We've just moved back to Bermondsey after a year or so away. I'm glad that many small businesses seem to have survived - despite the combined threat of the recession and the arrival of chain stores (Tesco's, Sainsbury's etc.)
However, I have noticed that Sobo seems to have had a recent change of ownership - the old staff have all gone and the place has now become a bit hit and miss.
I know that the name "Sobo" is a little cringeworthy, but I always quite liked the place - they did excellent paninis and very good coffee. The Saturday brunch was also very good quality, in my opinion.
This new incarnation of Sobo however doesn't seem to be very good at panini-making (they come out hot but not toasted), and the staff member we spoke to stared in disbelief at a request for decaf coffee.
The lovely guy Martin who set Sobo up has, alas, sold it. The new guy promised not to change a thing but has already wrecked their once magnificent bacon sarnies, replacing the quality back bacon with cheap muck, and has for some reason invested in some lurid photos of dishes for the window display. Oh and last time I was in there the cool vibey music had been replaced by - horrors - Leona Lewis at full blast. Tragic.
My partner and I loved Sobo for our daily coffee and occasional Saturday breakfast. For us it was perfect and I must say thank you to those who made it that way.
Unfortunately now, with all the changes, it fits our tastes less and less every visit.
We've stopped for coffee hoping to see it bounce back to how it was before, but instead we just notice more changes and none of my favourite counter treats (rachael's yoghurt, villandry choc croissants and julia's delicious homemade bakery).
Just adding my voice to the chorus of disappointment - I went into Sobo today and noticed the changes. I always distrust places that have photos of dishes outside, so I was pretty despondent when I saw that the new owner of Sobo has decided that this is in fact a good thing.
And as someone who (rightly or wrongly) thinks that there is a link between quality of food and quality of typography, the new menus on the tables don't inspire confidence.
On the upside, one of the former staff still works there - usually a morose young guy seemingly incapable of smiling, today he seemed quite chirpy and chatty.
What's happening on this stretch of Tower Bridge Road is quite plain: reverse gentrification.
When I moved to this area in 2004, TBR seemed just the right mix of newer businesses like Sobo, The Hartley, etc. and more traditional, less gentrified establishments like Manze's, The George, etc.
I liked the fact that Tower Bridge Road seemed to have something for everyone: newer residents in the area as well as those who've lived here for generations. It wasn't too gentrified.
Now both The Hartley and Sobo are on a trajectory towards mediocrity; Crystal Plus is closing imminently; and the Lebanese delicatessen and greengrocer's cart just outside it are long gone, together with the Chinese place opposite. The arrival of Tesco or 'Lazzat Snackway' (if it ever opens) aren't enough to dispel a growing impression of terminal decline.
Just to add a footnote to my previous post - I went into Sobo for breakfast yesterday. The coffee I ordered was not good (way too hot), but I had a large portion of scrambled eggs (previously only avaiable at the weekend) which were excellent and great value.
I had a chat with the guy who has now taken over (Tylen I think?), and he was really enthusiastic, friendly and keen to find out what customers wanted.
To me and without wanting to sound too snobby, I think Sobo now feels less of a "cafe", and slightly more of a "caff". So not necessarily a bad thing since it is a different offering, just in my view a shame as there are lots of places around TBR offering breakfasts, but all too few offering a decent coffee.
That said, I think you can do a lot worse in the area for breakfast and I will still be heading for Sobo when I need a hangover brekkie. I'll just have to swap my cappuccino for a tea...
I strongly feel that The previous owners of Sobo sold it because of loss of revenue. Given the current economic climate coupled with all of the changes in the area they were probably unable to sustain the good quality of produce and service that we the regulars have grown to love .
As a fellow Epicurean I am able to source and provide most of the produce they had on offer at Sobo and for a whole sale price however, that did not stop me from sometime spending up to 25 pounds on occasion,
I fully understand that it is better to leave the business on a high rather than drop standards and get complaints. so I feel rather than compromise there reputation they have left on a high.
The new owner rather than try to fill the old sobo shoes is laking the correct business decisions cut cost to maintain a steady flow of income , i just hope that he has not gone one step too far. Jacket potatoes, cans of coke and cheap ham to name a few.
Never mind put it down to trial and error .
why can't the english make decent coffee?? despite its italian-sounding name Rossi in borough high street serves up the worst (and the hottest) espresso-based coffee i have ever teasted (although their big breakfast it pretty damned good)
as for Tower Bridge Road it really does see to be heading in the wrong direction (well, obviously not literally). the old hartley was, for a while, a fine establishment
Yep, Sobo has deffo headed the same way as The Hartley. I still cannot fathom how such a good pub could go so totally down hill in such a short space of time.
On a positive note, fellow bon viveurs (Christ I hope I spelt that correctly) the cafe in the Fashion & Textile Museum has been taken over and they now make a rather good coffee. Lovely carrot cake there yesterday too.