Our intrepid intern Ben Blake recently spent a few days gallivanting around London; we asked him to check out a few shops for us along the way.
Nestled in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, at the far side of a dead-end alleyway, sits an achingly quaint little cafe called Protein by DunneFrankowski. There's not much in the way of foot traffic, which most would consider a liability for a coffee spot, but the guys at DunneFrankowski use it as a way to set themselves apart from the rest of London’s coffee scene.
As purveyors of a self-described “social coffee space,” Rob Dunne and Vic Frankowski (formerly of Tapped & Packed) put an emphasis on knowing their customers, and giving them a unique, personalized, one-on-one experience. The cafe was formed in collaboration with creative agency “Protein”, and sits in the first floor entryway of their 18 Hewett Street gallery.
Intentionally clean and simple (and menu-less), the seating and bar are both built and situated in such a way that demands customer-barista interaction. They want you to talk. “How do you order if you don’t have a menu?” Mr Frankowski asked me by way of Socratic rhetoric. “You talk, you have a conversation.” It’s a small detail, but one that allows for a discussion of likes and preferences to take place, eventually manifesting itself in a cup of coffee. It also allows Mr. Dunne and Mr. Frankowski to get to know their customers a bit more, have ongoing conversations with them, and makes for an easy way to educate and recommend different coffee experiences in the future.
While Protein’s back-alley location may be a step out of the way, it’s also located right in the heart of Shoreditch, a creative neighborhood packed full of design and art studios, galleries, start-ups, restaurants, bars, markets and agencies of all types. The entire Shoreditch area provides an eclectic mix of familiar, daily clientele for Rob and Vic to provide coffee for. To an American, the neighborhood feels like shades of San Francisco's Mission District, or maybe the East Village, or Wicker Park in Chicago, which is a long form way of saying there's a lot going on there.
Since opening, the gallery and well-lit bar space has been used to host a multitude of events. In fact, they designed the bar to move and change based on their needs. They've done so by incorporating a movable bar extension that can be arranged in a few different ways—both attached to the bar and detached from it.
In addition to the consistent gallery showings in the back room, Protein by DunneFrankowski has played host to a “Taste Academy”–an evening of cross industry collaboration and taste/aroma learning featuring chefs, a cocktail bartender, and a scientist. More recently, the Protein Bar hosted it’s “1st Year Anniversary Show.” Coffee consumption data from the bar over the year was used by different artists to create the artwork for the show–each data point (think total filter coffees, total shots pulled, milk usage, etc.) was visualized in a unique way.
While constantly working on side projects and collaborations, DunneFrankowski are completely focused on in the shop. They offer nothing but, making it one of–if not the only–coffee spot in London to do so. The guys are currently pulling shots of espresso from Workshop Coffee, and making filter coffee using coffees from Workshop, Tim Wendleboe, and Square Mile. Espresso changes every 2-3 days, while filter offerings change on a weekly basis. Coffees and roasters offered vary, making Protein a great place to sample new roasters and coffees from throughout the UK and northern Europe. The bar features an out-of-the-way Cimbali M39 HD Espresso Machine, Anfim and Cimbali Grinders, a Malhkoenig Tanzania Grinder, and a Technivorm Moccamaster batch brewer for filtered coffees.
Protein may be on to something. Removing themselves from the hustle and bustle of a typical busy London cafe, it felt to me like a breath of fresh air, and the sort of place where dialogue and education can happen comfortably. You leave with the genuine feeling that the coffee you’re ordering is an experience, and that the people serving it up enjoy doing so. What more could you ask for?
Protein By DunneFrankowski is located at 18 Hewett Street, in Shoreditch, London. Hours are Mon – Friday from 8am-5pm, and Saturdays are reserved for a variety of coffee education programs. For more, visit DunneFrankowski online.