The London Plane in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood is actually a collection of seven businesses in one. The one-year-old project includes a flower shop, patisserie, bread bakery, deli, catering kitchen, restaurant, and cafe. So many moving parts could quickly turn into a discombobulated mess, but chef Matt Dillon and his business partner Kathleen Anderson have created a graceful, functional space that features practical, efficient coffee service.
As recently as a few years ago, Pioneer Square was best known as home to art galleries, fratty clubs, and a significant portion of the city’s homeless population. Two years back, Dillon, who also owns Seattle restaurants Sitka & Spruce and The Corson Building, and wine bar Bar Ferd’nand, unlocked the doors to Bar Sajor in Pioneer Square. The London Plane followed soon after, as did a small army of notable food and drink concepts including Rain Shadow Meats and Damn the Weather.
Cafes have been in business for years in Pioneer Square, including Caffe Umbria, Caffe Vita, and Zeitgeist. But with the opening of new coffee bars including Brendan Mullaly’s Elm Coffee Roasters—and the partnership that has formed between Elm and The London Plane—specialty coffee has become an important component of the changing neighborhood.
Elm started selling The London Plane its seasonal blend two months ago. “They wanted a coffee program that’s more consistent with the rest of their offerings,” Mullally says. “We didn’t have to do the hard sell.” Mullally dialed in a grinder and FETCO brewer and showed London Plane staff brewing basics. “They’re selling way more coffee than we expected,” Mullally says. “They’re a pleasure to work with.”
Matt Dillon’s restaurants have a longstanding relationship with Umbria and the chef wanted to keep the partnership afloat. But, according to general manager Yasuaki Saito, “we also wanted to update what we were doing and Elm seemed like a really great choice. A lot of philosophies are the same [as ours],” says Saito, emphasizing that primary among them is doing something you love, and giving care and attention to it. The London Plane uses coffee from Umbria for cold brew and offers a rotating single origin while pouring Elm for its batch coffee service.
Simplicity is key here: there are no vac pots or towering glass slow-drip Japanese brewers in sight. Notably, there’s also not an espresso machine behind the bar. Rather, The London Plane presents a straightforward coffee program in a knockout dining room that, in addition to serving great food, sells carefully displayed housewares, pastries, and fresh flowers.
“It’s about a lifestyle, what you put in your body, not only what you eat and drink but how you appoint your home,” says Saito. “For us, it’s more about putting all of these beautiful things together so it’s digestible.” That sentiment might sound inaccessible or overly precious. But Seattle’s notoriously casual vibe lends an ease and accessibility to the concept.
“We’re not fussy even though we have a lot of beautiful things here,” Saito says. “We just like to have the best product available. In order to do that we bring in the best canned fish, vegetables from local farmers, the best of everything that we can. And that translates to our coffee service.”
Saito affirms that part of operating a business is taking responsibility for the way the project impacts not just the neighborhood but also vendors and employees. “For us, it’s trying to create a sustainable business model in a re-bourgeoning neighborhood,” he says.
“We try to give back to the community, have a stable and safe place for our staff to work and guests to come and enjoy themselves.”