The Bread And Bean received enough votes in our recent Reader Awards Best Coffee 2012 to make us wonder why we hadn’t checked it out already. And so last Sunday we strolled there under leaden skies, pleasantly reminded just how near Archway actually is to NW5 (and how many goddamn places we have yet to review on Junction Road, for that matter).
Anyway, it had been years since we ate at the St John Tavern, so first we popped by for some sober January fare – breaded halloumi (not as good as the grilled stuff) with beetroot, butternut squash and tomato, all washed down with sparkling water and lime. Very pleasant, and good to see the interior still elegant, service attentive and wood-burner red hot.
But the main event was yet to come. We scuttled to the nearby Bread And Bean to see what the fuss is about – and we weren’t disappointed, schlurping down some of the best coffee we’ve tasted since the Fields Beneath opened alongside Kentish Town West station.
The cafe occupies a pleasant corner site with large windows, against which mostly solo customers or duos perch with laptops, newspapers or books. Bare bulbs, lots of wood, a counter of tempting sweet stuff. Space is limited so every corner hugs a seat or bench, and there’s additional space down some steps in the rather chilly back room.
The coffee is Revelation and befits its name, a popular blend of Union hand-roasted Arabica beans. Our macchiatos – it was the kind of damp, wintry day that required something more luxurious than an espresso – were thick, with a pleasantly floral aroma. But more importantly, they were packed with a rich sweetness so comforting when peering at the sludge-grey outside.
And to those worried that the newly opened Costa Coffee in Tufnell Park will ruin the trade of the other cafes, we’re happy to report that Archway’s Costa, directly opposite the Bean, was empty, whereas the latter was full. Quality will win out.
As we tweeted shortly afterwards, this could well be the year of Archway. So expect plenty more N19 to come (and look out for lots of Tufnell Park too).
Oh, and we didn’t eat anything at Bread And Bean. What would you recommend on our next visit? And where should we review next in, um, Archnell?
Words and main image: Stephen Emms