THERE’S something about hearing of a hot new coffee spot that makes your ears prick up and the caffeine-filled components of your blood stream surge with joy. Hailing from Australia’s caffeine capital, I and a few other fellow expat Melbournians am experiencing serious withdrawals of a good brew, as I discovered when the topic of decent coffee in London was discussed at a BBQ I attended recently.
So, when a new friend of mine started raving about Labi – a relatively new cafe in Fulham which she believed sold amazing coffee – I was all ears. Coupled with my desire to see more parts of London and its cafe scene (hey, I’ve only been here for two months after all), a Saturday morning expedition was hastily organised to see what the fuss was about.
This place is like a little sanctuary from the hustle and bustle on Fulham Rd. Speaking to the owner himself – Labi Krasniqi – during my visit, he said he designed the place to be an ‘all-rounder’ that was accessible to families and anybody who wanted to just come in and have something to eat or drink. The decor certainly upholds that welcoming, homely vibe – seating-wise there’s a mix of antique solid wood tables and couches, complimented by a great mix of plants and quirky signs with uplifting sayings spread all over the venue. There’s also a case of matchbox cars hanging on the wall and a fireplace up the back.
Labi is technically a delicatessen/cafe, and a series of products which you can purchase and take home with you are displayed on shelves heading down past the counter. As if the food and drinks weren’t enough, the man himself is also hoping to sell his own home-made products sometime in the future.
But the jewel in the crown is going to be music to the ears of parents with young children – there’s a dedicated library and children’s playroom, complete with a series of toys and books to keep its occupants amused. Arguably the best of those signs mentioned earlier hangs nearby with a warning – ‘Unattended children will be given a double espresso and a drum and a puppy.’
My friend grew a liking for this place through their coffee and ‘old-school tunes’ – and throughout the morning we downed our beverages and filled our faces to a very cruisy soundtrack featuring the likes of Craig David, Coldplay, Oasis, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley and Aussie girl Natalie Imbruglia. My mocha was nicely presented with dusted chocolate on top, and it contained a good caffeine kick and a generally nice flavour. However, the chocolate component was a little bitter, detracting from the overall creaminess.
The real star of the Labi experience was the food. First up, I had some scrumptious pancakes which were drizzled in maple syrup and dusted with icing sugar. They were fluffy enough without being too thin, and weren’t undercooked or crumbly.
A few hours floated by, and after my friend made tracks, I decided to hang around for lunch, opting for a serve of Labi’s homemade lasagne. It proved to be one of the best dishes I’ve had during my time in Europe. Filled with béchamel and ragu with minced beef (not mined as it indicates on the menu), every morsel tasted like it was made with love. The pasta sheets were fresh, the beef wasn’t undercooked or burnt, and the dish itself was served at a perfect temperature. Throw in a bit of homemade chili olive oil on top for an extra kick, and you have quite possibly the best £5.50 I’ve spent on lunch in a very, very long time.
The former head barista who helped Labi set up this fine establishment (and passed on his skills and wisdom to him) was a Sydneysider named Tyrone. And, as I mentioned earlier, a fellow Aussie expat invited me here. If that’s not enough, the place is also opposite much-loved Antipodean pub ‘The Slug’, making Labi an ideal place to reminisce over your antics there and tackle your hangover from the night before.
Is there anything not to like about Labi? If all of the above-listed goodness wasn’t enough, they also offer free wi-fi to their customers. The password is ‘We Love You’ – an oh-so-fitting choice to describe the cosy vibes and heartfelt food, drinks and service all on offer here. A leisurely visit to Labi and you’ll be hard-pressed not to feel the same way about Fulham’s newest culinary oasis in return.
By Kiel Egging
609-611 Fulham Rd
London SW6 5UA