Prufrock: A Central Coffee Shop

It feels like an age since I blogged about London’s Best Coffee shops, and that’s probably because it is. Needless to say in my absenteeism I didn’t stop visiting the coffee houses of London or go caffeine-free, I simply was lacking the time and the photographs to blog about it (my camera memory was wiped).

So after a short hiatus I’m continuing my mission to try out new coffee shops and test the best of what London has to offer (mostly as stated in this list).

Next on the list is the Farringdon based coffee shop Prufrock that is listed in Time Out as one of the best coffee shops in Central London.

About five minutes from Farringdon Station, on Leather Lane, Prufrock stands in a back street, competing against a handful of other coffee shops with somewhat unusual opening hours as they appeared to be closed mid-Saturday afternoon.

The shop, painted in white, contrasts against the overwhelming grey of the street, and the blue logo hints at the colour scheme to come.

Central London Coffee Shop

The shop is large, unnecessarily so for a quiet Saturday. But the street outside hosts a market on a Sunday, and is centrally based so one can only assume the shop is a hive of activity Monday to Friday too.

Chris and I did not struggle to find a seat, choosing one of the benches backing onto the wall that is quirkily decorated with spoons. I like this touch – although the spoons are relatively recent ranging from the early noughties, it gives me nostalgia of the old 70s spoons my Gran collected and stored in a jewellery box.

Prufrock Coffee Decorations

Call me unseasoned in coffee ordering, or perhaps still a little jetlagged but Prufrock’s seemed to lack a clear place to order – instead there were just a handful of baristas stood around one coffee machine, making or supervising the production of one drink.

They were friendly nevertheless and spoke to me over the machine for my order.

Prufrock doesn’t seem to serve lattes, which as you might be aware has been my benchmark-test-drink. Instead they serve “espressos with milk”. Aside from the literality this strikes me as borderline pretentious – but we went with it anyways and ordered two espressos with milk.

Prufrock Latte

Barista Coffee Bar

The baristas took their time, which I’m not opposed too. I’d rather a well-served drink than a rushed, over milky, burnt “espresso with milk”, but that did result in my drink being much cooler than Chris’. In fact, mine was just above room temperature, where Chris’ was deliciously warm. I don’t believe this is a mark of inconsistency but it did mean I had to drink my coffee with speed.

The milk seems to mask the smoothness of the espresso that you normally find in a latte. ~ Chris

The atmosphere in Prufrock was pretty sombre. I’ve already mentioned it was pretty quiet, a victim of its location on a Saturday afternoon. But the general chatter of those in there was minimal, with most people staring at their phones or on laptops.

I’m not opposed to this and I actually think it’s a sign of being comfortable by the punters that drink there. But it did lead to Chris and I having a quiet conversation as to not disturb the soft indie music playing throughout the shop and those people using this quiet time for productive things.

Unfortunately, the people to the side of me did not have the same consideration and instead chose to speak VERY loudly about politics and to quote, “that whatsit report”.

 

— So would I return to Prufrock’s? —

Probably not, but not because of the coffee.

Generally, there is no reason for me to visit Farringdon, and to do so is a reasonable commute. Prufrocks, although a great coffee shop, is not pull enough for me to visit Farringdon. However if you’re in the area I’d recommend popping by for a good coffee (but maybe ask for it a little hotter just to be sure).

 

— Prufrock’s Summary —

Things that count in their favour:

  • Good coffee
  • Plenty of seating
  • Decoration
  • Water on tap
  • Good music
  • Friendly staff
  • Free wifi
  • Barista lessons

Things that count against it:

  • Limited outdoor seating (London though)
  • Location

If you’ve visited Prufrock (either at their Farringdon location, or before they closed in Shoreditch) let me know! Or if you have a coffee shop recommendation please comment! Or why not stare at my photos of coffee here?

Exploring Calgary

If you know me in person, follow me on Instagram or happen to know anything about my roller derby exploits then it’s likely you already know that I went on a not so average adventure to Calgary last month, to support and spectate England Men’s Roller Derby at the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup.

There really are no words that describe the feeling of watching your long-term partner and little brother represent their country and I imagine there are few things that can make somebody feel that proud.

Roller Derby World Cup

Photo by John Hesse

I could probably talk about the world cup for hours, and at some point might bore your eyes by discussing it at great length on here, but for now I really want to talk about being in Calgary and the areas that are close by. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL but also there is a thing as too much roller derby and I reached that around the first day of Rollercon.

If you’d ask me for a list of places I’d like to visit before I went on my roller derby travel adventure I wouldn’t have said Calgary, and to be honest I still wouldn’t say it is one of my top places to visit.

ONE. Because I’ve been there.

TWO. Because it’s much like the equivalent of visiting Lincoln but in Canada and without the history.

But that doesn’t mean that I had a horrid time – in fact quite far from it, and if you’re ever in that part of the world then I would give Calgary as a city a C+, should visit.

