Little Gem, Highbury Fields

September 9, 2013

A cant name is a name that gives a clue, sometimes wholly obvious, other times tangential at best, to the character of the owner of that name. Little Gem is a cant name of the most obvious sort. A café with a strong Japanese flavour and influence, Little Gem is to be found nestled in the quieter back streets to the east of Highbury Fields, on the junction of Corsica Street and Calabria Street. These few streets make a small part of town that is calm and residential, rows of little red-bricks that are off the beaten track but very close to it. We discovered it not by chance, but following a heads-up from the Highbury Fields twitter feed; I fear that without it, this little gem (see?) would have passed the accomplice and me by.

I went arty for this one.

I went arty for this one.

We popped in on a Saturday afternoon, when many places would be heaving. This was, beneficially for us, not the case, and it was clear that the café owners, who were working the bar too, were happy to use the lulls to chat to customers about what they were up to, what they were serving, and even, in one instance, how to alter bags bought in charity shops to make them look more fun. I personally love to see this though: interaction between café owners or staff and customers is the lifeblood of any good place and LG seemed to thrive on it. Any questions I had were thoroughly answered as well, and I reckon I would have been welcome to stand there all afternoon fire off queries without becoming annoying; for a reviewer, there are few better feelings. There was a very friendly atmosphere aided by a comfy but intimate layout; size is yet another reason why this is literally a little gem.

Lovely cup, lovely piccolo

Lovely cup, lovely piccolo.

The coffee is Monmouth’s organic roast, which is in keeping with the general thrust of the venue towards organic items. The roast is quite dark and it’s not what I would call an explosively exciting blend, but the quality of the espresso and piccolo were high: the milk was especially creamy and well-stretched and the espresso was well-extracted. I don’t think I would choose this roast as a matter of course, but it is good enough and the barista had more than sufficient skill to make it, if not sing, at least dance a little. The coffee was beautifully served in little pottery cups from the Maze Hill potters from Greenwich. I don’t know enough about the subject to know what this style of pottery is called, but suffice it to say, I thought they were beautiful. The wooden spoons are classy too. The accomplice also made a very bold claim: she stated that her green tea, which is called Kabusecha and is from Gion Tsujiri in Kyoto, was the best green tea she had ever had. And trust me, she knows her tea.

The best green tea ever.

The best green tea ever.

I also had a very tasty little chicken teriyaki sandwich and a fine, soft and squidgy lemon cake; snack-wise, LG did well too. Add to that some fine illustrations of rioters and tree-loving cyclists by Eliza Southwood, which really caught my eye, and Little Gem is a superlative collection of details, beautifully assembled into a small, but beautifully formed café. A short walk from Highbury & Islington tube station, but far enough from the hubbub to be calming, this place is certainly worth a visit. Little Gem is no wet lettuce. Sorry to end on such an awful pun, but I couldn’t help myself.

Little Gem, 15 Corsica Street, N5 1JT

Facebook page with details

Also on Twitter: @LittleGemCoffee

Cake and forks.

Cake and forks.

One Response to “Little Gem, Highbury Fields”

  1. […] Learn more: Little Gem does not yet have a website *SHOCK* so we direct you to this excellent and detailed review from Liquidjolt. […]

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