“On a cold Saturday morning, the man was walking in his thin coat. The thick fog was hiding the Clock Tower, even if it was just across the River. He was exhausted for the long week in the office, and the drinks the night before hadn’t helped his constant headache. All he needed now, was a damn good coffee.”
It sounds like the beginning of a cheap British detective story. In reality, that’s pretty much the description of most “Londoners” that live just south the Thames. Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall, Elephant and Castle… the Kennington area. It’s quite a peculiar area this Neighborhood of London, as despite flocks of young (and less-young) professionals have recently moved here, most shops still reflect that tired and occasionally dodgy atmosphere of the old times.
And since I moved to this area, my weekend urge for a good coffee had often turned into frustration for ordering a cup of coffee and being served a darkish bitterish yucky dirty water in a cup. My friends used to object I had way-too-high Italian standards, and that I am hard to please. It may be true. Despite this though, after a long and meticulous weekly research, I finally found few coffee shops that serve flavoursome, thick, aromatic coffee, and that now see me popping in almost every weekend.
The first time a friend mentioned Sally White and suggested to have a coffee there, for some Freudian reasons I pictured Mary Berry serving coffee and cake in a traditional tea-room with thin porcelain cups, scones and clotted cream. I couldn’t be more wrong, and I so much liked what I found!
Sally White is this cozy coffee shops between Kennington Tube and the Oval cricket ground, that can not be defined using just one adjective. Too cozy to be hipster, though with the design too industrial to be considered traditional, this place has it’s own character and personality. Even before entering the door, the cakes behind the windows can hypnotise you like the sirens with Ulysses: “come to me…”. And once you enter the red door, you can’t fight it: you will to order a cake for sure.
Croissants, pain au chocolat or cake slices: there is plenty of choice. All freshly home made with the finest ingredients. The “home-made” hit me; it’s not that fake “home-made” of some food chains: it’s proper, good, artisan bakery. And the cappuccino… creamy foam, aromatic, warm and not boiling hot (as a cappuccino should be!), delicious at the palate even without sugar (that’s how I like it). In other occasions I also tried just the espresso, as sometimes milk can alter the taste if coffee: same story. The coffee blend is really good, tasty, chocolaty. A winner for me.
And if you are in the mood, you can also try their artisan scotch eggs (the meat is tasty and lean!) or drink a freshly made Bloody Mary. The menu is standard but I saw some items changing from time to time: I am curious to see what’s new next weekend.
I like the overall concept of the English breakfast but I can’t really stand the cheap-tasting sweet beans on the side that water the rest of the components, as well as the supposedly roasted but often half-boiled mushroom and tomatoes. At Italo, in Bonnington Square near Vauxhall Station, they took the original concept if English breakfast and reinterpreted it, Italian style.
The full breakfast there is a feast of Mediterranean flavours. Crispy bacon, lean but tasty grilled sausage, roasted vegetables with a hint of rosemary, toasted bread, butter and…gnocchi. An original combination that perfectly works.
The espresso is exactly what you would like to have: dark, thick, short, essential. A concentrate of energy. Same for the cappuccino, served in an Italian-size cup (not in an American stile pint-mug), creamy, smooth, rounded. I truly like it! You can eat outside or cuddle up inside, as there is not much space indoor.
Being a deli, you can also buy traditional Italian food, including pasta, biscotti (including Mulino Bianco, the ones I had when a kid!), cannoli siciliani, ham, salami, bread and many other things. The very rustic style matches the concept. And the little olive tree on a pot is the cherry on the cake. Well done.
When I want to go for a walk, usually hen it’s a sunny day, then I have a coffee there, along the river Thames, literally opposite the House of Parliament across the River , just 10 minutes walk south from the London Eye.
It is a parked van food and drinks, though it has the standards of the nicest coffee shop. I first stopped there quite a while ago, when I noticed a funny owl-coffee coffee and couldn’t avoid stopping to read it (and have a laugh!).
Hand made cakes, large croissants, reeeeeally good coffee and freshly squeezed juices. I like the atmosphere, the friendly baristas, the juices (especially the ginger one, that alleviated my worse hungovers) the view, and most of all, the coffee: so good and full bodies, even the Americano that I usually don’t like as drink as I find it way too watery.
And even if the tables are all outdoors, unless it rains I really love sitting there for a while, admiring the Clock Tower while enjoying some people watching.
I really like these places: authentic, original and with character, exactly like the coffee they serve. So, eventually, my tipically-italian obsessive research for a good coffee has now found peace.