNorthfields TFL labyrinthKnightsbridge TFL labyrinthSouth Ealing TFL labyrinthCannon Street TFL labyrinthLeytonstone TFL labyrinthLeyton TFL labyrinthStratford TFL labyrinthEuston Square TFL labyrinthShepherd's Bush TFL labyrinthClapham North TFL labyrinthBalham TFL labyrinthMorden TFL labyrinthClapham South TFL labyrinthClapham Common TFL labyrinthWimbledon TFL labyrinthPark Royal TFL labyrinthHanger Lane TFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthGolders Green TFL labyrinthCamden Town TFL labyrinthBrent Cross TFL labyrinthKentish Town TFL labyrinthTufnell Park TFL labyrinthArchway TFL labyrinthHighgate TFL labyrinthEast Finchley TFL labyrinthMornington Crescent TFL labyrinthActon Town TFL LabyrinthHighbury & Islington TFL LabyrinthPlaistow TFL LabyrinthDollis Hill TFL labyrinthNeasden TFL labyrinthChesham TFL labyrinthChalfont & Latimer TFL labyrinthAmersham TFL labyrinthChorleywood TFL labyrinthRickmansworth TFL labyrinthNorthwood TFL labyrinthNorthwood Hills TFL labyrinthPinner TFL labyrinthNorth Harrow TFL labyrinthIckenham TFL labyrinthHillingdon TFL labyrinthUxbridge TFL labyrinthRuislip TFL labyrinthHarrow-on-the-Hill TFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthTFL labyrinthWanstead TFL labyrinthRedbridge TFL labyrinthGants Hill TFL labyrinthNewbury Park TFL labyrinthBarkingside TFL labyrinthFairlop TFL labyrinthHainault TFL labyrinthGrange Hill TFL labyrinthChigwell TFL labyrinthRoding Valley TFL labyrinthWoodford TFL labyrinthBuckhurst Hill TFL labyrinthLoughton TFL labyrinthDebden TFL labyrinthTheydon Bois TFL labyrinthEpping TFL labyrinthSouth Woodford TFL labyrinthSnaresbrook TFL labyrinthMill Hill East TFL labyrinthFinchley Central TFL labyrinthWest Finchley TFL labyrinthWoodside Park TFL labyrinthTotteridge & Whetstone TFL labyrinthHigh Barnet TFL labyrinthRayners Lane TFL labyrinthSouth Harrow TFL labyrinthSudbury Hill TFL labyrinthSudbury Town TFL labyrinthAlperton TFL labyrinthNorth Ealing TFL labyrinthBoston Manor TFL labyrinthOsterley TFL labyrinthHounslow East TFL labyrinthHeathrow T5 TFL labyrinthHeathrow T4 TFL labyrinthHatton Cross TFL labyrinthHounslow West TFL labyrinthHounslow Central TFL labyrinthRuislip Manor TFL labyrinthEastcote TFL labyrinthWest Harrow TFL labyrinthWatford TFL labyrinthCroxley TFL labyrinthMoor Park TFL labyrinthNorthwick Park TFL labyrinthPreston Road TFL labyrinthKew Gardens TFL labyrinthGunnersbury TFL labyrinthArnos Grove TFL LabyrinthSouthgate TFL LabyrinthOakwood TFL LabyrinthCockfosters TFL LabyrinthEdgware TFL labyrinthBurnt Oak TFL labyrinthColindale TFL labyrinthWest Acton TFL labyrinthPerivale TFL labyrinthGreenford TFL labyrinthNortholt TFL labyrinthSouth Ruislip TFL labyrinthRuislip Gardens TFL labyrinthWest Ruislip TFL labyrinthRichmond TFL labyrinthKensington Olympia TFL labyrinth

The links in the list below are to photos I’ve taken.

