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Tinderbox Cafe, Angel N1 – Review

BY Boon Koh
Published 14 August 2009

I have a thing for coffee shops.

Whether I’m working and need a java fix in the middle of the day, or even when I’m out shopping or on a errand, I just find myself so tempted to grab a cup of coffee at any cafe I pass by. Well, not any; the really grotty British-style caff that serve full English breakfasts I avoid like the plague. I know it sounds hollow when I say that its not an addiction to coffee; it really isn’t. I can go days without having a coffee and still feel fine, and I don’t get a particular caffeine buzz after drinking coffee. Its more to do with the fact that I just love a nice rich latte.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Type: Coffee Shop, stylish and a bit retro

Tinderbox Cafe. Angel, London N1 I found one such latte at Tinderbox, which is a pretty funky and stylish cafe located in the N1 Centre just off Upper Street, near Angel tube station. Well, apparently the full name is “Tinderbox Espresso Emporium”, but lets just call it at Tinderbox Cafe for now. The entrance to this fine establishment looks rather unassuming if you pass by, and I would have probably just dismissed it altogether if I wasn’t really craving for something to drink. They have a small takeaway counter at their entrance, but the real place is upstairs, accessible through a flight of stairs at the back of the ground floor entrance. Its a bit of a shame, really, because Retailing 101 would teach you that for discretionary spend like coffee, its important that potential customers walking by can see your cafe (hence all the floor to ceiling glass windows at chain coffee shops). Make the customer see the yummy drinks and the smiling chatting people and the plush seats, and he/she will be tempted.

Anyways, apart from that basic retailing error, I was very impressed with what I saw upstairs. There’s a balcony with lots of tables for those who like to drink coffee al fresco. Then there were small booths / cubby holes for more intimate discussions (or, ahem, other things). There was a long wooden table down the middle to make full use of the space, and several PCs as well, with internet access (but costs extra I think), as well as Polka Dot Wifi (also not free).

They had a wide selection of cakes, muffins, biscuits, and other coffee accompaniments, but I just ordered an ice latte. It was served in a proper old-style glass; Tinderbox 1, Starbucks 0 for being environmentally friendly.

In truth, pretty much all coffee shops are the same. But this one served great coffee, and had that little bit extra that makes it a great place. I can see that this place already has a loyal following and a solid reputation behind it, and can see it being one of the top coffee spots in London. Good coffee, good atmosphere, comfy chairs, and best of all, independent.

Address: N1 Centre, Parkfield Street, London, N1 0PS
Nearest Tube Station: Angel Station (2 minutes walk)
Tel:0207 354 8929


  • http://www.essexportal.co.uk/news/essex-information/alfresco-dining-in-chelmsford Jon

    Great place to be able to have a coffee outside. Maybe just me, but drinking coffee alfresco always tastes better. No idea why!

  • Flor

    Special mention should be made of the staff, without whom none of the great atmosphere found in Tbox would be possible, and who work damned hard 😉 Next time check out their amazing latte art, you will be impressed for sure.
    Also I am most disappointed with whoever proofread this article as there were far too many grammatical errors, the rules of when to use an apostrophe really aren’t that difficult, a little care next time please.

  • Siobhan

    And open really late – a rarity among independent coffee shops. 22.00 during the week, 22.30 at the weekend! Making it a great substitute for the pub, if you fancy an alcohol free night.

  • ashtonturner

    Coffee used to be great now it’s all over the place, from OK to shockingly bad. Probably because they employ completely dis-interested students (who change every week).