Yelp Londons best cafes

Yelping Has Its Perks

This Weekly Yelp brought to you by The Yelp Events Page 9 January 2013

Yassir N

Pour us a cup.

Ah, the joy of the café. A warm coffee, a fresh sandwich, a spot to get some work done. As we freeze in London, this week we’re opening the doors to the best spots to get a midday warm-up. Pull up a chair and join us.

When you’re a coffee-shop workhorse, atmosphere is key. Like a dutiful son, Duncan Wproclaims, ‘it is very hard not to love Look Mum No Hands. It’s light, seats are plentiful, Wi-Fi is free, and the welcome is warm.’ In the Victoria & Albert MuseumMelizza R croons, ‘every time I go, I dream about getting married again and hosting it in the V&A Café.’ Meanwhile, Pitfield is brewingLarissa G a damn fine ‘macchiato in an adorably kitsch teacup‘ she can actually purchase! ‘Their showroom is filled with fantastically whimsical housewares, too.’ Pimp out your nook.

For shutterbugs who like photographing their food, Camera Café is the place. ‘It felt a little secret-agent meeting for coffee in the back of a camera shop,’ opines Thomas A. WeLeica the sound of that! Coffee geeks like Freya C gather atWorkshop Coffee. Her ‘unashamedly, schmaltzy love serenade’ of a review also calls out their brunch menu. If you see the word ‘fritter’, order it. Keeping that sweet tooth in check? Then steer clear of Candy Café. ‘Straight away, you see the amount of bubble tea, and the sweet snacks they have,’ Marie L says, and it’ll make your head spin.

Riding over to Tapped & PackedEliza D assures, ‘It is just as adorable on the inside as it appears from the outside. The best part is the loyalty card which depicts a six-person tandem bicycle. Clever and creative!’ Joanna R is ‘in love with Candid Café. I love every single thing about it, from the alleyway locale to the funky lighting and brilliant atmosphere. Oh yes, and the coffee!’ Dream of making it on MasterChef? Start atBooks For Cooks, and try the back café, where Alex S dines – the ‘rotating menu from various cookbooks’ is divine. You’ll be a wiz in no time.

On The Radar

A Hot Afternoon:Winter Warmer At The Met

Come Sail Away:Europe’s First Boat Show

Wheelies Galore…At Arenacross

God Save The King:The London Chess Classic

Royally Iced:Skate At Hampton Court Palace


What Your Restaurant Chalkboards Can Do for You

What Your Restaurant Chalkboards Can Do for You


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Expert Author Craig Thornburrow

If you want to draw attention to your eating establishment, restaurant chalkboards can help you do the trick. Or maybe you want to dress up the inside of your restaurant or business. It could even be that you just want to add some flair to your home or loft living space. Whatever the reason, these make great additions to your home or business.

Even businesses with small budget can afford to include a chalkboard. There are many uses, such as:

• Writing out the daily specials 
• Writing out the entire menu 
• Putting it out front to entice people to come in 
• Writing out a to-do list for things to do around the home or for the business

If your small business needs a little front doorstep advertising, consider this an investment to help increase your traffic flow.

Benefits of Chalkboards

If you aren’t fully convinced this type of board is necessary or could help you, it is time to take a look at some of the potential benefits.

• Easy to Change – Some eateries include their entire menu on the chalkboard. This can be very useful if you do not have menus printed yet or if your menu changes often. So if you have daily specials that change, this is an easy way to let people know about what’s available.

• Easy to Clean – Even if your chalkboard gets plenty of use and begins to look dirty from daily erasing, washing it off with a sponge and water will freshen it right up. Make sure you do this once in a while to help keep your board looking new and so it is easy to read.

• Versatile Designs and Use – You can usually get hanging boards or standing ones, or change what you have back and forth. Keep it out of the way so customers don’t trip, but also mount it where it can easily be seen. The great thing is if you don’t feel it is getting enough attention, you can always change the location, unlike other type of fixed mounted signs. You can also get different sizes. So for your entire menu you may need a large board. To simply write out the word “sale” a smaller board will do.

Other Clever Uses

These chalkboards are getting popular with people who are thinking up alternate uses, other than the obvious. Writing out your sales for example, means you can change the sales guidelines at any point. It also means not having to invest larger sums of money into vinyl or other types of printed signs.

