Cycling Café. Coffee Shop. Best Coffee in London. Best Café in Clerkenwell. Café in Clerkenwell.
My latest coffee review is for one of the great cycling institutions of London. Look Mum No Hands was opened in 2010 by cyclists Lewin Chalkley, Matt Harper and Sam Humpheson and quickly gained a reputation as a venue for cyclists to grab a coffee, non-cyclists to meet, a venue for events and a place to watch major bike races. The café also boasts its own range of branded goods, cycling accessories and a workshop.
Look Mum No Hands has two current locations, one on Old Street in Clerkenwell, the other in Whitechapel. Previously, there have been sites on Mare Street in Hackney, Brixton and a pop up bar on the South Bank. In this review, I’m going to be focusing on the Clerkenwell location as it’s near my office and I frequent it regularly.
As I said in my review of Workshop Coffee, Clerkenwell has no shortage of places to drink coffee and eat good food so you have to do something special around here to stand out from the crowd. Look Mum No Hands plays predominantly, though not entirely on its cycling credentials.
As you approach, passing Cesar Janitorial Supplies and spot the name which, let’s face it, is a bit quirky, it’s clear this is a place built around the coffee-loving cycling community.
The entrance is built around a small courtyard that always features an eclectic selection of bicycles sat waiting patiently for their owners. The bike porn tends to range from hipster to functional to MAMIL carbon. On entering you’re greeted with the LMNH range of branded merchandise including underpants designed around Tour de France Jerseys, bobble hats and bib shorts all there, as if it were needed, to underscore the fact that it’s mostly about the bike in here.
As one would expect in this part of town, the staff boast a range of cool haircuts and artistic facial hair. There’s also a heavy emphasis on great coffee and good food. Guest blends are sourced from all over the world whilst the Brindisa delivery van I spotted there last week betrays pretty decent provenance on their food. The selection is based around a good range of pies, meaty sausage rolls, salads and pasta. Plenty to get excited about.
The place itself has a kind of egalitarian feel that reminds me of a university refectory; functional with added decoration, bikes and cycling memorabilia, that adds a level of character that could easily be missing. As with the range of bicycles outside, this place seems to transcend class with both the Lycra-clad café stop and the business meeting co-existing in harmony. I’m always surprised at the number of non-velo people in here and put this down to the quality on their menu combined with a level of quirkiness quite unlike any other café in this uber-on-trend part of town.
In the evenings, LMNH serves up a selection of beers of a quality which even the most of hipster beer drinkers would approve. Forthcoming events range from bicycle maintenance courses to exhibitions of cycling art and screenings of the Spring Classics.
I can’t think of anywhere else in London quite like Look Mum No Hands and so it will remain a firm favourite. I’m always a fan of the eclectic and the quirky which is served up, along with good coffee and great food, in abundance. I also love cycling which helps; I always feel very much at home in here.
Read my review of Bicicletta – Saffron Walden’s Outstanding Cycling Cafe.