A review of an independent cafe, Ozone at Old Street, East London. Notes are by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability. Most photos are shot with a second-hand Fujifilm X100.
There’s something precious about a blank slate: its emptiness calls attention to everything we place on it. That was the state I wanted to be in for first impressions of Ozone (which conjured images of a chique New York City fuscia and magenta hued bar counter). So I didn’t look up anything.
For all its cavernous interior, its exterior was but a disrete black box sign jutting out of a red brick industrial facade. The line on a late Sunday morning was enough of to attract attention. I took my place at the back and was asked if I was alone and intended to be working — a detail that already piqued my interest. Since we were a party of two, I was told I should expect a 20-minute wait.
As we inched person by person indoors, I began to take the wait as a bit of a luxury to observe the people already seated. Right by the entrance was one continuous row of work benches filled with laptops and notebooks (Wi-Fi and plugs are available). Ozone had thought about how to create space for this particular remote work clientele. The animated dining-focused area is naturally sectioned off with the open-kitchen in the middle of the main floor. The seating you will be directed to (if you’re socializing rather than working) includes booth seating, open-kitchen counter seating, and quieter seating in the basement roasting area.
But I wasn’t remote working that day. I was catching up with a friend and wanted to try this place’s brunch. As a traditionalist, I tend to be skeptical of the coffee in places that also have an extensive food menu. However, Ozone consistently topped many coffee lists when I was first doing research, so I gave it a shot.
For starters, I ordered a double-shot piccolo latte. Another detail Ozone took care of was having separate espresso roasts for white or black drinks. They also serve single-origin pour-over and hand drip. All in all, it was a yummy acidic flavour I’ve missed in Asia.
The highlight, I must say, was the food. The brunch menu had a range of items that went between £5-12, which was surprisingly reasonable for such a hyped and — despite its industrial themed decor — refined service.
I chose the pancake with chocolate mousse, macerated blueberries, cashew nut yoghurt, orange crunch & lemon balm, which is gluten free and vegetarian. I’m neither vegetarian nor gluten-intolerant, but I mention this because the menu is quite accommodating for people with various dietary requirements.
The even more interesting menu item was the beetroot and cumin fry-bread with crushed avocado, smoked yoghurt, apple, spring leaves, and a poached egg. All in all, the savoury fushion was quite good! I’m sure this is a great place to remote work, but it’s worth visiting for some culinary inspirations too.
Their Story / What I like About Them:
Ozone is actually a New Zealand transplant in hip East London. East London gentrification aside, Ozone itself has a respectable history beginning from humble roots in 1998.
It’s one of the few cafes I can recall enjoying for both the coffee and the food (Monmouth, also in central London comes to mind for its pastries). Generally, I look for creative menu items that I wouldn’t make at home. In addition to flavour pairing, I’m a stickler for texture and optimal serving temperature. Neither dish we tried was entirely polished (for example, the fried bread could have been just a bit crispier), I still enjoyed them.
This is perhaps a roundabout way of saying that Ozone averages out well for coffee, food, seating, and service. London is not known for its service — not when I lived there anyway. In contrast, at Ozone I was greeted by a professional who could accurately tell me how long I was expected to wait, give my friend and me a generous booth seat that could seat between 4 (Europe) to 8 (Asia) people, and not rush us in any way despite the line. Whether from the menu, to the number of times a waiter came, to the coffee options, the attention to the small details lived up to the company’s public claim to hospitality.
Hospitality is the ubiquitous word throughout Ozone’s website and articles. The company writes that they bought the first La Marzocco 2 Group Linea machine for Taranaki, New Zealand for Craig Macfarlane’s “hospitality business“. Coffee at Ozone is only part of their hospitality package.
But it is an important part. Ozone’s roasting operation is in the basement and the first thing you see while waiting at the entrance. The lower level is also far more quiet and you might be able to skip the line a bit if you request it, as I noticed the seats weren’t filled.
Unfortunately, because it’s so popular, one hardly has the chance to actually speak to anyone, but Ozone’s roasters do independent sourcing trips for their green beans. I would definitely recommend picking up a freshly roasted bag on your way out.
As a last note, they also have their own independent print publication. You can get a sample of their writing on their online blog.
- Coffee: Espresso, pour-over, aeropress
- Food: Pastries, brunch, lunch, dinner
- Cafe Space: 50+ seats, 2 floors
- Friends: Hangouts, catching up, readings
- Workspace: along the windows by the entrance
- Remote Work: Wi-Fi available, plugs available
|Address:||11 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4AQ|
If you liked this post, check out my East London Coffee Walk!