Taking a stroll through Whitechapel market is never a pleasant experience. The pilgrimage of bargain-hunters and grocery shoppers can, at times, be reminiscent of an SAS obstacle course, and if you’re not accidentally thwacked by a giant fish, you’ll certainly be rendered unconscious by the smell of one. However, should you be brave enough to dodge the swinging scarf-racks and wayward vegetables, you may find yourself pleasantly rewarded with a little coffee shack by the name of Mouse Tail Coffee Stories.
As the latest entry in Mouse Tail’s series of quick-stop coffee shops in London, this little enclave is rather well-suited to its location, given that Whitechapel already has many mouse-related stories of its own. Rest assured, despite the allegations of a rodent-infestation in Tower Hamlets, I can confirm that you will not find any Conservative MPs near Mouse Tail’s premises.
- None of the meat served here is halal, but vegetarian sandwich options are often available.
- Mouse Tail is more of a “grab and go” establishment, and due to the small size of the shop, seating is very limited.
As per usual, the first item I sampled on my debut visit was a flat white. As I tucked in, I found myself faced with an incredibly light and delicate layer of airy microfoam, which was so voluptuous in its volume that one could easily have assumed that a bottle-load of L’oreal had somehow ended up in the steaming wand. The steamed milk was also rather well balanced against the espresso, ensuring that the entire cup carried a fairly robust bitter touch.
A few months later, I found myself staggering into Mouse Tail once more, desperate for an early morning fix before my shift on the dental emergency clinic. “A double espresso and some banana bread please” I slurred, before slumping into an empty seat. The espresso was light in body and mellow in tone, and each sip delivered a sharp, acidic zest that subsequently tapered out into a set of shallow citrus notes. Though a pleasant brew by all accounts, it was nowhere near aggressive enough for an 8am start.
In recent months, my love for burly, milk-based coffees has moved on from the widely endeared flat white, to the more elusive piccolo latte. Composed of a double ristretto shot topped with around 80-100ml of steamed milk, this utopian formulation continues to deceive the uninformed, who scoff at its infantile name and its puny size. In reality, the piccolo is the Ant-Man of milk-based coffee, and when crafted correctly, packs an astounding set of flavours. Mouse Tail’s own formula remains perfectly composed, with a rich and ferocious bitterness that swells out from underneath the creamy, textured milk, and crashes down onto the tastebuds in a tsunami of pure, unadulterated ecstasy. Of the numerous piccolos I’ve encountered this year, the three I’ve enjoyed at Mouse Tail have remained the undisputed champions of my coffee snobbery, and such an impressive level of consistency deserves nothing less than Steak And Teeth’s first flawless coffee score.
Piccolo. The perfection of milk.
Mouse Tail also have a small range of cakes, bakes and savoury items on hand. The selection seems to vary on a day-to-day basis, ensuring that if you do become a regular, you won’t get bored too easily. If you love banana bread, you can expect to find a soft and fairly moist rendition at Mouse Tail, with a thick and dense core that is surrounded by a slightly crispy crust. Though it bears a strong essence of banana, and delivers a rich, smooth sweetness, it can be slightly stodgy in parts.
Double espresso and banana bread
Value For Money: 4/5
When it comes to the coffee menu, Mousetail takes the usual, cluttered list of prices you’d find at any other coffee shop, and promptly hurls it out of the window. Instead, simplicity forms the basis of their business, with just two, clear-cut prices for two categories of coffee – “espresso”, and “espresso + milk”. In other words, you can expect to pay either £2 for an espresso, piccolo, or cafe macchiato (though technically the latter two also contain milk), or £2.60 for cappuccinos, flat whites, lattes, or any other steamed-milk formulation of your choice, of whichever size you wish to have. “No nonsense, no fuss, and no need to fumble with the pennies”. It’s a refreshing simplification, and one that makes a great deal of sense. The banana bread meanwhile, cost £2.20, and most of the other food items also range between £2 to £5. Simple, reasonable, and satisfying.
Though the baristas themselves aren’t always in the most enthusiastic of moods (perhaps because of the carnage that occurs in the market outside), they do remain polite and courteous. Moreover, in keeping with Mousetail’s “quick-stop” nature, they maintain a remarkably speedy and efficient pace of service. So, if you’re in a rush to get back to work, (or just to get out of the market), fear not – there’s plenty of time to scurry in and out.
When it comes to coffee, there is simply no better place in Whitechapel than the humble Mouse Tail. For me, a great coffee is one where the coffee does the talking, and Mouse Tail have proven time and time again that they are capable of producing a perfect balance of milk and espresso. Dare I say it, they may even make the best damn piccolo you’ll find in the coffee-barren state of East London. Whether you’re passing through Whitechapel Market out of your own free will, or because your mother is holding your dinner ransom until you buy her a couple of scarves, remember that you can always enjoy a brief moment of shelter at Mouse Tail’s coffee shack – and frankly, you really should.
Mousetail Coffee Stories
Address: 307 Whitechapel Road, E1 1BY
Originally Published: 24/03/16