When I was younger I loved to go out in town. I’d finish work on Friday night and within five minutes I’d be propping up a bar. Jaunting around the West End was exciting, it was so different to the small village I grew up in. The crowds, noise and lights appealed to me, standing in crammed bars was fun. If the music wasn’t loud enough to burst ear drums then that wasn’t the bar for me. Frankly speaking, if a Friday night didn’t end up with a kebab and a night bus home, then it clearly wasn’t much of a Friday night at all. Fast forward twenty something years and the me now couldn’t be more different to the me back then. The thought of being in the West End on a Friday horrifies me. I would, it’s safe to say, rather pluck my eye balls out with knitting needles then be anywhere near Leicester Square on a Friday evening. Nowadays I am much happier spending Friday nights on the Walthamstow side of the River Lea, supping an ale in a local pub, with nothing but a short walk required to get me home. Happily, my walk home has got even shorter, cafe 56 on St James Street are now open on Friday Evenings serving beer, wine and cocktails. We went along on Friday to see how this little cafe worked as an evening venue.
The night we visited was the third Friday cafe 56 has opened late, so this is still a pretty new venture for them. Not that you would know it was a new thing, the service was smooth, staff welcoming, and the cocktails perfectly made. This little venue works really well as an evening haunt. The big windows that face on to St James Street and Station Road turn jet black as night falls, making the inside with it’s dimmed lights feel real cosy. We sat in the window seat and browsed the menu as the lights of St James Street crackled by outside. It seemed only sensible to start with a cocktail, my other half ordered a Espresso Martini and I went for a drink called Twinkle, which seemed to go well with the lights racing by outside.
We tried a few more cocktails, including an Old Fashioned, before moving on to beer from Wildcard Brewery. Cocktails come in at £6.50, beer at £4.00 and a glass of wine at £4.50. Before you say it, yes I know this probably isn’t the cheapest place to spend a night out, but the prices at 56, especially the cocktails, do seem to be about the same as other local pubs and bars. The food on the menu is either Cheese or Charcuterie boards, or a mix of the two. We ordered the mixed board for £13.00 and we were not disappointed when it arrived. The chunky wooden board was almost groaning under the weight of the food on top of it. The beautifully presented meats and cheese were accompanied by pickle and a fresh fig. As soon as the food arrived we started demolishing it, much to the dogs annoyance who just had to look on as the food vanished before his eyes.
Cafe 56 opens its doors for the lates at 6pm on Friday evenings, and closes them at 11, so pub hours really. We arrived at 6 and left at around 9pm and it was nicely busy when we left. Not so busy that you couldn’t move or hear yourself think, but busy enough to have a buzz. This isn’t a pub, I probably wouldn’t describe it as a bar either, its simply an extension of what the cafe does during the day. Good service, simple but good food, and a relaxed atmosphere. This is another example of a local business diversifying in order to bring in business. And it would seem the Warren and the team at 56 have pitched this right as every seat had a bum sitting in it when we left. If you want to go out and get hammered this probably isn’t the night for you. But if you are looking to go somewhere to chill (do people still say that), have a few drinks and relax, then Friday night at cafe 56 is for you.