Organic/Fairtrade coffee shop, Trafalgar Rd, SE10

This is one of those odd places that just spring up overnight without anyone noticing. I was actually on my way to test out Point Zero but, passing the site of that old record shop Decksterity and seeing a brand new place I’d never seen before was too tempting by half.

It’s a spartan fit. The people who did this up were clearly working on a very tight budget, and I can’t say it doesn’t show.

The white-painted walls are ever-so-slightly lumpy and some of the doors could really do with an extra coat of gloss. The ubiquitous laminate flooring (doesn’t anyone do anything else these days?) was cheaply furnished with IKEA-style tables and chairs, and the walls were virtually bare. It has the feel of somewhere that hasn’t been finished yet – and that may well be the case. There are some shelves with a slightly random selection of greetings cards and a few jars of something, a one or two framed Fairtrade posters and that’s about it.

But it’s not always the decor that makes a place and I’m happy to say that the somewhat odd style choices (there’s a sort of coat-of-arms on the shop sign) are not an indication of the service I got in this place. Lovely, friendly people, eager to please and talk, made me a delightful cup of coffee. It wasn’t quite what I ordered but it was made with such enthusiasm and it frankly looked so good that I kept it. It tasted good too.

A very friendly Scottish guy invited me to sit downstairs in their “quiet” area – though to be honest, apart from a couple of French chaps the area upstairs was silent too. I walked down some quite sweetly silver-and-white painted stairs to a lounge with beige IKEA-style sofas and some little tables. There was a bookshelf with a fairly eclectic, but nevertheless welcome selection of volumes and a rack for newspapers – as yet unfilled. Here too, the walls could have done with a little extra paint, but these are people who are clearly doing their best on a shoestring. The guy told me they hope to have some nice gentle music (not radio) here soon, which would be welcome.

The Fairtrade /Organic label doesn’t usually come cheap, but these people seem to be trying to keep their prices down. I paid £ 1.50 for my coffee and the sandwiches and other simple snacks seemed similarly reasonably-priced.

I wish Channers luck. I’m hoping that soon they may be able to make the place a little less bare, but as long as they serve nice coffee with a big smile, in my book that’s already a long way to getting it right.

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