London Blend: Guardian Coffee, Shoreditch

Sorely testing the principle that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, the opening of a coffee shop operated by The Guardian named #guardiancoffee inspired hoots of derision across Twitter last week. Some came up with cruel but witty suggestions about what might be on the menu; others speculated about the economics of such a fickle business; and almost everybody thought it a risible idea.

In truth, it’s not an original one. The London Review of Books has a cafe, as does Monocle magazine, while Vice has owned a Shoreditch pub for a decade. And it might not be such a bad idea. The Guardian should at least be credited with trying out something new in what is a challenging marketplace for newspapers.

So, is it any good? They’ve got the important bit right: the coffee is from Nude Espresso, who know their beans. But this place is likely to sink or swim by its ambience. And this is where the problem lies. It’s a self consciously high-tech operation, with a large screen on one wall displaying sales data and selected tweets with the #guardiancoffee hashtag, an infographic behind the counter showing the makeup of the coffee blend and, most notably, an iPad affixed to every table. Each device is on a stalk that can be rotated but not removed, and is locked to the Guardian’s iPad edition. Unfortunately, the tables are small and dominated by the tablet, meaning they’re not much use for anything else, such as folding out a newspaper to read (the contrary luddite in us had brought along the FT).

The abundance of screens and pared-down furniture, combined with the insipid high-BPM tunes seeping from the speakers, combine to make #guardiancoffee an unwelcoming place, a bit like an unimaginative science fiction novelist’s view of sterile socialising in the 21st century. Perhaps that’s the point: the Guardian is claiming this is a place for journos and tech folk to meet and work (Jemima Kiss has already hosted a video interview), although such lofty aims are undercut by the lack of open wifi. Perhaps the plan is to save money by vacating their King’s Cross HQ and having staff work remotely in these hubs?

#guardiancoffee is at Boxpark, Shoreditch.

More of the capital’s great coffee shops on our London Blend map

Disclaimer: We review anonymously and pay for all our meals/drinks.

Tags: , , , , ,

  • Razor Sharpe

    Typical hangout for affluent socialists. Give me a greasy spoon and a mug of tea with a copy of The Sun anyday

  • rob22t

    Oh dear. Will be pumping out their anti-British agenda in this cafe too?
    The Guardian used to be a good read now all it is, is the Daily Mail of the Left.

  • rob22t

    Perhaps this place will to be trashed next time there are riots by the people who they so desperately try to defend.

  • Ken Pork

    I wondered the other day. Does anyone still have friends not using an iPhone 5? If we all paid more regular visits to our local Turkish tea shops we might better understand why Armenia is such a complicated issue. Cameron and his cronies simply have no idea of the struggles faced by ordinary British families like us.

  • Peter Vaspe

    Not many customers in the photo!

    • http://londonist.com/ Dean Nicholas

      True, although I visited at 11am on a Saturday. I’ve walked past since on a weekday and it was packed.

      • Craig Bauer Melson

        its in a horrible and not busy part of london. why set up a crappy cafe in the ast end, and not covent garden? presume planning and rents too hardcore!

        • http://londonist.com/ Dean Nicholas

          Horrible? Well, it’s an opinion. But not busy? Have you ever been there?

          • Craig Bauer Melson

            yes, hardly covent garden is it!

  • Craig Bauer Melson

    It’s absolutely bizarre, a self-parody. It’s in a horrible and inaccessible part of London (presume ground rents too high in busy areas!), and the fact they sat there and came up with this idea is something i’d expect to read in Newsthump or Private Eye!

  • sfida

    I don’t think the cafe is targeting the type of people who write comments on Londonist: I mean, you don’t know that the tech hub of London is in this area (not Covent Garden)?? Even David Cameron knows that. Ambience could be a problem for some, as the author has said, but I suspect the venture has been highly thought through, targeting a particular niche (ie, not Sun readers that drink tea… urgh it’s in the name?). Rather than attacking a business venture that you don’t like (ideologically), why don’t you go out and start up your own business? You know, one that upgrades you to a large English Breakfast if you can prove your great grandparents swept chimneys. Or does that sound like too much work, and you’d rather sit back and watch football, drink beer, and b##ch about the world passing you by.