Is it possible for East London to have too many hip coffee shops? Apparently not, judging by the new kid on Commercial Street’s block. The team behind Trade has changed what used to be menswear supplier in what used to be London’s textiles district, and turned it into a very stylish and good looking coffee bar. The interior is all mid-century ‘caff’ furniture in greens and brown, with white painted brickwork and reclaimed wood panelling on the walls. The industrial lighting leaves you under no illusion that you are indeed in a hip place. However it’s not in the slightest bit pretentious. And the food – I had the smashed avocado with lime, feta, and red chilli, with side of chorizo; my friend had the house smoked pastrami Benedict – was delicious. As were the three flat whites I rocked through.
I catch up with Alex Stone, one of the founders, to ask him about it.
Hi Alex, so tell me, what made you decide to open Trade?
It started when I visited Melbourne in 2010 and fell in love with the café scene there. At the time speciality coffee was still quite underground in London. Since then the London coffee scene exploded with lots of places making great coffee but the Aussie café scene is also about inventive and delicious café food and friendly customer service which I felt was lacking in some of our homegrown third wave coffee shops. We wanted to create a café which cares as much about the food and the service as the quality of the coffee.
Where did the inspiration for how it looks come from?
We instructed a firm of very cool and inventive architects and worked on a brief which would reflect us. We wanted the shop to make a subtle impact and surprise our customers but at the same time not be overly pretentious. The brand is TRADE and we thought fitting to use tradable materials in the design such as copper and timber.
Let’s talk about the food and coffee. You’ve seen what I had for breakfast – what do I get next time for lunch?
I have indeed, great choice! The pastrami benedict your friend ate is a recent addition and a real treat for the taste buds. If you return mid-week and have better will power than me, we have a daily changing selection of interesting seasonal salads and freshly baked quiches. However later in the week or over the weekend I would recommend any of our ‘TRADEMARK’ Sandwiches. The most recent addition is ‘The Gruber’: House Smoked Pastrami, House Smoked Turkey, Swiss Cheese, Pickles and Trade-Secret Sauce in a Brioche Roll. Oh yeah!
I notice you only open in the day time? Why is that?
Although we do quite a lot of food we are essentially a coffee shop. We don’t serve alcohol and all our set up is geared to breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon coffee and cake. I wouldn’t rule out doing something in the evenings in due course but for the moment we are using the café in the evenings for smoking and curing meat and baking cakes for wholesale customers.
Finally, where else do you recommend to eat and drink local to Commercial street?
My local favourites are: The Culpeper for great craft beer and reasonably priced, high-end inventive pub fare. Chez Elles on Brick Lane is a fantastic little French restaurant. We also love the legendary Mama Thai just behind us on Toynbee Street.
Great stuff Alex, and thanks for having me. I look forward to returning for lunch!
My pleasure Walton. You can come back anytime you like!