When it comes to the stuff I read online, the words “Best coffee in London” are one of three clickbaits I can’t resist (the others are “Best pizza in London” and “Best gelato in London”. Hello, predictable). Whether it’s a top 5, a top 10, or an in-depth review of one specific place, I will read whatever that title points to. That’s how I discovered Shoreditch favourite Ozone Coffee Roasters, number one in my to-visit list since I first read about it, a couple of years ago. Visiting for a morning caffeine fix isn’t the easiest mission to plan, since I live and work the other side of town. As they say, though, when there’s a will there’s a way – and if breakfast’s involved, you can bet I’ll work hard to find one.
My first encounter with Ozone was in the spring of 2014, as I headed to a job interview just down the road. It was around 11am. I ordered a green tea, in the vain hope it would loosen the tight knot in my stomach. I know what you’re thinking: You’ve been waiting years to have coffee here – what the hell is wrong with you? But it wasn’t coffee I was after; it was reassurance, courage, a hint at what my new life could look like. As I sipped my tea, it started taking shape before my eyes. I would get that job in Shoreditch. Ozone would be a short walk away from work. I’d revel in the freedom of having as much good coffee as I damn pleased (at least one every morning, I reckoned, on the way from Old Street station to the office). I’d make friends among my new colleagues, and share blissful coffee and cake breaks with them. All this was completely within my reach; I only had to finish my tea, take a deep breath, go get it. I grabbed a loyalty card before walking out, knowing in my guts it wouldn’t be long until I could use it again.
The thing about gut feelings, is they can be completely wrong. The interview was a joke. They sent me off promising I’d soon receive an offer, asked me to confirm my start date, and then ghosted like the shifty boys I had mad crushes on aged 18. You’d think a successful company that boasts a focus on people would know better than leaving a job applicant in the dark. Well, think again. Worry turned to mild irritation, irritation turned into downright anger. Once the anger subsided, though, I felt relieved; a part of me still suspects that working for them would have turned to be quite different from the rosy picture they’d so carefully painted for me. The rest is history. The following month, an offer for my current job surfaced. I took it up, sensing I’d never hear from the Shoreditch ghosters again (accurate prediction, this one). I seized new opportunities, but had to let go of the dream vision of daily coffee breaks at Ozone. Never say never, though, right?
Fast forward to July 2015. I’m power walking my way down City Road to meet a colleague at Ozone, before a proposal to a potential client. It’s eight twenty-nine, and I’m just about on time. He’s puzzled about my choice of venue: he used to live in Hoxton, yet has never heard of it before. I win him over promising it’s close to the tube, and within walking distance of our final destination. But since I haven’t been that side of Shoreditch for more than a year, I’m the one who walks too far down before realising I should have made a left long before. Just on time becomes a bit late, and when I get there, my colleague welcomes my suggestion to sit down and eat with a perplexed stare. He orders coffee, perhaps hoping I’ll take the cue and refrain from ordering food. I do order food, though; that’s what I do at eight thirty-five in the morning. We have twenty minutes to spare, and that’s plenty of time in my books. Also, I can’t bear the thought of leaving Ozone once again without ordering a nice breakfast. But I don’t tell him that.
Here’s the long-awaited verdict, then. My cappuccino was “nice coffee in London” material: good enough to set my day off to the right start, but perhaps not one for my personal top 5 or 10. I’ve lived in London long enough to know there’s much more to coffee than Italian espresso; still, nothing can replace the smooth, delicate coffee I used to have back home. Not even the Kiwi coffee Londoners are so crazy about, no.
The one thing that will bring me back to Ozone when I’m next in the area is their food. There’s plenty of cakes and cookies to choose from (I steered clear of them, knowing it would take me ages to pick a favourite), and the yoghurt and granola pot is one of the best and most fulfilling I’ve ever had (second only, so far, to Beany Green’s). It comes with a small jug of milk, which might baffle you for a second; it’ll make sense as soon as you start eating. The bowl comes with a generous helping of granola and a tiny dollop of yoghurt, so you need to pour in a little milk to prevent the mixture from being too dry. I’d never eaten granola this way before, and never thought I would, as I’m no fan of cereal with milk; this, though, is excellent breakfast fare. The granola doesn’t get too soggy, and the yoghurt retains the creamy texture I love. Win-win.
Ozone Coffee Roasters
11 Leonard Street
London, EC2A 4AQ
(nearest tube and rail station: Old Street)
Open 7.30 – 22.00 Monday to Friday; 9.00 – 17.00 Saturdays and Sundays