Milk Bar is a relatively new cafe that faces Soho Square—or rather, it nearly faces the mouth of an alleyway whose other end opens onto the entrance to Soho Square (close enough, right?). I don’t visit there all that often. It’s a nice enough spot, with attractive art on the walls and perfectly adequate espresso. I also particularly like their use of a brace of portafilters acting as a counterweight to pull the door closed. But for whatever reason the ambience doesn’t resonate with me. It may be that the music is just a bit too loud, or the lighting a bit too colourful. Let’s say it’s my loss.
But none of this hints at the main attraction of Milk Bar to me, the Unique Selling Point that sets it apart from every other cafe in London, to the best of my knowledge. There’s a water fountain at the end of the counter, for the use of customers. And with a twist of the tap, that water fountain will dispense unlimited sparkling water. Espresso and sparkling water are two crucial elements in my vocabulary of drinks; it’s a rare day in which I don’t consume both. Many aficionados will claim that espresso must be accompanied by sparkling water, and cafes in other parts of Europe will frequently serve them paired. While I’m less dogmatic about my chaser, I deeply appreciate Milk Bar’s initiative.