Drury 188-189: The New Covent Garden Coffee Gem

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To say that Covent Garden is chocca-block with cafes and places to stop for coffee is an understatement. As well as the usual Starbucks and Prets, there are the slightly fancier, usually tourist-filled, ones in the Piazza and a plethora of pubs and restaurants where you can also get your caffeine fix.

When a new café opens, therefore, I always greet it with trepidation, wondering if it will manage to compete with the 10 other establishments within the surrounding five square metres. A little out of the manic hubbub of the actual market, a new opening on Drury Lane, aptly named Drury 188-189 (just to make locating it that bit easier), may indeed survive the competition.

With a stunning spread of cakes, bakes and salads on offer, and a rather rustic-styled interior, Drury 188-189 is immediately welcoming. Another bonus is the fact that their coffee is actually pretty darn good – smooth and not too strong, and unlike a lot of the chi chi hip cafes, a decent size.

The lack of wifi is remedied by the selection of vintage books on each table, crying out to be read – maybe the bubble of disconnection may encourage Londoners to interact and take their eyes of their screens? Perhaps that is too much to ask…

If you want somewhere to switch off in Covent Garden, this beautiful value for money coffee haven is a gem.

Post-Christmas Calculations: Very Accurate Statistics I’ve Deduced This Year

DISCLAIMER: Hari will not be liable for any inaccuracies in the below calculations.

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  1. Love Actually must be shown at least 6 times over the festive period across various channels, otherwise the law states that it is not officially Christmas. I probably watch, on average, 2.5x Love Actually each year.
  2. Despite most things being the same every year, we still manage to mess up quantities: our 2016 festive stash saw 4 Christmas puddings, 9 bottles of mulled wine, 3 jars of cranberry sauce, but just one lonely bottle of prosecco. It had to fizz alone.
  3. I still highlight 80% of the Radio Times, only to watch about two things I’d wanted to. In fact, the highlighting probably takes up more time than the programmes I watch.
  4. Time moves faster over Christmas – it’s a blur of days where you wake up at 10 and before you know it, it’s time to get into pyjamas again.  Then suddenly BAM! January comes along and we are forced to return to normality, despite it only being Christmas Eve yesterday.
  5. There will always be a debate about just how long the turkey should be in the oven for. I think next year, I may roll a dice to come up with a cooking time.
  6. BRAINTEASER: If the average ratio of wrapping time to opening time is about 10:1 – 5 minutes spent wrapping (aka locating sellotape, choosing ribbons, writing gift tag), to 30 seconds of ‘opening’, (aka tearing, ripping and then binning aforementioned laboriously embellished gift-wrap), decide whether it is all a total waste of time and effort. (Please show your workings)
  7. There must only be 8 cracker jokes in circulation, as we get the same ones each year, and even the same ones across the same table. (Cracker people, please get some more inventive staff writers)
  8. Each year, without fail, we will all have a spectacular time, despite variables including arguments, illness, dry turkey, TV debate. The equation usually sorts itself out, and by January 3rd, we shall all be mourning the lack of infinite turkey sandwiches, alcohol with units that didn’t count, and hours of TV it is acceptable to watch. Go figure.

 

Brunch at The Black Penny, Covent Garden

Black Penny

Brunch is one of those fabulous concepts that makes you feel somewhat sophisticated without the need for dressing up, parting with huge amounts of cash, or forfeiting an early night. Perhaps that is why the popularity of the breakfast-lunch convergence has increased significantly over the past couple of years: Instagram is now awash with Prosecco selfies and pancake snaps destined to make anyone munching on a solitary bowl of cornflakes green with envy.

A visit from friends, not so au fait with the ways of the big city, seemed like the perfect opportunity to get on the brunch bandwagon. Having had a lovely coffee date in The Black Penny a few weeks back, I decided to revisit this gem of a spot to see what mid-morning offerings they provided. So on Sunday morning, we trekked the onerous 5 minutes to Great Queen Street, where the fairly covert café is situated.

Only 5 minutes from Holborn station, past the gaudy fronts of various chains, The Black Penny revels in its subtlety. In fact, many people, as I did at first, walk past it without batting an eyelid; the few tables outside, black frontage, and small sign reading ‘The Black Penny’ could easily go unnoticed by a passer-by headed for the lights of Covent Garden. But the hidden vibe, the feeling that you’ve come across a city secret, is part of this café’s charm.

Rustic décor, and an immediately inviting counter of freshly baked goods means that on entry, the café feels homely yet cool, quirky but comfortable. Those wise ones who have realised this are already sitting down enjoying a fry up and a latte or a croissant and a cappuccino. What also has drawn a good few punters in is the ridiculously good offer of Prosecco: have brunch at this café and a glass of bubbly is only 1p. Yes, you read that right – ONE WHOLE PENNY. Clearly playing on the namesake, and that is no bad thing.

The coffee, I have to say is second to none. Smooth and almost chocolatey, this is a million miles from a bitter filter or your more usual Sunday morning Nescafe. It really is noticeable when you have a Proper Coffee like this; you start to doubt the authenticity of a Starbucks latte and realise this is what the real stuff is meant to be like.

Sweet-toothed Friend opted for French toast with caramelised apples and ricotta, whilst Savoury Friend chose the chorizo baked beans with goat’s cheese and an egg. One for a classic, poached eggs on sourdough was my brunch of choice, and a fabulous one at that – simple, yet so easy to get wrong. Here, however, it was so right. We agreed that The Black Penny was perfection on all three fronts. Price-wise, this is as good as you’ll get for a stunning brunch, fabulous coffee and a quirky independent café in central. Expect to pay £10-12 for a delicious mid-morning fuelling that will last you till late afternoon.

Despite not making the most of the Prosecco offer, brunch here is available until 4pm at the weekends, and a post-midday glass of bubbles may indeed feature in the coming months. Service is fantastic – utterly efficient, ridiculously friendly and that manner which makes you feel not only like a customer, but a valued friend. The Black Penny is made all the more appealing by the fact it is on my doorstep: it’s basically my local, and I will indeed be frequenting this coffee haven a lot more for my caffeine hit. Whether you make a special trip of a weekend for brunch here (definitely worth it) or are in need of a sit down and a cuppa when negotiating the streets of Covent Garden, (step away from the Pret), The Black Penny should be firmly penned in your Black Book.

http://theblackpenny.co.uk/