What a wonderfully warm, charming and inviting cafe. I was in Covent Garden after arranging visas for my forthcoming holiday and was in need of a good cuppa, a sit down and few minutes knitting (yes, KNITTING - you heard me correctly!) before I continued on with that day's to-do list. On the notice board outside the cafe it highlights it's necessary to register as a member before ordering drinks or food. The idea behind this is to increase the number of people the "Poetry Society" (housed above the cafe) can contact and let know about wonderful poetry reading evenings (and much more!) in the basement area of the cafe. I was more than happy to sign-up after seeing the delicious homemade fare and lovely selection of teas, coffees and fruit juices on offer. I didn't eat this time, however the girls next to me had the soup of the day and it looked delicious. A perfect autumn lunchtime warmer!
As I settled down with my pot of tea and knitting, Judith from the Poetry Society's office asked if I'd be interested helping out in constructing the "World's Largest Knitted Poem" which had been constructed for World Poetry Day on 8th October from lots of knitters around the country each knitting a letter each. I went upstairs (with my lovely cuppa!) and sewed together 3 squares while I finished my drink. Judith added my name to the list of people who helped with the challenge and apologised for interrupting my knitting and tea, but as I said to her, I was more than happy to help out and it made for a thoroughly enjoyable hour or so in town. It's opportunities like these that make living in London so much fun! Go to the Cafe and see what's going on. You never know, you may be offered a piece of cake in return for penning/knitting a limerick or two ! :-)
The Poetry cafe is the perfect retreat from the bustle in surrounding Covent Garden.
Being located on Betterton Street seems to work in its favour as there isn't alot else on it so most people seem to just use this street as a shortcut to somewhere else.
The cafe's fairly minimalist front also means you can wander along here on the mobile asking for directions till you realise you've arrived (not that I've done that, obviously ;) ).
Once inside it's the antithesis of the corporate coffee chains with lots of interesting poetry laying about or plastered to the wall next to the big chalk board advertising that night's event downstairs (they had a photography exhibition of portraits of various famous poets on display last time I was in too).
There's a mix of different readings, some more organised/pre-programmed than others but it always feels pretty welcoming (as someone who's not a poet or even knows much about poetry).
I've seen a couple of good little music gigs here too. Entry is usually a few pounds or like last time I went, a whip round in a hat towards the end of the proceedings.
Of course you don't even have to get involved in any of the poetry, you can just sit upstairs and drink the lovely hot chocolate or one of the nice beers, or eat cake!!
Perfect for just hanging out in for 2/3 hours whilst you're concentrating on something, or just wanting somewhere a bit quieter to read. You sometimes see people surrounded by piles of paper, or large books clearly mid-way through some kind of project/studying.
So, if you want somewhere really chilled that's central and not too busy or expensive I haven't found anywhere better! (tell me if you know somewhere though).
This place is a haven from the tourist trap that is this area. It's like someone has taken east London, cut it out and plonked it here.
As much as this place is a cafe, I think its a bar. They sell mind-blowing cider and a variety of other drinks that I never really go around to tasting. Upstairs it's chilled out and relaxed with old tables and an open bar, downstairs has a really creative vibe to it. With old sofas, a make-shift stage and some school chairs its a great hub to hangout in.
My friend often does readings at this place so I've been here a few times in the past. The venue nestles down a quiet street only a short walk from either Covent Garden or Holborn tube stations. It's made up of two floors, the upstairs bar/cafe area that serves a range of hot and cold drinks and vegetarian food during the day, and the downstairs cellar which plays host to readings from local and travelling poets. The decor upstairs is light and airy with lots of books dotted here and there whilst the downstairs is more dingy and can become stiflingly hot.
Readings are pretty much daily occurences at this venue so you are usually guaranteed to hear something. Entry to downstairs readings is pretty cheap at around £5 and you get the opportunity to hear some exciting poetry from predominantly young poets. Also on offer is a poetry unplugged evening where aspiring poets can try out their stuff for the first time before an audience.
This is a great place for those passionate about poetry but also provides a great place to relax for anyone else.
Does great poetry reading nights in the downstairs room, with student rates available for listeners. On open mic nights you get in for free if you perform!
