Three gems in West Hampstead’s burgeoning coffee shop culture
“Just imagine how awesome the Jubilee would be if it went to, you know, more exciting places,” said BuzzFeed earlier this year. I’ve been to three independent coffee shops within spitting distance of two local Jubilee Line stations that make the overlooking of West Hampstead even more unforgivable.
On Broadhurst Gardens, just around the corner from West Hampstead station and now helpfully signposted from West End Lane, is Wired Co. Back in 2012, John and Tom took the chance to open a pop-up coffee shop next to Rock Men’s Salon, which John owns, in the parade of shops on West End Lane just before they were all demolished for West Hampstead Square. The local appetite for speciality coffee encouraged them to pursue their vision and fortune smiled upon them as once again they were able to open next door to the relocated Rock on Broadhurst.
Today Wired has a strong local customer base and a big vision to introduce more and more people to the delights of speciality coffee. I dragged a friend to Wired when it first opened and his reaction: “You don’t realise how bad your regular coffee is until you have a cup like this”. This is exactly what John and Tom love to hear. Their mantra is “educate, not patronise” and they’ve certainly worked hard to de-mystify great coffee. A large board in the shop details the origins and flavours of the beans on offer whilst avoiding jargon.
The beans, from Climpson & Sons, are kept to a house blend, a guest bean, perhaps a blend or a single-estate, and a decaf option. The flat white house blend I tried was deliciously smooth and sweet with a medium body. If that sounds like something from a wine bottle, it’s because Wired takes some cues from the Australian wine industry with its simplified labels.
Beyond the coffee, Wired has kept its offerings to a minimum. Its philosophy of “wanting to get things right before we start shouting about it” means that those looking for lunch will be disappointed – but that’s due to change soon. Breakfast, however, is on the menu, as are delicious cakes from Babycakes – home-baked in Kensal Green and also sold at West Hampstead Farmers’ Market. Now that summer’s on the horizon, look out for the iced lattes too – they went down a storm last year.
One stop along our beloved Jubilee Line, convenient for Finchley Road commuters, is Loft Coffee. Back in 2012 owner SungJae had a large estate agents – Elvis Homes – and an even larger passion for great coffee. He combined the two by creating a coffee shop from part of his business space, which he opened up with the help of Monmouth, the Bermondsey-based coffee roasters who supply Loft with beans and helped to train SungJae and his staff in the art of the perfect cup.
Like Wired, Loft has kept things simple and offers Monmouth’s regular blend, supplemented from time-to-time with guest single-origin espresso from Workshop Coffee. The flat white I drank was beautifully presented and packed full of smooth almond and chocolate flavours – and all the more enjoyable for being beautifully presented in a proper cup. The same Monmouth beans made for an espresso that friend Ben thought was the best he’d ever had. Loft is firmly on the ground floor but the space is pretty small, although there are some seats for non-commuters.
Loft’s menu might be limited by space, but it’s clear that thought has gone in to selecting what is on offer. For non-coffee drinkers there are teas from teapigs, soft drinks from Fritz and juices from James White. A recent adition to the menu are cupcakes from Primrose Hill based Sweet Things. A salted caramel cupcake got a huge thumbs-up from Christine. SungJae is clear though that his number one aim is to serve quality coffee. And number two? For the neighbourhood to get in to drinking it!
On the other side of the Underground tracks, just around the corner on Finchley Road, is Remon – the most recent addition to the local coffee scene. Owner Uri Remon has lived been in NW London for years and started out by selling coffee at Camden Lock. He opened his eponymous cafe last November with a big vision: the best coffee in London. When I dropped in, Uri’s passion and drive was evident in abundance and we soon got down to tasting eight different beans from his supplier, Smiths. Uri is developing his own house blend with the help of feedback from customers and hopes ultimately to offer around six blends or single-estate coffees at any point.
Remon is the largest of the three coffee shops. Some of the space is filled with a large 1970s belt-run gyro coffee grinder which Uri imported from Denmark and restored. If you buy beans to take home (which all three coffee shops offer) you can have them ground in this imposing machine ready for your coffee machine or French press. Remon’s dedication to choice is seen throughout the rest of the shop. A wall-full of bags and leaves awaits the tea drinker and if you’ve come to eat there’s a range of delicacies, sweet and savoury, from Italian bakery Vitos. The pizzas are spoken highly of and I can vouch that the cannoli – both kinds! – are top notch.
All three coffee shops are ideally placed for commuters, but if you’re looking for a coffee or something sweet in the evening then Remon is your best bet as it stays open to 9pm. Uri hopes to put the cafe to further evening use for community-based arts events.
For those seeking decent coffee slightly further afield, the good news is that the guys behind Wired have recently opened Cable Co opposite Kensal Rise station and Uri hopes to expand Remon to additional shops – perhaps even one with space for in-house roasting.
- Loft Coffee is at 4 Canfield Gardens and @Loft_Coffee
- Remon Coffee is at 225 Finchley Road and @RemonLimited
- Wired Co is at 194 Broadhurst Gardens and @WiredCo194
Loft and Wired Co are in The London Coffee Guide 2014.