Monthly Archives: July 2013

Abacus Coffee House, Richmond


‘Oh how I have longed for a café that stays open past the hour of six,’ I thought as I stared forlornly out the H37 bus window. No sooner had the thought entered my head that the bus passed Abacus coffee house, a sign on the door saying ‘Open till 11pm.’ Were my eyes deceiving me? It is true that anything beyond a three metre radius becomes a slight blur for me, but I felt that I had reason to shove doubt into the tight crevice of my shorts pocket.

Upon getting off the bus and approaching the café, my hopes were confirmed. The café interior seemed dark, but probably only in comparison to the brightness of the outside. As I reached the counter I was of course crippled by indecisiveness, a response to the array of teapigs teas on the shelf. I settled on peppermint in the hope that it would settle and refresh a slightly hung over and torpid state.

I placed myself on the sofa under a Jules et Jim poster,  hoping to channel French New Wave cinema as I got my notebook out. I had started writing a few words when my tea arrived, accompanied by a little bowl to house the soggy bag once it had been squeezed of all its minty goodness. I watched the tea infuse and turn golden as a teenage girl told her father how one of her friends didn’t have any common sense. ‘Well, she has more common sense than you do,’ he replied. Her protestations were drowned out by a group of men coming in to have shisha out the back.

The writing on the front window was reflected on the wall as the sun set, the words ‘whole leaf tea’ gradually disappearing. The words from my pen had ceased to make themselves shown in my notebook, so I abandoned the writing to make use of the free wifi, seizing upon the signal’s strength to stream live radio. The sound of funk permeated through my ears whilst I delved into Chekhov, and as the clock struck nine, I quite fancied that Abacus could be my new local café, or perhaps an office in which I could abandon doing work to escape into Russian literature. I chortled at the last few lines of the short story, the words on the wall having completely disappeared.

by Chris



gfd map 2

Fineliner wielding Jammatologist Chris has combined his lack of navigational and topographical skills to produce this Grounds For Discussion map of London cafés. See if you can spot your favourite caffeine fuelled haunts and check out their reviews on this blog. If you can’t see a café on there that you feel should be there, then why not write about it and send it to us, and it shall appear on these pages and become part of the winding roads and side streets of this GFD map.

Ink Coffee, Hsinchu, Taiwan.

ink coffee

I’m upstairs in the wooden Ink Coffee, Hsinchu’s 30 square metres of trendiness. Today we have Sigur Ros on the radio, last time it was Aphex Twin: could be rival for the Best Music in a Cafe award. And what’s this, I spot Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore in the little library that separates the room into two. A pang of nostalgia washes over with this music and literature combo, leaving me feeling somewhat lost.

So many coffees in this pricey and well presented menu of theirs: Kuroshio, Latte with Spices, Indian Monsoon Malabar, Costa Rica Tres Rios… I check my money and opt of a boring old cappuccino. It’s $140 dollars which is about £3. Considering the hourly wages of the Taiwanese and the price of normal groceries, coffee seems to be curiously expensive. It makes a coffee in a nice place a rare treat, rather than a daily habit. Of course you can always downgrade to Donutes or 85• but you can say goodbye to Aphex.

So you want to take your time over your slightly expensive coffee. The waitress helps you out by taking half an hour to deliver it. Today I don’t mind, I have the time, and a stack of homework to mark. The waitress apologises for the lax service and I mumble something convivial like, ‘take your time, I’m a friendly foreigner.’

For that is why I am here. I’m Teacher Adam as of last month. I’m marking the kids homework, chuckling at the amusing mistakes they make – “Yes, I like to eat the chair…”

The cappuccino comes on a wooden board in a glass, with a mini wooden spoon and a tiny metal jug for sugar. It’s not fluffy, like the capparchetype, but it is very serious and sustains the job of marking homework as it gets increasingly monotonous.

I came before with Joel and Kyle, two other teachers, just after I arrived in Hsinchu. We drank dark beers from Belgium and such places. These guys have been welcoming to me, the starry eyed and cynical newbie: they confirm my fears and accept my optimism in equal measure. As you might have guessed, these dark imported beauties have a heavy price tag too, so savour those bittery sips.

Not only is this a place for Sigur Ros, Murakami, dark beers and fine sugar, for I also started a reading group and our first meeting was here. We discussed Edward Said and Chinese food and custom, and boy, it is nice to have conversation again. We need conversations like air and love, and now I have two out of three – a personal best.

GAIL’s Artisan Bakery, Bloomsbury


It dawned on me this morning that I had not left the house for several days. My time has been consumed by watching The Walking Dead, drawing and attempting to hunt for jobs – the former outweighing the other two. My desk (the dining table) has been taken over by a preserve army of 103 jars of Date and Earl Grey jam. It’s sweltering, the people on Radio 4 can’t stop talking about the fact that a woman gave birth yesterday, and I am in dire need of some cake.

I decide to finally eject myself from my abode and head to Gail’s Artisan Bakery with an aspect much like a ‘walker,’ strolling gormlessly and barely using one’s brain. On account of being a tad flustered upon my arrival at the bakery, I panicked and picked the first cakey thing I came across, a blueberry muffin. You see, the rather friendly woman at the counter had asked me what I wanted before I had a chance to have a proper look at what was on offer, and as a result, was waiting expectantly as I deliberated. I didn’t want to put her through the trials of my indecisiveness (a thing that many people have had to endure whilst in my company) so I just picked the muffin and an iced earl grey tea to end our mutual suffering.

Upon sitting down I spied a plethora of lovely looking cakes, cookies and flapjacks that I hadn’t noticed before. Ah well, this muffin is perfectly good – juicy blueberries and a satisfyingly crumbly topping. The iced tea is very refreshing indeed, the marriage of lemon and bergamot providing a welcome antidote to the heat.
The décor is a cross between a kitchen and an art gallery, which is pretty ideal for me. It seems that the bakery has partnered with Rebecca Hossack Gallery and is exhibiting artists’ work at the various Gails around London. I’m sitting in front of Rebecca Jewell’s ‘Hummingbirds,’ very much embedded within the realm of natural history illustration, but delivered in an interesting manner.

I contemplate trying to be more like a hummingbird than a zombie, whilst the sourdough loaves beside me pass silent, yeasty judgement. I might purchase one and turn it into croutons. It’s raining outside, at least my courgette plant won’t be zombified any more.

by Chris