Firebox is a new cafe and political space in London's Kings Cross. It is bright and airy, and the atmosphere was friendly and cheerful when I visited one Thursday lunchtime in October 2012, a few days after its official launch.
The walls are festooned with political posters, old and new, and seditious books are scattered on the tables to act as talking points, or a focus for solitary contemplation - 'Occupying Wall Street', 'Introducing Marx', that sort of thing. There are many more books and pamphlets on shelves by the counter.
Firebox was set up by the revolutionary socialist group Counterfire. They say they want to create something akin to the Partisan Cafe of the 1960s, and the original coffee houses that caused so much alarm when they were first introduced in the 17th century, with their lively discussions fuelled by that subversive new drug, caffeine.
As someone who grew up in the 1980s, I found various things about the place made me a little nostalgic - a poster of the Labour Party's statement committing to unilateral nuclear disarmament, a framed portrait of Tony Benn, a pervasive belief that profound and positive societal change is not just a nice idea but actually worth fighting for.
Somewhat oddly for a politically switched on place in the 21st century, the menu is dominated by meat-based food. As far as I could tell there were no vegan dishes listed at all - although when I asked it turned out that their soup of the day, an excellent Bengali-style tomato and coriander dish, contained no animal products. I'm told that they always make sure to have at least one substantial vegan dish, in fact, so this was more a failing of the written menu than the actual catering. They also had soya milk on hand for tea or coffee - and speaking of tea and coffee, they have a very respectable range of both, with jars of loose genmai cha, rose green tea and rooibos on the counter, and several more varieties tucked away. I had a delicious and unfamiliar concoction of black tea and bay leaves, apparently a big thing in Bangladesh.
There are currently very interesting-looking political events happening almost every Thursday, and often on other days of the week, and there's a room for hire downstairs. In an age when so much political discussion is restricted to the internet, with the mainstream media barely scraping the surface of it, there is a lot to be said for physical spaces that help it to happen in the real world - with eye contact, books and delicious hot drinks.
Firebox is at http://fireboxlondon.net/, https://www.facebook.com/fireboxlondon and 106-108 Cromer St, London, England.