I checked out Rio’s after discovering the only chain coffee place in central Walthamstow is an awful branch of Costa’s spread across the corridor of a shopping centre. It offers no protection from cold, passing street fundraisers or the caterwauling of my fellow Mall users.
Much to my pleasant surprise, this has been the best café experience of my life so far. Even though I am regularly the only person poncing away on a laptop, while other coffee drinkers glance furtively as if I’m spying on them for The Man. Yes, even though there’s a slight language barrier with the waiters – fine most of the time, but did lead me into an unsettling mime when telling them the toilet roll had run out in the gents.
But I keep coming back despite those things for two reasons: firstly, the coffee is tasty, less than £2 a cup, and there is always a spare table to drink it. Secondly, for the first time since I stopped visiting that grim Irish pub in Peckham and letting drunk old men help with my pool shots whilst leaning uncomfortably close, I might be close to being a regular. Still no actual conversation with anyone, but the main waiter slapped me on the shoulder in a friendly fashion the other day.
They’ve replicated the authentic yellow/brown/yeah, we got some sofas period décor of a Starbucks or Nero, hung some art on the walls and people often come here to chill out – pop in, have a quick coffee, chat with everyone, leave, wondering why that weird guy with the small computer and messy haircut sits there for hours typing.
Also, I’ve found a future version of myself – about ten years older, with similar glasses, borderline-mullet hair and tendency to sit alone writing. However, despite being further along his personal timeline than me, he only has regular pen and paper rather than a computer – pretty sure that means I’m winning. Not spoken to him yet either.
In short: Rio’s Coffee Lounge is a pleasant, large, cheap, convenient location for the Walthamstow-based writer or café lurker – although no wifi and few plug sockets, just FYI. Please don’t all come here at once, it would defeat the point rather if I could no longer get a table.
by Nick Bryan