  1. Chesham
  2. Chalfont & Latimer
  3. Amersham
  4. Chorleywood
  5. Rickmansworth
  6. Moor Park
  7. Croxley
  8. Watford
  9. Northwood
  10. Northwood Hills
  11. Pinner
  12. North Harrow
  13. Rayners Lane
  14. South Harrow
  15. Sudbury Hill
  16. Sudbury Town
  17. Alperton
  18. Park Royal
  19. North Ealing
  20. Ealing Common
  21. Ealing Broadway
  22. West Acton
  23. North Acton
  24. East Acton
  25. Hanger Lane
  26. Perivale
  27. Greenford
  28. Northolt
  29. South Ruislip
  30. Ruislip Gardens
  31. West Ruislip
  32. Ickenham
  33. Hillingdon
  34. Uxbridge
  35. Ruislip
  36. Ruislip Manor
  37. Eastcote
  38. West Harrow
  39. Harrow-on-the-Hill
  40. Northwick Park
  41. Preston Road
  42. Kenton
  43. Harrow & Wealdstone
  44. South Kenton
  45. North Wembley
  46. Wembley Central
  47. Stonebridge Park
  48. Harlesden
  49. Willesden Junction
  50. Kensal Green
  51. Queens Park
  52. Kilburn Park
  53. Maida Vale
  54. Warwick Avenue
  55. Paddington (Bakerloo/District/Circle)
  56. Edgware Road (Bakerloo)
  57. Marylebone
  58. Baker Street
  59. Regent’s Park
  60. Oxford Circus
  61. Piccadilly Circus
  62. Charing Cross
  63. Embankment
  64. Waterloo
  65. Lambeth North
  66. Elephant & Castle
  67. Borough
  68. London Bridge
  69. Southwark
  70. Bermondsey
  71. Canada Water
  72. Canary Wharf
  73. North Greenwich
  74. Canning Town
  75. West Ham
  76. Upminster
  77. Upminster Bridge
  78. Hornchurch
  79. Elm Park
  80. Dagenham East
  81. Dagenham Heathway
  82. Becontree
  83. Upney
  84. Barking
  85. East Ham
  86. Upton Park
  87. Plaistow
  88. Bromley-by-Bow
  89. Bow Road
  90. Mile End
  91. Stepney Green
  92. Whitechapel
  93. Aldgate East
  94. Aldgate
  95. Tower Hill
  96. Monument
  97. Cannon Street
  98. Mansion House
  99. Blackfriars
  100. Temple
  101. Westminster
  102. St. James’s Park
  103. Victoria
  104. Sloane Square
  105. Pimlico
  106. Vauxhall
  107. Stockwell
  108. Brixton
  109. Oval
  110. Kennington
  111. Clapham North
  112. Clapham Common
  113. Clapham South
  114. Balham
  115. Tooting Bec
  116. Tooting Broadway
  117. Colliers Wood
  118. South Wimbledon
  119. Morden
  120. Wimbledon
  121. Wimbledon Park
  122. Southfields
  123. East Putney
  124. Putney Bridge
  125. Parsons Green
  126. Fulham Broadway
  127. West Brompton
  128. Earls Court
  129. Kensington Olympia
  130. Shepherds Bush
  131. White City
  132. Holland Park
  133. Notting Hill Gate
  134. Queensway
  135. Lancaster Gate
  136. Marble Arch
  137. Bond Street
  138. Tottenham Court Road
  139. Holborn
  140. Chancery Lane
  141. St. Paul’s
  142. Bank
  143. Liverpool Street
  144. Bethnal Green
  145. Stratford
  146. Leyton
  147. Leytonstone
  148. Wanstead
  149. Redbridge
  150. Gants Hill
  151. Newbury Park
  152. Barkingside
  153. Fairlop
  154. Hainault
  155. Grange Hill
  156. Chigwell
  157. Roding Valley
  158. Woodford
  159. Buckhurst Hill
  160. Loughton
  161. Debden
  162. Theydon Bois
  163. Epping
  164. South Woodford
  165. Snaresbrook
  166. Walthamstow Central
  167. Blackhorse Road
  168. Tottenham Hale
  169. Seven Sisters
  170. Finsbury Park
  171. Highbury & Islington
  172. King’s Cross St. Pancras
  173. Euston
  174. Warren Street
  175. Goodge Street
  176. Mornington Crescent
  177. Camden Town
  178. Chalk Farm
  179. Belsize Park
  180. Hampstead
  181. Golders Green
  182. Brent Cross
  183. Hendon Central
  184. Colindale
  185. Burnt Oak
  186. Edgware
  187. Canons Park
  188. Stanmore
  189. Queensbury
  190. Kingsbury
  191. Wembley Park
  192. Neasden
  193. Dollis Hill
  194. Willesden Green
  195. Kilburn
  196. West Hampstead
  197. Finchley Road
  198. Swiss Cottage
  199. St. John’s Wood
  200. Great Portland Street
  201. Euston Square
  202. Farringdon
  203. Barbican
  204. Moorgate
  205. Old Street
  206. Angel
  207. Kentish Town
  208. Tufnell Park
  209. Archway
  210. Highgate
  211. East Finchley
  212. Finchley Central
  213. Mill Hill East
  214. West Finchley
  215. Woodside Park
  216. Totteridge & Whetstone
  217. High Barnet
  218. Cockfosters
  219. Oakwood
  220. Southgate
  221. Arnos Grove
  222. Bounds Green
  223. Wood Green
  224. Turnpike Lane
  225. Manor House
  226. Arsenal
  227. Holloway Road
  228. Caledonian Road
  229. Russell Square
  230. Covent Garden
  231. Leicester Square
  232. Green Park
  233. Hyde Park Corner
  234. Knightsbridge
  235. South Kensington
  236. Gloucester Road
  237. High Street Kensington
  238. Bayswater
  239. Edgware Road (Circle / District / Hammersmith & City)
  240. Paddington (Hammersmith & City / Circle)
  241. Royal Oak
  242. Westbourne Park
  243. Ladbroke Grove
  244. Latimer Road
  245. Wood Lane
  246. Shepherds Bush Market
  247. Goldhawk Road
  248. Hammersmith (Hammersmith & City / Circle)
  249. Hammersmith (District / Piccadilly)
  250. Barons Court
  251. West Kensington
  252. Ravenscourt Park
  253. Stamford Brook
  254. Turnham Green
  255. Gunnersbury
  256. Kew Gardens
  257. Richmond
  258. Chiswick Park
  259. Acton Town
  260. South Ealing
  261. Northfields
  262. Boston Manor
  263. Osterley
  264. Hounslow East
  265. Hounslow Central
  266. Hounslow West
  267. Hatton Cross
  268. Heathrow (Terminal 4)
  269. Heathrow (Terminals 1, 2, 3)
  270. Heathrow T5

