You've got the fairy-light festooned wooden shelves displaying funky greetings cards, chinaware and photo frames for sale. You've got the long counter, where the wonderful beverages and smoothies are concocted by the two gay owners, lovely and friendly blokes who remember what your "usual" is and deliver it with a smile (and often a quip). Then, at the back, you've got the piece de resistance: a skylit seating area with wooden floors, massive leather sofas and low tables with all the daily newspapers on hand. You really could while away a whole slothful morning or afternoon there. Utterly lethal for lunchours too.
Well, on Tuesday I had to pop into town for a dentist's appointment, my dentist being based on that very same stretch of Camden High Street. With baby FW in tow, and with an hour to spare before my appointment I decided to take a pit-stop to feed baby and recharge my batteries with caffeine. The Bean and Cup was the obvious choice.
However, despite seeing the welcoming signage as usual as I was going across the pelican crossing, it wasn't until I was right up close with my nose pressed against the glass that I realised the sad truth. The place has closed down. It was all empty - right down to those wooden shelves - and its once welcoming doors bolted shut.
This just makes me so, so sad. Even with a Starbuck's, a Coffee Republic, a Cafe Nero AND Costa Coffee all within spitting distance, I really don't think their problem was a lack of business. They had the edge over all those souless, "Emperor's New Clothes" (as I like to call them) coffee chains, and it seemed the whole of North London knew it, as the place was always packed. My guess is that their rent went up by some ridiculously prohibitive amount, something that has been allowed to happen BECAUSE all the big, bland chains are moving in to an area previously world-renowned for its individuality and quirkiness, and squeezing out its lifeblood.
And my beloved Bean and Cup are not the only small business of its kind in Camden to suffer this way...
RIP The Bean and Cup, 104 Camden High Street, London NW1 (now shut - premises stand empty)
RIP Rose and Jack's Cafe and Grill, 61 Camden High Street, London NW1 (shut for months - premises still stand empty)
RIP George and Nicki's Cafe, Parkway, London NW1 (demolished, along with a few other local businesses, to make way for a multi-screen cinema, a Gap store and...a Starbuck's)