Located near London's West End, Fitzrovia’s a posh haven: Instagrammable cafes, designer stores, and a rich history of literary heavyweights permeate the air there. The southern end is bordered by the infamous Oxford Street, and nearby is the mania of Oxford Circus. But recessed just a block inwards from them both is Jolt: a cafe decked out with a terrazzo counter, sleek benches, velvet banquettes, and where the only sound you hear is the gentle murmur of patrons and the occasional hiss from one of its two espresso machines. This cafe is the second Jolt branch in the world (the first was opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.)
Given its origins, Jolt’s unsurprisingly known for its iced pistachio, rose, and caramel lattes. They’re made with flavored syrup, ice, cold milk, then topped with an espresso shot; faster to make than a flat white, but with a higher mark-up. They certainly look pretty: candied colors cascade in the stark white milk. The baristas recommend people give them a stir before drinking (presumably after taking the ‘gram shot).
That being said, go to Jolt on a weekday morning and you’ll see the soft-brew machines in action. They have the usual suspects: V60, AeroPress, Chemex, syphon, and cold brew for the warmer days (bear in mind, this is London); batch brew has been taken out of rotation, even though it’s still on the menu. Beans are by Nude, a well-known East London roaster—Jolt’s higher-ups took a coffee tour around London to find a local roaster and liked that Nude gave them the flexibility of interesting seasonal beans. A nitro tap is in the works—its placement is awaiting consultation with the interior designer.
The service at Jolt is in two waves. The first are the regulars from the offices nearby (there is a high concentration of ad agencies and other creatives around) who order flat whites and soft brews. In the afternoon, it gives way to tourists and other leisure-seekers, who flock to the iced drinks and sweets. It suits the metropolitan crowd, being open until 7pm every day.
Cafes are not usually open this late every night in London. It’s an obvious nod to their clientele and location: They come from the monied countries. The five friends from Kuwait who founded Prepline, the cafe's parent company, chose to open the first Jolt in Riyadh instead of their home country for a reason. London’s opening was teed up with a pop-up branch opening in Marbella, Spain, a posh resort town. They all share the similar edgy aesthetic—sleek and shiny countertops and tables, bright lighting—and, of course, the iced lattes. In fact, only the London outpost has such a heavy focus on specialty coffee.
The fit-out stops many a passerby: An American couple walks in after staring for a solid minute. Others have arrived from discovering it on Instagram. The drink dispensing area, located at the back of the cafe, has small marble trays on which they place your finished drinks—it’s a self–pick up joint. The barista wears black latex gloves, specifically for those who like to document their consumption. The black gloves are an aesthetic choice carried over from the Riyadh branch, with no real functional purpose—chefs usually wear the blue variant if they have a cut on their hands. It’s pristine and emanates semi-BDSM-esque level of professionalism; the only other time I’ve seen staff don black gloves was at Des Gâteaux et du Pain, a super fancypants bakery in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, where staff emerge from behind a curtain, and you feel you’re more in a museum than a bakery.
Besides being a cafe that does specialty coffee well in a suburb that is a certain dearth of such establishments, Jolt’s also got some pretty lip-smacking pastries: It enlisted the services of top pastry chefs Graham Hornigold (he ran the Hakkasan Group’s pastry division for six years) and Heather Kaniuk (she ran the pastry divisions of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and Shangri-La at The Shard) to develop the recipes. Everything’s made in a spacious basement kitchen downstairs, rather than shipping them in pre-made or frozen. There’s a raspberry and lychee croissant, and a strawberry and cream Danish, that have both been served in conjunction with Wimbledon.
Jolt’s location on Great Castle Street is tourist-adjacent—it is recessed a block or two from the mania of Oxford Circus and Oxford Street. Almost everyone who goes there is seeking it out, and you get to get away from the crowds. The patrons are sophisticated and just as photogenic and trendy as the interior: You’re guaranteed to see many designer bags within your vicinity. Jolt embraces both the basic and the hipster sides of coffee, a place where people drink pastel-colored confections alongside refreshing cold brews. It’s an oasis in a chain-drenched landscape.
Brian Ng is a freelance journalist based in London. This is Brian Ng's first feature for Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Jolt unless otherwise noted.