27 May 2016

The Caffeine Chronicles: The Black Lab

There are a few Clapham coffee shops that I've been meaning to check out for a while, but I don't often find myself in south-west London. A lazy Sunday brunch at The Dairy — a creative modern-British restaurant on Clapham Common — presented me with the perfect opportunity to visit The Black Lab, a coffee house that is just across the common. And when I say 'just across the common', I mean the small wedge of common near the Tube, not somewhere in the vicinity of Battersea.

The tables on the broad pavement outside The Black Lab were almost all occupied on the sunny, if not terribly warm, May afternoon I stopped by. I had already experienced a couple of hours of déjeuner sur l'herbe, or, at least, brunch sur le trottoir, so I sought shelter inside. There are a dozen or so small tables and the décor is cosy, comfortable and cheery.

The coffee menu is extensive — so much so that it took me a while to work out what to order. On the filter side, I spotted a Kenyan cold brew and a Colombian batch brew, but then I spotted a flask of what I assumed was a hand-brewed filter being delivered to a customer. Sadly (but understandably), The Black Lab only serves hand-brewed filters at the weekend (they are planning to bring in more brew methods). Too cold for cold brew, I decided to go for a piccolo in the end. Technically, I ordered a 4oz (£2.50, I think), as they serve their espresso-based coffees based on volume, rather than name. The sandwiches and cakes were being rearranged but I spotted a tasty-looking caramel shortbread and couldn't resist ordering a slice (£3.25).

Although The Black Lab was pretty busy, with plenty of drink-in and takeaway orders, my coffee and cake arrived promptly. The piccolo, with some impressive latte art and in a fine black Acme cup, looked rather good, and it tasted great too. The coffee was a Brazilian Recreio variety from Square Mile, which I've had a few times before and which has a rich, chocolatey taste. In fact, it went perfectly with my chocolate-caramel shortbread!

Feeling bad for being such a filter snob, I decided to take a cup of the batch-brew filter coffee to go (£2.50). It was a Colombian variety also from Square Mile and once it had cooled down, it was pretty good, although I think some of the subtler, more delicate notes might have come through more effectively with a good V60 pour.

The Black Lab is a lively but relaxed place to stop for a great coffee made by skilled and friendly baristas.

The Black Lab. 18 Clapham Common Southside, London, SW4 7AB (Tube: Clapham Common). Website. Twitter.

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