17 June 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Lantern Coffee

While working from home during the past year and a bit, I have sought solace in my lunch-break strolls around Bermondsey and Borough, often stopping for food or coffee. Bermondsey has an abundance of specialty coffee shops (I have an updated neighbourhood guide in the works; there's always my south-east London guide in the meantime), and two roasters — Monmouth and Watch House — are based here (Pact too, although you can't normally visit). One of my regular lunchtime haunts was Black Swan Yard, but upsettingly, it was recently shut down by the landlord with almost no notice. I hope they'll be back but in the meantime, I found myself on Mill Street, down by the Thames, where I happened upon Lantern Coffee.

This historic area is a fitting place for a coffee shop given it once housed docks and warehouses for tea, coffee and spices, as reflected in some of the street and building names that evoke the trading heritage, like Java Wharf (just across the mostly subterranean River Neckinger) and the Cardamom Building (now home to Legare). Mill Street itself was once part of Jacob's Island, the slum where Dickens's Bill Sykes lived. It's a rather grander affair now, with smart apartment blocks occupying many of the buildings.

Lantern Coffee is based on the ground floor of Little London, a high-spec co-working space. Drawn in by the A-board, which highlighted the roaster selection — Workshop, Square Mile and Curve — I made my way into the coffee shop. The main room is bright and spacious, with plenty of different seating options: high and low tables, and chairs suitable for working and for lounging. There's also a quiet, sunny courtyard at the back, where you can relax with your coffee and appreciate the architecture, including the titular lantern shape of the cafĂ©.

I've been a few times now, and have tried both the espresso and the filter coffee. The menu includes the usual selection of espresso-based drinks, which were brewed with Workshop's Snap espresso during my visits. I could really taste the Ethiopian coffee's juicy pineapple notes in my flat white, and the coffee was very well brewed, with impeccable latte art. To accompany my coffee, I ordered a brownie — one of a small selection of sweet and savoury pastries and baked goods on offer — and took a seat in one of the plush dark green armchairs.

On another visit, I was able to try the Peruvian El Diamante, roasted by Square Mile, which was brewed through a Moccamaster machine. As the sun was — intermittently — out I decided to sit outside in the courtyard to drink my coffee, which was served in a carafe and had sweet and fruity tangerine flavour notes. 

The world has changed a lot since Dickens's characters roamed Jacob's Island — heck, the world has changed a lot since last year — and I'm grateful to be able to sit in a cafe and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee; I'll certainly be asking for some more (please).

Lantern Coffee. Little London, 8 Mill Street, London, SE1 2BA (Tube: Bermondsey). Website. Instagram.

For 140+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, please check out my London speciality coffee guide.

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