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Loafing around on Roman Road

Loafing, the sweet and savoury crepe connoisseur, has reopened on 409 Roman Road, so we headed down to take a look around.

Previously at number 369a, by Gina’s Closet, is only a way down the street, the move has been in the works for months. After several delays the cafe is now back open for business, though not as usual.

Unlike at the old address, Loafing now has some breathing room. Their coffee lovers and artisanal cake and crepe foodies are spoilt for choice with nine indoor tables, window side stools, and an outdoor seating area perfect for the upcoming sunny weather.

Susie McDuell, the owner, is ecstatic about the move and can’t imagine a better place for the cafe. She had her eyes on the 409 property since moving to 369a. ‘This was an estate agents before, and as soon as I knew they were selling up, I was on the phone and swapping details! I knew this was the next place for us.’

At the soft opening last weekend, Loafing was packed with new and returning customers. The new Loafing has a quirky, homey feel with mismatched furniture that makes the cafe look elegant and spacious. It has dark, rustic-looking red and green chairs at the back, a mix of circular and square-topped tables, and benches lining the walls.

The smell of savoury crepes sweeps through the cafe as the friendly faces behind the counter serve up their bestselling cheese, mushroom and spinach crepe dish.

A La Marzocco professional espresso coffee machine sits on the corner counter, with an array of cakes and pastries hogging centre stage as you peruse the menu. Under which, there are shelves along the back wall filled with delicious breads for you to take away.

There are tongue-in-cheek old advertisements from the ‘70s and ‘80s framed on the walls, and the space encourages customers to stay in, with plug sockets under each table and vintage design ceramic teacups.

Adopting a new shade of brown outside, inspired by the old Loafing cafe that’s now Boulangerie Jade on Lauriston Road by Victoria Park, the newly designed shop front also has the signature sign ‘Loafing’ in cursive long letters. The painted signwork on the shop was completed by local signwriter Peter Hardwicke who has created signs for several Roman Road businesses, including Denningtons.

Susie McDuell feels as though she’s lived many lives before her career at Loafing. She was a model for 12 years from the age of 16, and has worked with several different agencies travelling all over the world. After modelling, she then owned a furniture store near Victoria Park.

Loafing is over 12 years old altogether, originally in Lauriston Road, with just over a year on the Roman.

Having the cafe on Roman Road is important to her, ‘I love it on Roman Road. There is such a cross section of society here, the diversity is something that even in Victoria Park Village you didn’t see as much of. I like that about having a cafe, that it’s really something for everyone.’

Looking around her cafe, it’s a microcosm of Roman Road culture. There were builders popping in to get their lattes, two Bengali women catching up over a pot of tea, an elderly couple excitedly awaiting their hearty-sized crepe lunches, two young men at the back talking about a physics forum over Ham and Cheese crepes, and a mother mopping up the food-smudged face of a wide-eyed baby in its pram.

‘We just want everyone to feel included so I always tell my staff to smile, be warm, and be open to conversation.’ McDuell comments on what makes Loafing different, ‘I think you can go into cafes that are quite cold these days, where they act like they’re doing you a favour to serve you. That’s not how it’s done here.’ Instead Loafing is friendly, relaxed and has a welcoming vibe.

Distracted by a customer’s order of their chocolate and carrot gluten-free cake, McDuell proudly talks about how she wants to be able to accommodate everyone. With more people turning to gluten free, vegan and vegetarian products, she wants Loafing, while it is primarily selling indulgent foods with hams and dairy, to have options to offer.

Loafing’s patisserie products and bread loaves are from Boulangerie Jade’s baker Christophe LeTynevez, who works in partnership with McDuell. He also sells his baked goods to The Larder near the London Buddhist Centre.

Loafing is still settling into its new home, but McDuell has big plans for the future. She’s considering opening the cafe in the evening, and serving wine and meals. We might also see a seating area, or items of furniture for sale, in the basement in Loafing’s future, though it’s early days yet.

Loafing coffee crepe shop roman road
Loafing coffee crepe shop roman road
Loafing coffee crepe shop roman road

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Natasha Forrest

Natasha is a QMUL English graduate who lives on Brick Lane with a passion for reading and tea.

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