As cliché as it may seem, there is definitely an old school European-ness to the way London shuts down on a Sunday. Today, I found out that I had a better chance of finding the Holy Grail than snagging a vanilla soy latte on a Sunday after 5 p.m in England.
It doesn’t matter how many Prêt à Manger’s or Caffè Nero’s per capita your borough has. By the time afternoon dissolves into evening, Sunday will feel like the Sabbath.
My caffeine craving hit late in the day. I did some quick Google research and I knew before I stepped out of the door that I was out of luck. Every Prêt and Nero and even Costa was closed. I jogged over to Starbucks and even then, I was too late.
Coming from a culture big on late-night / wee-morning Target, Walmart, Walgreens and CVS runs, I felt as if I had time-traveled to the turn of the century.
A helpful swish around Google Maps told me there were a few cafés behind my nearest Waitrose. So I went for it. With an well-worn episode of This American Life in my ears, I enjoyed my little jaunt through an actual neighborhood. The atmosphere was distinctly residential: from the fragrances of spaghetti + meatballs and curry wafting from local stovetops to the gaggle of kids led by weary parents near the park.
Then, before I knew it, I caught a glimpse of Goswell Road Coffee glimmering through the trees. And blessedly, its doors were welcomingly wide and open.
So, in I walked (well, tripped and almost wiped out, but that’s neither here nor there).
The place was abuzz with a soft hum of voices, crunching book pages and whirring espresso machines. Scribbly art and nerd paraphernalia were sprinkled everywhere.
As it turns out, independent coffee shops across the world can look only a few different ways: clean, sparse and ready for Instagram consumption or as if that dude in ripped jeans is going to unsheathe his guitar any second to launch into a rousing rendition of “Wonderwall.” (That’s even more likely in England than stateside, since Oasis is from Manchester.) Certainly, I learned independent coffee shops across the world feel just about the same anywhere.
For all my taking the Mickey out of indie cafés, you can probably catch me back at Goswell Road Coffee. It’s not just because my latte was creamy and hit the spot.
It’s because part of the beauty of an indie café is that it gets to play by its own rules. This includes setting itself apart as the only coffee shop in the neighbourhood that doesn’t close at an archaic hour. Moving ahead, I definitely feel like Goswell will be the spot to squeeze in those last bits of Sunday studying.