#009: Streets for coffee - Broadway Market, London
This constantly changing road is littered with top drawer coffee shops
Hello readers. Look at me, managing to send this newsletter as promised on a Sunday for the second consecutive week! Thanks to everyone who said nice things about last week’s edition. It has turned out to be the most read one I’ve written after a week - whatever that means.
This week is the second in the ‘Streets for coffee’ series which takes a look at streets that have a number of great coffee shops on them. This is handy for chain-drinkers or finding coffee on busy days - if one is busy, you can just walk a short distance to the next one. Last time out, I visited Chatsworth Road in Hackney. This time, I’m taking a short stroll to Broadway Market, also in Hackney. Sorry about the lack of geographic spread, but you know, pandemic etc.
Also, we had a small flurry of new subscribers following the last edition, so welcome to first-time readers! Tell your friends! Tell your enemies!
The gentrification of Broadway Market
I think it’s impossible to talk about the coffee shops of Broadway Market without acknowledging its extensive history and the controversial presence of businesses like the ones I will outline favourably in the section below.
Broadway Market, formerly known simply as ‘The Broadway’, has evolved from its role as the final stretch of a cattle route leading from Essex into the slaughterhouses of London to a fully fledged shopping street and venue of a weekly farmer’s market. But as you may be able to tell from the image above, this evolution hasn’t been plain sailing. In the 1970s, the market was daily rather than weekly but footfall fell through the 80s and 90s leading to the switch to a weekly food market from 2004. The road even survived an insane plan to bulldoze the whole area and build a motorway ‘feeder road’ east to the Blackwall Tunnel.
As the media began to use cringey phrases like ‘vibrant ethnic buzz’ in reference to Hackney the 1990s, it was the early 2000s that saw a culmination of events which ultimately led to the gentrification of the street. Hackney Council began auctioning off derelict properties to outside developers, pricing out locals and rapidly altering the make up of the street. According to William Bradley’s essay, ‘The Gentrification of Broadway Market’, a survey carried out amongst residents of the neighbouring Whiston and Goldsmiths estates found that 93% found the market too expensive and 83% believed the Saturday market was not for them. It is this history that precedes all businesses that choose to open on Broadway Market.
I felt it would be wrong to talk about the street without exploring this history first. I haven’t come across any evidence that this gulf in reputation between visitors to the Market and the actual residents who live alongside it has changed since the aforementioned survey was taken. It is through this lens that I use the businesses on the street. I didn’t build in any time to speak with the owners of each of the coffee shops below to ask for their view on this issue, and though I may do in the future and report back to this newsletter, my comments about them are written purely from the perspective of each of them being excellent coffee shops.
So, after a stroll through London Fields at the top of Broadway Market, I found the street earlier today, mid-way through it’s weekend market. This was a mistake as it was packed and despite the best efforts of some council wardens, COVID-19 guidelines around distancing and mask wearing were only being loosely followed. Due to restrictions on businesses, coffee shops are only open for takeaway, but at least two of the below are well worth a visit when sit-in options are allowed again.
Climpson and Sons
Climpson and Sons opened their shop in 2002 and have since been one of the leading lights of London’s coffee scene, with another coffee bar in Spitalfields Market. If you don’t have long in the area, Climpson is the shop to drop by. They roast their own beans at their nearby roastery, which are also available to buy in-store. The coffee is predictably excellent and the service always efficient but friendly.
The place has consistently had a queue outside of it when open during lockdown, but even back in normal times it wasn’t unusual to see a line out the door. As you can see in the photo, the windows are currently stocked with various cupboard staples you might want to buy, but again, in normal times high stools against those windows offer a great place to sit and people watch or read a book.
Here’s a link to their Instagram.
If you squint at the window in the photo above, you may be able to make out me, looking sweaty in my very fetching gymwear, though don’t waste your salivations on my reflection! Look at the rows of freshly baked bread stacked up behind the counter!
I didn’t buy a coffee from Pavilion today but am a regular visitor to this shop and their larger café by the lake in Victoria Park. Both locations are beautiful. In last week’s newsletter, I spoke about friendliness being a central metric in my assessment of a good coffee shop. Well, nice aesthetics is another central metric. I love the wooden panelling and the large windows and I love minimal signage on and above the window. On the coffee front, I can speak from past experience of its quality, while bread is their speciality, the coffee feels just as expertly crafted.
They have a couple of other shops that I’m yet to visit - one not far away on Columbia Road and another, a little further in Newquay, Cornwall. I plan to visit the latter for a future edition of this newsletter!
% Arabica is a relatively new addition to Broadway Market, but is not new to the coffee world. They have 71 locations around the world, many in beautiful settings. They were founded by Kenneth Shoji in Kyoto and have also been involved in coffee farming in Hawaii and the trading of green beans and coffee equipment around the world. The vast experience of the company shows in their shop here. It’s beautifully designed with classic Japanese minimalism, but they also have an array of origins available to try in addition to a range of brew methods. For now, you order inside and then collect from the hatch, though even in normal times, there is only bench seating inside to wait for your coffee. I haven’t been in person to any of their other stores, but they’re firmly on my to-do list.
My final spot for today is The Bach, which I saved until last as it has become my favourite Broadway spot over the past few months. Not only do they serve Allpress Coffee (one of my favourites to drink wherever I go), but they also get top marks on my friendliness scale. It’s always a really pleasant experience to visit, even though we can’t sit-in currently. They have plenty of takeaway snack options and a great brunch menu. I’ll definitely be back for food in the new year!
The Fourth Quarter
This section gives me a space to drop a link, maybe unrelated to coffee, that you may find interesting. As I explored some of the history of Broadway Market in this week’s edition, I wanted to share more of Hackney’s history. Click on the link below to view a few unseen photos from around Hackney in the 1980s found by chance in the basement of Dalston’s Rio Cinema. They have been made into a full book.
That’s all for Three Quarters this week. Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it. I hope you have a great week fuelled by some top coffee. Love, Ashley x