When I was in London in January 2013, I ran by Store Street Espresso. The shop looked nice, but I didn’t have time to stop, so I made a mental note as to the location. In my rush, the mental note flew out the window and I forgot where the cafe was located. During my trip in November, I thought I found it with TAP Coffee, but only found an answer to the ‘flat white’ query there (answer: it’s good. order it.).
Enter The London Coffee Guide, an online compendium of good cafés in the capital. As soon as I saw the Store Street facade, I knew that I had discovered my long-lost cafe. I took the tube from Paddington straight there.
Store Street Espresso and Continental Stores are sister cafes, run by the same people and serving the same food and drinks. The atmosphere changes to suit the location. I went to Store Street for Friday lunch and Continental Stores later the same day.
Store Street was bustling when I arrived at lunch time, but I had no problem finding a seat. There were several communal tables as well as a few double ones. They serve an extensive café food menu, complete with soup, salad, sandwiches and sweets. I ordered the vegetarian quiche, a thick wedge of roasted red peppers and eggplant gently laced with egg and cheese. It had a phyllo crust. I drank a piccolo latte; served in glass, I hoped it would be like a cortado.
My drink was good, though was more latte than cortado. The warm milk reminded me of high-school coffee drinks. The quiche was satisfyingly and disappointingly like a savory pie. The phyllo didn’t drown the vegetables in crust, my favorite part. I would have preferred more egg-custard in my slice, but for a lighter cafe-choice I enjoyed it.
In the afternoon, after working up an appetite reading, I went to Continental Stores, conveniently hostel and library adjacent. This time I ordered a macchiato and a chocolate-cherry-beetroot muffin. The barista me a number and I took a seat in the back of the cafe. It was late afternoon — too late to be drinking coffee — but there was barely any space for me. I nabbed the last table. Continental Stores is smaller, cozier and more intimate than Store Street, better for a friendly chat than a caffeine fueled working session.
The barista quickly brought me my muffin and coffee. I gently stirred the schiuma into the coffee, which was pleasantly nutty and dark chocolatey. Nothing surprising, but well made and a delight to drink. The muffin was rich and moist, though not worryingly so as coffee-shop cakes tend to be. There were barely any cherries — I got two total — but there was plenty of chocolate. The beetroot added a pleasant, almost floral note.
Although they’re owned by the same people, Continental Stores and Store Street Espresso use the same techniques to target different crowds. Whereas Store Street caters to the university set with ample seating and a bright bustling atmosphere, Continental Stores puts the same good coffee and food in a smaller space to give a neighborhood effect. Whatever reason you need a cafe, take note. Write down the names, bookmark the page, print out an image; do whatever you have to do to remember because these are two London coffee shops you don’t want to forget.
But do yourself a favor, order a pastry and skip the quiche.
Chatting or working: what’s your main reason for going to a cafe?