All hail the Hippo…

Kiss the Hippo. What a name. I mean, who doesn’t already love it, this whimsical sounding place across the river?

Opened last year in the lush, royal leafiness of Richmond by entrepreneur Can Eren and a team looking to create the ultimate coffee experience, the imminent opening of a second branch in Fitzrovia meant I had to seriously bump this coffee shop up my ever-swelling list of places to eat in the capital – I have a slightly weird-but-charming/totally understandable-and-charming thing about visiting the original site once a place gets successful enough to expand. Thing is, I’m a North London gal which means that Richmond often seems like the sort of destination I’ll need maps, a packed lunch and at least a day to get to.

Reality check? It’s 3 lines on the tube…excellent. I survived the trip there without eating…remarkable. And it only took an hour…ace.

Flooded with sunlight on the sort of day when London actually remembered that it was supposed to be summer, there’s a open, light, airy feel to the place which heralds all sorts of blonde wood & concrete floor goals. It’s a little how I imagine sitting in the creamiest, fluffiest whipped cream cloud must be and how could that be anything other than glorious?

The in-house Loring S-15 roaster – one of the most environmentally friendly on the market thanks to precision heating and impressively low fuel consumption – sits at the back behind glass fronted door while, mere steps from the entrance, glass fronted cabinets display picture-perfect croissants, cookies the size of my head – again, glorious – and cinnamon buns, icing imperfectly swirled with a home baked touch that I loved.

Iced lattes are creamy with deep, fruitily spiced flavour and served by staff clearly skilled at their craft; current & former UK Barista Championship winners work here, their unwavering love for the bean shining out of each brew.

The Hippo Bun sees a croissant roll precariously sandwiching caramelised onion jam, slices of beef tomato and slabs of bacon together with a perfect, jelly-sweet yolked fried egg; take a moment, I beg of you, to ogle the tree trunk layers of lamination…I did.

Becoming a local here is unlikely; becoming one at the new Fitzrovia branch is much more probable given the geographical maths. That said, there are always friends in this green & leafy borough who deserve to be visited.

Often.

For breakfast and coffee.

Always coffee. 

A hot spot for coffee and cake in Victoria…

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If you’ve ever stepped out of Victoria station into the utter chaos that engulfs it and despaired of finding a quiet spot in which to rest your weary feet, feed your hungry tummy and escape the maelstrom of construction, ‘Wicked’ fan girls & frazzled commuters outside, then despair no more because I’m here to tell you that such a place does exist in the form of Coffee Geeks & Friends.

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Opened earlier this year to the delight of a substantial & loyal customer base created through their coffee truck business, Coffee Geeks is the baby of Robin San and Matthew Law, escapees from the corporate workplace turned professional coffee lovers, and is situated in the Cardinal Place Shopping Centre, a place thankfully just moments from both the bus & train station which is being massively invested in.

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Visiting on a sunny Saturday afternoon, there was a pleasantly chilled vibe in the air along with the aroma of decent coffee – sometimes sadly harder to find than you might imagine – and these two things, coupled with stands full of cakes, stacks of magazines – Conde Nast Traveller & Vanity Fair were particularly appreciated as we whiled away an hour with our food & drinks – and a light, airy & minimally modern environment made for a welcome respite from the sort of central London humidity that can make grown men weep. Laptop tappers were using the free Wi-Fi & plug sockets on communal tables leaving us to perch on stools in the window, people watching those scurrying past.

A friendly welcome from staff who were more than happy to answer any questions – trust me, the Kermit coloured pandan cake will leave you with one or two! – was a good start as was having our food & drinks brought over to us. There was a small but delicious choice of sandwiches either on sourdough or in a wrap when we visited…FYI, the smoked salmon on sourdough was light & silky and the roast chicken & bacon wrap was generously filled, they were both made to order and, at £4 each, represented excellent value in a world often stocked with scantily dressed & scandalously over-priced sandwiches.

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If you’re as much of a sucker for freshly made baked goods as I am and the homemade upside down nectarine cake is on the menu, elbow your way to the front of the queue for a soft, naturally sweet & beautifully fresh slice.

The dark chocolate, cranberry, macadamia & sea salt cookie bought for the journey home were also a smart buy, being chewy, light & utterly moreish. Hot chocolate was creamy and actually tasted of cocoa rather than the watery, vaguely chocolatey mess that often gets doled out elsewhere and coffee, from local London roaster Allpress Espresso, was deemed excellent by my coffee snob lunch pal.

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As a non-coffee drinker, I may not know where to go for the best piccolo but I do know the significance of finding a good coffee shop in which to enjoy decent food and well-made drinks at a reasonable price & served with a smile. In a caffeinated landscape of globally impersonal chains, menus that require supreme effort to navigate and products that aren’t actually worth the inflated price-tag they’re stamped with, it’s lovely to find & be able to support a little corner of London that’s independent, inviting & delicious.