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Coffee Hot Stops: Four Corners Cafe, London SE1

June 1, 2014


My blossoming love affair with Lower Marsh, Waterloo, is a great example of how you can’t always be guided by first impressions. When I think of the number of times over many years that I’ve wandered part way along that road early evening while filling in time before meeting friends at the theatre or a restaurant, I can’t believe how much I missed. In some defence of myself, I’ve not been there at the best time; it’s usually after shops and certainly the market has closed. And tucked behind Waterloo station, it has to be said it’s not immediately apparent that there’s much of worth to be found there. It appears quite rundown and has a hint of old-style East End about it – rather than the newly, post-Olympics trendy East End we have now. But since my visit to ScooterCaffe, the wonderful grocery shop Greensmiths and the market yesterday, it’s appearing more like a destination in its own right.


I noticed Four Corners Cafe the first time, when seeking out ScooterCaffe. They’re almost opposite one another, at the far end of Lower Marsh coming from Waterloo. Here was instant attraction; first impressions being right. I crossed the road. It looked like my kind of cafe. When I looked at the menu, I knew had to come back: Ozone coffee, Yumchaa tea, tapas from Brindisa, breads and pastries from Balthazar. This had to be worth a visit.  A little research and I discovered they’ve been voted London’s Coolest Coffeeshop on Social Media 2014, were finalists for Best Coffeeshop in London 2014 and are featured in the London Coffee Guide 2014.

The owner, Gary Baxter, is apparently obsessed with travel and various pieces of travel paraphernalia are dotted about: old maps and tickets on the wall, vintage suitcases. ‘We’re about schemes and daydreams’ their website states. They offer a loyalty passport instead of a card and for a photo of you holding it in certain places around the world – Sagrada Familia, Grand Canyon, Ayers Rock or Edinburgh Castle, to name a few – you’ll earn a free lunch on your return. Above the table where I sat for lunch was a screen displaying some of their customers holding up a Four Corners’ passport in some of these places. They’ll even design and print your Top 30 bucket list destinations and experiences as a large poster (for £50). It highlights the shame for us west Londoners that we can no longer arrive at Waterloo station – just a stone’s throw from this cafe – and make an easy change on to a Eurostar to Paris or Lille and head down to the Mediterranean but have instead to negotiate our way across London to St Pancras. Still, dreaming is a good thing and this is what Four Corners Cafe encourages: share your dreams, share your travel experiences. But if all you want to do it sit down and have a good coffee, then that’s fine too!


I went in about midday; should I have a late coffee and pastry or an early snack lunch? I played the healthier card and went for the lunch option: a panino that looked irresistibly good and tasted even better. Everything looked great. Unfortunately it was too early for Brindisa tapas – they’re served later – but the sandwich and pastry options more than made up for it.


I chose a mozzarella and pesto sandwich in a ciabatta roll. Did I want it toasted, I was asked. Just lightly, I said. And this is what she did. It was perfect. I’m such a food snob about paninis; I’ve spent so much time in Italy I know the real thing, and it’s not the squashed, over-hot and brittle monstrosities that are served in chain cafes in UK. It’s a light toasting, soft bread inside, plenty of filling which is instantly recognisable in both sight and taste. At Four Corners Cafe this was just what I got.


It was really good; delicious. Tap water was freely available in carafes that were on a shelf for you to help yourself to with a glass. I like that touch. I ordered a Flat White too.


I have to say it wasn’t as pretty as I’m used to; barely any delicate feathering on top and slightly overfull. But it still tasted very good.

It was busy in the cafe; there was a nice buzz. I’d asked if a seat was free at a half occupied table when I arrived and when the girl opposite left, she smiled a goodbye and wished me a nice day. Friendliness is infectious: when the staff are friendly and smiling – as they were – then the customers are more likely to be that way too. It makes it a nice place to go; a nice place to sit … and dream, of course! And next time I’m there, I must remember to ask for one of those passports!

To find our more about Four Corners Cafe visit their website:
Four Corners café on Urbanspoon

  1. Sally permalink

    Thank you for throwing the spotlight on Lower Marsh Street. I too tend to think of it more as an evening location. Nothing special – but handy for Waterloo. If the trains are really distrupted – Sino Thai is a good place to eat while they sort themselves out! But I am going to revisit with new purpose and interest. ( But not a Rugby day!)

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