27 July 2022

The Caffeine Chronicles: Chief Coffee

2021 was the year when I finally made it to one of the two speciality-coffee-and-pinball bars on my to-visit list: Tilt, in Birmingham, which I've since been to several more times, usually on my way to Wolves matches. But it has taken another year for me to get to the other one, Chief Coffee, even though its Chiswick location is a little closer to home.

As usual, I blame the delay on the lack of convenient transport routes from my area of south-east London to much of west London and my District Line anxiety (am I on the right branch? Is the train actually going to stop at Turnham Green?). It was on another recent District Line journey (this one enforced by a broken Bakerloo Line) that I spotted an advert for a revival of Closer at the Lyric Hammersmith to mark the 25th anniversary of the excellent Patrick Marber play. I immediately booked tickets for a matinee and decided to seek pre-theatre caffeination at Chief Coffee.

To my relief, the Tube did indeed stop at Turnham Green and it was then just a two-minute stroll down Turnham Green terrace to the lovely sunny mews that is Chief Coffee's home. It's a short flight of stairs up to the main room of the cafe. It's a cosy space with local artwork on the exposed-brick walls and a selection of artfully mismatched furniture. It was fairly quiet when I visited — probably because, after the heatwave, London was finally experiencing acceptable levels of summer. There are a few tables outside too, most of which were occupied.

The large, white coffee bar holds the espresso machine and a rather cool Kalita Wave brew bar, as well as a selection of sausage rolls (vegan and non-) and other pastries. It was definitely a two-coffee day, so I ordered the Bex special — a piccolo and a pourover — and a (non-vegan) sausage roll. I took a seat and flicked through a commemorative issue of Time Out (RIP) while I waited for my coffee.

The pourover was brewed with a washed coffee from the Cusco region from producer Yolanda Cabrera and roasted by Workshop Coffee. I didn't get to do any coffee tourism while in Peru, but this coffee was grown relatively close to where I travelled. 'Winey' isn't a flavour note I often use myself but once I read it on the package, it totally made sense for this coffee, which also had black cherry notes. It was delicious!

The piccolo was good too, brewed with the house espresso from Allpress. I waited until I'd finished most of my coffees before slicing into the sausage roll to avoid ruining my palate — this required considerable restraint, but the pastry was worth waiting for.

I forgot to bring my quarters, but couldn't resist taking a peek at the pinball room in the basement and the Japanese games arcade upstairs. It's nice to see places like Chief Coffee and Tilt flipping the script on multi-hyphenate coffee shop norms.

Afterwards, I walked over to Hammersmith where I thoroughly enjoyed Closer, which was adapted into one of my all-time favourite London films in 2004. This production was excellent, with great performances, especially from all four actors (especially Ella Hunt and Jack Farthing), and some wonderful 1990s musical moments. I brought my copy of the script, which is so old that it still has the Borders sticker on it from when I bought it! The play is on until 13 August; catch it while you can!

Chief Coffee. Turnham Green Terrace Mews, London W4 1QU (Tube: Turnham Green). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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

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