As part of my bid to discover more of what London has to offer, I have been exploring different neighbourhoods around the city in search of hidden gems (and not so hidden, I’m not going to turn my nose up at a discovered gem). On today’s list was Palm Vaults, the quirkily themed and lovingly decorated café on Mare Street in Hackney. I’d seen the café recommended in various places and as soon as I heard about their special lattes (coffee based, tea based, or even fruit based) that come in several bright colours, I simply had to try it out. Sure enough, my only disappointment was not being able to try the whole menu in one visit.
Nestled in between all the other business on the busy street, Palm Vaults provides a welcoming oasis from the hustle and bustle in an almost tropical atmosphere. Exotic green plants hang from the ceiling and even populate the bathroom wallpaper to keep with the consistent green and pink colour scheme that gives off a warming retro vibe.
The drinks menu is extensive and can be seen on the pegboard behind the counter. Articles praise the colourful lattes that had lured me in and there is no shortage of choice: Lavender, Red Velvet, Rose, Blue Moon Tea Latte… select your preferred taste or colour and you’ll receive the cutest little latte you’ve ever seen. I chose the Red Velvet Latte, which is a rich, dark red in colour because it uses beetroot, which definitely comes through in the flavour. I think this is a great idea: when trying something that’s a different colour to how you’d expect, it’s good to be able to taste the ingredient used and know that the colouring isn’t artificial. It was fab to see how the rich and deep beetroot flavours mixed with the classic coffee, and it was an original combination that I very much enjoyed. I’d love to see how the other flavours combine too, although it will involve lots of trips to try the full set!
You’re also spoilt for choice with the hot chocolates: White, Smooth, Dark, Palm Choc or even Turmeric Choc! My sister went for a White Hot Chocolate and it was rich, smooth and delicious, complete with a little blue flowery pattern on top for that extra special touch (and Instagram-friendly design of course).
The food menu is equally inviting, and your classic avocado toast makes an appearance in pride of place. I was SO incredibly tempted to try it as I’m a sucker for avocado, and was almost seduced by the additional toppings such as sauerkraut, sundried tomatoes or feta. However, in the end I went for the Magic Shroom Toastie with mushrooms, gouda, chive and truffle oil on sourdough bread. It was a generous portion and was absolutely divine: so rich and creamy and topped with tiny purple sprouts.
Finally, who needs a cherry on top when the cake itself is the star? I love that the colour scheme is SO consistent that even the cakes and the trays match the café’s signature pastel pink and green – I’m just waiting for pink croissants to make an appearance, is that a thing? Despite a very beautiful cake selection at the counter, there was one that had caught my eye since the very beginning: the vegan rhubarb sponge cake. I’ve never specifically tried vegan baking before but have always been so up for it as my Instagram feed is full of delicious looking vegan bakes.
According to the friendly staff, the Palm Vaults baker uses almond flour to make this particular cake and swaps eggs for chickpea water! It was one of the best cakes I’ve ever tried. It was just so moist and light and the strip of pink running through the middle was a fun addition. I think it’s definitely encouraged me to try more vegan options in the future as you can see how much care and originality has gone into the ingredient selection, and it was better than any non-vegan cake I’ve tried so far! I think I’ll have to try baking with these ingredients myself sometime. The texture contrasted beautifully with the icing and the crunchy coconut and dried rhubarb topping, and I probably could have devoured the whole cake given the chance.
Averaging £3.50 for drinks, £5.50 for food and £4 for cake, this place won’t set you back too much despite not being the cheapest place in the world. However, I think it’s very reasonably priced for a café in London that offers a different and independent experience from that in most other cafés you’d come across.
So, what sets it apart?
To be honest, this is more a case of “what doesn’t set it apart?” Quirky and fun art deco interior, lattes in the different colours of the rainbow with natural colourings, the choice to swap cow’s milk for coconut, oat, soya, almond or cashew milk, your cheese for a vegan alternative and your bread for gluten-free, Palm Vaults caters for all tastes and anyone looking for a quiet but friendly atmosphere. The staff are lovely and brimming with enthusiasm, and I can’t wait to go back! Try it for yourself ❤
Have you ever been to a café that stuck in your mind? Have you ever tried baking / cooking with dairy-free / vegan ingredients? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.