17 November 2022

The Caffeine Chronicles: Presse Books

Since I moved house in the summer, I often walk past the Bricklayers Arms, a former roundabout with a flyover, which connects the Old and New Kent Roads. It's a historically important location — it was a key stopping point on the pilgrimage route out of London, way back when — but isn't exactly a major point of interest these days. So, I was excited when I saw a sign just across the road announcing the impending arrival of Presse Books: a café, bookshop and arts venue.

Presse Books finally opened last month and I've been in for coffee several times now. Architects Sanchez Benton have been working on several urban renewal projects in this area. Peveril Gardens is one such project: underused parking garages and a private walled garden have been transformed into a café and arts space with a public rooftop garden.

Despite the cheerful pops of bright orange on the outside of the building, it doesn't feel out of place with the architecture of the rest of the area. There's definitely a 1970s vibe inside too thanks to the colours and décor. The café is located on the ground floor. A large wooden L-shaped counter takes up most of the space, with wooden seats arranged around the edge.

The coffee is from Assembly. I've had several piccolos made with the house espresso blend, all of which were very well brewed with beautiful small-cup latte art that lasted down to the bottom. My piccolos have all had a sweet and smooth taste.

I've also tried the batch-brew filter coffee, brewed with a single-origin Mexican coffee, which had blood orange and salted caramel flavour notes and tasted great. You can buy retail bags of Assembly Coffee too. And there are pastries and sweet treats from local bakery Comptoir Gourmand. The giant chocolate chip cookie was very good; next time, I am going to have to try that pistachio brioche!

I got my filter coffee to go in my Fellow Carter Move mug and took it up to the rooftop garden to enjoy. To get to the garden, you need to go back outside and climb up the stairs on the outside of the building. The garden is small but rather lovely, despite the busy road down at street level. There are lots of plants and wildflowers and plenty of benches. There's also a good view of the Shard and the Hartley's Jam Factory.

Back in the café, there are lots of art books to browse while you're waiting for your coffee and they have plans to hold book launches, poetry readings and other events here too.

As for the Bricklayers Arms, I fear it may be concealing a wormhole into another universe: just minutes after I'd taken my beloved 4oz KeepCup up to the rooftop garden to see a gorgeous rainbow, it completely vanished, never to be seen again. I'm gutted that KeepCup no longer makes 4oz cups but at least it got a good send-off after seven loyal years of accompanying me on all my best coffee travels.

Presse Books. 140 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4GW (Tube: Borough or Elephant & Castle). Website. 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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