I wasn’t expecting much from FreeState Coffee; the only thing I knew about it was that it was smack in the middle of Southampton Row and thus I assumed that I wouldn’t get that real homey coffee shop feel. How wrong was I?
FreeState Coffee had the industrial look down — wooden floors, reclaimed wooden furniture, tiled walls, exposed brick walls, copper piping, metal bar stools, old cinema seats, and a wall menu in the style of old airport departure boards. Adorning the walls were photographs for sale, mostly taken in the streets of New York. Large lamps dangled over the counter half-filled with sandwiches and cakes and neatly arranged oh-so-trendy-right-now Syphon coffee pots. I haven’t got round to exploring coffee brewed in this way yet — it looks so intimidating! I stuck to my usual — a flat white, and noted that they frequently feature guest espressos and they also had Vietnamese iced coffee on the menu.
The flat white was full of body and rich and complex in flavour. It wasn’t obvious to me what coffee beans they were using so I just had to get off my butt and ask! It was Caravan’s Market Blend. I loved it so much that I just had to pay a special visit to Caravan later that month. I could not help staring at the dainty cakes they had on display and in the end I went for the handsomest of them all — the lemon and pistachio slice. The sharp and tangy lemon flavoured cream was topped with chopped pistachios; this was easily the best part of the cake as unfortunately the sweet, pistachio sponge was rather dry.
The coffee shop was quite busy but not overly buzzing with energy. I kicked back and relaxed while listening to the urban music playing in the background. If it weren’t for the piercing police siren going past I would have forgotten that I was in such a busy area of London. I definitely will be back and I’m curious to find out what guest espresso FreeState have got their hands on – it might even be the perfect way to experience a wide variety of different roasts. ∎
(Photography: Sarah Chu for Bubbobar; cover photo via FreeState’s website)
23 Southampton Row,
London WC1B 5HA