London's Cafe Culture

Thick plastered posters and bright advertisements line the vertical surfaces of the short and winding streets of London’s Shoreditch neighborhood. Many lanes without street signs makes it difficult, even for seasoned Londoners, to find their way around without checking the map. The density, diversity and age of London’s neighborhoods creates visual collages uniquely and expertly traversed by London’s busy populace, now more than 8.3 million.

Writer Steven Johnson has written about creativity and the birth place of new ideas, (find his ted talk here), and he suggests a specific 16th century coffee house in London was responsible not only for switching Londoners from medieval mead to caffeinated beverages, but also for bringing on the period of the Enlightenment.  The humble coffee house stands as a cultural crossroads.  The influx of caffeine surely helped, but creativity was nurtured by the various walks of life coming together in a public space to solve problems, leading to those incredible Eureka moments.  

Barber & Parlour

So let’s skip forward a couple of hundred years and see what we now find in the London coffee shops. As we reported a few weeks back, Berlin’s cafe culture places emphasis on face to face connections, sans digital devices.  To Berliners, cafes are for cappuccinos, cheesecakes and late afternoon aperitifs, and although the city of 3 million is having a creative revolution thanks to cheaper rent, large apartments and a melting pot of new inhabitants, it has a laid back air when compared to a city as full grown as London. 

London, like most larger cities around the world, is currently experiencing a tech revolution.  Start ups are springing out of pop-ups, and digital innovation is most highly prized.  Unlike Berlin, it is de rigueur to have one’s lap top out and open in public spaces, and often enough one will see a couple sitting together on a brunch date, busily working the morning away with matching laptops open and connected while enjoying a full English breakfast. 

Barber & Parlour via Now. Here. This. 

Natural cafe culture in London is about being connected to your setting and to your devices— equally.  The wonderful and rustic Barber and Parlour at 64 Redchurch Road in Shoreditch is a fine example of this seamless and modern mixing chamber.  The bright and sunny cafe is tucked away up a set of wide wooden stairs.  The cafe wouldn’t be seen from the road unless one glanced up to see the textbooks and lamps lining the window sills of the second floor.  The entrance divides its space between an espresso and cold-pressed juice bar, and a general store carrying finely crafted merchandise from wool sweaters and gardening trowels to copper light fixtures and wooden glasses. The cafe tables sit in the center of the large room where fresh breakfast and lunch is served.  It took us a moment to notice that a barber’s station with three leather backed chairs sat in one corner, nicely partitioned off with a set of wooden shelves lined with glass jars of provisions and equally comforting ephemera. 

Ace Hotel Shoreditch Lobby – Photo by Andrew Meredith, courtesy of Ace Hotel

Up the street from Barber and Parlour is the Ace Hotel, Shoreditch. Since the first Ace Hotel was built in Seattle in the late nineties, the boutique hotel franchise has grown to take on a life of its own.  Again, in this rustic and minimal setting one finds a place to open a laptop and finish one’s work while waiting for friends to arrive. You can order from the bar while listening to live DJ’s or head to the club in the basement boasting even louder and faster beats.  The age of singularities is over. Have your business meeting at the cafe while shopping for new glasses, eating breakfast and getting your hair cut, and if the particular service is offered, they may even let you stay the night.

This fall Baby & Company is thrilled to be bringing an unprecedented number of English designers into the store.  We can hardly wait for Margaret Howell, YMC, Nigel Cabourn, and Fred Perry’s collections to arrive on our doorstep. Keep checking in and we will do our best to keep bringing you the world.

With Love,
Baby & Company. 

Visit online:
Barber & Parlour, 64-66 Redchurch St, London E2 7DP, United Kingdom
Ace Hotel London, 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ, United Kingdom



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