If there's ever a drink to spark the imagination into life, it's coffee. What a drag, then, that so many of London's coffee establishments are humdrum, paint-by-numbers affairs. Not least the ones in train stations, where lattes tend to be rattled off without so much as a smile.
And then we found a gem of a coffee shop here:
Yup, in Barking. In a train station. Nestled among the photocopying shops, jewellers and grilled chicken joints on the station concourse is Ezo Bistro:
Be drawn in by the sound of vibraphone jazz, the aroma of mocha and pancakes. Stepping inside, you find yourself a world away from any joint of Costa:
Established by Iliyan Kuzmanov and Ina Jankoic in 2014, this is a rare example of a train station coffee shop with soul. The menu (complete with greengrocer's apostrophes) bristles with coffees, homemade soup and crepes:
(We can vouch for the honey and walnut cake.)
Both ends of the café look have big glass walls looking out onto the concourse, so you can watch people rush by while you sip your brew:
This place is all about relaxing and taking a moment out. Customers can peruse the library, which snakes its way along the wall, into a snug corner with snippets of poetry dangling from the ceiling:
Retro touches like old phones and typewriters recall a sobered up episode of Mad Men:
Unlike a lot of makeshift libraries, this one isn't just a load of Jilly Coopers/Dick Francises; there are Jules Verne classics, fairy tale books, illustrated tomes of Oscar Wilde... and even a solid section on our favourite subject of all:
The jazz music does somewhat undermine this sign:
As, we imagine, does this set up from time to time:
But in a sea of soulless coffee shops, it's great to see Ezo Bistro thriving. Next time you're passing through the area, allow yourself an extra half hour to come here. Or work it into a day trip to Barking Abbey, Eastbury Manor and Valence House.
Ezo Bistro, open daily.