Westbourne Grove is a residential neighbourhood and shopping destination in West London, bordering Hyde Park, Notting Hill, and the iconic Portobello Road. It’s an eclectic mix of cultures and architectural styles where elegant townhouses and budget hotels, souvenir shops, and Middle Eastern restaurants, organic food markets, and council estates live alongside each other. The coffee scene consists mostly of chains like Starbucks or Costa and a few independent cafes—none of which would merit a trip out to this part of town solely to drink a flat white. That all changed with the opening of Tab x Tab. Finally, there is a very good reason to stop over in Westbourne Grove.
Tab x Tab was opened in July 2017 by husband and wife Mathew and Charmaine Tabatabai. Alongside speciality coffee from Ozone and Bocca, they serve premium teas from Lalani & Co., fresh pastries from Flour Station, and à la carte breakfast dishes prepared on site. Tab x Tab also has a retail corner with carefully curated homeware and lifestyle items, Linda Bloomfield tea ware and Kana London ceramic coffee mugs.
The Tabatabais embarked on an 18-month coffee tasting journey through London and beyond before launching their shop.
“We started exploring the idea of opening a coffee shop by doing a lot of research and going to a new cafe every single day. After about one year, we had developed a strong idea of what we wanted our coffee shop to look like,” Mathew Tabatabai says. “The majority of cafes in London melted into the same kind of place.”
The decision to offer a new kind of coffee experience, rather than do a carbon copy of other shops, gave the couple enough confidence and motivation to pursue their idea. The approach at the heart of Tab x Tab can be summed up in three words: speciality, execution, and consistency. High quality standards were set for Tab x Tab: from the food and beverage offerings to appliances and in-store tech, from the Front of House service to the interior design.
Mathew and Charmaine always knew they had to start with the coffee. They looked for the best and found it at Ozone Coffee Roasters in London and Bocca Coffee in Amsterdam. They carefully planned every element of the store, looking for excellence in functionality first and then for beautiful and understated design.
“We worked so hard to ensure the execution of everything was as high quality and consistent as possible,” says Mathew. “Everything is there to give customers a truly unique and tasteful experience and bring some peace to their day when they are with us.”
Their attention to detail can be seen in the large oak table that allows customers to gather around, and share the space as if they were in their own home. It's also seen in the 5.4-meter-long bar counter, custom built from a single piece of concrete (they had to remove the store doors to install it).
Mathew and Charmaine also made a deliberate choice to install a stainless steel Mavam—a groundbreaking machine that sits beneath the counter—instead of a bulky bar-top espresso machine, to remove barriers between baristas and customers, but also to stand out among the rest of London coffee shops.
“The Mavam represents our entire approach to coffee. It is not a flashy espresso machine: it sits quietly without needing to be seen, but it does its job perfectly,” says Mathew. “It fits perfectly into our aesthetics. At the time, the Mavam machine was only one year old, there was only another one in the UK…so we really took a chance with it,” Mathew explains to me.
Next to the Mavam, there’s a Nuova Simonelli Mythos One and a Mahlkönig EK43 grinder, a FETCO coffee brewer, and a high tech cold press juicer. The milk is by the Estate Dairy (profiled here on Sprudge), a UK dairy brand founded by Shaun Young and loved by professional baristas.
Customers have the choice of two coffees for espresso: a seasonal blend by Ozone Coffee called Brothers and a single origin coffee by Bocca, which the Tabatabais discovered on a trip to Amsterdam. They persuaded the Dutch roasters to supply their cafe (Tab x Tab is the only coffee shop in the UK to serve or sell their beans). At the time of my second visit in January, the single origin was a natural Brazilian coffee from Fatima Farm (Yellow Bourbon and Mundo Novo variety) with notes of vanilla, roasted nuts, and a medium body.
Tab x Tab also offers a single origin of choice on batch brew. “The batch brew may not be sexy, but it delivers consistency,” which is what Tab x Tab always strives for. “We let the quality of the coffee speak for itself.”
It was head barista Lucas Gorczyca who sold the idea of batch brew to Mathew. “The batch brew delivers consistency. Our customers expect the coffee to taste exactly the same throughout the time we use a certain single origin. The variables with brewing coffee are crazy, the coffee never tastes the same every time,” Gorczyca explains. “Batch brew is also good for our customers because they know it’s a grab-and-go drink.”
Customers looking for the theatrics of a brewing experience will get it with tea, rather than coffee. Although Britain is considered a country of tea drinkers, the majority of tea consumed in the country comes from tea bags. Tab x Tab champions high quality, loose leaf tea, offering a selection of small batch teas—surprisingly absent of English Breakfast or Earl Grey. Instead, you will find black tea, oolong, and matcha, all prepared with care and precision.
Soon the cafe will expand its food offerings to include a modern take on the classic Afternoon Tea, as well as pop-up dinner events. Until then, I will continue to return to Westbourne Grove and stop by Tab x Tab for a great cup of coffee or tea and for their thoughtful and dedicated service.