Some people leave this type of sign up for people to write down comments or suggestions for the business. It could also be to give kids a space to get creative. Some places even have their board up to keep track of credit or gifted credit, as a cheaper and greener alternative to gift cards. Restaurant chalkboards can do wonders for your small business.

Chalk sign services – NGS

Our Creative Services

Originally our focus was mainly on chalkboard signs and chalk art. Though this still makes up the bulk of our work, we are adding new services as fast as people are asking for them. Listed below are some of the types of creative work we do, but if there is something art or design related that you don’t see just send us an email and we’ll see what we can do!


What we can do…

  • Design + create unique chalk signs and artwork
  • Design + create sidewalk chalk artwork for events and weddings
  • Design + create wall paintings & small murals
  • Build professional quality custom picture frames for chalkboards and artwork
  • Build Indoor/outdoor A-frame style sign holders

Who will benefit from our work…

  • EVERYONE! but especially…
  • Restaurants
  • Events
  • Coffee Shops
  • Bars
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Yoga Studios
  • Weddings
  • Individuals
  • and the list goes on…

What you can do with our work…

  • Menu Boards
  • Weekly/Daily Restaurant Special Boards
  • Service Description Signs
  • Product Pricing Signs
  • Promotional Signs
  • Wedding Signs
  • Event Signs and Artwork
  • Unique Gifts
  • Artwork for Homes


NGS Chalk signs – rock you client with a great visual message!


Dishoom Shoreditch NGS Case

The new Dishoom is really a spectacular blend of rich, quirky on retro trend design and slick gastronomy.


And if you think that’s a mouthful wait till you see the menu… and our signwriting!!

In the heart of London this hand painted window set is a stunner with the original vintage 1920’s Bombay font extracted by Nick Garrett from an vintage cafe sign (below) and embellished into it’s new typographic context. Some of the new characters I created taking reference from the original but launching into the quirky eccentric.

Above:  artwork prepared by NGS for the production of full sized layouts (Output – Original Copy Center Lond UK )

Double trouble

But it’s been really tough… arriving on site to hand paint the glass the dimensions supplied were all slightly out affecting one lay out and the windows were 25mm double glazed!

That meant the drawing we would use to trace our lettering was 32mm away from the surface needed to be written on the inner pane of plate glass… in effect we were writing on an invisible floating plain inside the shop unable to line up to the drawing!


The normal brush controls went out the window! Literally … and after serious eye-strain, double vision and a panic attack Mat and I found things gradually improving as our technique accommodated this incredibly odd and challenging work environment.

A half day into the writing  and gradually the mind had made adjustments – we started to even enjoy the fruits…

Next… Bombay retro Dishoom NGS

An eccentric old Bombay Café, recently arrived, East London

Posted August 16th, 2012. comments

Britannia Cafe, Ballard Estate, Bombay

NGS just love this look – stay posted

Dishoom Shoreditch, 7, Boundary Street, London E2 7JE. Opening October 2012.

One day, an old Irani Café (born circa 1930, Bombay), creaking slightly at the seams, made the long trip from Bombay in 1970 to London in 2012. Tired from the long journey, it shuffled into an empty space in Shoreditch and made itself comfortable. This old Café had for some time been maintaining correspondence with its slightly more showy cousin who had made a similar trip and had found a home in Covent Garden.

However, while the cousin in Covent Garden had worked hard to polish, primp and style itself, this Café was less concerned. It knew instinctively that the layers of imperfection and eccentricity built up over the many years of serving customers in Bombay weren’t merely clutter to be cleaned up and scratches to be polished out, but were in fact its very memory and character. It decided to leave its disheveled corners right where they were, as little reminders of home.

Gradually, as it grew to know and love its new community, it realised that it felt very much at home in it. The customers enjoyed hearing its stories of old Bombay, many of which were even true. They liked the faded pictures of the relatives on the walls. They smiled as they gradually grew to know the quirks of this old Café – which seemed constantly to be hankering after a lost mid-century Bombay. They seemed to care little that the shininess of the Covent Garden cousin was absent.

And most of all the Café loved serving food and drink with so much enthusiasm. The food which came quickly out of the open kitchen. The Lamb Raan which had been cooked overnight and seemed completely at home in a burger. The warm baked biscuits and Keema puffs, just like those still being served at Sassannian Café in Bombay. The endless cups of chai, the best thing to revive energy levels on a wilted Tuesday afternoon. The bar, which served the most delicious and sincere old cocktails – Flips, Gimlets, Juleps and Sours, felt even a bit pre-‘47.

