Flat White in Soho started in 2005 before the flat white was widely available in the UK. It was the original antipodean cafe in London and therefore the first place that I went when we landed in London after living in Colorado for a ski season.
I vividly remember the feeling of sitting in Flat White in Soho on a grey London day. Homesick for the fist time and hearing the first New Zealand accents that I’d heard in months. Suddenly I understood China Town in San Francisco, the Jewish Quarter in Paris or the British expat bars in Asia. When we are a long way from home, we take some comfort in familiar accents, customs and foods.
When I travel I’ve always studiously avoided the expat ghettos and sought out local experiences. So Flat White was the first time that I’d felt the comfort of a home away from home. I wasn’t sure whether to cringe at the Flight of the Conchords accent or luxuriate in the Black Seeds dub track on the stereo.
The antipodean vibe of Flat White is pretty much invisible to locals. To most it just seems like a nice independent Soho Cafe. This means that it can be enjoyed by anyone.
The coffees are well made with the milk velvety and the mouth feel is almost perfect. The beans are espresso focused and there is no siphon filter tea-like coffee infusion going on here. This is unashamedly an espresso based cafe.
The velvet is created through textbook quality foaming, swirling and tapping of the jug. It’s folded through the coffee in a gentle pour that sacrifices some latte art in favour mouth feel and well blended milk. Highly recommended.
Flat White also offer a single origin espresso alongside their house blend. So if your coffee geekdom is just beginning then sharing a single origin coffee alongside the house blend allows you to educate your palate.It tells you everything that they offer tasting notes in a PDF on their website.
It’s very hard to describe, but the staff at Flat White are almost always in a good mood. So they somehow invite you to be in a good mood to. You know that friend that you always enjoy hanging out with because nothing phases them? That friend works at Flat White.
I’ve heard the occasional complaint that the barista looked down someone ordering a cappuccino or that they didn’t want to make a skinny grande no foam mocha latte with vanilla. Perhaps the issue is that the Flat White staff know that they are good and aren’t really that subservient. If you’re used to genuflection and submissive cafe staff then maybe the crew could rub up you the wrong way. But I’ve been there dozens of times and seen nothing but friendly happy faces.
The seating is bench style on the perimeter and mini-stools on the other side. To be honest, it is cramped. But there is a certain camaraderie that comes from being swashed in together. The mood at Flat White is quite like Dose Espresso in Clerkenwell and Nude Espresso in Soho, in that it’s not a place designed for lingering. But it’s perfectly adequate for a coffee meeting. Like the tardis, I’m always amazed that as crowded as it is, I can almost always find a seat.
The chocolate brownie and chorizo sandwich are both excellent but the main event is the coffee. I don’t normally like chocolate brownies because they are too sweet. But Flat White’s brownie tastes of dark coco and melts in your mouth.
Flat White is probably a poster child of the third wave of coffee in London and is unlikely to be the source of much upcoming innovation. They started the coffee movement in London and are now like a grand-parent happily watching their teenage grand-kids grow up. Flat White knows what it does and does it well. So as a visitor you can simply sit back and enjoy the ground zero for good coffee in London.