When I started looking for a new job, I thought I’d end up working in the City. I had many interviews there, and enjoyed the treat of taking the odd morning off work, eating breakfast in a different cafe or bakery every time. Mingling with Central London regulars, wondering if their favourite coffee shop was bound to soon become mine, was enough to send thrills down my spine. I went as far as collecting a stash of loyalty cards, as if preparing to collect stamps and claim free coffees at my new go-to places.
The rest is history: I didn’t find a job in the City, although the one I got gives me no cause for complaining. Reducing my commute from one hour fifteen by train to twenty minutes walk really is the biggest of all perks. Those short trips to the heart of London left me with a bunch of half-empty loyalty cards, and the memory of two different but equally charming cafes, visited on the day I walked the roads between Bank and Shoreditch three times in the space of one morning. If it weren’t for their names, you’d never believe they have anything in common – and yet, they’re both part of the Taylor Street Baristas independent chain. But isn’t this the beauty of London? I know no other city where landscapes change so unexpectedly, and everything (the buildings, the people, the way they have their coffee) looks and feels so different, even though you’ve only walked ten minutes.
1. Taylor Street Baristas – Old Broad Street, Bank
Accommodating around 40 seated guests (and crowds of takeaway customers), the Bank cafe is one of Taylor Street Baristas’s largest and most popular venues. Fun fact: Taylor Street’s coffee shops recycle their loyalty cards. If you hand in a shiny intact one, and get a crumpled paper in return, don’t doubt your sanity – it’s all perfectly normal. By the way, those loyalty cards really are the best ones ever. If you know another place that offers free coffee after only four purchases, make yourself known, as I could use the information!
If you stop by in the early morning, don’t let the queue put you off: most customers visit for a quick coffee on the go, and you’ll find plenty of seating in the back. The room behind the bar is furnished with hand-crafted, custom made individual and communal tables, combining efficiency with comfort and tastefulness – and it’s distant enough from the counter to ensure your visit is a relaxed one (or a productive one, if you’re on duty). Prepare to step into the world of suits and expensive-looking smart casual clothing, and don’t be surprised if your tablemates rehearse their morning meeting slides while having breakfast. Welcome to Bank, baby.
Once you’re settled at your table, head back to the counter, and be dazzled by the sheer amount of sweet and savoury treats on display. As far as price and portion size go, the morning pastries offer the best value, but the selection of cakes is also a hard one to resist. In short, you can never go wrong with Taylor Street Baristas’s snacks – unless you leave empty-handed, with nothing but a takeaway drink to sip on your way to work.
What makes the food so good, and a morning visit worth the early rise, is that all bakes are fresh and handmade; the oat and blueberry muffin I got was so delightfully warm, it could have just come out of my own oven. Big it was, too: I could only manage a few bites before I felt my stomach shrink with pre-interview fear. Luckily, the staff kindly offered me a paper doggy bag, so I could save the rest for later. Nerves appeased and afternoon snack sorted: I call it a victory on all counts.
Taylor Street Baristas
125 Old Broad Street
London, EC2N 1AR
(nearest tube station: Bank)
Open Monday to Friday, 7.00 – 18.00
020 7929 2207
2. Taylor Street’s Shed – Clifton Street, Shoreditch
Taylor Street’s Shed is proof that “good things come in small packages” is more than just an adage. Located in a Shoreditch back alley that will put your sense of direction to the test, it amounts to no more than a cramped garden shack, where a line of three people equals maximum capacity. Even staff members seem to struggle with the lack of space: at the time of my visit, three baristas stood behind the counter, nearly elbowing each other as they prepared hot drinks and manned the till.
The location couldn’t possibly be more strategic. Bang in the middle of Hipsterland, and right opposite Vice’s offices, the Shed is a safe haven for artsy types, techies and geeks looking for their daily fix of lar-tay (another fun fact: five people were queuing ahead of me, and I was the only one ordering an espresso). Gone the simple, sleek look and feel of the Bank cafe, Taylor Street’s Shed does a great job of blending in with its surroundings: indie gig posters cover every inch on the side walls, and a stack of EPs from a band called The Franklys lies on the counter. Now scrap the claustrophobic setting, scrap the stereotypically hip clientele. How cool is that for a coffee shop?
Even cooler is the fact that the Shed serves decent espresso – a rarity in this country of watery americanos. Customers can choose between a house blend and a guest one, which at the time was the Colombian Finca Tamana, roasted by Workshop. I went for the resident Rogue coffee blend, produced by Union Hand Roasted: a strong espresso with a fruity aftertaste, slightly tart but not overly sour to the palate.
While Taylor Street Baristas appeals to the hidden go-getting professional in me, the Taylor Street Shed is more in tune with my usual self (the one who scowls at those who discovered Muse when they released “Absolution”, and refuses to let go of her six-year-old, battered blue Converse trainers). Only that, on that particular morning, my attire and pre-job interview nerviness made me look like a stiff, suited mannequin; the human equivalent of a penguin who lands on the South African shore and struggles to cope with the heat. I shall be grateful for my two cups of coffee at Taylor Street’s cafes, for their bold, rich flavour spurred me on and got me through a challenging day.
110 Clifton Street
London, EC2A 4HT
(nearest tube and Overground stations: Old Street, Shoreditch High Street)
Open Monday to Friday, 8.00 – 17.00
020 7929 2207