A new home

Brunch on Sunday would be deliciously lazy, laced warmly with the aroma of the bakery. Lunch with colleagues on a Wednesday, busy and brisk, waiters bustling on to the verandah with trays of abundant food. Afternoon chai would provide a calm refuge from the East London street. Meanwhile, dinner and drinks on a Friday or Saturday night would see the place at its liveliest, buzzing with Londoners coming to a good old knees-up hosted by the eccentric old Café.

Throughout, the Café smiled inwardly to itself. It was never happier than when it was being true to itself and serving its guests – sharing its love for Bombay, serving its food, telling its stories. And before too long, the Café began to feel as if it had always been there wedged comfortably into Boundary Street, accumulating its own East London layers.

Bombay has changed much over the centuries.

Marine Drive, Bombay, in the late 1930s

Marine Drive, Bombay, in the late 1930s

Controlled by the Portuguese in the 16th, taken over by the British in the 17th, it became a major trading hub by the 18th and the commercial capital of India by the 20th. It has always been home to migrants from different communities, a lively cosmopolitan pot of traditions and cultures.

Now, of course, it’s a global megacity, leading the charge of the brave new India into the 21st century. Yet, exciting as modernity is, when we make the time to peer back over our shoulders, we notice that valuable traditions are often lost in the frantic rush of progress.

The old Bombay Cafés – or Irani Cafés – are one such tradition. They were mostly opened in the late 19th and early 20th century by immigrants from Persia, who had been coming to India for over a thousand years. These cafés were part of the fabric of urban life, functioning as an eating, meeting and drinking place for people from all communities, for rich and poor alike. They all had that distinct comfortable look of faded elegance. Britannia and Leopolds are good examples that are still around. Café Naaz is one that was much-loved but that closed in 1999.

Saloni Shukla, a Bombay filmmaker, has talked about these cafés:

“The Irani cafes have been the familiar abode of wealthy businessmen, lawyers, struggling rickshaw pullers in need of a quick refreshment to whole families for whom the local Irani could be a place for lovely lunches or dinners. For the hooker who worked the street it was a place of refuge, too…anyone, irrespective of religion, caste or creed could wander in and find comfort in the energy of the place.

An old advertisement for Café Naaz

An old advertisement for Café Naaz

A place where friends would chill, couples would court, business deals were signed and reforms were made by the great leaders of the past. A place where artists would get inspired, writers would find their characters and your old uncle could just sit back, drink a cup of chai and read the Sunday Times. A place where kids would lie to their parents and go eat and hang out with their mates. A place where stories began. Now, these places that have survived in our city for well over 100 years are close to the lines of extinction.”

Dishoom draws heavily from the heritage and tradition of the old Bombay Cafés. We’ll be welcoming people from morning until night, serving tasty breakfasts, quick lunches, early evening drinks and snacks, or a sociable dinner with friends. Our all-day café menu takes inspiration from the food of Bombay.

There were around four hundred of these cafés in Bombay at their peak. Now, sadly, less than thirty remain. We’d really like to capture some part of this disappearing tradition in Dishoom, and share it with Londoners.

‘Like’ our Facebook page and follow us on twitter to follow progress and hear about opening details.
If you live close by, drop us a line on so we can invite you to events. 

Retro Electric Cafe – Cafe Sign Vintage Typeface Design specialisation

Remember the warms of a true London original painted cafe sign?

It’s alive and revived…

Above:  c1935.  The original sign still under the existing panel at the Electric Cafe W Norwood, London.
Below: Baldini restoration project reference photograph

NGS Cafe Sign Projects – London Traditional Sign-Writing 

I am getting a steady flow of vintage cafe -eatery signs these day here are a few on show – It is possible to take an old photo and extract enough info tor reproduce a faithful replication to your new London, Uk, European, Worldwide, eatery sign or interiors project

Above: Baldini sign project: Restoring photo and extracting exact original font style for retro cafe traditional sign re-paint layout

Below:  Signwriting reverse glass at Dishoom Shoreditch High St London


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Dishoom was a really aaazing project – organised and highly creative

Above: Retro repro painted sign panel with soft distressing – NGS

POD Mansion House – NGS eaterie hand painted glass murals and fascia signage

I specialise in real, hand painted Cafe and Restaurant sign writing – if you need a quality painted sign statement for your business email me or give me a call with you project details.  Happy to set up an appointment.

Nick Garrett NGS

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