Cow & Coffee Bean Cafe

Main gate, Greenwich Royal Park

Every park worth its salt needs to have at least one cafe but even if it’s a Royal Park, it will never quite escape that corporate, formal, mass-market feel. That given, the management of the Cow & Coffee Bean have really made an effort and as the kind of cafe that is primarily meant to appeal to a wide range of visitors, often with small children, it actually works rather well.

Tucked right inside the Park gates, sheltered by the exterior wall, I assume the building itself was the old gatekeeper’s cottage – and a pretty little place it is too. The new-look cafe has kept the cottage neat and tidy – much better than previous incarnations. It has neat railings, which tie-in well with other park furniture and its own fittings are both functional and neutral to the eye.

The design has remembered its primary purpose as a family eaterie, with solid, round tables which will stand being stood on (I know, I know – that’s not their primary function but lets face it, who hasn’t had their tea spilled when somebody small (or not so small) has stood on the built-in seat of a flimsy picnic table?

Just me, then…)

There are bamboo ‘fans’ around the walls, with small plants clearly intended to clothe the walls at some point. Coupled with the borrowed view of the park on one side and the strange, square-bayed windows of the backs of those houses on Burney Street whose entrances look like sentry boxes, it has a sophisticated, tasteful feel, despite its being a local civic amenity.

The tables aren’t crammed together, so that wheelchairs and prams can get in between them, and the ground is a mixture of gravel and cut paving which actually looks rather good, and won’t create ruts in the rain.

Talking of rain, if it’s a tad inclement, there is a small interior (only small, mind) which has jolly dark blue gingham tablecloths and more solid country-style furniture.

Inside, the usual rock-cakes, croissants, Danish pastries etc. are laid out on trays in a neat, clean manner and a pleasant young man (a student if ever I saw one) serves tea. Don’t expect anything like a teapot – a teabag in a cup is what I got, and though there was supposed to be a selection of Fairtrade teas, I wasn’t given a choice. It didn’t bother me particularly. The cup cost me £ 1.25, a rock cake, £ 1.75. Neither was either good or bad – each did its job, as fuel for the rest of the park visit.

In my usual chaotic fashion, I can’t remember whether the fare offered is organic. I certainly think some of it is but can’t vouch for it all. Maybe a regular visitor can enlighten me.

I like this place. It’s never going to win any prizes for originality, but within its brief it’s pleasant, efficient and friendly, especially family-friendly. I would definitely visit again.

I have one quibble. No bins in the outside eating area. Probably a security thing, I guess, but a slight inconvenience.

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