And you know what, working on the border of Vauxhall/Kennington has its perks, as all of this has been given to me through the ever-amazing coffee shop that is Vanilla Black.
I first became acquainted with Vanilla Black after they started following me on Instagram a while back. From then on I thought their aesthetic of the place was absolutely gorgeous, and definitely my kind of coffee shop if I ever wished to open one in the future. Until I started working in the area, however, I had absolutely no clear where the shop was located. I always thought it was just out of reach, and never got round to planning a trip over - until I landed my office job down the road: fate? I think so.
VB for short, there’s a huge offering of everything from pastries to cooked food, and everything in between (including my absolute favourite treat ever - the pastel de nata). The price of items does reflect the area, and with my stingy Birmingham background means that I do sometimes wince at the totals that I’m spending. However, this isn’t any different to anything else in the London area, and there’s much more expensive places I could be working next to..! Also, the loyalty scheme they have on offer also means that you are rewarded for being a regular customer, which I most definitely find fortunate.
The baristas at VB definitely know what they’re doing - and I don't usually generalise in the area of coffee expertise. I’ve yet to have a *crappy* cup of coffee, if we want to use the technical term(!) Each of my coffees I’ve gone for (my favourite is the flat white, but sometimes I veer towards a latte on a day I need more comfort) has featured exquisite latte art with a shiny, silky and smooth finish to the cup.
The interior of the place is gorgeous and a specialty coffee fan’s definition of cafe aesthetic. Distressed light wood with white and yellow features are dotted around the large room, with a mixture of bar stools for the single sipper, or larger occupancy tables for the ladies who lunch. There’s a slightly understated finish to the place which has definitely been designed in a way that projects friendliness and warmth, but takes advantage of the massive amount of natural light in the shop.
I’ve yet to try the food - I didn’t realise there was ‘proper’ food until this morning when I saw a handful of smashed avocado plates be delivered to hungry commuters huddled round the tables opposite to me. But damn, they look good. And let’s be honest, you can’t REALLY go wrong with avocado on toast. Nothing wrong with that - why mess with the absolute classic ruler of the coffee shop?
Overall, i’d give VB a solid high score on my ever-increasing cynical view of coffee shops. Their service is great (although I’ve yet to have a proper chat with any of them, but they’re always smiley and polite). Their quality, from the roasters Allpress, isn’t my favourite - but it’s much better than the other sit-down shops around here (although Monmouth is served by a church not-for-profit stall down the road which would technically be my favourite out of the two). However, as I say, the coffee isn’t necessarily what makes a coffee shop - the vibe is. Nail that and sure, the coffee roasters may not be my absolute favourite*, but I’ll definitely choose to while away my mornings there sipping a flat white.
Vanilla Black has recently been shut for a couple of weeks due to staff taking holiday, and it definitely has been missed in that time**. Thus, the first day I’m back sitting here has resulted in me writing this appraisal for the shop. Because, let’s be honest, if I’ve consciously missed a coffee shop to the point of discussing it in the offices, I should really write a blog post sooner than later.
*Allpress is good, I want to clarify. They’re just not my favourite. VB’s coffee is wonderful and I would not recommend you take the coffee aspect of this into too much of a make-or-break scenario.
** Please don’t shut for that long again for awhile, okay? I was stuck in an overcrowded Starbucks by the station for two weeks and I nearly crumbled.