I’ve not done a non-conference-related day trip to London for ages, and since I was in town to meet an old friend, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out some makan places.


Again? It seems to me that the owner have been doing some major expansion of his coffee business worldwide when I first ventured to that cubicle in Arashiyama last year. %arabica’s now got branches in SE Asia, the middle east and Stateside, to name a few. This branch near Covent Garden is one of two in London (the other is in Broadway Market) and it opens at 9 AM.

Like Arashiyama, the coffee list is somewhat succinct and I went for the small latte (effectively making it a flat white of sorts) and a danish. My mate had a black Americano. My first %arabica experience was an iced coffee, so I’m not too sure how to compare, bearing in mind today’s order was prepared by a different barista. The coffee wasn’t as robust as I would like it and I thought the art was slightly off but if I want art, I should be in Omotesandō. It was ok, and I would’ve been absolutely devastated if I traveled all the way just for this.

%Arabica Covent Garden
5 King Street
London WC2E 8HN

Flat White

With a name like this, I was getting ready to be blown away. Neatly tucked in Berwick Street near Soho, the place probably have a few tables and we were right lucky to get one at the corner where I could see the staff busy serving customers. I ordered the obvious and I have to say it wasn’t too bad when compared to my benchmark – Tamper in Sheffield (Forge Bakehouse on Abbeydale Road in Sheffield is actually a close second). With the bustling atmosphere, I quite like the place (I like noisy eateries for some weird reason, but depends on the circumstances). My friend had been sampling coffee around the city, and hadn’t been to these two. When asked what his benchmark was, it was Monmouth. Well, we didn’t go to Monmouth on this day, but I had been to it last year, where I had drip coffee for the first time. So, I’m just gonna go back in time to…

17 Berwick St
London W1F 0PT

Monmouth Coffee Company

My nephew (to be accurate, first cousin once removed) is an artist who was doing a residency at an art studio in East London at that time, and since he was a coffee lover himself, I suggested we should meet at their main Covent Garden store. It was busy but the done thing was to actually share tables with other customers. There were three other people at our table and we got into conversation with this lady who seemed fascinated with us speaking in Malay.

My nephew was then describing how drip coffee had a greater amount of caffeine when compared to espresso, as the hot water is in contact with the ground coffee longer. My knowledge about drip coffee was a tad biased as another friend who is more into espressos described that drip has an acidity you don’t get in espresso. I hope I got this right. Also, drip coffee is… just coffee. You add milk or sugar if you want, but it ain’t as versatile as an espresso as the world’s your oyster when it comes to make the different types of espresso concoctions. It was a superb cup of coffee, and I should go more often. And back to the present to…

27 Monmouth Street
Covent Garden
London WC2H 9EU

Pie Republic

I wanted to eat pie and chips for lunch and we trundled on east by… Uber. I first knew about this halal joint from a YouTube review. We were unfortunately an hour early before they served lunch but thanks to my sob story of travelling hundreds of miles by train just because I saw how good their pies looked on YouTube, they were kind enough to make serve us an early lunch. I opted for the Royal Victoria which was essentially a chicken cream and mushroom pie, and my mate ordered the Hakka, a lamb with carrots and ‘tatoes pie. Both of our orders came with gravy, chips and coleslaw. I ordered a cuppa tea, just because. It was nice – not OTT nice that made the Uber fare worth it as we felt it wasn’t warm enough (prolly because of use being there a tad early?), but nice enough to drive over on a Sunday if I was ever in the Smoke visiting. The nearest station is actually a train station (Forest Gate) as the nearest tube station (Upton Park) is 1.5 km away.

80 Upton Lane
Forest Gate
London E7 9LW