The Guardian Cafe at Box Park
If I learned one thing while living in London, it is that the Londoners love their newspapers. I'm not used to seeing people read anything anymore, so it took me by surprise that so many people on the underground in evening rush hour, stacked to the edges of the train, are usually silently engrossed in the Evening Standard. The Guardian Cafe at Box Park in Shoreditch combines London’s need for news and need for caffeine. I originally was drawn to the Box Park itself simply because of the sign posted outside of the Guardian Cafe for Nude Espresso. The Box Park itself is something you would expect to find in Shoreditch. It's environmentally sustainable, it's something you can also find in San Francisco, and it matches the attention span of the A.D.D. hipsters that swarm the area. The Box Park is not a permanent structure; it is currently filled on the bottom level with fashion and concept stores (such as one dedicated completely to selling onesies), as well as some well-known brands (Nike, Gap) and eateries and bars on the top level. The Guardian Cafe at Box Park could be considered a concept cafe--as one of London's leading news sources, the Guardian teamed with the Shoreditch-based roasters of Nude Espresso to have politics, hot-topics and news alongside specialty coffee.
I think it must have been Marcel Proust who first encapsulated the coffee and newspaper habit pretty perfectly, even before the Guardian Cafe:
"That abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don't even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of café au lait." (Sorry, I had to.)
SO ANYWAYS, Proust or not, Guardian Café is composed of (I think) three of the boxes and all tables are topped with an iPad open on Guardian news. As for their espresso, the Nude Espresso is roasted only a few blocks away at the Nude Roastery, and I have had mostly good experiences with them at their SoHo Square location. At this location, their espresso was pretty alright with some fruitiness but overall too acidic. They use the East Espresso Blend by Nude Espresso, unless you order the single origin.
Overall, coffee in the East end does not need much help. I can tell that Guardian Café is trying to have an edge on the other great coffee shops in this area by creating the news-café concept, but I am still an advocate of focusing on either coffee or on something else, otherwise the coffee really gets lost.
Recommend: Located off the overground Shoreditch High Street stop, and only a couple blocks away from Brick Lane, it is also a counterpart to the numerous Indian restaurants and vintage clothing stores of the area.
Note: Check out this location and all others in Box Park because they are only temporary! Also, if you are lucky I think they will interview you for the news?
Vibe: News room, tech-centric (#guardiancafe might be the real name, after all)
Espresso Rating: 7/10
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Address: 2-10 Bethnal Green Rd London, E1 6GY, UK