Now, many of us know about coffee shops, coffee houses…whatever you want to call them. But I must set the stage here and that is to define that a coffee house (or shop) does not have late hours and does not have a full bar. A coffee pub on the other hand, has extended hours into the late night and a full bar and food menu accompanying their coffee drinks. My assumption is that these definitions are international as well.
I began the first part of this current trip by staying in London. It was my first time there and I had the pleasure of staying with my dear friend Eulanda Shead who on Saturdays takes an African dance class in a studio located near the London neighborhoods of Camden Town and Kentish Town. During this time I do what I do best when I travel…I explored by wandering the streets on foot. After walking along a street lined with English row-homes, I came to a busy intersection and on the corner right beside me were beautiful, large glass windows. Looking inside, I could see dark wood floors and a bar, cushioned seats and small tables, as well as ornate chandeliers and books lining the window shelves and every other shelf within the room. Funny thing is, I actually crossed the street to take a closer look at a tent selling fresh flowers and I almost left behind this fantastic find of a coffee pub. But I glanced back at those glass windows and saw on the building the words “The Assembly House”.
The pub was empty when I stepped inside, except for three people behind the bar who I later came to know by name: John, one of the managers, Burt, and Natalie. The rest of the place was empty…but it was so beautiful. Despite the overcast weather outside, there was a natural light flooding in through the windows that seemed to bring to life the hundreds of years that this establishment has existed. Each of my new friends behind the bar, were very helpful and kind. I was able to have my pick of seats since it was only eleven in the morning and there was no one else in the pub yet. I chose a fantastic cushioned seat with arms and a high back that was situated in the large room I had peered into from the street. Next to my seating area was a fireplace and the electric outlet necessary for me to charge to my laptop and accomplish some writing.
Overall, I spent a few hours at The Assembly House. John walked me around the two main rooms and told me the story of its existence. Having originally been an aristocratic home about three-hundred years ago, the family that lived there moved away when the rail lines were built just across the street from the home. After this, the area became one of the less savory areas of London and the house became a pub. As with many pubs then and now, fights ensued and John was very knowledgeable about the exact panes of glass that were broken due to men being thrown out through the windows. This is really a shame since the original pieces of glass adorning the walls and in the windows along the street have hand-carved etchings that are intrinsic in their detail. Some were replicated in more recent years, however John was able to even point out how you can tell the difference between those that are newer and those that are the originals. The room further back from where I was sitting was made of walls with exposed brick and a glass ceiling that had portions of stained glass. It was truly beautiful! There were sporadic shelves placed throughout the entire pub that contained old books and empty bottles of fine wine and whiskeys…some with already partially used candles perched atop the openings and others still corked and being saved for a future enjoyment.
Sitting in my cushioned seat, I took a few minutes to soak it all in…any seat in the different rooms would be wonderful and fill me fascination as I contemplated the hundreds of years the building itself had existed and all the people that had traveled through there. Burt created for me my first cappacino of this trip: sprinkled with a generous portion of cocoa powder and indulged with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream, it was a wonderful beginning to enjoying coffee on my trip. And it definitely called for another one shortly thereafter. For lunch I enjoyed the chicken curry soup which came highly recommended by Burt and was served by Natalie. She was wonderfully attentive to me, checking on how I was doing and sending me smiles from behind the bar. The soup was delicious to say the least. The curry was not too hot, but a wonderful light spice to it, full of flavor and not too creamy. The bread served with it was soft and warm, perfect for dipping and fresh to my taste-buds.
Throughout the few hours that I spent in this amazing pub, I wrote, watched families and people come in and out for lunch and drinks, got to know precious little Cecil who played pick-a-boo with me, and enjoyed the friendly and warm company of those who work behind the bar: John, Natalie, and Burt. I think it’s not hard to see that I am looking forward to visiting London again, just so I can spend more time at this new favorite pub of mine, The Assembly House.
To find and enjoy The Assembly House as well, look them up online or leave me a comment. I’m happy to make sure that you get to experience it as well.