Caravan brunch

I love going to a cafe with a girl who knows her stuff. A friend of mine used to work at Caravan Kings Cross, and is about to leave dirty old London to go and live in the sunshine on a Super Yacht – yeah some people have all the luck. So a last trip to her old stomping ground seemed totally fitting, especially since I have not been there for brunch yet (horribly remiss of me I know).

I’m going to get the bad bit of Caravan out of the way first, the service seemed a bit haphazard. Possibly just a side effect of being a massive-for-London cafe on a busy Saturday morning, but it was a bit like trying to catch a models eye in the middle of a fashion show. Ironically this inattention was actually prefect for us, we had a brilliant uninterrupted catch-up and set the world at rights – although it would have been nice to have been offered coffer rather than hunting for it.

The coffee was brilliant, although I would expect nothing less from a place that does small batch roasting of its own beans. We managed a fair few coffees between us, so I am in the unusual position of being able to comment on the consistency as well – they were all identical in their perfection.

Caravan coffee

The nice thing about brunch at Caravan is that you don’t have to go for the safe option. They have some awesome combos, and you know that no matter how weird they sound you are safe in their hands. I went for the Poached eggs, aubergine puree, yoghurt, sumac and parsley on toast, it was such a good combo even if it did look a bit like yummy baby food. The only other London cafe I have found doing the egg and yoghurt combination is Kopapa with their Turkish poached eggs, a tasty breakfast but a little too spicy for my liking. The aubergine on the other hand was cool, subtle and I could eat it 100 times over.

So full to the brim and after that many coffees jumping like kittens on catnip, we walked off into the London sun. One destined for more London brunches, coffees and wanderings; the other for the new sun of the South of France and the endless ocean.


Brick Lane Coffee 2008

In 2008 I was a wide eyed university student living overseas for the first time. While my time at Kingston University was full of travel, nights out in dodgy clubs and meeting amazing friends, one thing it was not full of was good coffee. Five years ago I was horrified at the state of coffee in the UK, you were lucky if the barrister did more than press one button in making your drink, and I think most of my Heathrow injection was due to all the sugar and cream I had to use to make my coffee drinkable.

If you asked for a flat white in a cafe? You were more likely to be accused of racism than end up with a coffee. That was until my flatmate woke me up early one morning for a trip to Brick Lane.

Brick Lane Coffee menu

After wading through the drunk hipsters still spewing out of clubs and braving the queues to get a salmon cream cheese bagel, we made our way to Brick Lane coffee. There, to my surprise, was ‘flat white’ written as bold as day on the menu (yes they have a drink called the Shit Storm, its a double double espresso). I felt like I had suddenly found the supplier of an illicit drug, and in what would have been a hushed reverent tone if the music hadn’t been so loud I ordered my first London flat white.

Brick Lane Coffee flat white

That first sip was like someone had just preached on the theory of evolution; like in that one sip London was being dragged into the future. We sat down the back of Brick Lane coffee and were there for hours reading papers and drinking coffee after coffee. It wasn’t homesickness that the flat white was answering; it was the pure enjoyment of artistry.

With the tag line ‘come happy, leave edgy’ Brick Lane Coffee is essentially a cool bar but with caffeine instead of alcohol. You can hang out, dip your toes into the market outside and fuel up before taking on the crowds.

Brick Lane Coffee 2014

These days of course there are coffee roasters on every corner, I don’t have one local I have about four. House blends are traded like state secrets and the language of coffee is no longer the domain of London hipsters, even Costa has its own flat white. But Brick Lane coffee will always have a place in my heart (the coffee is still awesome) and given that I am a blogger, their free wifi is a definite draw.

So if you are in town, stop by the top of Brick Lane and relive my teenage epiphany. I promise Brick Lane Coffee will treat you well.

Man this trip down memory lane has been fun, maybe I should regale you with some of my other pre-blog adventures? After all, I seem to get myself into some fairly ‘special’ situations that only seem funny years later… what do you think?

Flat white at Zus and Zo Auckland

Let me take you back to November 2011, it was a crisp spring morning and I was going out for brunch with my Mum. I convinced her to drive to the other side of Auckland to go to Zus and Zo after becoming ever so slightly obsessed with this new cafe and their open top sandwiches.

So we sat down at the middle table on the left hand side, ordered flat whites and started talking. It was a rehash of conversations we had before, with me feeling trapped and hopeless in my tax accounting job and really not knowing which way to turn. That’s when my always sensible and level headed mother said something quite extraordinary “well, you should move to London”. I’m not sure if it was the multiple shots of coffee, that my Mum put it in such a straight forward way or that I didn’t have any viable alternatives by my answer a few seconds later was “ok”. The next week I applied for my visa, and the week after I quit my very sensible corporate job to fly off into the unknown.

