When a few months ago I was fortunate enough to avoid the swinging axe of redundancy and landed a very nice job at the much larger charity with which the tiny one I was then working for had merged, the only downside was that I had to move office locations from Trendy Shoreditch (TM) with its abundance of ace restaurants and bars to the rather less salubrious environs of King's Cross. I went from one day having within walking distance of the office Rivington, Hoxton Grill, Eyre Brothers and the legendary BLT Deli to having...well, a Pret about five minutes away. Although not usually given to performing oral examinations on gift horses, I was initially rather depressed by the enforced change of culinary scenery.
As an eternal optimist however I never lost faith that, as the old adage goes, with this much crap around there had to be a pony somewhere. Sure enough one day Drink, Shop & Do trotted into my life and the gloom was instantly lifted. On first walking past the dove grey shop-front on Caledonian Road, which stood out from the surrounding kebab and sex shops (by which I mean two separate types of shop, not shops selling both kebabs and sex, though if they exist anywhere it would be around here) with its bold, fresh graphics and canary yellow interior, I thought it was just a cool craft shop because of the window display of textiles and shelves filled with hand-made cards, sewing kits and vintage tea sets. But then I began to wonder what the 'Drink' part of the name could mean, and made the very fortuitous decision to step inside and explore further.
What I discovered was a smart little enterprise that's genuinely new, run with passion and really rather exciting. Passing through the Shop (making a mental note to treat myself to a quarter of something from the jars of classic sweeties lining one wall) I found myself in a bright, buzzing cafe-bar, flooded with natural light from a soaring glass ceiling, its walls decorated with patchwork quilts, framed origami and knitted samplers. These it would transpire are the fruit of the 'Do' part of the name; regular craft workshops are held here covering pastimes as diverse and productive as 'Play with Clay', t-shirt printing and card making. The atmosphere was instantly warm and welcoming; I resolved to come back when I had company.
For my first visit I took along my all-too-occasional lunch companion Scott, and we ordered a piece each of savoury tart - there's two to choose from every day - with salad, then shared a generous wedge of chocolate tart. The savoury tarts (£5.50) were beautiful, one sweet potato, spinach and feta, the other pea, broccoli and Parmesan, both satisfyingly dense without being heavy and each accompanied by a goodly serving of tasty herb salad in a zesty vinaigrette. The chocolate tart was a cracking pud, its thick ganache filling complemented by pastry almost as sweet and crumbly as shortbread. On a further visit with a work colleague we shared a piece of tart - this time blue cheese and broccoli - and a plateful of cute, crusts-cut-off sandwiches (£4), half cheese and pickle, half smoked salmon and lemon, exactly like my mum used to make for my lunch-box and just as delicious.
With time to kill after work one evening before an event nearby, Drink, Shop & Do was the obvious choice for an early cocktail. From the short, witty list I chose a Ruby Shoes (perfect for a Friend of Dorothy), a generous tumbler-full of a refreshing, potent blend of orange vodka, raspberry liqueur, sour cherry, fresh lime and ginger beer. Then on my most recent visit, with Twitter pals @jezmd and @juliannabarnaby, I enjoyed a Coal Dust - a jet-black gin-based fizz made with coal dust sherbet - before we all tucked into big bowls of a fantastic, salty chorizo and chickpea stew with a couple of bottles of the perfectly decent house Merlot. While some of our fellow patrons embarked on a workshop making accessories out of recycled bicycle tyres - and why not? - we played a boisterous game of Scrabble, one of the dozens of old school board games freely available to all. I'll let you work out which words were mine...
I love Drink, Shop & Do. It's original, inclusive, friendly and great fun. The staff - all spiffing gels in vintage frocks apart from one extremely dishy chap - are all clearly having a hoot-and-a-half and want their customers, of which on every visit there have been deservedly plenty, to do likewise. Some of the prices are a little cheeky - that quarter of sweets, sherbet pips since you're asking, was £1.50 - but generally it's cheap and superlatively cheerful. Everything you see, from the mismatched furniture and vintage china food is served on to the handicrafts on the walls, is for sale, so if you like your teapot, or cake-stand say, you can take it home with you. I haven't found a new opening as refreshing and exciting since Dean Street Townhouse, and as with there I go back as often as I can and am never disappointed.
So impressed have I been, in fact - and please excuse me this shameless plug - that I've featured Drink, Shop & Do in my first column as travel editor for new online fashion magazine Fashion Salade. I very much hope that you'll find it in you to visit both.
Drink, Shop & Do, 9 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX Tel: 020 3343 9138 http://www.drinkshopdo.com