No Joke: Five of London’s Finest Novelty Cafés
If 2014 saw London’s obsession with #cleaneating, kale and quinoa cakes and soya alternatives to everything, this year’s version of the superfood must be novelty cafés.
Quirky places to while away an afternoon in the British capital are plentiful, and whatever activities – or animals – your heart desires, there’s probably a café in London town to satisfy you. And with London’s coffee culture really lifting its game lately, you can rest assured you’ll be fed and watered well, with more flat whites and smashed avocado on toast than you can eat.
Probably the most notorious and famous of the novelty cafés, Cereal Killer is the super-hipster café opened by a pair of super-hipster twins on East London’s super-hipster Brick Lane, that really just sells…well, cereal. With over 120 varieties of cereal from all around the world, more than 30 types of milk and 20 cereal toppings, to say the possibilities are endless is a massive understatement. To find Australia’s Milo cereal on offer – quite literally the nectar of the chocolatey gods – was enough to send me on my way with a grin on my face, as was the pop tart that I had for ‘breakfast dessert’, if you will.
Sure, it’s a bit pricey for something that you can generally crawl to from your bed and eat numerous boxes of while still in your pyjamas, but Cereal Killer is a clever idea and a fun experience with its vintage cereal paraphernalia dotted around the little café’s walls. Also, they’re open until 10pm most nights, which means having breakfast for dinner is a viable option – and I can definitely get around that.
Cereal Killer, 139 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB
Nearest Tube station: Shoreditch High Street Overground
My favourite of the bunch (and not just because they sell booze too), Draughts – located in an industrial archway in East London’s Haggerston, is probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a café, to be honest. Grab a group of friends and makes yourselves comfortable: Draughts has the biggest selection of board games I’ve ever seen in my life, and the hours quite literally fly by as you threaten friendships and mortify yourself in front of large groups of people when you get a little bit too into trying to act out extreme sports, charades-style.
You’ve got unlimited time on weekdays and four hours on weekends (just to keep it fair), but they practically had to drag us out kicking and screaming halfway through a game of Cranium. The food’s cheap and heavenly, there’s a great selection of alcohol to accompany your game of Cards Against Humanity and it’s just £5 to play as many games as your little heart desires.
Draughts, 337 Acton Mews, London E8 4EA
Nearest Tube station: Haggerston Overground
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
Sticking with the East London theme here (those hip young things have all the best ideas), Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is exactly what you’re thinking – and dreaming of. Inspired by cat cafés popping up all over Asia and the successful feline endeavour in Melbourne, this Bethnal Green café will make you high tea while you stroke one – or all – of its twelve cats. I mean, this is quite literally what dreams are made of, no? From salted caramel brownies to sticky toffee cupcakes, delicious Brick Lane bagels to a hearty goulash, I’m salivating just thinking about spending an afternoon gorging myself AND being surrounded by kittens.
Yeah, there’s a £6 welfare charge to get into Lady Dinah’s, but they look after their kitties so beautifully it’s completely worth it. I mean, every single cat at the café has its own Twitter account. AND THERE’S MORE. This is East London, so of course it’s only logical that a cat café would run yoga classes. Every Wednesday night, they offer yoga classes amongst the snoozing felines, with tea and biscuits included. Sign me UP.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, 152-154 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6DG
Nearest Tube station: Shoreditch High Street
So it’s not themed as such, but the idea for this Old Street café is brilliant. It’s a ‘treehouse for adults’, as they say – a Russian concept that encourages creativity and collaboration. “Think of Ziferblat as an extension of your own home;” they say, “a place to relax, meet new friends, discover new experiences.”
The idea is that everything inside the café is free – except for your time. You’re given an alarm clock as you enter, and hand it back as you leave; your only charge being how much time you spent in the café. It’s 5p a minute – so if you can down a cup of tea in three minutes, that’s a 15p drink and a hearty congratulations to you, you thrifty thing. If you’re there for an hour and drink twelve cups of tea (who, me? Never.) that’s a grand total of £3. Do the maths, eat the dirt-cheap cake, play the piano that sits in the café, enjoy yourself.
They also run plenty of amazing collaborative and creative events – workshops, performance events, art exhibits and plenty more – as well as having a solid collection of books and old-school board games to tinker around with. Before you know it you’ll have been there for eight hours but still spent less than if you’d paid for all your meals at a regular café. Genius.
Ziferblat 388 Old Street, Shoreditch, London EC1V 9LT
Nearest Tube station: Old Street
Themed novelty gimmicks aside – Cahoots is nothing but class, dahling. Opened in March, it’s an underground bar in a decommissioned Tube station and air raid shelter – inspired by a post-war London, the staff are dressed up, the cocktails are bizarre but delicious and it’s about as much fun as you can have on an evening out.
The cocktail menu is eight (EIGHT!) pages long, with drinks served in Thermoses, milk bottles and other olden-day paraphernalia. Staple ingredients in their drinks are wartime ration-friendly, of course – don’t be surprised if your cocktail includes an OXO cube or some beetroot, but be brave as they’re delicious. The staff are possibly all acting students – they’ve got their 1940s London accents down to a T and have created unique characters that’ll make you forget there’s an iPhone in your pocket. So dress up in your best ‘40s fare (it’s not compulsory but don’t be a spoilsport!), jump into the replica train carriage and open the menu’s “DO NOT OPEN” envelope for the black market bar specials – you’re in for an absolute treat at Cahoots.
Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, London W1B 5PG
Nearest Tube station: Oxford Circus
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