Here’s the number of labyrinths per zone:

Zone 1 64
Zone 2 68
Zone 3 44
Zone 4 44
Zone 5 23
Zone 6 20
Zone 7 4
Zone 8 1
Zone 9 2

And just for the sake of it, the number on each line:

Bakerloo 25
Central 49
Circle 36
District 60
Hammersmith & City 29
Jubilee 27
Metropolitan 34
Northern 50
Piccadilly 53
Victoria 16
Waterloo & City 2

Some more links:

October 25, 2013

Chancery Coffee

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , , , ,

P1040065Chancery Coffee is, as the name suggests, on Chancery Lane. It’s part of the Coffeesmiths Collective, which also includes Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar and Tonic Coffee Bar.

It’s quite a cosy affair, having four small tables, so probably does most business take-away. Indeed I usually end up getting my coffees in a take-away cup even when sitting in.  I know some people prefer their coffee not to be served in paper cups, but I’m not too bothered either way.

The service is out-going and friendly, as it always is at the Department of Coffee too.  And the coffee is of a consistently high standard, as I expect it is at all of the Coffeesmiths shops.

Despite its size, it’s been nicely designed, with the rich red and blue colours inspired by the Great Hall of the nearby Lincoln’s Inn.  They have an interesting article on their website about their design choices.  Their red La Marzocco espresso machine fits in nicely with the colour scheme.

Their logo contains the emblems from each of the four Inns of Court:

Their loyalty cards are available in four different versions, each one with a different one of these emblems (and I believe you can use them across all the Coffeesmiths shops).  I like to think that the barristers who frequent Chancery Coffee probably favour getting a loyalty card with the logo for their own Inn.

The whole approach has obviously been to take close account of their surroundings, unlike the usual chain coffee shops which try to make each branch appear identical and bland.

Because it’s small I tend to think this is a good place to grab a take-away cup, then head out to the nearby park at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to enjoy it, at least on a dry day.  But equally nice to enjoy inside if there’s seats.

P1010645 P1010647-001 P1010651 P1020363  P1040066

Some other reviews:

October 15, 2013

Prufrock Coffee

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 7:25 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Prufrock Coffee latte artFor 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.
Prufrock Coffee espresso machineBut 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!

Prufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artP1030316-001Prufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock CoffeePrufrock Coffee

Some other reviews:

Prufrock Coffee on Urbanspoon

September 30, 2013

Wild Caper

Caffe latte at Wild Caper, BrixtonThe name of this café sounds like it could be referring to some sort of hijinx, like a buddy comedy or maybe a burlesque night, but I assume it’s referring to the plant instead!

This is just one of the many terrific small restaurants in the covered markets of Brixton.  Wild Caper is in Market Row, which to my mind seems slightly less busy than the neighbouring Brixton Village, although with an at least as good, or possibly better, selection of places to eat.

The owners also own Franco Manca, the excellent Neapolitan pizza chain, who’s first branch is just a few yards away, and always busy, for good reason (being some of the tastiest and best-value pizzas you’ll find in London).

