Exmouth Market is a veritable mecca of critically acclaimed cafés, laid back restaurants and street food: Caravan, Moro and Morito, Gail’s Bakery sit amidst all the delicious smells from the food stalls which waft towards Farringdon Road, enticing office workers at lunchtime.
One of the best things about EM is that it is not too smart, nor the rents so high that independent businesses cannot survive, and flourish, which they do. There is an eclectic mix of them: Clarks, a long established pie’n’mash/eel shop is opposite the fine jeweller ECOne, and Clerkenwell Tales thrives as an independent bookshop. There are two chemists and a newsagent. In other words, a good local neighbourhood.
Opposite the bookshop is Brill, a great name on its own, but in this case it also happens to be the surname of the proprietor. Like many people Jeremy liked the idea of owning a small retail business. His primary obsessive passion is music: world, reggae and soul. When he started out 11 years ago, the shop just sold CDs, and was called Clerkenwell Music. Six years after that, as CD sales declined, coffee and bagels were added. After a refurbishment last summer, it is now predominantly a café with CDs attached. This has been the same process at Notes Music & Coffee in St Martins Lane.
The business model works because the rent is already being paid on floor area, while CDs are racked up the wall attracting no extra overheads. And the two products are symbiotic. You listen to the cool music while you drink your coffee and then take the CD home. Of course no business is that simple: you need the capital to buy the stock to begin with. (I well know, having owned delicatessens, that thousands of pounds worth of small packages on your shelves can suddenly look a very small pile for your outlay). And you need to be canny enough about your stock so that it sells regularly, and regular customers see new items in the racks.
The café occupies only about 500 sq feet, but manages to pack a lot in. The food is prepared on the back counter and Jeremy presides on the coffee machine sharing snippets of useful information about the coffee making process and the music, with the customers. There is a clear menu structure: bagels, collected by Jeremy every morning from Brick Lane, feature with well chosen ingredients including the generous “Ola’s cheese and everything bagel” at £3.00 to take out. Coffee is fair trade from Coffee Union (cappuccino on the premises £2.40) and cakes are variously supplied by Flour Power City and others.
The ingredients of Brill are good, but it’s the whole package where it scores: having the proprietor on the premises, relaxed and clearly enjoying his business.
27 Exmouth Market
London EC1R 4QL
Tel: 020 7833 9757
Mon-Fri 7.30 – 6pm
Sat 9 – 6pm
Sun 10.30 – 4pm