This article first appeared in NZNewsUK.co.uk on 16 Nov 2011.
Get off the Tube at Brixton, rock down Electric Avenue and enter Brixton Village.
The Village is home to some of the best independent cafes, restaurants, ethnic cuisine and fresh produce in London. It’s a treasure trove of culinary delights begging to be explored. It’s also the home of kiwi-owned Federation Coffee.
Federation may lack the polished shine of a chainstore café, looking somewhat 50’s caff-like but its white-washed charm, courteous staff who greet you when you enter and oh-so-good coffee will beat the pants off Costbucks every time.
Warning: if you enjoy a quiet weekend coffee then Federation is not the place for you. It was packed on the Saturday I turned up (and there is no Sunday trading during winter), much like every other establishment in the Brixton markets. But don’t let that stop you making a trip there. The coffee is worth it, even if you have to get a take-out and wander the rest of the market.
A weekday visit is not so hectic.
So how was the coffee?
Federation currently use nude espresso beans (available in take-home bags, too) but manage to extract a different espresso to nude’s. There’s a whiff of chopped almonds to the nose plus a battle between sweet and bitter on the palate. First sips may feel a little brutal on the tongue but as the espresso cools, the sweetness begins to develop and leaves a pleasant mouth-feel by the end of the cup. (Some readers may be thinking I should take my hand off it but this is really what I got from my first cup).
It’s a strong brew, ideally suited to some milk, so it was put to the flat white test. As a flat white, the milk thwarted some of the bitterness (bitterness is not necessarily a bad thing) and altered the almonds mentioned above to walnuts. It still tasted very much like a coffee-based drink, rather than a milk-based one, leading to the conclusion that Federation make a very good cup of coffee and deserve to be placed on your list of must-do coffee visits.
The food (untested) looks like the usual scrumptious fare found in decent independent coffee houses although if nothing seems to be grabbing attention, there is a plethora of interesting food places nearby. Judging by the queues, the temptation here must be Honest Burgers, twenty metres away.
Brixton is going to put some people off as a destination. Don’t let it be you. The markets are very close to the Underground station and the local shops all rely on the creation of a safe, friendly environment for customers to explore their wares. The area is vibrant with street banter, sound systems, great food aromas and shopping bargains. Federation coffee is simply one jewel amongst many in area – but one worth making your way to as soon as possible.
What: Federation Coffee
Where: Brixton Village. The website indicates number 46 but that appears to be the kitchen. Look over your shoulder from 46 and you should see it.
When: 8am – 5pm Mon to Fri 10am – 5pm Sat (and 9:30-4pm Sun during the summer)