The first thing you need to know about Skittle Alley is that it closes at noon. For whatever reason, this irks me. I know it is a silly thing to be upset about, but what if the only spot of (literal) sunshine in my day occurs in the after noon or my sweet tooth is a late riser? I will always have GAIL’s, but she doesn’t have your cobblestone courtyard and Thames views. Sigh.
The second thing to know about Skittle Alley is that it is totally worth the noon closing. One morning last week Leo, Emma and I made our way south through Chiswick Park and then east along the Thames until we reached The Black Lion, and it’s cute courtyard comrades- Skittle Alley and Little Lake florist.
Skittle Alley operates out of the long, narrow building that would have once been home to lively games of ‘skittles,’ an old English version of what we now call bowling. While in other cafes a long farmhouse table sometimes feels like an impractical use of space or a concession to the prevailing ‘what’s cool’ winds of Kinfolk magazine, at Skittle Alley this trendy style makes complete sense. Stacks of beautiful coffee table books on design, food, London, and gardening, covered the table from end to end. Little trays with water carafes and tumblers were a thoughtful touch, making me think that the owners had also experienced the all to0 familiar “I didn’t think I wanted a glass of water when I ordered my latte and it was offered to me but now that I am happily seated and comfortable I actually do want some water but can’t be bothered to get up and ask for some.” It also must be said that as the mother of a child best kept confined to a stroller during cafe outings, I also appreciated the fact that my stroller fit quite easily past the cute aqua stools to find its way to a corner vantage spot where Leo could watch the world go by under the huge chalkboard sign declaring the Skittle Alley Manifesto. While not for everyone, I happen to enjoy a manifesto, especially one that embraces eccentricity and loves its neighbor.***
At the other end of Skittle Alley was the pantry and cafe, both offering a small but well-curated selection of food and drink (and other sweet oddments like thehappynewspaper.com). Emma and I both ordered lattes. She chose the toast, jam and butter plate. I chose the same, but with a croissant. Our breakfasts came on wooden boards, with a substantial pat of butter (YES) and a sweet little bowl of jam. And lo, they were beautiful to behold.
Leo enjoyed his plain croissant until I made the grave mistake of dipping a piece into my jam. Game over for the plain croissant. All Leo cared about was the jam! Fair enough, as the jam, like most things at Skittle Alley, was local, hand-made, small batch perfection. Charlotte, the farmer jam-maker herself, was just dropping off her latest batch of jam as we arrived. How thrilling. According to Linds and George, the friendly and stylish denizens of Skittle Cafe, Charlotte’s Damson jam is to die for. As if they’d planned it, halfway through our breakfast a gaggle of women entered the cafe and literally crowed with delight upon learning that Damson jam was back in stock. Damson jam for us!
While we enjoyed our breakfasts and fended off Leo’s jammy demands, Emma and I happily thumbed through one of the coffee table books in front of us called The Homemade Home for Children. Isn’t this felt applique cute? I’m hoping to replicate it soon on one of Leo’s plain sweaters.
It was soon time for sometime to “get outside for an adventure.” We left Skittle Alley with full bellies and happy hearts, glad to have finally made the trek, early though it was. It was worth it, and that’s something to be grateful for.
***Now, if it isn’t already obvious from the decor or manifesto, Skittle Alley is primarily a place for people who have the means and inclination to appreciate things like shibori linen aprons, the ayurvedic powers of tumeric tea and artisan chocolate. Did it appeal to me? Yes. Did I love the warm chatter of its patrons? Yes. Do I think I’ll be back? Yes. But you can’t shy away from the fact that this is a place where growing community means introducing like-minded rich people (mostly white) to expensive but well-made things. There. I said it.