I had a dream. A pleasant one, in which I found a new job in London, zone one or two. In my nocturnal idyll, I savoured the many advantages of my new situation: a short commute; longer lie-ins in the morning; more opportunities to try the tens of cafes I see every day on my Twitter timeline, cause of my terminal case of coffee and cake envy.
I had a dream, but the 7am alarm dragged me back into the real world. Until further proof, I still work in the middle of nowhere. I can count praiseworthy local coffee spots on one hand (or, more accurately, one finger). My attempts to satisfy coffee and sugar cravings are limited to sporadic weekend breakfasts with friends – and for every new cafe I visit, three or four more add up to my ever-growing list. Clerkenwell favourite The Modern Pantry has been on it for a while; much to our disappointment, Nazia and I found it fully booked when we turned up for a long-planned visit. Despair crept in for a second: what are two hungry girls to do on half-empty Clerkenwell Road on a Saturday morning? Being just a few steps away from my old acquaintance Workshop Coffee Co. offered us the clever plan B that saved the day.
Among all the things I love about Workshop, the food deserves a special mention. Starting the day with a muffin is never a bad choice, especially when said muffin is huge, and made with oat and cinnamon. If you don’t like the taste of cinnamon (one of life’s greatest little pleasures, as far as I’m concerned), fear not: Workshop’s chocolate chip muffins and assorted morning pastries look just as tempting. If you’re more of a brunch type, you can choose from a selection of heartier mid-morning fares, including the toasted banana bread with date and orange jam and mascarpone cream that Nazia got.
I loved the decor, too. We sat at a cosy table underneath the stairwell, perfect observation point on the comings and goings of customers (what a relief to arrive at 10am, and avoid the massive 11am queue!). Other spots looked just as cosy. Cue high chairs, a rectangular breakfast table that surrounds the bar area, and a long, high wooden table standing beside a wall covered with plants and flowers. I couldn’t help touching them, curious to find out if they were real or fake – but does it really matter, when the effect is so visually striking?
Much to my surprise, Workshop’s unanimously praised artisan roast coffee failed to inspire me the enthusiasm that many fellow bloggers profess. This said, I like it well enough to get where all the hype comes from: if you’re looking for quality, you’re most definitely in the right place. Your cup of espresso will strike you with a rich, bold flavour; the one that countless chain cafes strive to imitate, producing nothing but substandard, overpriced swill. The trouble is, you have to like your coffee very rich and bold to enjoy Workshop’s selection to the fullest. Me, I’m all for the milder, gentler espresso you get in Italian coffee shops; in every cup, in every swig, I can’t help but look for a taste of home.
Although this wasn’t love at first sip, there’s no question that Workshop’s coffee is among the most flavoursome that London has to offer. I will definitely come back for a morning energy kick, and another giant muffin; just let me get that job in Central London first.
27 Clerkenwell Road
(nearest tube station: Farringdon)
0207 253 5754
Open 7.30am – 6pm on Mondays, 7.30am – 10pm Tuesday – Friday, 8am – 6pm Saturday and Sunday