13 January 2017

The Caffeine Chronicles: Red Lion Coffee Co.

Before Christmas, I went to the launch party for new New Cross coffee shop Red Lion Coffee Co. Located on a quiet side street just off New Cross Road and across from Fordham Park, Red Lion is the brainchild of Chris McKie, formerly of the Department of Coffee.

The café is set over two levels — tables and a bar on the ground floor, and the coffee bar and some raised bench seating on the mini-mezzanine. The space itself has high ceilings and big windows, letting in plenty of natural light. The décor is minimalist with sleek wooden furniture and coffee bars and exposed brick walls.

When I arrived, the party was in full swing and Red Lion was packed. Unfortunately, the espresso machine was playing up and so I couldn't try the coffee, but there were plenty of treats available — sweet ones from Cat Food and some yummy sausage rolls and scotch eggs. Red Lion is open until 9 pm in the evenings and they serve beer from two Bermondsey breweries and wine from Vinnaturo. The wine is from a box (technically a bag in a box) but although I'm not a huge fan of wine and didn't try any, it seemed to be going down very well with the other guests.

I didn't get the chance to return to try the coffee until the new year, but it was worth the wait. I visited late on a rainy Saturday afternoon and although it wasn't quite as packed as during the launch (fortunately!), there was a laid-back, buzzy ambiance — and a great soundtrack. I ordered a piccolo (£2.80) and a slice of banana bread (£3) and took a seat at one of the ground-floor tables.

The coffee is from Climpson and The Baron espresso blend was in the hopper that day. My piccolo was very well prepared and the coffee had a lovely rich, nutty taste. I liked it so much that the question, "would you like another coffee?", was not a difficult one to answer. Piccolo numero due was just as good and had I not spent most of the morning ingesting coffee at home and at Monmouth, I probably could have been tempted by a third.

The banana bread was very tasty too but if, like me, you tend to prefer savoury snacks to sweet ones, there are various sausage rolls, pasties (including a veggie one) and savoury muffins available too. For something more filling, they also had a slow pork goulash and a veggie dhal on the menu (both £8). Most of the food and drink comes from local producers.

All of these factors make Red Lion a great addition to the southeast London speciality coffee scene (and particularly to a part of southeast London where great coffee is harder to come by), but perhaps most importantly of all, the staff are all incredibly friendly and welcoming. It was a lovely place to spend some time planning some travel, and although I don't go to New Cross that often, it's nice to know that I have another reason to go.

Red Lion Coffee Co. Batavia Road, London, SE14 6AX (New Cross Gate or New Cross Overground). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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