Look Mum No Hands!, Old Street

August 2, 2012

First off, Look Mum No Hands! (mandatory use of punctuation there, regardless of what style guides the world over say about exclamation marks (one per one thousand words of text is standard, so I believe)), is surely the best name for a cycling-themed place of any description. It brilliantly conveys the excitement and enthusiasm of this at times maligned, at times controversial mode of traversing the highways and byways of the world. Of course, cycling is more than just a cheap, green way of getting from A to B. It is a cultural phenomenon, an artery of business couriering, a hobby, and, as recent protests have shown, a collective expression of the frustration felt by people of a shared ethos with changes and impositions brought on by, among other things, the Olympics. Old Street is a perfect location for LMNH! as well, sitting as it does at the nexus between the innovative young businesses of the area, the hipster hive of Shoreditch (for the slimline racer is their whizz-about of choice), and on a road when you can get a decent lick on, regardless of whether you deploy clip pedals.

LMNH!, Old Street  The best thing about LMNH! is that although it sets itself very clearly up as a bike-themed coffee shop, it is first and foremost great at coffee. I always worry a touch when a place seems to have a theme which overshadows its product, or a product is niched away within another business (coffee shops within book shops are often failures for this reason). LMNH! does its primary task superbly well. It serves Square Mile’s Red Brick as a standard roast, amusingly not half a mile from the Redbrick Estate, which I reckon has little or nothing to do with coffee, and as I have already opined, this zesty little roast has a lot going for it. The espresso was rich and fruity, with a woody depth to it. It was slick and oily and sank down to a pleasant, dappled finish, the crema intact to the end. Square Mile’s bite can reduce to a slightly bitter bottom of the cup, and it did here, but I think that can be the price you pay for the complexity of the top notes of a shot. I don’t smash my shots back because I don’t feel that you get the richness of the flavours that way, but such an approach benefits a Sq M shot, and you’d certainly receive a pleasingly solid caffeine punch in the chops for your troubles. The macchiato was very well made, with silkily stretched milk draped over the shot by a barista who looked like a corsair. What more could you ask for? The espresso was £2 and the macchiato £2.20, which is above average pricing, but there is a loyalty card whereby eight coffees get you a ninth free and they use a stamp which resembles a bicycle. There is also plenty of free water, sometimes with cucumbers in it, which is a nice touch.

LMNH!, Old Street

And what of LMNH! otherwise? Well, it isn’t cycle-friendly, it’s cycle-mad. It showed the Tour de France on large screens, and is, of course, showing the Olympic events as well. There is a repair shop adjacent to the coffee area, and you can even borrow a lock for your bike while you sit and knock back your coffee before preparing for the next hill climb. I couldn’t really tell whether the staff there do both things, but if my pirate fixes bikes as well as he stretches milk, I’d go there for both. The ambience is friendly and relaxed and a haven for the biking fraternity/sorority.

Cycling is, of course, in the spotlight for a variety of reasons. The astonishing achievements this year of Bradley Wiggins, including not only the Tour and becoming the most successful ever British Olympian, but a number of criteriums and other races too, which must stand as the most successful year by any British athlete ever (though I’ll accept submissions of alternatives), and the expected success of the rest of Dave Brailsford’s wheel-wizards, have shone a warm glow on the sport. But the political aspect to discussions of cycling is ever present too, and the debate always takes on a tragic aspect whenever there is an accident involving a cyclist. The awful proximity of the death of a cyclist last night to the Olympic park and, temporally, to Wiggo’s success, is a timely reminder of the inherent risks associated with cycling, whether you partake as a hobby, a sport, or a livelihood. Cyclists, especially in London, do form something of a bristling cohort, readily and angrily, and often quite justifiably, defending their own against accusations of unlawful or irresponsible riding, but the need for Wiggo to use his recent achievements as a credibility platform from which to call for the wider use of helmets shows how much there is to be done. The spread of cycling as leisure activity, and the availability of bikes through the cycle hire scheme, have introduced inexperienced cyclists onto some of the least hospitable roads in the country. More does need to be done to make things safer for them, and everyone else who hops onto two wheels now and again. But it’s crucial that cycling retains its sense of fun, its sense of collective enjoyment, and its justified importance in our city. In Look Mum No Hands!, cyclists of all types have a venue that celebrates everything that is good about cycling, that facilitates being a cyclist, and also does its core business of coffee wonderfully well. If you love the two wheels or you love coffee, it’s well worth going. As cycling takes off, I hope very much that Look Mum No Hands! continues to play a role in spreading the word about two things I happen to enjoy a great deal.

Look Mum No Hands!, 49 Old Street, EC1V 9HX

Website with details

Also on Twitter: @1ookmumnohands

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One Response to “Look Mum No Hands!, Old Street”

  1. coffeejess Says:

    great place – great review!


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