The trains heading downtown from my home station come in two flavours. While they all eventually find their way to London Bridge, at that point they diverge. Some immediately cross the Thames and terminate at London Cannon Street in the financial district; the rest stop briefly at Waterloo East before terminating at Charing Cross, after an especially picturesque Thames crossing. Charing Cross is my usual target, but if I don’t quite hit my stride in the morning I sometimes find myself on a Cannon Street train. That’s no big deal: I can easily head west to the university via the underground. But before that, I can enjoy a pocket of excellent espresso bars in this part of town.
The contrast of this neighbourhood with the environs of the university downtown is amusing. This is clearly where the suits hang out, surrounded by the banking and insurance industries, and all of London’s latest architectural follies. Though I stand out in my grubby professor’s civvies, everyone’s friendly when nursing their morning coffees.
Among the espresso shops in the vicinity of Cannon Street, the one to which I keep returning is the Monument location of Taylor Street Baristas. You could be forgiven for failing to stumble upon this place by chance: it’s tucked into an alley off a side street, far from most of the city’s tourist attractions. But it’s certainly included in any respectable list of London’s best espresso. The location, combined with the fact that they kept odd hours until fairly recently, means that this shop isn’t mobbed with customers. The relative calm genuinely makes for a nice change of pace. It’s also one of the more coffee-obsessed places: there are no distracting breakfasts or baked goods, and the baristas are quite happy to delve into the minutiae of their beans and preparation. Be sure to take a peek downstairs, where you’ll see a barista training facility and one of the strangest toilets in the London coffee circuit (but more on toilets in the next post).
The espresso at TSB is masterfully made, the conversation is good, and the decor is warm and friendly. As a side note, one conversation with a barista turned to the subject of parks. He directed me to visit St Dunstan in the East, a former church that is now a city park. He claimed it was the best park in the city. He wasn’t wrong—if you’re in this neighbourhood, stop at TSB for a coffee and then walk the few blocks to see the park.