28 October 2019

The Caffeine Chronicles: Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia

When Curators Coffee Gallery closed earlier this year, I was sad to have lost one of my favourite central London speciality coffee shops. Both its Margaret Street location, just a couple of blocks north of Oxford Circus, and its high-quality, multi-roaster coffee offering kept me coming back time after time. As such, I was excited to spot the distinctive, red Kiss the Hippo branding when I was passing the site one afternoon in June.

Speciality coffee roaster Kiss the Hippo's first cafe is in Richmond and despite the plaudits it has received, I rarely journey that far west in London and hadn't managed to visit. To make amends for this oversight, I've now visited the new Fitzrovia location twice, once on a busy Saturday afternoon and again the following week before an early meeting on Portland Place. Unsurprisingly, I'm very much enamoured with Margaret Street's newest speciality coffee occupants, and it's set to become my go-to 'I'm on Oxford Street...get me out of here' destination.

The sleek space looks quite different from Curators' geometry-centric cafe. Instead, light wood dominates, with lots of light coming in through the large front window, even on duller days. The layout remains similar, however, with the long coffee bar dominating most of the space, several stools perched by the window, a few small tables opposite the counter and at the back, and a basement seating area. At the front, there's also a wide range of Kiss the Hippo coffee and merch, as well as other coffee-making kit.

When I visit, there are three espressos on offer — the George Street blend, a single-origin Ethiopian and a single-origin decaf — as well as two single-origin pourovers and a batch brew filter coffee. Various non-coffee drinks are also available, with some seasonal offerings 'coming soon.' After reading the description of the natural Panama Carmen Gesha (£7), which won second place at the Best of Panama 2017 coffee competition, and which has notes of bergamot, vanilla and lavender, my mind is already made up. I order the coffee and a coconut cookie, and take a seat at the last remaining table, just opposite the coffee bar. NB, the cafe is cashless, which suits me fine as I rarely carry cash.

Although it's busy, I don't have to wait too long for my Kalita-wave brewed pourover to arrive and it smells so good that I savour the scents while it cools before taking my first taste. When I do, the delicate flavours come through beautifully and I enjoy every sip. The presentation is excellent too with the coffee in a glass Kinto cup on a rounded wood tray that also bears a card with the tasting notes and story of Carlos Aguilera's Carmen Estate.

On my second visit, I'm more pressed for time and order a cortado (£2.80) with the George Street espresso blend. My coffee is very well brewed and it is very clear that a great deal of care has been put into the Kiss the Hippo operation, from the coffee itself, to the brewing, the service and the venue. And in case you were wondering, the embracing of ungulates is not required...

Kiss the Hippo. 51 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8SG (Tube: Oxford Circus). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

For 100+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, please check out my speciality coffee guide.

You can also read Brian's take on Kiss the Hippo over on the Coffee Spot.


  1. I think I just beat you to it with this one...


    1. My write-up did come unusually late after my visits on this occasion (well, for me), as a result of my recent travel (and the day job). I've now linked to your post :)