Writers and drinking share a long and wine-stained history. But reading and drinking has its own legacy too. Back in the heyday of the European salon, readers, writers, thinkers and creative types would hole up in coffee houses for hours on end to drink, talk, swap ideas and books and generally revel in their collective enthusiasm for life and culture.
Inspired by the salon, Solomon Berkelouw opened the doors to the family’s first bookstore in Rotterdam, Holland in 1812. It was there that an intrinsic and obsessive love for literature, the spread of ideas and the general chitchat of a likeminded community blossomed. Six generations later, Berkelouw's romantic idea of the literary meeting place has been reborn in the form of Café 1812 – named for the birthplace of the Berkelouw empire all those years ago – which sprawls out across the top floor of the company’s bookstore on Oxford Street, Paddington.
The space, which previously housed a casual cafe, has been stripped back and polished up. A keen eye for antiques matched with dark timber and clean lines keeps the cafe modern yet distinctive. Drop in for an espresso and French toast in the morning after stalking the bookshelves, or settle in for a glass of wine and a cheese plate in the evening.
The wine list, tilted toward boutique producers plus a welcome smattering from the Champagne region, was put together for Berkelouw by family friend and winemaker Alex Retief, and is all the better for it.
It’s not Rotterdam, but it’s close. Café 1812 is a place to stay a while, a place for thinkers and talkers. So buy a hardback and settle in.
19 Oxford Street, Paddington