Camden Road ain’t the prettiest of local carriageways. At what might be termed its mouth, opposite the ‘take-no-prisoners architecture’ of Sainsbury’s, sits that fairly dusty strip of unreconstructed shop fronts with long-faded window displays.
The more inquisitive eye is naturally drawn to the smart decal of the Camden Coffee House, a buffed up oasis in a desert of pavement-side tat. And on descending into their ‘coffee garden’ at the back, oasis really is the only word for it.
‘Who knew?!’ we exclaimed on an impromptu early morning visit this week. A decent selection of parasolled tables and well placed plants lend the outdoor area a deceptively lush and spacious feel. Inside is equally welcoming, with cosy breakout style areas for clandestine caffeine trysts.
Coffee is supplied by Has Been, who have made a name for themselves in home delivering gourmet blends (just avoid their jarring YouTube videos) and provides a nice change from the blends and tastes that dominate locally.
Their ‘Blake Espresso’ is an intriguing mix of 70% Sumatran Takengon Gayon Mountain and 30% Ethiopian Guji beans. Our barista explained helpfully that it was especially good with milk, as our macchiato in the garden had indeed demonstrated.
A chalice of black Americano wasn’t as overwhelming as it first looked either, with the unusual flavours proving very moreish. The sunshine and calm environs even tempted us to kick back and have another one, with a slice of the decadent-looking cakes up on the counter, but we managed to resist.
This mini-chain started off on this site a few years ago has since unpredictably expanded, with branches now also in Balham and Croydon. The place is run with obviously care and an attention to detail which is always appreciated, but this is what is to be expected from a serious contender in the proliferation of quality coffee joints across town.
Garden day or otherwise, this is a lovely place to hang out and slurp on a good coffee. The location doesn’t do it justice and it’s troubling that, combined with Meribel Brasserie up by the station, it hasn’t really managed to kick-start a larger revival in the fortunes of this stretch of Camden.
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl