WE go way back, Fleet River Bakery and I. Tucked away in a small alley off Kingsway it is a haven of freshly baked smells, creamy lattes and understated rustic charm, that has, by chance, played witness to a number of significant steps in my own personal London story.
It is here in the initial first days of London life I fortified myself with welcome caffeine for an impending interview with a recruitment company nearby. It had been a long few weeks of unemployment, uncertainty, incessant rain and Starbucks coffee, and the discovery of Fleet River with its piles of cheesecake and paper cupped takeaways was a comforting slice of home.
Subsequent visits coincided with rare sunny days. Employed in an unfulfilling legal job, I sometimes joined the scores of other office workers streaming into nearby Lincolns Inn Fields for a brief respite from a dark office for a dose of Vitamin D and a Fleet River brown takeout lunchbox of fresh quiche and lentil salad.
More life changes, more coffee. A weekend course at the nearby London School of Economics titled ‘How to Be A Journalist’ felt incomplete without a morning spent first back at the bakery burying a rising sense of trepidation at this next step with baked goods and a bucket of caffeine.
And now, back again. Ostensibly to cast a critical Coffee Cult eye over the whole establishment, but unlikely to be able to separate any assessment from the debt of acknowledgment I owe to its status as dispenser of the black liquid gold at key moments in my London experience.
The theme is comfort. A moment, a timeout, a break from the hectic weekday pace of life outside. The menu is scribbled on a big blackboard with changing fresh specials on offer daily. The first bench is crowded with pastries, cakes and muffins during early service, and replaced with big bowls of salads, frittatas and seasonal sandwiches at lunch.
The small front room gets crowded quickly with busy office workers and a plethora of bobble-hatted university students milling like Beliebers at Justin Bieber concert, waiting for the appearance of their everyday idol — caffeine. Out the back at least there is space to sit, but given the largely takeaway nature of the crowd during the week, it’s often largely underutilized.
With beans sourced from Monmouth Coffee Company, and aforementioned paper coffee cups, it would be hard to go wrong. Given the hard-earned pounds Coffee Cult has previously exchanged for liquid gold in this place, we feel well qualified to comment both on consistency and quality. Both get the tick.
Similarly, having sampled from both the breakfast and lunch menu, Fleet River always seems to have an impressive array of fresh and simple options, easily transported to dine al-desko in eco-friendly boxes. Dining in this time, it was a quick, easy, filling breakfast of creamy Bircher muesli topped with a deliciously tart berry compote, rounded off with a heart-decorated cappuccino.
Our sources tell us Fleet River Bakery is Australian. Sources being a helpful waitress, although we could find nothing on the world wide web to confirm. We’re happy to leave it in this state of ambiguity if it means being able to claim Fleet River Bakery as one of our own.
Freshness and quality have proved consistent on all our visits to this hidden hideout in the middle of the bustling city. Alas, our regular love affair is no longer geographically possible, but Fleet River Bakery will always hold a special place in Coffee Cult’s heart.
Fleet River Bakery
71 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
City of London
By Alex Ivett
To find out where to get your local caffeine hit see: Best Australian coffee shops in London