Milk, Balham

Milk Cafe, Balham

Hippy Hippy Shake

Today I walked into a hipster café. At least I think that’s what it was, judging by the young guys with squared off beards, man buns and skinny trousers with saggy bums (the trousers, not the guys), and the insistence of food with detailed pedigree on the menu. They also seem to place much emphasis on foraging, although where exactly they forage in Balham, I’m not too sure. And it’s probably best not to delve too deely into what the beardies forage for there exactly. Dandelions by the side of Balham High Street, maybe? Let’s just skim over that, shall we?

Milk Cafe, Balham
Milk Cafe, Balham

It’s on the corner of Bedford Hill Road and Hildreth Street and, whenever I’m there, I’m always intrigued by the long queue outside, slowly and insiduously snaking it’s way inside. ‘Milk’ it’s called. In my day it was all about the Marlboro Cowboy drinking Bourbon, these days it’s about men with ill fitting trousers drinking milk and eating buttered chard. How times have changed! Still, I’m not so old that I don’t want to be hip, so in I go. It’s a weekday and late morning and the Milk queue isn’t in evidence yet. Frankly, I wouldn’t have the patience. Nobody’s sourdough bread, even if it is from neighbouring Brixton, merits standing in the perishing cold for ages. And perishing it is today in London. There was a thin layer of ice on my windscreen, so I’m not making this up and being a drama queen about the weather.

‘Housemade’ cakes
‘Housemade’ cakes

It’s nice and warm inside, and I get a little table right in the front of the café. The second I sit down, I already regret it. There is an arctic gale whistling in every time someone opens the door to enter or leave. The waitress –no beard but very strange shoes- kindly finds me a table in the larger inner sanctum area, a good way from the entrance. The tables here are small, close together and the seating consists mostly of wooden three legged stools. My bottom is not exactly well padded but at least I’m wearing my nice thick winter coat and I’m not going to take it off, because there’s one hell a draught coming from the left. In the time between ordering my Americano artisan speciality coffee and it arriving, I scuttle to a window table which is in a cosier looking position beside the big window that folds right back in the summer. What a fool I am! The window frame is so gappy, that a horde of hobbits could march right in without even ducking their heads. I’m shivering and clinging to my hot coffee cup, my breath visible in front of me. As for the coffee, it is so bitter and strong, and trust me, I love strong coffee, that I’m glad I’m not tempted to drink it and lose its use as a hand warmer.

Milk Cafe, Balham
Milk Cafe, Balham

Sitting there, perched on my stool, cold and despondent, I suddenly spy a tiny blow heater under a corner table further along. I give the occupants my best evil eye and will them to leave. The second they appear to rise from their stools, I surreptitiously sidle over and claim my spot. As the warm air wafts up from below my fourth table in this establishment, I slowly relax and peel off the wintry layers. Finally, this is the business!

Cappuccino
Cappuccino
Milk Cafe, Balham
Milk Cafe, Balham

The menu is exclusively all day breakfasty/brunchy and actually quite nice, once you’ve waded through all the geographical background information on each and every item of food. Anyway, good on them for keeping it local. The dishes are called names like Sweet Maria, Young Betty and The Convict and I don’t know what Kaeserkrainer is but I don’t want to be so unhip as to ask, so instead I order Arlington poached eggs on Brixton sour dough with a side order of ‘smashed avo’. Erm, yes well, that’s mashed avocado to you and me. It’s actually so nice and tasty, that I’ve eaten half before I realize that I forgot to take a photo, so now you’re only going to see one egg and half the the previously mentioned Brixton sourdough’. Sorry.

Arlington poached eggs on Brixton sourdough with basil oil and ‘smashed avo’
Arlington poached eggs on Brixton sourdough with basil oil and ‘smashed avo’

It’s all terrifically basic here; no money whatsoever has been expended on the looks of the café. The lavatory is down some neck-breaking stairs and through one of the kitchens. It’s a very clean but very basic cubicle, with a huge old style, powder pink washbasin outside, the like of which hasn’t been seen in interior design for the last 50 years or so. It’s all clearly an ironic take on a working class corner greasy spoon.

Central kitchen
Central kitchen
Water in beer bottle
Water in beer bottle

I’m not remotely hungry after my goodly portion of two eggs etc etc but the ‘Housemade crumpets, Hay Smoked Goats Curd, Wandsworth Honey and Wild Flowers’ sounds as tempting as it sounds idiotic. And when did I last eat crumpets? Again, the food is absolutely delicious, warm and spongey, a little bit cheesy tart, a little bit soaky sweet and sort of mushy comforting yummy. And no, I did not eat both the crumpets on the picture! The prettily presented skinny cappuccino alongside it was also much more satisfying than its horrid black Americano counterpart.

Crumpets with hay smoked goats curd, Wandsworth honey and Wildflowers
Crumpets with hay smoked goats curd, Wandsworth honey and Wildflowers

I’d warmed up, I’d pigged out and I was bound to become a hipsterette in the process, though possibly more in the ‘one moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’ kind of way than of the foraging ilk, and all for £21.30! Then again, I’ve just read that you can tell a true hipster by the way they take photos of everything they eat……Listen, no way am I going to grow a beard, no way!

Milk, 18-20 Bedford Hill Road, London SW12 9RG.
Tel.: 020 8772 9085   www.milk.london
Milk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What I wore

Comfortably casual: Dark blue denim ‘Hue’ leggings, an oversized camel Marks and Spencer cashmere V neck jumper, a Top Shop faux fur leopard long jacket/coat, a dark tan scarf, tan suede Chelsea boots and a camel Bottega Veneta bag.

Milk, Balham

Large Camel Veneta bag by Bottega Veneta
Large Camel Veneta bag by Bottega Veneta

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