The rise of the record cafe

Records spinning in the background, coffee brewing, lovingly prepared snacks on offer, vinyl stacks to browse through… It’s such an appealing concept we half-wonder why it didn’t take off sooner. Either way, the record cafe has enjoyed a noted rise lately, with mini muso/foodie paradises appearing up and the down the country.

Feeding into the ‘vinyl renaissance’ of recent years, such places are by no means the sole refuge of old collectors. Or, indeed, young beardy hipsters.

“It’s people of all ages, people who are very internet-literate, but people aren’t evolving as quickly as technology is,” says Paul, who previously worked at HMV and Southern Records, and now co-owns The LP Cafe in Watford. “Which means people are still responding to whole albums the way they always did.”

Unsurprisingly, such operations carry a heavy nostalgia factor. Places like The LP Cafe seek to resuscitate the experience of sitting and enjoying a full record – in an inviting, relaxed environment. “I could see vinyl sales in record shops struggling, and it went against a simple activity that made perfect sense to me,” he says, “i.e. just putting on a record and chilling out.”

Fancy opening your own record cafe? Paul has this advice: “Focus on your local community, and what it can offer you. It’s what makes it special to us anyway.”

Pay a visit to one (or make like a vinyl tourist and hit ‘em all) of these lovely set-ups and see what the fuss is all about…

**The LP Cafe, Watford **Proper rocket fuel coffee, home-baked ciabattas, comedy nights and even a sewing club accompany the diverse, rock-friendly wax at The LP Cafe. Sleeves for Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Dark Side Of The Moon decorate white walls, as well as the likes of Goat and Fugazi. Staff alternate their own background vinyl choices with those of their customers – a diverse mix of art students, mums, vinyl tourists and a healthy spread of regulars. Yes it’s a small, unfussy set-up, but the unpretentious warmth and character at work easily explains its popularity.

Good for: Friendly staff and serious coffee.

Pie & Vinyl, Southsea Be under no illusion, this place really does serve pies and mash and vinyl. Chicken and chorizo pie, all-day breakfast pie, Piecarumba (a burrito in a pie!)… we could go on, as there are many more. 32 in total. Proof that, in the record cafe world, pie really does equal MC…oh bugger, we don’t know – it’s just really good. “We offer a unique experience to sit and discover new music whilst enjoying the classic traditional surroundings,” says owner Rob. “We hold regular in-store performances, including this Thursday [i.e. today] when we welcome the legendary Steve Hackett for a Q&A session. We are also participating in Record Store Day on the 18th April.”

Good for: Pie pie pie pie pie pie….

Relevant Record Cafe, Cambridge

This cool joint has gone from strength to strength since opening last year. Gig nights, record players for sale and a stylish cafe space all form part of the package. “We didn’t want to be just a shop, but somewhere that would attract like-minded people,” says emporium manager Andy, “and give them a reason to stay longer, listen to music over great ethically sourced coffee, locally baked cakes and homemade savouries. We are also licensed and offer wine and craft beers, always popular with music lovers!”

Good for: Food n’ wine, and retro wallpaper.

The Record Cafe, Bradford Their slogan reads ‘Vinyl. Ale. Ham.’ Seriously, what more could they have done to convincingly scream ‘YOU DEFINITELY WANT TO COME HERE’? Booze is a serious business at The Record Cafe. Real ales, craft beers, a hefty bottled beer collection and delicious charcuterie (charcuterie!!) among other foodstuffs should set you up handsomely for hours of record browsing. They even have their own T-shirts. Foodies and musos, and muso foodies, rejoice!

Good for: Booze after you peruse, and ham…mmmmm ham.

Vinyl Head, Ramsgate

Since its doors opened last year, Vinyl Head has provided a happy Kentish haven for vinyl nuts and coffee n’ cake lovers. And, indeed, people warmly disposed to all those things. Live sessions and tasty savoury offerings (Moroccan stew, tapas, pots with names like ‘The Ultimate Chili Hendrix Experience’…) add to a lively, generation-spanning environment – a creative gem in the regeneration of the surrounding Thanet area.

Good for: Hot food and fun for all the family.

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine (opens in new tab) and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.