Homeboy and I were out for a walk in the Islington area and fancied a coffee so we popped into Sawyer and Gray and discovered that they had so much more to offer than just caffeine. Aside from being an artisan coffee house they also serve a fabulous brunch menu, handmade sandwiches and cakes, are fully licensed and have the most beautiful interiors I’ve seen for a while. If you’re searching for any of the following – best brunch North London, Islington cafes, independent coffee shops London or romantic wine bars do give Sawyer and Gray a try.
Coffee Menu and Homemade Cakes
This place is owned by Marco and Darren who live locally and have extensive experience in the hospitality industry. The name Sawyer and Gray actually comes from signage they discovered on the front of the building which really does suit the coffee shop vibe and interiors. Marco and Darren both work at the eatery and took some time out to talk to me about their venture which opened in October 2014.
Sayer and Gray Menu
The food selection is concise and simple but absolutely delicious. Using just fresh, quality ingredients they have created uncomplicated but exceptionally tasty dishes for you to enjoy. The food is English with some Italian influences (antipasti platters). Everything is made to order so you may have to wait a little while for your artisan sandwich but it is worth the wait. The small open kitchen is situated downstairs where you’re likely to find Darren baking his fabulous homemade cakes in the morning before he makes a start on the brunch. They’ve been experimenting with the menu to gauge customer feedback and certainly have narrowed it down to some real winners. For brunch you can enjoy scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on sourdough toast for £6.90. Another egg dish is avocado with a hint of chilli and lime on sourdough toast served with scrambled eggs, bacon, spinach and asparagus which we tried with the bacon substituted for mushrooms for £6.90.
Avocado and Scrambled Egg on Sourdough with Mushrooms
We also tried spinach and pine nut filo parcels accompanied by chick peas, cucumber and rocket with dressing on the side for £6.90. Both dishes were exceptional and you could tell that everything had been made fresh especially for us. There are other brunch dishes available plus a breakfast offering of porridge with honey, berries or rhubarb compote for £4.50. Alternatively opt for granola with berries and Greek yogurt for £4.75. If you fancy a small bite try the banana and blueberry loaf or croissants. The coffee is Climpson and Sons Estate Blend which is always great.
Spinach Filo Parcels
For lunch you can enjoy a hand crafted sandwich on sourdough. The selection will include fillings like bacon with brie, cranberry and rocket. There’s also chicken with avocado, roasted Romano peppers and green peppers. We tried the mozzarella with vine tomato, basil and pesto on another day which was so lovely I could have ordered another just to taste it again! Sandwiches are priced £3.90-4.20.
Mozzarella sandwich With Vine Tomato, Basil and Pesto
The homemade cakes will vary but to give you an idea of what to expect there is likely to be chocolate and hazelnut brownie, carrot and walnut cake, apple cake and lemon drizzle with elderflower. Brownies are £2.80 while cakes are £3.
In the evenings you can enjoy a glass of Prosecco, or one of the Italian red or white wines which have been carefully selected by Marco (who is Italian). They also have some nice Prosecco based cocktails and the usual spirits. You can order an antipasti platter which includes delicious morsels like prosciutto di Parma cured for 24 months, spicy salami, cheeses, vegetable bruschetta, etc which cost £12 for the meat option and £10 for the veggie.
Sayer and Gray Interiors
The exterior is like an old fashioned, quaint shop which is painted a dark grey-black with that beautiful old signage. As you enter you’ll find the counter and you’ll notice a glass square in the floor giving you a glimpse of downstairs. Behind to the right and around the corner there are a few tables and the staircase which has an added glass ceiling cover.
Downstairs there are more tables some of which are in little alcoves, you need to duck under the low ceilings to fit inside – so cute and cosy. These alcoves or ‘caves’ weren’t visible at first but were discovered when the building work started. These were probably used to store coal and they have certainly made them into a feature.
Darren is responsible for the interiors which are utterly beautiful. He has previously worked as an interior designer which is just another string to his bow. It’s such a relaxing space which makes you feel as though you are holidaying in Tuscany or the South of France. The furniture is vintage rustic with wonderful wooden tables and plenty of charming objects to admire.
You’ll find an old fashioned bike hanging on the wall, a vintage typewriter, set of old weighing scales and many more attractive decorative objects dotted around. Darren has been collecting these pieces for years from eBay, car boots and flea markets. Now he has the perfect space to display his treasured objects which you get the privilege to admire.
Vintage Deocrative Objects
The walls are a mix of white painted brick, rough plaster and vintage wood cladding. Check out the beautiful reclaimed timber on the staircase wall which is amazing. Elsewhere walls are decorated with distressed window shutters or doors.
Vintage Decorative Objects and Shutters Adorning the Walls
It’s a magical space, a lovely place to escape the busy London pace and enjoy delicious food in cosy surroundings. It’s certainly a romantic spot in the evenings where you can sip some good Italian wines or a Prosciutto cocktail and savour the antipasti platters.
Sayer and Gray Interiors
Cuisine: Fresh and simple ingredient dishes which are all home cooked, English brunch style with a touch of Italian (antipasti platters)
Website: Sawyer and Grey Website
Address: 290 St Pauls Road London N1 2LH
Near: Highbury and Islington and Upper Street
Open: Monday to Thursday 7.30am-6pm, Friday 7.30am-11pm, Saturday 8.30-11pm and Sunday 9.30-6pm. Brunch is served from 11am each day
Décor: Rustic, cosy and romantic
Seating: Upstairs there is space for 16 and 22 downstairs
Toilets: Yes and so cute you need to check them out
Reservations: You can book a table via the email address noted on the website. It gets really busy at the weekends for brunch so best to make a reservation
Service Charge: No
A couple of points to note is that you can hire downstairs for private events which can be catered for along the lines of antipasti platters and possibly more if there is enough notice. Pick up a loyalty card for a free coffee after 9 stamps.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London. Thanks: Marco and Darren for their time.