Vagabond: North River Brownie

Brownie Basics

“You don’t really know a place until you’ve eaten brownies there,” said no-one ever. But just in case they ever do start saying it, I decided to get a head start and spend some time on my first Sunday living in North London going out to eat a chocolate brownie. I went to a coffee shop called Vagabond.

Convincingly chocolate-coloured.

Brownie Backstory

I’ve been to Vagabond once before, sort of. I went on a stag do that started there. I arrived too late to enjoy any coffee, but I did at least see the inside and noted the existence of a chocolate brownie, before we had to rush off for our day of debauchery.

That was the stag do for a friend whose wedding I then attended in Budapest, and with whom I am currently living. So it seems sort of fitting to come here for my first North London brownie, and it definitely has relatively little to do with how the first place I checked out had nice coffee and decent brunch but zero brownie.

There doesn’t seem to be much of interest to say about Vagabond. It’s yet another coffee shop in London with a deliberate rough aesthetic to the furniture and the decor, that makes good coffee and a range of tasty sweet treats, that probably has various combinations of avocado and eggs and sourdough and the like on its food menu, with a strong sense of community from the baristas chatting to each other and the customers, needs to enforce a “no laptops on weekends” rule, uses an old portafilter as a door handle… In a word, it is ‘hipster’. I don’t mean that dismissively, and in general I think I don’t really like the negative connotations of hipsterism. I have no real issues with the aesthetic, I actually quite like a lot of the culture and ethics associated with it, and let’s be honest: most of the biggest complaints about hipsters are just this generation’s version of the eternal “damn kids get off my lawn” attitude that older people will always have towards younger people.

(I hereby wish it to be known that any future snark I direct towards hipsterism will be excused under the “you can’t say that, only we can say that” rule.)

I’ve been to New York City only once in my life (and loved it, and desperately want to return just as soon as the USA swings back away from illiberalism), and on one of the nights I went with a couple of friends who living in the city into Brooklyn. We ate grilled cheese toasties with mushrooms in a building that was a bar/restaurant on one floor and a cinema on the floor above. Then we went over a couple of blocks and drank German beers in a bar where a live oom-pah band was playing all night. And it was such a fun night! Brooklyn is derided as the epitome of hipsterism, but on what grounds am I supposed to think that that’s a bad thing if this is my experience of it?

If hipsterism is the movement of reusing unwanted furniture, making actually good coffee, caring about environmental responsibility, being open to diverse cultural influences and alternative lifestyles, and generally experimenting with different ways of doing things, then sign me up.

(I still don’t fully get the obsession with pulling food, though.)

Brownie Points

Taste: This wasn’t actually very sweet at all, I wondered if the base was dark rather than milk chocolate. It was rich and satisfying though, if a little samey by the end of the (large) slice. 8/10

Texture: The common ‘problem’ of being amazing towards what was clearly the centre of the whole brownie, and then drier and less soft towards the edges. The gradient was lesser than in some other brownies, though, and it was overall satisfyingly moist and fudgey. 8/10

Presentation: Sorta your canonical brownie innit. The raised edges, and the smooth undulations towards them, are nice and give it a pleasantly home-baked appearance. 3/5

Value: £3.20 felt a teeny bit expensive to me, but maybe I’ve been spoiled in South London. It was anyway pretty tasty and a good size, so 7/10

Fudge Factor: I know it’s tricky to make a brownie this nice texture-wise without using other ingredients to assist (like caramel) so I want to reward the strong effort here. 1/5

Final Total Overall: 27

Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?

It was good, and Vagabond is good (although I was weirdly not super into their coffee), so yes.

Closing Thought



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