05 July 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Red Lion Coffee Co., The City

It's mean more than four years since I first visited Red Lion Coffee Co. in New Cross, and now Chris McKie and the team have opened a second coffee shop at the base of The Scalpel in the heart of the City of London. It's been open a little while and although it's a fairly recent discovery for me, I've already visited a couple of times.

I have Red Lion to thank (indirectly) for my brilliant speciality coffee tour of Wellington, New Zealand, from Tim, AKA CoffeeLater. He found my blog post about the New Cross café while hunting for good Kiwi coffee in London. He got in touch when he discovered I was in Wellington, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While the original Red Lion is in a residential area and in close proximity to Goldsmiths, University of London, the second shop is very well placed for City workers, and with opening hours to match (currently 7 am to 3 pm on weekdays). I have to rush to walk there and back on a lunch break, but it's a quick cycle for me from Bermondsey — assuming Tower Bridge hasn't got stuck in the 'open' position again, that is.

The minimalist décor is not unlike that of the New Cross coffee shop, with big glass windows and light wood furniture. There's plenty of foliage too for when the concrete jungle outside is getting too much. The café is long and narrow with an extended counter holding both the food offering and the espresso machine. At the back, there's a raised table with bar stools, with smaller tables by the windows and on the terrace outside.

The coffee is from Climpson & Sons, with espresso-based drinks on offer, along with a choice of single-origin coffees available as a pourover. On my first visit, I had a piccolo to go in my tiniest and pinkest KeepCup. I know from experience how difficult it is to produce good latte art in the smallest coffee drinks, and the Red Lion barista did a super job; more importantly, it tasted great too.

When I returned another day on my bike, I had more time and ordered a pourover. There were three single-origin coffees available, from Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia. I opted for the latter, which was as fruity as promised, especially as it cooled.

The food menu includes toasties, salads and sweet treats. I was struggling to choose between the asparagus, almond and beetroot salad and the chicken and potato salad. Luckily, you can mix and match, and the result was a tasty and satisfying lunch. On another occasion, I got a pastel de nata, which I ate at home (the plate, and the poor focus, in the photo are all my own).

If, like me, you are into skyscrapers, it's hard not to get a neck strain while sitting outside at Red Lion where there's a great view of The Scapel and the Lloyd's Building, among others. In the beforetimes, I was rarely able to visit weekdays-only coffee shops like this and Association Coffee, but working from home and with a bike, the choices for where to go for my lunchtime coffee break become trickier by the day. It's a tough life...

Red Lion Coffee Co. The Scalpel, 52–54 Lime Street, London, EC3M 7AF (Tube: Aldgate, Bank or Liverpool Street). WebsiteInstagram.

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

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