Now that we’re not allowed to shop in Starbucks anymore (pay your taxes, people) the independent coffee shop has really come into its own. And good thing, too. Local indies like the Birdhouse in Battersea go to show exactly why we need fewer chain cafes on our High Streets.
Forget cafes that look like your granny designed them. Birdhouse is cool. Very cool. The colour scheme is simple but eye-catching with dark slate grey punctuated by flashes of vibrant yellow – it looks more like a street fashion shop than a café from the outside. Even the furniture sticks to the theme with cute little wooden tables surrounded by grey and yellow chairs. It’s not the largest space in the world but it’s well-contained and you don’t feel squashed in, even when it’s busy. One feature wall showcases kitsch images of birds and the large serving table displays all manner of tasty treats. This is a café of the future. When you discover the owners started life as graphic designers it all becomes very clear why the design of this place is so, so good.
Sure, sure, Pret, Café Nero and Starbucks have all stepped up their customer service training so you’re greeted with smiles and reams of robotic but happy responses to your requests, but there’s always a special something missing. At the Birdhouse the smiles are more genuine. They may not write your name on their cups but they remember who you are. And you won’t constantly be upsold. Sweet relief.
Prices at Birdhouse are in keeping with those big chains – you’re looking at around £5 for a small lunch or breakfast and a few quid for a pastry or cake.
The real highlight of the food menu are the bocaditos (ciabattas are SO passé). The Spanish word for snack, these are toasted sandwiches filled with fresh, meaty serrano ham with a delightful saltiness, soft and sweet oven-roasted tomatoes and a creamy Iberico cheese. If you don’t fancy ham then the options are all intriguing – marinaded pork, anyone? Where some cafes overcook the sandwiches and only half fill them, here they are toasted just enough to be crisp and the filling nicely hot. And that filling is, well, full. If you have a sweet tooth then they have all manner of delightful pastries to get stuck into, with the selection changing regularly.
The coffee at the Birdhouse is from Climpsons and Sons – so you’ll be supporting more than one independent business – and it is good. They are famous for their flat whites which, if you enjoy them in-house, arrive in yellow cups in keeping with the decor. You can also opt for takeaway here but the queue can get very long so you need to be patient. Apparently the word about the great coffee here has got out.
The Last Word
Birdhouse shows why it’s so important to have variety on our High Street. Job well done.