I like Mondays. They’re great.
Thankfully, since finishing education, I have not had a good reason to hate the first day of the working week – quite the opposite: I can finally expect my emails being answered, public transport runs in more socially-friendly hours, and the shops reopen after the weekend. Also, in my case, I often have that day off – ha! – and so it happened I had this Monday off in London.
I knew very well that with a planned trip into the centre I would have to visit at least one or two cafes – needs must! I checked the Time Out list I had saved in my browser against my destination, which was: the British Museum and the National Gallery (making it a thoroughly cultural experience). Right between them there were two venues that I decided I’d like to visit: the Milk Bar and Monmouth Coffee. I started with the first one.
And when I say “I started” I mean exactly that; despite departing from Kings Cross station (I wanted to take a look at the St. Pancras’ stunning indoors) I walked past the museum towards Soho to get my coffee and brunch to then return to the museum to see the mummies. After all those days in the office I really needed a good solid walk.
The Milk Bar was not hard to find (especially with a GPS phone), although it could have been easily missed if one wasn’t looking. It’s a tiny spot without any signage apart from the name on the window. I actually thought that it was shut, because I didn’t see anyone in as I approached the door; but suddenly there were three people behind the counter, and then I spotted two customers sitting by a table in the corner, right behind the bar (rather hard to miss considering the volume of their conversation, putting the size of the place aside). There was the bar, about six tables round the walls – and that’s it. No back room, no toilets (is that even legal?). All the food was prepared front-of-house, as was the coffee of course.
After a short chat about Scottish Pounds with the Australian-sounding barista I ordered a soy mocha and a smoked salmon toasty. The food-barista (if you will) asked how much ricotta I’d like on it, which was a nice touch (you might know from previous posts that I tend not to think of fat-cutting off my food until my order actually arrives). When it was served it smelled and tasted delicious, despite its simplicity: toasted polenta bread (I’m not a fan of GF bakery, yet…!), smoked salmon and some fresh cucumber on top made for a great snack, which half of I took with me for later (I was tempted to finish it there and then, but didn’t want to roll down the museum aisles afterwards), having got it packed to take-away without a problem.
The coffee arrived first, however. Small number, served in a glass, just like their hot chocolate, as I spotted on the table next to me where the girl who had ordered before me was seated. It had lovely latte art on top, and looked rich and tempting. I didn’t mean to wait for the food, so I tucked in… and my eyes must have glistened, as my mouth watered. It was simply stunning. Smooth, velvety texture, wholesome but not overwhelming, very sweet – but in a dark chocolate, luxurious way. Every sip left me wanting more, and if not for my sandwich, it would have been gone in a minute. So, if I had doubts, whether a soy mocha can ever equal a perfect, whole milk one, here was my confirmation.
Generally, this wouldn’t have been my spot: tiny, little private space, can’t really sit down for too long with your laptop (although the hot chocolate girl did); yet, the staff are friendly, chatty and genuine, and serve the best coffee I have tasted in a long time. The only minus would be the price – charging extra 50p for soy milk is a bit harsh. But if you were to treat yourself, you might as well pay a little bit extra – and the Milk Bar certainly is a top-shelf treat.
It was a perfect prelude to my visit to the museum, which is amazing by the way. The times when museums were boring are long gone – and so is my childhood, and somehow I can make a connection there.
As for Monmouth… I’ll tell you another time.
Mocha: £2.50 (+50p for soy)
Verdict justification: Warm, inviting atmosphere, lovely service and absolutely stunning coffee. Nothing else needed.