It’s a hot early summer’s afternoon and I have taken an hour out from a busy day cutting hair to find myself sitting outside the ecologically minded structure of Velo, another start up that has appeared in the London road area over the past six months.
Velo is actually situated in the newly restyled Level next to a skate bowl that makes me so envious I wish I was 14 years old again. The word movement comes to mind as I sit hear listening to the rolling of wheels across smooth concrete. Skateboard wheels, scooter wheels, bike wheels, buggy wheels; everywhere I look the world is moving around me here.
I am a keen walker and have taken on the 100 miles of the South Downs Way on more than one occasion. For me movement has never so much been about arriving at a destination as enjoying the journey itself. Sitting here watching the world go round around me makes me aware of what an important role pit stops play in our busy lives today. Places to take the weight off weary feet, to gain perspective on the day, to let the kids off the leash to burn off some of that never-ending energy.
Velo, it strikes me, is such a place.
Opening just before Christmas Velo has quickly gained a reputation for its good food, drink and ambience amongst my clients, especially parents who have told me that it’s ideal for grabbing a well deserved coffee after supervising their kids at the newly designed play park all morning.
The first thing that catches my eye as I approach Velo is its subtleness blending into its lush green surroundings. This may be due in a large part to it having a green roof. I am told that the roof is for more than just show. It helps to insulate inside in the winter, keep cool during the summer and most impressively it helps to collect rainwater, which is then used to flush the loos.
Staying with the eco-friendly philosophy, Velo uses old tea bags and coffee beans as compost for a small herb garden to the side of the building. Once a week a community gardening group hones their skills under the Levels head gardener’s watchful eye, using the herbs grown in its dishes. Mint from the herb garden can be found in Velo’s mint tea for example. Nice.
Inside Velo I am struck by the soft summer light and airiness of the place. It feels like a contemporary German Huf haus.
At one end can be found the café/bar with modern stainless steel kitchen, an impressive looking coffee machine, homemade food on display and draught lager on tap. At the other end is a drop-in bicycle repair surgery. The bike bay as it’s referred to, will cater for all your bicycle needs from a new inner tube to a full MOT. The bike bay services are available by either booking online or simply popping in. In the time I’m in here a couple of BMX’ers pop in to use the pump, free of charge; what a nice neighborly thing to do.
‘Eat Drink Ride’
Reading this the combination of food, drink and bike repairs may sound a bit to up in the air and confusing but I can assure you it isn’t. Between the ends of the building two immaculate bicycles hang high above the diners heads giving this place more a Tour de France feel than a mechanics workshop. There is enough space, both physically and conceptually, for this all to work. In fact it feels refreshing for a place to have more than just a theme these days. Velo as well as meaning bicycle in French it also comes from the word velocipede, which refers to any foot machine that allows us to move faster than running; a ‘fast foot machine’. The world around us is a ‘fast foot machine’, sometimes we just need to sit down and rest our feet.
While most places will be showing the World Cup and England’s overpaid ‘superstars’ falling at the very first hurdle Velo will be screening all the legs of the greatest cycling tours taking place this summer. If sitting watching all that cycling inspires you to visit the shed and brush off the cobwebs from your old bike then I suggest you take a little ride down here. Velo organises public cycling outings in and around Brighton twice a week. One on Sunday mornings, which meet at 8.30am for coffees before setting off at 9am. The other a Wednesday evening ride, this one sets off at 6.45pm. These are social cycle rides and the routes change each week. The routes are tailored to accommodate both your hardened lycra wearing cycling enthusiast and the wind in your hair, basket and bell cyclist who prefers more chatting to chafing. Whatever spins your wheel, all are welcome.
On the recommendation of the staff we order the homemade lasagna, which arrives as a healthy hearty portion, a bacon and Brie toasted sourdough sandwich with caramelized red onion and rocket. Along with this we have a side order of green bean salad. Both the lasagna and toasted sandwich are devoured quickly and washed down with a can of sparkling San Pellegrino Aranciata. But the star of this little show is the green bean salad; green beans are joined by olives, raisins, peppers and onions and a lemon zesty couscous in this summer medley. Now I’m not usually one for ordering just a salad but I must say that this is so nice and light on its own its perfect for a hot day like today.
Full up but unable to resist a pudding I tuck into a gluten free chocolate cake, which is heavenly but at lunch time sends me into a semi food coma. I sit here daydreaming and doodling in the sun. I’ve taken my foot off the pedal and happy to just sit and watch the rest of the world turning around me. For a lunchtime holiday destination I can seriously recommend Velo at the Level.