A hive of activity at Cafe Oto in Dalston

cafeotoIs this the office of the future? I certainly wouldn’t complain. It’s amazing to see how many people run their working lives from cafes these days. I have never really liked the idea of taking my laptop to a café – I remember a story of a classmate in Holborn’s Starbucks having his stolen in the one moment he turned his back on it, and I’ve had my own wallet nicked while emailing in an internet café.

But I’ve taken to the idea lately because you get so much done. Plus Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down The Bones, is a big fan, and that lady knows her stuff.

I’ve been going to Café Oto in Dalston, which is a big ground-floor warehouse room with concrete floors and huge windows just behind the ever-growing new Dalston overground development. The café part of it serves really good food, like soup and roasted vegetable salads with garlic toast and nice coffee and Little Creatures Pale Ale, as well as Japanese snacks and even Japanese tapas served at some gigs. The seating area is huge, with small and large tables dotted about – I think they’re Ercol – and power points here and there for people to plug their laptops into. If it gets busy all the laptoppers converge on one table which is also fine and the eavesdropping opportunities are ripe – yesterday I was listening to a small social enterprise trying to woo the money people, it was very interesting and I hope they got it.

There’s every kind here, from young mums stopping off to feed their babies on the way to a friend’s house, moody young men surfing the net in the corner (there’s WiFi) and lots of people having meetings about arts projects and short films and architecture submissions, as well as blokes from London Transport. Plus the billy-no-mate loners like myself tapping away on laptops.

The staff seem genuinely happy to be there, the acoustics are good and there’s enough buzz and chatter going on to keep you entertained being too distracting. It’s also far away the usual working-from-home diversions – the fridge, the phone, the internet (although you can log on if you wish) the couch, the bed and the fridge.

At the moment I’m really trying to finish my first novel. It has been on the go for a while now and was recently long-listed for a prize (hey if you can’t puff on your own blog where can you?), so I’m determined to get it done and start sending it out. The publishers who gave the prize are interested, but it has changed a lot since I sent it out to them in May – the main character has changed from a girl to a boy, for a start – so who knows if they’ll take it. I’m up to 50,000 58,000 words, it will be finished by the end of the year, and a synopsis and three well-polished chapters are available if any literary agents are reading this.

 Café Oto also has a diverse music, poetry and talks programme, usually in the evenings – check out their website

Cafe OTO

18 – 22 Ashwin street



E8 3DL


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