Ode: The Flat White at Hello Darling
Nothing beats the one at Allpress in Shoreditch — let’s get that out of the way. I’ve enjoyed (or grimaced through) flat whites all over the world, and I’ve never had one as perfectly balanced as the cup from 58 Redchurch Street. Maybe the whole environment makes the coffee taste better — sipping from the cutest signature miniature takeaway demitasse while strolling the damp cobblestone streets of the neighborhood, the City waking up around us, that ancient smell of London’s old buildings adding to the olfactory experience. Maybe it’s the heightened sensation of staying in a familiar foreign city with people I love deeply, an easy domesticity combined with the excitement of being far from home.
But also it’s just a fucking perfect cup of coffee.
The flat white from Hello Darling (an easy walk from my house all the way back here in Denver) comes pretty darn close. The gentle bitterness of the espresso floats in and out of soft and fluffy whole milk as if you’re sipping from a caffeinated cloud. With such effortless elegance, you could easily down the whole thing in a few short minutes, but the key is to sip, look around, sip a little more, and enjoy your surroundings.
And just like in Shoreditch, the atmosphere enriches the experience. The coffee shop/cocktail bar crafted by owner Daniel Masters has felt lived in and welcoming from the day it opened. It’s plush and sophisticated without being stuffy; upscale and comforting at the same time. It feels like it’s always been in that spot off Little Raven — a haven for remote workers, local artists, grandmas, and urban wanderers. The place encapsulates Daniel’s own gentle charm, that cogent mix of respect and warmth, kindness laced with the lightest touch of professional detachment.
The roomy environs always sport a crowd, but somehow it’s still possible to settle in somewhere, float along the susurrations and salutations that slip between whatever ambient sonic landscape the baristas have going, and just sort of be there, sipping away at your soft and supple flat white.
It’s not a cup o’ joe in London, but it still manages to feel just right.