20 April 2017

The Caffeine Chronicles: Spike + Earl

UPDATE: Sadly, Spike + Earl has now closed, although you can still visit Old Spike Roastery.

I've long been an admirer of Old Spike Roastery — a roastery and cafe based on Peckham Rye that combines speciality coffee with social enterprise — and was excited when I heard that the team were opening a new all-day venue in Camberwell. Spike + Earl (motto: doing good without compromise) opened a few weeks ago in Southwark Town Hall on Peckham Road, about equidistant between Lumberjack and No 67. I didn't make it to their busy soft-launch weekend, but my good friends live just up the road, we made a beeline for Spike + Earl for an Easter weekend brunch.

The Spike folks obviously put a lot of thought into design (the retail bags of coffee at Old Spike are stunning) and the design of Spike + Earl won me over right away, from the clean lines and light colours of the interiors to the minimalist typography on the menus and on the signs indicating the main cafe-bar (Spike + Earl) and what will be the roastery and cupping room (at the back).

There are plenty of tables outside, on the grand building's large terrace, but the bank holiday weekend weather was a little too unpredictable on our visit so we took a seat at one of the high marble tables that line the main cafe area inside.

We arrived at around 11:30 am on Good Friday and it was already busy. We didn't have to wait for a table but there weren't many free seats. We ordered some coffees and dug into the food menu. There were six brunch dishes, available until 4 pm and involving various combinations of avocado, bacon and eggs served on sourdough toast.

The brunch dishes sounded nice and looked great but we were more interested in the Dutch Crunch sandwiches. We didn't know what these were — my friend wondered if Dutch Crunch was Cockney Rhyming Slang for 'lunch' (it isn't, but totally should be) — but a quick bit of Googling indicated that it was a kind of bread with a mottled crust popular in the San Francisco area. There were four fillings available, including one fish and one veggie, all of which sounded bloody brilliant. We did have to wait until noon, when the Dutch Crunch shift starts, but it was well worth the wait. Between us, we tried two of the buttermilk chicken (with crispy bacon and hot sauce) and one of the sticky Korean beef. The former was the winner — perfect crispy-juicy fried chicken that contrasted nicely with the toothsome roll — but the beef also went down very nicely. Both sandwiches were a very reasonable £7.50. Despite the wait, we were very happy customers.

The coffee was very good too. In the Dutch Crunch panic, I hadn't managed to ask whether there were any hand-brewed filter coffee options; I don't think there were, but the two piccolos I tried were well made, if lacking in latte art. An Old Spike Nemba coffee from Burundi was in the hopper and although it tasted nice with milk, I think it would have made for an excellent pourover. There are also a couple of coffee cocktails on the menu and various beers and wines.

It's still early days for Spike + Earl and the busy wait staff seemed like they had been caught unawares by the bank holiday rush, but the service was good when we visited, and the food and coffee really great. There was a lively ambiance too and I'd be interested to return at night when I think the vibe will be quite different.

Spike + Earl. Southwark Town Hall, 31 Peckham Road, Camberwell, London, SE5 8UB (Denmark Hill or Peckham Rye Overground). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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