Vagabond, Stroud Green Road

May 11, 2012

Weeks ago, as the venerable W7 eased its way down Stroud Green Road toward Finsbury Park Station, I noticed a curious phenomenon among the kebab pedlars and charity shops of that slightly shabby thoroughfare: a vibrant-looking, busy coffee house, not too garish or run-down, and from the look of its out-door seating area (this is when we were still in drought, natch), doing a decent trade. Being the roving sort, I resolved to head there when time allowed, and sure enough, the accomplice and I attended a weekend or two later. This review is based on today’s jaunt, but takes that earlier visit into account as well.

Vagabond is well worth the journey.

And, I fear, the wait. For the first impression of my solo, weekday visit, where the place was busier, oddly, than my first (a deux and at the weekend), was that the single barista was swimming massively against the relentless tide of orders. It took a fair while for my espresso to come, but I must give substantial props to the barista and his colleague’s cheerful demeanour and genuine regret at the time it took. I have to confess that while, like anyone, I find waiting a bit of a pain, I do fully understand that good coffee cannot be rushed and anyone who grouches and grumbles should go to the Great Russell Street Starbucks and wait half an hour for the ashtray leavings they serve there, and then rethink their position. Rant over.

Vagabond, N4

Was the espresso worth the wait? Yes, emphatically yes. The first impression was full and earthy, before the biting acidity of the top end scorched around my gums like an excitable wasp. The crema was rich and gloopy and gave way to a pleasingly thick shot, which shows the extraction was spot-on. It went well to the bottom of the glass too, unusually, with none of the final bitterness that can come from a shot with such clear high notes. I was extremely impressed and the Has Bean roast being deployed here clearly does the job. The final swallow left a lovely warm glow and a slight tingle. This is what an espresso ought to be like.

I then, as is customary, went for the macchiato. Now, one of the things I’ve learned is that people approach the macchiato in one of two ways. My preference is the blending, through a high pouring action, of the milk with the shot, but others do like the foamy milk scooped off the top and dolloped in, like a helping of softness which mitigates the shot’s bitterness as you drink it through the foam. Preferences are just that, and I am happy to leave a barista to make it the way they do and see how it goes. I was not an enormous fan of the macchiato I had today for that reason, as today’s maker was a dollop-merchant. The milk was very well made, but like the macchiato I had at DoCaSA (see my previous review), this method doesn’t elicit the silkiness I like from a macchiato – the point, for me, is to enjoy the contrast between a straight shot and a smoother delivery in the milkier version. Having said that, the macchiato I had when I went with the accomplice on my previous visit was heavenly, made exactly the way I like, and exhibiting all the qualities I look for. And I did chance to see a few other coffees made today, and they looked as they should, and very good that was too.

And what of the venue itself? It is lovely, a bit ramshackle and messy perhaps, like a child’s playroom without the toys, but warm and welcoming and friendly. The name implies an affinity with artistic, itinerant types, and the style and feel of the place works with that image nicely. As I said before, I was really impressed with the way the chaps behind the bar stayed cheerful and chatty despite being a touch overwhelmed. There are some niVagabond, N4ce coffee-themed photos up, and the outside seating area is well done and will be rammed come summer, I have no doubt. Drinks start at £1.60 and there is a good-looking selection of cakes and other items too. Though Crouch End, a short bus ride away, has some good and even great venues, this part of N4 seemed a little lost and Vagabond is a cracking addition to the firmament. As N4, and the Finsbury Park area of it especially, sees an influx of young professionals and arty types, I have no doubt that Vagabond will get even busier, and rightly so. Based on the quality of the coffee and the commendable loveliness of the place, I doubt Vagabond will be wandering off anytime soon.

Vagabond, Unit 20, Charter Court, Stroud Green Rd, N4 3SG

I couldn’t find a website, but I’ll stand corrected…

Also on Twitter: @VagabondN4


One Response to “Vagabond, Stroud Green Road”

  1. […] up after the cold morning in the park. While researching for this post, I stumbled upon Liquid Jolt review, which I recommend you to read for a thorough overview on Vagabond’s […]

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