North London's Cultural Guide

Mother Canteen at Mosaic: a hidden new cafe in Gospel Oak

This new canteen is actually under the pavement. But don't let that put you off

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the western fringes of NW5 do not boast the same wealth of coffee shops as other parts of the postcode (let alone its neighbouring ones).

In fact, up the sloping thoroughfare of Malden Road, from its base at the Fiddler’s Elbow to where it bleeds into Southampton Road and finally NW3, there’s barely a single spot we’d be able to recommend for a really good cup of the dark stuff.

Until now, that is. Totally under-the-radar cafe Mother opened without fanfare a few weeks back and is so low-key it’s actually under the pavement.

You’ll spy it if you dare to look up from your phone and peer south from the junction with Mansfield Road, right where sister venue the London School of Mosaics is visible at lower-ground level. Next door is a chalk board announcing the super-laidback new cafe.


You might even have walked over it many times.

The interior casts a nod to its sibling, with mosaics on the walls, as well as shiny house plants and a sort of shabby-chic old-school Map Cafe vibe.

Better still, the food and drinks offer is surprisingly strong. A short list of daily changing specials include tastebud-tingling roti and dal (both vegan and non-vegan), as well as more standard wraps, sarnies and a counter of sweet stuff to go with the coffee.

Ah yes, the beans. Roasted by Shropshire-based Hundred House, a smooth espresso was the most memorable thing about our visit, instantly becoming the best we’ve tasted this side of the neighbourhood for aeons.

And our mildly spicy chicken wrap, packed with heat, tender meat and salad in equal portions, was no rip-off either, at £4.50.

Service is polite, with a couple of smiley blokes working from an accidentally open kitchen – that is, it’s just there in the corner of the room, rather than being a design feature.

So – if you’re passing and you see the board, go support your Mother.

Mother at Mosaic, Wed-Sat 10am-2pm, 181 Mansfield Road NW3, more info here

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.