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Sacred Cafe at Highbury Studios N7 – Review

BY Boon Koh
Published 31 August 2009

It’s a lovely Bank Holiday Monday morning, and I am sitting here at a Sacred Cafe branch at the Vizion7 housing development in Highbury, North London. Thanks to the free wifi provided, I am happily getting my caffeine high from a latte while easily surfing the net with the high speed free wireless connection provided. I did stupidly choose to sit outside, which means that every time the sun pops out amongst the clouds I have to squint at my laptop screen!

This is a coffee shop that still exudes an independent aura, but is almost on the verge of joining Starbucks and Cafe Nero as one of the “big boys”. The Highbury Studio branch is their newest, with earlier branches in Soho (Ganton Street) and inside the Westfield Shopping Mall proving very popular. So what differentiates Sacred Cafe from the rest of the coffee shops in London? They promise organic coffee and food, with an emphasis on quality and a pleasant environment.

The founders are New Zealanders, and through Sacred Cafe have tried to introduce the New Zealand style of having coffee. Their house blend is a typical New Zealand organic fair-trade blend, and the house tea blend comes from a plantation in Sri Lanka that one of the founders of Sacred Coffeehas a stake in.

Sacred Cafe Highbury London They also serve a good range of pastries, bagels, sandwiches, and hot food such as scrambled eggs and soups. On this occasion I am only having a latte (which, btw, is rather good), as the high prices of food has rather put me off. Charging £5.40 for a dainty portion of scrambled eggs and a few slices of toast is somewhat on the high side, especially when not in central London. I know independent caffs on nearby Holloway Road that serve a full English breakfast for less than £3.50. My medium latte was £2+, which, I think, is the most I have ever paid for a latte outside of an airport. Granted that the coffee is fair-trade and organic, but even Starbucks have more or less switched their blends to fair-trade coffees, so I find it incredulous that Sacred is able to justify their prices, especially in this branch outside central London.

Having said that, the free wifi is a big plus as most of the big chains charge for theirs, and the staff here were incredibly friendly and the coffee is brought to your table. The atmosphere here too is perfect for reading a book or just having a quiet chat, and as its of the main road, one feels more relaxed even while sitting at the tables outside. This is also an excellent place for the more cultured Arsenal football fans who prefer to have a coffee and danish before the match, rather than a pint of beer and a packet of crisps.

A pity though that everytime I pass by the cafe, business seems slow, and today is no exception with only 4 other patrons in the past hour or so. This cafe is a rare gem in the chicken-shop dominated area of Highbury and Holloway Road, but I fear they have priced themselves out of the market and not promoted themselves enough.

Sacred Cafe Iced Coffee 5th Sep 2009 edit: While I was not really impressed with my first visit here last week, I decided to give it another try this week (and to use their free internet), and this time I ordered an ice coffee (£3.00). Expecting a bog standard, Starbucks style ice coffee (plastic cup of ice, with an espresso shot poured in and lots of milk), my expectations wasn’t too high. However, I was greatly surprised when I got a glass with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and a cocktail shaker with an ice cold latte inside!! You have to pour the ice latte over the ice cream, which is a unique experience, and the vanilla ice cream gives the ice coffee an amazing creamy taste. 11 out of 10 stars for this unique, yet simple, concoction!

Rating: 6 out of 10 7 out of 10 stars
Address: Highbury Studios, 8 Hornsey Street, London N7 8EG
Nearest Tube Station: Holloway Road Station (2 minutes walk)
Tel:020 7700 1628

Other branches at Ganton Street, Kingly Court, Westfield, and Torrington Street. Full details available at their main website.