23 November 2015

The Caffeine Chronicles: Monocle Café

Back when I used to live in Marylebone, I always thought that Chiltern Street was one of the loveliest streets in the area. In fact, we almost bought a flat there six years ago, which, given the arrival of a certain restaurant, would have been an incredibly prudent investment. Since moving south of the river, I don't go to Marylebone quite so frequently but with a rare, plan-free day off work on Friday, I decided to do a little shopping and brunching in my old neighbourhood.

My destination was The Monocle Café, a gorgeous little eatery and design haven located on a particularly pretty red-brick mansion block on Chiltern Street. Monocle's Tokyo café was on my list for my trip to Japan but I didn't quite have time to visit. The London café looks quite similar to its Tokyo sister, with its light wood interiors and black accent pieces, but is rather more petite. There are a few perching seats upstairs, a basement seating area (I didn't go down to look as there were no free tables) and a sort of cosy living-room space at the back, which was where I sat.

Monocle serves cold brew in summer but no hand-brewed filter coffee so I ordered a cortado (£3) and scoured the interesting lunch menu. I thought about ordering the taco rice and the avo and halloumi sandwich, but in the end, I went for the chicken and quinoa salad (£7). There are a few Japanese-inspired choices on the menu too, such as the chicken udon soup and the shrimp katsu sandwich. If you are looking for a lighter bite, there is a selection of cakes, pastries and other sweet treats.

Back in the 'living room', I enjoyed perusing a couple of recent copies of Monocle magazine while I waited for my coffee and food. I hadn't read the magazine for ages, but I think I have been tempted to subscribe: it has the perfect combination of design, travel, culture and global affairs.

My cortado was very good indeed. Monocle uses Workshop coffee and the latte art remained even after a little accident on its way to the table. Naturally, I also loved the little wooden tray it arrived on, and the monogrammed Monocle chocolate. The salad was also excellent: the tartness of the red cabbage contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the pumpkin and, with the quinoa and the chicken, it felt like a healthier meal than your average brunch.

Even after the Friday lunchtime rush, the café was bustling and busy. Perhaps later in the day, it's a better destination for working or writing. Later still, and there are beers, wines and cocktails on offer. In other words, Monocle is a true all-day venue. On my way out, I had to try really hard not to buy anything from the small but well-curated shop area, which sells magazines, books and travel accessories; the Monocle travel guides look particularly excellent.

Monocle Café. 18 Chiltern Street, London, W1U 7QA (Tube: Baker Street). Website. Twitter.

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