Cafe Boheme

This is the first of some (planned) occasional posts on writers’ cafes. Writers’ cafe has a personal meaning. It simply means that over some days I found the place quiet and agreeable enough that I got some writing done there, and nobody gave me dirty looks or threw me out to free up a table. Hassle-free, with drinkable coffee and nibbles. Cafe Boheme, on Old Compton Street in Soho, London, is one of those.

It opened in 1995, and I found it by chance when visiting London on business in the late 90s, a time when a good cup of coffee was a lot harder to find in London than it is now. Then, the coffee at Cafe Boheme was refreshing to a New Yorker suffering from the scarcity. Now, the Cafe Boheme coffee is … tolerable, I would say. A bit thin, perhaps. But likely the standard for coffee has risen a lot in London. Now, there’s a Caff√® Nero or a Costa Coffee on every corner.

Intended ambience: 1950s Parisian bistro-brasserie, and Nick Jones—the restauranteur who owns it—manages to out-French the French a bit with the decor. But it isn’t as gruesomely over-the-top as you can find in New York. I won’t say more about that, because you’ll find lots of reviews on the Web.

Vintage air-stirrer tech in Cafe Boheme

Vintage air-stirrer tech in Cafe Boheme

As a ‘writers cafe’ it’s for morning writers, which I am. By lunch, agreeable has become convivial. You’re lucky to find a table. By evening, it’s so loud and packed as to be uncomfortable, with the sweaty Soho party crowd—or after-party crowd—spilling out onto the street, and some brassy live music blaring inside. I took the pictures on a Friday at 8:32 AM, according to its meta-data. Way too early for the Soho crowd, but not too early for me, and I got a good couple of hours in before the tables were half-filled. The uniformed staff were friendly, and the refills kept coming. They’re still friendly, but now you’ll need a contactless payment card for the refills.

I still stop by sometimes to write, if I have the laptop along, or for a break when I’m touring the bookshops on nearby Charing Cross Road.