Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scooterworks Caffé, Lower Marsh

September somethingth, 2009
(bless me father, for it's been a while since my last post.)

The Bitter: Telling anyone else about this gem - it's becoming a little too popular at lunchtimes for my liking...

The Sweet: Everything else, from the little suntrap at the back to the dusty vespas at the front; from the mismatched chairs to the ever-present cats sleeping on them.

6. A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

So I have this friend at work who is Italian. She's innately chic, but in a way that seems to communicate that she hasn't tried at all; she just fell out of bed that way. She's arty and fun, and we have shared many a tip on the kinds of things we do at weekends - me, a band or film; she, a flower market or gallery opening. It's all very 'Stuff White People Like' ; which coincidentally (or perhaps not), encouraged us to go and see the author speak at LSE this week. It rocked.

But anyway, she recommended this place for lunch last month which is spectacular. It's called Scooterworks, and according to their website it used to just be a scooter repair shop that served coffee to customers having a bike or scooter fixed. Lower Marsh is peppered with little scraps of old London like that - it retains a real east-end community feel, from the Iceland that still manages to exist there, to the Job Centre, somehow strangely at odds with the burgeoning gentification in the area - "but surely you can get a job sir, there are two organic restaurants across the street looking for sommeliers!".

The place is achingly hip, in that same way that my friend just fell out of bed looking great. It's darkish, dingyish, and dustyish, but has fantastic faded Italian Vespa and French coffee posters everywhere and the mismatched tables and chairs all add to the beatnik charm. A sunny little patio at the back with plants and Moroccan-looking tiles attracts those hazy afternoons that ask to be photographed, and suitably attractive smokers.

I have it on good authority that this was Ethan Hawke's preferred hangout when he was working at the Old Vic down the road. I have no doubt about that - it's like an amalgam of all his characters' hangouts in each of his lo-fi indie films.

Five neon letters spell 'CAFFÉ' on the wall above the bar, and they certainly mean business on that front - their coffee machine is a vintage Faema machine from 1957, salvaged from somewhere near Bologna. It makes a mean cup - wouldn't you, if you'd had 50 years of practice? - but won't be rushed.

This is a place for slow-food activists, a cause they give the nod to on their website. No tall skinny caramel frappuccinos here, and your coffee will take as long as it damn well takes.

More importantly...they have several resident cats! Check out the one snoozing here:

I was both amazed I hadn't found it already, and exasperated that so many others had already been seduced by its charms. Each time I go I find out more about it that I like. On Mondays they have film screenings in their downstairs room - decent, arthouse or classic films, like Respiro, or Blade Runner. On Wednesday evenings they have live music and open mic sessions.

But best of all, you can bring your packed lunch and eat here, because they don't yet do any food other than biscotti and cakes. You're never hurried, and no one gives you stinkeye for bringing in your homemade ratatouille or leek and bacon soup (my friend and I have tested this to its limits, sloshing in our tupperwares and ordering the bare minimum - a coffee). In a Starbucks this would be akin to climbing up onto the little counter with the sugar, stirrers and cinnamon shakers, pulling one's trousers down, and pooing into the little hole that the used stirrers and napkins go into. Here, you're silently applauded for making your own sandwiches and not being tempted by the Greggs down the road. I bet that soon, there'll be lunch clubs held here, with pot luck dishes and people comparing recipes. Maybe.

Really, it's quite commendable. I highly commend it. But don't tell anyone else, ok?