This place is quite different from that, although equally good.  They bake their own artisan breads, which they sell from a little table at the front of the restaurant.  They also sell sandwiches, and a variety of hot and cold meals.  I’m a big vague on exactly what, because I have to confess I haven’t had a meal there, or tried their bread.  But I have sampled their coffee a couple of times, and thought that alone was worth writing about.

Their coffee machine is a Faema E61, the famous Italian brand of espresso machines dating back to 1961.  You can still buy this model today, however Wild Caper’s is an original from 1965, with ‘Macchina No. 123‘ stamped into the front.  It almost seems false, but as far as I can tell is genuine.  Which must make it one of the oldest coffee machines in London, after Doctor Espresso Caffetteria‘s 1956 Gaggia, and I think whatever the Scooter Caffe has is pretty old too.

And when I received my latte, I got a mug of steamed millk alongside a small jug containing a shot of espresso, for me to pour in myself.  Apparently this is how it’s commonly done in Naples, but I’ve never seen anywhere else in London serving coffee like this.  I liked it though; the coffee itself I think is from Monmouth, so you know it’s good.  And there’s a definite novelty in this approach.  If anything you’d expect to be served a cup with espresso and a jug of milk, so you can add milk to suit your tastes, not the other way around.  So you get quite a milky latte, but that suits me fine.  I didn’t try or see how they served any of their other coffees though.


Some other reviews:

Wild Caper on Urbanspoon

July 17, 2013

Café Le Cordon Bleu

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 6:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

P1000213This is a nice place I discovered by chance one day.  I was wanting to find some new coffee shops to go for, and noticed this on Google Maps… I figured anything with the Cordon Bleu name on it would  probably be quite good, and I wasn’t wrong!  And just in case you’re not familiar with the name, Le Cordon Bleu is probably the most famous cookery school, founded in Paris in 1895.

The café is on the ground floor of the Cordon Bleu building at Bloomsbury Square.  I’ve not noticed it mentioned in any of the usual coffee shop guides, and it seems to be a bit overlooked.  Possibly because it’s tucked away in a courtyard and doesn’t get as much passing footfall as it otherwise would elsewhere.  To find it you can either come in through the main entrance to the school on Bloomsbury Square, or directly into the café via Pied Bull Yard.

Most of the customers seem to be staff and students at the cookery school and it’s usually quite interesting overhearing their conversations, which always revolve around food obviously, as well as the usual stress of exams!

All the food is made in-house, although I don’t think any of it is done by the students.  There’s always a very good-looking display of cakes and pastries, some reasonably priced artisan breads, filled ciabatta sandwiches and soup.  They also do these quite cheap ‘savoureux‘, which are just warm little bread rolls filled with a mixture of sweet and savoury ingredients, e.g. feta cheese with fig and honey, or beetroot and roquefort.

They always take care over the coffees they prepare, and usually this is where I see the best latte art of all the coffee shops I go to.

Inside the cafe they have a long wooden table, a few stools and several small tables (plus some computer terminals for the students).  There’s also plenty of seats in the square outside, a space shared with a couple of other venues.

I’m always happy with the coffee and the service here, and if the much busier and smaller Freestate hasn’t got enough seats, it’s only a short walk to here.


P1000214-001 IMG_9896 IMG_0129 P1000367 IMG_0418 IMG_1078-001 IMG_8639 IMG_1554 IMG_1595 IMG_1768 IMG_1487-001 IMG_9100 P1000365 duncan_2013-06-28 P1000366 P1000216 IMG_9911-001 IMG_9101

Café Le Cordon Bleu on Urbanspoon

June 26, 2013

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

1-IMG_1555-001 This is one of my regular coffee shops.  It’s on Leather Lane, which is a great place for some street food on weekday lunchtimes, from its many market stalls and cafes.  It’s also home to two very good coffee shops, this one and Prufrock.

Dept. of Coffee is part of the Coffeesmiths Collective, which includes Chancery Coffee, The Liberty of Norton Folgate (great name!) and Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar.  The coffees are consistently tasty and well presented (see my collage of latte art below), the staff friendly, and there’s always some (usually) decent music playing.

It’s not usually a problem getting a seat, so a good bet if Prufrock is too busy, as it often is – although in no way would I say this was second-best; they’re equally good in my book, although quite different.  The main seating area is a good place to sit and watch the passing world, and they have a long comfortable bench seat against one wall.  And they have a room with a large table which can be hired for meetings.  They always have a small art exhibition too.

They do a range of nice looking sandwiches and cakes (although I never eat them – I’m just here for the coffee!), as well as tortas de aceite.  I did have some nice ‘artisan’ toast there for breakfast one morning.

In summary, a place I always like to go to, and if I’m needing to get a coffee at lunch, this would usually be my first choice.

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