|Lavish Habit, Balham|
One of my favourite hybrid caffs is the charming Lavish Habit in Balham. Sisters Nicola and Vanessa Karan opened their dream cafe and vintage shop in 2011 (opposite that Balham landmark, The Bedford) and it's proved a huge hit with locals. Midnight blue/black walls, gold Moroccan lamps and dark turquoise metro tiles keep the decor the right side of twee. Around the edges of the cafe are rails of clothes, candles, and curios including the brilliant Quail creature egg cups and china. Downstairs in the basement there's a vintage furniture showroom selling everything from restored Ercol chairs and 60s sideboards to papier mache busts of Henry VIII (not sure I'll be finding room for that last one at Casa Salty, but I admire the creativity.)
|Flat white, Lavish Habit Balham|
Upstairs, everyone jumbles in together around communal wooden tables and stools. It's a popular place and you have to perch where you can. Lavish Habit serves Monmouth coffee - a rare commodity in this part of town. On our last visit, the potent flat whites were strong without being bitter - I was still twitching several hours later.
There is a small selection of savouries: homemade soups, red pepper tortilla, big fat sarnies. But I must confess, we come to Lavish Habit for the cake. To whit, this excellent carrot cake. Look at that creamy mascarpone frosting studded with walnuts. Behold the soft crumb...
|Carrot cake, Lavish Habit Balham|
All the cakes are lined up on the counter, beckoning at you from slate slab and under glass dome. They thankfully lean towards rustic rather than frou frou: I don't remember seeing a cupcake at Lavish Habit for example. My personal favourite is the coconut toast. It's subtly rather than cloyingly sweet, with a dusting of icing sugar and a seriously thick crust. It's served warm with a pot of salted butter, which sinks straight into the crumb like a jungle explorer into quicksand. It also comes with a little jug of runny maple syrup to pour over the top, but I find it doesn't need the extra saccharine. Get there early in the afternoon if you want a slice though, word of the wonderous coconut toast seems to have spread through SW12 and there's often none left.
|Coconut toast, Lavish Habit Balham|
Lavish Habit is a warm, friendly and creative place and I wish the Karan sisters every success with it - their vision has clearly paid off. Yes, this is Balham so if you're allergic to buggies and babies you'll need to stay clear. But really, just look at that coconut toast - if you do, you're missing out.
My only word of warning is to leave the credit card in a drawer at home. Otherwise you might pop in for a coffee and a bit of cake, and leave with a scented candle, a bag of Monmouth espresso beans, and a 1960s sideboard...
Lavish Habit, 75 Bedford Hill, London SW12.
Lavish Habit's Facebook page