Maybe I’m spoiled by the up-all-night culture of America, specifically Syracuse, NY. But since moving to London, I often have felt at a loss for late-night study spaces.
The libraries close early here. And sure, there are literally 20 Prêt à Manger’s within a one-mile radius of my flat (within the Islington, Clerkenwell, Finsbury and Holborn neighbourhoods). Be that as it may, most Prêt’s are open until 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. Maybe until 8 p.m. if you’re lucky.
There are indeed 17 Caffè Nero’s in the area, but their hours aren’t much better. And not to be a brat, but I don’t feel like studying at the pub. I don’t think I can unpack the myth of the American Dream or investigate the link between American patriotism and toxic nationalism if I can barely hear myself think.
You can say it’s my fault for starting late in the day. That’s fair, but I think it’s also worth noting that as an adult, I also have errands to run, phone calls to make and food to eat. Sometimes, as you’re crossing off your list of responsibilities as a grown human in this world, your window for studying opens up after sundown.
At Syracuse University, I could just slide into Bird Library and leave whenever I pleased. With Kimmel and Marshall St aglow, I could grab food, too, whenever I came to a stopping point. Here, in London, the cafe kicks you at 5:55 p.m. and you better have some food waiting on you at home.
One evening, when I was doing a bit of reconnaissance, I passed by the Barbican Cinema.
My initial thought was, “Huh! I wonder if I can get reduced price cinema tickets since I registered as a Young Barbican.”
My second thought was, “Huh! It’s pretty late, and this café is still open!” The only time I had ever seen a late-night drinks / coffee spot open like that was the lobby of the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn.
The difference is, from morning to night, the ground floor of the Hoxton Holborn is absolutely packed. Any time of day, any day of the week, you can find wall-to-wall people mingling or crunching away on laptops. You only get to study there if you’ve been blessed by Athena or Aphrodite herself.
Which is why, having studied there this evening, I recommend the Benugo at the Barbican Cinema.
With finals on the brain, I had already decided to devote a considerable amount of time on Saturday to studying. Remembering my jaunt past the Barbican Cinema, I did some research. I read that it was open until 10:30 p.m.
So, I hoped on the Tube, got off at the Barbican stop via the Metropolitan line and moseyed through the tunnel to get there.
Benugo’s hours are beneficial for nomadic studiers, even if the cafe’s conduciveness for late-night studying is unintentional. I figure that since it’s attached to a cinema, it’s bound to run late. People are going to want a flat white or a flute of prosecco before going to see “Paddington 2.”
The best thing about this space is that it doesn’t feel like a cinema lobby. There is no giddy energy. There is no rambunctious bubbling up of noise. It’s mostly quiet, with a sprinkle of good-natured, relaxed chatter to set the mood.
There are also plenty of places to sit: there seats with coffee tables in between, regular big ol’ tables for you and your mates to chill at before the film, and little nooks that aren’t so little at all. In fact, they have plenty of space to put a whole tray of food, your laptop and your notebook.
My only minor complaint is that while I stayed past 10 p.m. with no problems, that’s when the kitchen closed and the baristas started cleaning up. Closing at 10:30 p.m. simply means you won’t get ushered out until then.
Most importantly, though, I really trust this Benugo because of its playlist. While I was ordering, I heard them playing “Writer in the Dark” by Lorde.
It wasn’t because the café was on some “Melodrama” kick, either. The track was simply apart of Benugo’s rotation, along with a warm One Direction song and some Rihanna slow jams.
They even played the early Justin Timberlake-flavoured, mid-2000s era Jesse McCartney-esque “Rearview” by Zayn, which I hadn’t heard in ages (not much since my zquad days). For certain, this Benugo is a trust-worthy establishment.
And just when you think it can’t get better, it does: they serve crêpes. I can’t be more sincere when I say I’m looking forward to eating, studying and relaxing at this café. Maybe, even catching a film while I’m at it.