Alto Coffee comes to the new Maida Hill Market

At the quiet intersection of the busy Harrow Road and lengthy Elgin Avenue, a gourmet food and gifts market has been set up by Westminster Council, opening this weekend and breathing new life into a space that has functioned as a haunt for local drunks and drug dealers.

The cheery green and white awnings of the dozen-or-so market stalls almost entirely obscure the green and white “Costcutter Express” sign that would otherwise set the tone. The sky-blue Maida Hill Gallery is clearly in sight and, as I write this at a plastic garden table, its artificial grass lawn out front is hosting a number of happy shoppers with hog roast sandwiches.

The reason I am here is to give some support to Fabio and Robert, the baristas of Alto Café, which operates five days a week from a small van parked on Strutton Ground, almost within the shadow of Osmosoft‘s 4th floor office in Westminster Telephone Exchange.

Apart from anything, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Fabio, Brazil’s champion barista, for saving the coffee of SW1. Until we became aware of Fabio’s and, as he was trained up, Robert’s delicious and caffeinated creations, the only way to get a decent cup was to trot 20 minutes down Buckingham Palace Road to Tomtom.

It looks like Alto (the UK’s only branch of the award-winning French franchise) are going from strength to strength – they have recently introduced Square Mile coffee as an alternative to the Alto blend, stock an expanding range of Villandry pastries and now have secured a Saturday slot at the Maida Hill market. On top of this, Alto are going up to Edinburgh for two weeks in August to run three coffee stalls during the festival.

Fabio and Robert represent exactly the kind of business I am leaving Osmosoft to help, so I have started to poke them with some ideas like using Twitter for taking local orders. It would be awesome to figure something out for the Edinburgh festival, perhaps a micro-site for festival-going coffee lovers promoting the locations of their three stalls; or something to take the pain out of managing the stock of the three locations.

If you’re in North West London on a Saturday, go spend some time at Maida Hill market. The square has a very intimate feel to it and is a bit like someone’s transplanted a chunk of Borough market, without all the tourists. And say hi to Fabio and Robert from me. Oh, and try a vanilla shakerato, it’s a few shades of awesome.

[ has a video here]


  1. Posted June 16, 2009 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your kindness! Definetly you’re one of the best customers we’ve ever had, thanks to be part of Alto project. I hope to see you next saturday in Maida Hill for another vanilla shakerato. See you!

  2. Robert Robinson
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks John!

    Great to have your support. I am sure we’ll pursue your techie ideas – keep poking!

    Ordering ahead will work especially well in winter, I think, when people don’t want to wait around in the cold/rain.

    I hope your last few days are going well,
    See you soon,

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