The opening of historic Coal Drops Yard brings with it a glut of carefully-chosen food and drink producers, from welcoming wine bars to coffee roasters helping to rehabilitate young offenders. Richard Mellor introduces five of the coolest foodies moving in…
Max Dubiel & Ted Rosner
Co-founders of Redemption Roasters | redemptionroasters.com
Redemption Roasters run a coffee academy inside the walls of Aylesbury Prison’s young offender institution.
“The Ministry of Justice asked if we could do barista-training in a prison,” recounts Max. “We said why not do something much cooler than that — start a roastery and a training academy, building a brand around that? They loved the idea.”
Prisoners are fifty per cent less likely to reoffend if they have a job upon release, so the aim is to significantly boost their chances of finding employment by providing competition-level coffee-making skills. So far forty offenders have ‘graduated’. And the long-term aim? “More academies at other prisons,” confirms Max. “But we always want to be known for our amazing, ethically-sourced coffee, too — there must never be a trade-off in quality.”
The Coal Drops Yard space is their third café in London offering food and cold drinks alongside coffee. “This part of King’s Cross is essentially a completely new part of town,” thrills Max. “It’s like a social experiment — anywhere else in London, you pretty much know who goes where when, but not here.”
Not that he’s around much. “I’m in charge of communications and finance, but developing new academies is my passion project,” Max explains. “I’ve probably seen more prisons than most hardened criminals!”
Chef & director, hicce | hicce.co.uk
You might have heard of Pip Lacey: the 36-year-old triumphed in 2017’s Great British Menu on BBC2 and was head chef at Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred restaurant Murano until last summer.
Now comes her first solo restaurant, hicce — an informal, eighty-seat space atop Wolf & Badger’s store which champions wood-fired cookery. “We grill or cure meat, bake rye bread for open sandwiches, and then use embers to sustainably smoke the next day’s peppers,” confirms Pip. An additional thirty-five-person terrace is due in spring.
Twisting modern European cuisine with Japanese and Scandinavian influences, hicce’s lunch menu alters every few days, while the dinner à la carte changes seasonally. Desserts include tempura pineapple with coconut parfait, and a muscovado crème caramel.
What about the name? A Latin word for ‘current’, hicce is correctly pronounced ‘ee-chay’. But Pip’s not fussed how you say it. “I like the meaning, and its symmetry. Ultimately, though, the name matters less than producing good food.”
She too used to party at Bagley’s, along with business partner Gordy McIntyre — who oversees a rotating cast of organic wines, some on tap. “Our sweat’s probably ingrained in the walls,” Pip chuckles. “So, it’s nice that the area has personal meaning — even if it looks very different now on Saturday nights!”
Founder of Morty & Bob’s | mortyandbobs.com
Having originally hawked grilled-cheese sandwiches at various markets, Morty & Bob’s now operates an east London brunch café and this second permanent outpost.
“We’ve returned to our grilled-cheese roots,” reveals Charlie, referring to his all-day hot-sandwich menu. “Though they’re massive in cities like New York, hot sandwiches really aren’t very familiar to Londoners. Yet.”
The meats, breads and so forth are mostly domestic. “That’s what British cooking is nowadays,” opines Charlie — “not bangers-and-mash or pies, but quality local produce.” He also promises superb vegetarian options, while the bar stocks London-made beers, spirits and mixers.
Style wise, Charlie has preserved many of the Yard’s original features while adding in a parquet facade and zinc counter, plus a mini-jungle of pot plants. He loves the new location. “I’m no architectural buff, but the historic details are magnificent. Morty & Bob’s only opens inside unique buildings — and Coal Drops Yard is a dream.”
CEO & Founder, Raw Press | rawpress.co
Raw Press has opened its second café inside Wolf & Badger’s flagship store.
“We serve avocado on toast, açaí bowls and smoothies,” explains Jack. “Then there’s a fridge with breakfast or lunch pots — filled with things like kelp noodles.”
Started in 2014 serving cold-press juices, Raw Press quickly expanded as ‘clean living’ soared in popularity. So it has continued. “Principles like veganism and eating organically have become practically mainstream,” Jack contends.
What’s driving that? “There’s been an evolution in how we consider food,” he believes. “Rather than simply thinking, I must make my next meal as satisfying as possible, our approach today is likelier to be, how will these ingredients make me feel?”
This opening represents a homecoming of sorts — from wild nights out to wild-rice salads. “As a teenager, I frequented Bagley’s,” Jack laughs. “Now Coal Drops Yard seems like the pinnacle of King’s Cross’ redevelopment. It’s exhilarating to be part of that.”
Anthony Demetre & Michael Sodeau
Co-founders, Vermuteria | coaldropsyard.com
Vermouth bars are common across Spain, southern France and Italy — and now there’s one right here in Coal Drops Yard.
Open all day, Vermuteria is the latest project from TV chef Anthony, of Soho’s Arbutus (now closed) and Wild Honey in Mayfair, and multidisciplinary designer Michael Sodeau. “We’re both avid cyclists,” Anthony explains. “The idea for Vermuteria came from how vermouth brands like Campari or Cinzano once sponsored the great riders of races such as the Giro d’Italia.” Inspired, too, by Europe’s grandest café-bars, Vermuteria serves Anthony’s own seasonal vermouths. Also available are on-tap artisan beers, top-notch coffee and candlelit, classic British food — including the braised pig’s head famed at Arbutus.
Anthony sees Coal Drops Yard’s “eye-watering” design as ideal both for Vermuteria’s timeless, beautiful interiors, and its determinedly informal, cosy atmosphere. Another detail is affordability. “You can buy an espresso at the bar for about a pound,” he says — “just like in many Parisian establishments.”
Curator, The Drop | thedropwinebar.co.uk
As well as a biggest-yet branch of Barrafina and taqueria Casa Pastor, gastro supremo Harts Group has debuted its brand new wine bar concept, aptly named, The Drop.
Expect a fresh approach. “Wine lists have become divisive in London,” reckons Aimee, founder of Above Sea Level magazine, who curated The Drop’s menu. “You either find twenty-page tomes or staunch natural-wine agendas.” Her focus is much simpler: interesting wines made from both classic and lesser-known regions. There are around fifty options, plus monthly producer profiles. Stews, pies and salads are also available, while the terrace boasts an oyster cart.
Worried about snootiness? Don’t be. “If you just want a sauvignon blanc, that’s fine,” says Aimee. “Equally, it’s possible to experiment more — and perhaps try a dry Furmint from Hungary?” Thanks to a communal table, the atmosphere is convivial and friendly.
That’s exactly why she adores King’s Cross, too. “ All sorts of people come together here, from students to Google workers. I love it.”
This article first appeared in the autumn 2018 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below.