At Penny University, it’s likely you’ll be shuffled and nudged – politely, of course – as staff members and fellow patrons navigate the tiny space. It may be small, but it does produce a truly communal atmosphere that’s focussed on providing healthy and fresh options for breakfast and lunch.
The name is derived from the 18th Century coffeehouses that cost a penny to get into but gave patrons access to the latest gossip, news and political debate. The idea was that you could receive an education with a single penny.
This appealed to owner Foti Likouras, who wanted to create a space with a similar spirit. Sitting on the communal table that takes up most of the interior, customers are forced to converse. Likouras chimes in from his spot at the coffee machine to drive the conversation.
The breakfast menu includes shakshuka (baked eggs); corn fritters with bacon, avocado and dill mayo; and French toast with rhubarb. The lunch offerings are shown off in the display case facing onto the street. The colourful displays include salads, sandwiches, soups and sweets, with much of it being raw and vegan.
Penny University is a pleasant spot to stop and join in conversation with all the diverse personalities of the East End.