Pivoting on the lower left hand corner of The Triangle lays The Expresso Kitchen, a small and fiercely independent coffee house the size of a large chest of drawers. Inside it flickers with the jovial glow of draped fairy lights against walls papered with the tanned newspaper of yesteryear resonating an age long since passed, the oldest piece of tabloid print dating way back to 1919.
Hanging from the walls are colanders as shimmering decorations that glint underneath a low resting ceiling lined with antique surf boards, nostalgic postcards and an assortment of hand-drawn souvenirs from previous patrons. The idea, Fran (or more formally Francesca) says, was to form an atmosphere that fell somewhere between that of a treehouse and a time capsule, buried at a time not too far from the 50s or the subsequent decade of love. Indeed, The Kitchen does feel like a space preserved in time.
Before opening five years ago, Fran worked as a set and stage designer and the cafe that she’d later curate does very much carry its own theatrical flair. With its narrow and creaking staircase, shielded lamps and tapestried, sepia walls, you get the feeling as if you’re stashed backstage, hidden within hallowed and illicit dressing rooms, waiting for the curtain to call
The Kitchen offers a range of coffees, with two beans on site. Their loyal house bean, the locally and organically produced Bean Press features heavily as well as a weekly guest coffee. As the EK is diligently independent, they’re free to move as Fran says, to whatever’s in season and grabs their attention. Choices range from the more conventional “Flat White Classic” (£2.50), to the seductive “Dirty Chai” (£3.20), a double shot of expresso that gets acquainted with spiced milk, cardamom, cinnamon and fennel all in the same, intimate mug. There are also vegan/gluten free slices of crumbling, sugary indulgence decorating The Kitchen’s window pane, traversing citrus to chocolate by way of polenta.
As old-school soul and funk carries us on the jukebox, I lean into the corner, drifting in and out to “The thrill is gone” and people watch Fran seemingly familiar with each customer by name. Gregarious in her rolling, Italian accent, her voice seems infused with the lingering notes of a demerara-heavy expresso. “It’s a small, individual space, filled with good people” one of her regulars tells me, as Fran jokingly recalls his last visit in a moment of seemingly genuine affection. So then while the atmosphere and interior design of The Kitchen is fit for a performative stage, the camaraderie and warmth that resonate within, I believe, is perfectly sincere.
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