There's no place quite like Hurwendeki. A somewhat radical concept of a hair salon combined with an authentic Korean restaurant combined with a coffee shop, it can seem like a hard sell on paper, but once you step inside it just makes sense.
Patrons of the coffee shop are free to sit in the utilitarian yet bright and airy space that houses the Espresso bar, or in the waiting room of the hair salon - though to call it a waiting room is to gloss over the cosy yet grand atmosphere of the place. With a few soft leather sofas and armchairs in which to plant yourself, it's a perfect place to get some work done. Likewise, there are lots of paintings and decorative knick-knacks to hold your attention if you just want to escape from the world for a little while.
Head Barista Giles, formerly of Taylor Street Baristas, has been at the shop since spring 2016 and he has hit the ground running. He's been instrumental in adding filter coffee to the range, as well as the addition of retail coffee bags so customers can take a bag home to brew. For Giles, selling retail bags “Has always been an important part of the Barista job, because it's about sharing our knowledge with customers, and weaning them onto quality coffee”. Giles has changed the water from calcium-filtered to bottled, changed the tea to Joe’s, and changed the chocolate to single origin Madagascan by Jaz and Jul’s. “It's about a quality approach, and operating like a real speciality coffee shop”.
Best practices within the speciality coffee industry are constantly changing, and Giles is more than willing to adapt, “We used to follow the golden rule of 1:1.5 when I joined the industry, but thoughts on extraction have developed”. He's switched to VST precision engineered portafilter baskets and dropped the dose of espresso, aiming for better flow, a more even extraction and sweeter shots. In this way, he is constantly analysing Hurwendeki’s approach and their offering in order to give the best experience to every customer.
Giles says even in the last six months the response has been tangible. “We've seen more returning customers, loads of regulars who know our names, who ask about us. People come in saying they've heard the coffee is fantastic. If you make it, they will come”. When asked what he thinks Hurwendeki has to offer to the area in terms of coffee, Giles unflinchingly replies “Sheer quality. We are a real coffee shop, a serious coffee shop. We have grade A beans from Workshop made by well-trained staff who care. This isn't restaurant coffee”.
Giles admits however that it's not just about buying good beans, you have to have people who know how to use them, “We've got some well-trained, quality-focussed staff. We can all talk about the coffee, about processing and tasting notes, about brewing.” But Giles knows he has to stay vigilant as well, “I always say, you're only as good as your last espresso”.
Having a coffee shop attached to a restaurant and hair salon is a unique situation, but Giles says they all feed into each other in an organic way, “We keep it separate, so we're not running plates out, and we can focus on the coffee”. Giles acknowledges though, that the coffee shop has built-in customers in people waiting for a haircut, and the restaurant in turn has the opportunity to serve better coffee to their customers than they might otherwise have access to. “At the moment they're selling a fair amount of cold brew in the evenings, which pairs quite nicely with spicy Korean food”. The team will brew a batch in the day, and there are procedures to make sure it's fresh, and served in the best way possible. “I’ve let all the restaurant staff know that we have frozen glasses in the freezer on bar, so we don't have to serve it with ice and dilute the brew”, and the restaurant has recently started offering filter coffee as well.
So what's next for Hurwendeki? “We're planting a flag. We've already seen business pick up and I'd like to see that continue, and for Hurwendeki to be put on the map as one of the best coffee shops in the area. And then…”, Giles chuckles, “World domination”.
296–299, Railway Arches, Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9HA
Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 7:00pm