There was no other planning, no forethought just good coffee and advice from my Mum. It says something about how supportive both my parents are that not only did Mum suggest this rather radical idea, but when I went home walked through the door and announced to Dad that I was moving to London he echoed me and said “ok”. I know it wouldn’t be their first choice to have their youngest living in a different hemisphere, but I am ever thankful that they support me wholeheartedly and put me under no pressure (like some of my friends are feeling) to move home and pick up my kiwi life again.

Given that Zus and Zo was the site of rather an important decision in my life, it was only fitting to go back and stage a reenactment. Mum took the day off work and we traveled to the ass end of Ponsonby to find coffee and reminisce. When we walked through the door it had to be fate, because the only table available was the one we sat at almost two years earlier. Sitting down and ordering the still amazing flat whites (served controversially in glasses rather than cups) we had to take a lot of extra time to review the menu, it all looked too good.

I settled on a baked ricotta bruschetta with tomato-capsicum pesto and bacon while Mum had some sort of mushroom thing (I don’t know, I just don’t ‘do’ mushrooms). The food was brilliant and we happily spent time just marking how far life had come in two years.

Zus and Zo bruschetta

Kooka Boora flat white

Oh fine, before I talk about art lets continue on this little food journey by talking about the struggle to find kiwi style coffee in Paris. I’m quite happy drinking espresso (the quality is normally awesome so it’s no hardship) but at about day four I found myself dreaming of flat whites. Rather unfortunately I had to turn to the Aussies for help.

Kooka Boora cafe is far more like the antipodean cafes in London, you know with that little bit hipster but actually all about the coffee vibe. Just a short walk from Sacré Cœur/Montmartre it is a great tourist escape.

They do some outstanding cake/loaf things – I sampled the berry and nut version (sorry no further description on the loaf, the explanation was all in French) but it was fresh and yum.

The coffee was everything I have come to expect from a flat white, flavourful and strong and just what I needed.

Even if it is owned by Australians I would check it out if you are in the area.

London Coffee Festival

It has been noted by some that I am quite partial to a cup of coffee*.  So for me the London Coffee Festival was an event that has been on my calendar for months. I spent hours poring over the website, trying to figure out the best day to go to see all my coffee idols. The day arrived, and off to the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane I headed.

Turns out I was not the only one to be so coffee addicted and fangirl–ish. When I arrived the line stretched around the block and people were waiting for more than an hour to get in. People in London REALLY like their coffee.

Inside the Brewery was divided into Hyde Park, Soho, Shoreditch and The Lab, and each stall had their own London street sign with their name on it. Hyde Park was a lovely (fake) grassy area with picnic tables a bar and a band rotunda. It was the place to chill out (or attempt to with all that caffeine running through your veins) and listen to some great music. Hyde Park was also home to the chocolatiers – Lindt and Green and Blacks had stalls facing each other and it seemed like they were competing for the most chocolate they could give away. I was happy to oblige and eventually decided that the Lindt Crunchy Caramel chocolate was the winner on the day.

London Coffee Festival Hyde Park

Shoreditch was the home of food food food, and an artisan market for all your unique coffee fetishes. The food was brilliant as expected; it looks like they took the cream of the usual Brick Lane Sunday crop to balance out the coffee jitters. The artisan market was a bit of an eye opener for me – who knew I needed all these special little coffee tools to make my home brew? To be fair I think most of the things on sale were aimed at the small cafes and it was absolutely fabulous to see all the entrepreneurs out there with the next great idea.

The Lab was all sorts of fun. Different exhibitors took over this stark white space throughout the day, some were demonstraiting innovative drinks or running tasting sessions, but I got to the Lab just in time for the Rocket Races. Volcano Coffee Works and Rocket Espresso Milano had teamed up, and were running races between members of the public – and the winner could get on the new R58 home expresso machines that they were racing on. Oh did I not mention that, the race entailed them making the perfect Flat White, pouring a glass of water and then making and buttering a piece of toast. The score was not only based on time but also the skill and quality of the coffee. Highlight had to be one contestant who just thought Fuck it, I am going to impress the judge with an amazing cup of coffee. He may have taken about 10 minutes longer then the other contestants – but his coffee was brilliant.

Rocket Races

When I got round to Soho I was a little disappointed to be honest. Not in the range or quality of the coffee, but because you had to pay for it. After people paying £16 to get in I honestly did not expect to have to pay for a cup of coffee – or if I did it would be at a seriously discounted rate. At Ozone coffee roasters for example it was £2 for a flat white. I understand it must be expensive for the small roasters to exhibit at these events, but for a punter having to pay for a coffee on top of the ticket price felt a bit hinky. Maybe the solution would be to give an espresso or something away for free and charge for the rest? Hats off to the Allpress team who were not charging – and were a crowd favourite.


*If I could have it on a permanent IV I would.


Runawaykiwi was a guest of the London Coffee Festival but all views expressed are my own.