A young, hopeful and Bohemian crowd!
This will appeal to any rustic enthusiast (think wooden furniture and almost collectable literature). Their menu is essentially vegetarian, but good enough to convert any carnivore, and meals cost an average 6 pounds.
They also have an eclectic selection of events happening each evening and if an aspiring poet, you can promote yourself there at open mikes.
If you're interested in poetry, this is definitely a place for you. I was at two events there recently and both were quite interesting. They were kind of different and also run by different people, but both were inspiring with good poets and texts. I haven't tried any food though, but the white wine is okay, and quite cheap as well. However, if you want a delicious dinner or an actually good wine, I'd recommend The 10 Cases (qype.co.uk/place/2081436… ) just around the corner!
I thought a night out at the Poetry Cafe would involve listening to droopy long-haired poets spouting odes while people listened in polite silence and gently clapped after each recital. But I was wrong. You take your beer into an intimate basement room, sit on uncomfortable wooden chairs, and the audience grows rowdier and rowdier, eventually hissing and booing at any too-pretensious or long-winded poet stuttering away on stage. It is a hilarious night out. This was the open mike session - I imagine it's different when professional poets are invited to recite, but haven't been yet to hear one. I certainly admire the courage of those who get up to read their poetry to this audience.
I was walking around Covent Garden, looking for a quiet cozy place to rest during my afternoon break at work and there - I found it! When I came in, first thing I saw was two women sipping coffee over poem sheets and discussing about them. The shelves on the walls are filled with magazines and poetry books and they have a living room downstairs with big sofas where they also hold poetry readings and events of the like. The friendly barman served me a delicious mocca (for only £1,20) and I confess I took a nap downstairs. (:
Very chilled out place, good for a lunch break to take a step back and just sit for a bit. Poetry Cafe is never really busy and when you order your food be prepared to move at their speed.
However the food is reasonably priced and the portions are massive :), quite a good bet if you want to sit down after a busy day of the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden.
I not as well informed about the poetry reading side of the cafe but I believe there is space dedicated downstairs to those inclined. Both opportunity to listen and to read just speak to the staff for more information.
Something a bit differentThe Poetry Cafe's weekly open-mic evening (Tuesdays, Poetry Unplugged) is pretty exciting. I had fun and didn't find it pretentious at all, so in that sense it's a great way to make contact with the usually intimidating and exclusive world of poetry. You might struggle to find Betterton St. the first time but it's worth it! New poets and old hands have the opportunity to make the rest of us gasp and giggle at their observations and performances. The poets who attend regularly are welcoming and inclusive and the place itself is small and lively. Great if you want to chatter or have a think. Or a drink!
The Society runs regular poetry events in its lovely boho cafe. Come here to see established poets do readings, watch up and coming writers perform for the first time, or even take part in an open mic yourself. The food is quite pricey but usually worth it (all the produce is from Neal's Yard, round the corner).
I went on a Tuesday evening primarily to read some poetry and link in to other poets.The cafe upstairs serves excellent tea and foodstuffs and the staff are welcoming and friendly.A must for a shy chap like me.The event itself is very well run and organised in such a way that everyone who wants to can read their poetry.For readers at the open mike night it cost £3 and for visitors to listen cost £4 well worth it,Such a wealth of talent out there.If you get the chance visit this friendly poetical palace right in the heart of London.I will be going again.
The Poetry Cafe is part of the Poetry Society which was founded in 1909. If you frequent the cafe you need to become a member but don't worry its free you just have to fork over your e-mail address. During the day the atmosphere is a quiet place where poets can sit and write all day you never have to leave because the cafe has a selections of drinks and a vegetarian menu, wouldn't PETA be proud. There are readings almost every night, I went on a Friday Night which was called Literature Lounge where they try and encourage everyone to read, I was just there to listen so felt a bit uncomfortable, and in my opinion some people just should just keep their demented views of the world to themselves. Most of the people who read are fairly talented. It does cost £5 to go and listen to the readings. There are loads of poetry books all around the cafe so if you are ever in need of inspiration this could be the place to try and find it.
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