As this was my first trip to North America I can safely say I was entirely unprepared, despite the tips and tricks told to me by Smack, Kitty and Juke Boxx – seasoned roller derby travellers.

There’s something amazing about how vast Calgary is. 

Firstly, you definitely need a car in Calgary because the distance that your eyes can see is really deceptive. Calgary, although slightly hilly, is actually pretty vast and flat and that means you can see a lot, and often that ‘lot’ is far away in the distance.

Calgary

There are some methods of public transport, mostly the C-train, but as this basically has two lines and they are both very straight and I *think* run parallel to the McLeod Trail, it’s quite a walk to get to one and there’s often a walk on the other side to get to where you want to be. But it is cheap with a 90-minute pass costing 3.15$

Secondly, be savvy about where you buy your food from. Of course, the ideal is that you eat out for every meal and there’s plenty of choice meaning a varied diet, but the reality is actually quite far from that. In Calgary there are a lot of cheap chicken wings, meat with a side of meat and that delightful additive, high fructose corn syrup. In fact, the corn syrup shit was in the first thing I picked up (coleslaw) in Walmart. After that we searched for a supermarket that was much more concerned about what’s in its food (Coop).

Canadian Sign

Thirdly, I think I’m spoilt by London. There is something amazing about how vast Calgary is and the space between the buildings is incredible and so very different from London. BUUUUT – the city centre isn’t really a centre, and the shops are all hidden in air-conditioned shopping centres that have sky walks in between them. There felt like a lack of spirit and also a lack of transition from one cultural centre to another. There were also fewer people, which is probably the reason for the lack of buzz.

I did happen to find the “hipster” area of Calgary though, much to my joy. I did this solo-travelling, leaving Giggity at England training and catching the C-train in by my lonesome. So if you’re ever in Calgary and looking for fresh food, crop tops or a great coffee, 17th Avenue is your place to be.

 

— 17th Avenue —

You can get to 17th Avenue by getting off at the Victoria Stampede stop on the C-Train, you then just need to head left and you should be on the long and clearly marked 17th Avenue. If you do visit 17th Avenue by car, you can park on one of the side streets for a small parking fee till 6pm, and thereafter it should be free (make sure you read the signs).

Down this Avenue there are so many places to stop, shop and eat. At night it also seems to become a hub of activity with many of the seemingly quiet places by daytime turning into cool bars and live music hubs.

I’d personally recommend stopping at The Ox and Angela for food. It’s a dimly lit Tapas restaurant with its own garden and amazingly friendly staff. Sharing with another couple we ordered two tapas dishes each and each one was perfectly served and a mixture of fresh, rich flavours. I’d particular recommend the roast beetroot and mushrooms on sourdough bread, but the cold Mediterranean veg was also so tasty. In our whole stay I think this was the only meal I managed to eat completely vegetarian for.

There are also an abundance of coffee shops on 17th Avenue, which you can probably tell I was extremely happy about. But if I had to take my pick I’d recommend Philosafy coffee shop. Cooley decorated in wood, black and gold the coffee here was smooth, warm and reasonably priced. My only reservation is that their smallest size is probably the largest coffee I’ve sipped in a long time. But with friendly staff, air conditioning, natural light and plenty of seating this was my favourite coffee shop of the whole trip.

Best Coffee Shop in Calgary

The final place I’d recommend just on 17th Avenue is Central Memorial Park. A small but perfectly maintained park, this little gem houses water fountains and the sounds of children’s laughter. Sitting there, bathing in the sun felt great and I really felt like I was hiding away among natives. I did perhaps give away my foreign nature when I took my shoes off and ran in the fountains though… I’ve also heard rumours they do a night market there on alternating weeks, unfortunately my trip didn’t coincide with any of their dates.

The Fountains in Central Memorial Park

— Other things to do in the Calgary area —

Coming soon:

Sky Luge, Banff National Park and Chinook!

 

PS. Don’t forget that tax isn’t included on any price tag in Calgary (and I think the whole of Canada) they add it on when you pay. Look for GST on your reciept.

PPS. Tipping is a BIG thing.

How skating just isn’t enough

Spoiler alert: this post is going to talk about the side effects of my transfer into London Rollergirls… So if you have an anti-London bias (a topic for another day) zone out now.

So, like a sequel to a movie, here’s a mini introduction again – nearly a year ago I transferred into London Rollergirls because my job and my partner, Giggity, moved there. It wasn’t an unwanted move or transfer – I mean who would complain about skating at the highest level possible in the UK, or living in a city that has something happening everyday?

But the move was a giant change to my life. Coming from lil’ ol’ Lincolnshire – the big green flat marshland, with a small roller derby team, to the mammoth concrete beast that is London with its  highly competitive and huge roller derby team.

What I didn’t realise was just how giant the physical demands would be – leading me to the conclusion that skating just isn’t enough to keep you the top of your game.

roller derby pivot

Photo taken by John Hesse

So yah, yah, yah this is another post about how you and I should probably be doing off skates workouts, but it’s also more than that – it’s actually how you and I should be doing more off skates workouts, more non-training skating, more mental prep, more resting, more eating – because honestly I thought I was doing enough, but I AM SERIOUSLY STILL NOT.

Before I transferred into London Rollergirls I was hitting the gym twice a week – doing some loose strength training and trying to get some plyo movement back into my recovering legs. I was thinking about the mental side of the game (note thinking) and I was stoically sticking to the idea of Monday as my rest day. I knew that my transfer scrim was going to be hard – but I also thought I was working hard enough to be prepared.

It turns out I was doing just enough to transfer in. I passed my transfer scrim, and my probation and in November last year I bouted as Brawl Saint (HIGH FIVE). But quite simply it isn’t enough.

London Rollergirls Brawl Saints

Photo taken by John Hesse

Skating with the London Rollergirls has opened my eyes to how competitiveness is so fluid, and well…  Competitive. Like my good friend and housemate, Trisha Smackanawa, said in her blog post for Fitness Gone Rogue,

When you make the step up to the next level you are starting from behind and sprinting to catch up with everyone, only to find that when you get there you still have to run really damn fast.

Up a mountain.

And the mountain is on fire.

My motivation is to be the best skater I can be. To achieve that just skating really isn’t enough.

So what changes have I made?

Exercise

Well – it’s hard to remember a time when I slept in past 6:30. Since moving to London I’ve seriously upped my time spent in the gym. Where before my gym attendance topped out at twice a week and often done in the evenings, twice is definitely the minimum – with me often hitting the gym everyday (but Monday!) before work. Working out in the morning is something that I NEVER thought I would do – but with roller derby practice two evenings a week, and often mid-week meetings, it was a necessary change. It helps that my gym is round the corner from my work.

Mental prep

I’ve become obsessed with Ted Talks. I blame work for this more than roller derby – but Ted Talks are a great way to find out more information about your mental chemistry and personality ticks. I’ve previously spoken about trying to read to mentally prepare myself for the psychological ups and downs of injury and bouting, but I’ve found Ted Talks to be the most effective way of getting myself to believe I am strong, capable, free from injury, and well-practiced.

In particular I recommend this amazing Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. It speaks about how our body language shapes who we are, and about faking it until you become it. In particular the power poses referenced in this talk have helped me up my game considerably.

roller derby pivot taking the star

Photo taken by Andy Sainter

Eating

My eating habits have also changed. I really didn’t realise how necessary this was. But after spending an hour and a half at Brawl Saints team training getting my ass kicked, and then scrimmaging against both the amazing Batter C and the dominating Brawling, it’s easy to nearly faint if you’ve not eaten correctly -believe me I’ve nearly done it… Twice!

So now I’m more conscious than ever about what fuel I’m putting in. Because food is exactly that, fuel – so only a croissant for breakfast before training is like putting £2’s worth of supermarket petrol in your car. Cliche alert: you get out what you put in.

This change also coincided with me making a conscious decision to eat less meat, which I think has made changing my eating habits easier. But the search for protein is a constant puzzle (because I don’t like protein shakes).

Relaxing, resting and stretching

Prior to skating with London Rollergirls I can honestly say (aside from my first ever roller derby session) I have never had two-day DOMS caused by roller derby practice alone. Now I’m not surprised if I get this because I’m constantly pushing my body past its comfort zone to try and be more effective, stop quicker, hit harder, be more dominant or faster (and probably because I need more post-training protein).

So I started doing yoga on the regs. After every gym session I do 15 to 20 minutes of yoga, and on my rest days (which are Mondays AND Saturdays usually) I try to fit in a longer yoga session. My flexibilty has increased, which I’m advised by Fitness Gone Rogue, can only mean good things!

Feedback and maaaawwww skating

Feedback, free skate, feedback, free skate, feedback, free skate.

LRG has a great system of ownership on skaters to seek feedback, and a buddy system that supports this. Every couple of months since starting I’ve sought feedback on where I can improve to be what my team needs. The feedback is always different and always attainable – and often, actually not that far from my own self-assessment.

Having this feedback in my mind at practice and focusing on it where possible at free skate times really makes a difference to how you feel about your own skating and progress, as well as actually improving your performance. Some feedback is easier to work on than others, such as improving backwards skating versus not being a do-it-all player. BUT it’s a giant change to go from feeling offended and a little upset when somebody points out your flaws or “areas of growth” to thinking “great, I’m going to nail that – thanks for your time”

So yeah – the biggest learning curve I’ve had from my transfer to London Rollergirls, is how enough is never enough! But I think that’s what makes roller derby fun!

Learning and growing and growing and learning – Lil Cherry Kick’er