Of course, I can’t go to London and not visit some good cafes. First on my list this time was a restaurant/tapas bar called Providores & Tapa Room, 109 Marylebone High Street in Central London and owned by New Zealanders. It was recommended to me by the editor of Olive Food Magazine (my favourite British food magazine). I was naturally excited as there was somewhere else to try apart from my favourites. After a bit of window shopping down on fashionable Marylebone High Street, I arrived at my destination, only to find a queue coming out. At first I was a bit upset, thinking, I’ve flown 100s miles to get here and I only have about 2 hours to visit coffee shops and I have to queue – then I thought, “hang on a minute” this means I’m onto something good here, as I’ve only seen queues coming out one coffee shop before; Flat White on Berwick Street, London. So I waited patiently and as the waitress came out checking for numbers, I was almost pleased to say, “just for one and I only want coffee” – well it got me in straight away. The Tapa Room (downstairs of the main restaurant) is quite squashed, with a massive communal table with high chairs bang right in the middle of the shop, supported by small French style cafe chairs and tables round the side. I saw that they were using a commercial Gaggia coffee machine. I ordered my cappuccino as it was still before 12pm and it came with some latte art, a slightly skewed rosetta. I took pictures of my coffee and the shop, which I will share with you when I figure out how to upload them onto my blog, took in the ambience, smelt my coffee and drank it all in almost 2 gulps. Ahhhh ! What a lovely cup of coffee – it went down smoothly – the frothed milk was silky smooth and the coffee just blended into my stomach – I did not feel like I’d just drank something heavy, which shows the quality of the coffee preparation. I hear that they sell their organic coffee beans, which apprarently comes from Monmouth Coffee shop.
After a wonderful flat white and espresso at Flat White coffee shop, London (more on that to follow on another post), I made my way to Monmouth Coffee shop, but on my way there, I stumbled across another coffee specialist store, Algerian Coffee Stores on 52 Old Compton Street, in the heart of Soho. They too feature in Hattie Ellis’s book. However, Algerian Coffee Stores have been in the business for 120 years and offer a choice of over 80 coffees – Wow ! that sounds impressive. You can buy coffee, coffee equipment, a selection of over 120 teas and even drink coffee there too in their smallish but quaint shop. From what I saw, they tend to favour a full roast, i.e. dark to very dark, where you can see the oils on top of the coffee bean. As I was in a rush – had to meet the wife for some shopping – I quickly asked for a recommendation for espresso and bought their Cafe Torino blend of very dark Colombian and full roast Ethiopian. On my return to Vienna, I tried this first out of the 5 bags of coffee from other stores. I think it’s the first time since using my flashy espresso machine that my espresso has been bitter – almost with a tobacco flavour – the espresso is dark but the coffee works better with me for milk based drinks to hide a bit of the bitterness. I also had a bit of a problem with getting the grind right, moving the dial to a finer grind away from my normal setting for espresso, which meant some beans had to be sacrificed to get the right grind for an espresso pour. I’m sure there’s an expert out there that can explain this unusual (for me) phenomenon. However, I am optimisitc of trying coffee from them again, especially with their history. I also found out from their website that they have 19 blends and what I bought was not the best type for espresso. You can also order coffee and other stuff from Algerian Coffee Stores through their internet shop (www.algcoffee.co.uk) and I am tempted to try them once more. I suggest that if you have time, you should try them out.
Just back from an exciting short trip to London, where I found two new places to buy coffee from. Thanks in part to breezing through the back of Hattie Ellis’ book on coffee, “Coffee – Discovering, Exploring, Enjoying“, I made a dash for HR Higgins (Coffee Man) on 79 Duke Street, by the posh end of Oxford Street, near the world famous Selfridges Store. Prior to visiting, I had e-mailed them, to ask about the freshness of their coffee, which they confirmed was roasted fresh by themselves and delivered twice a week to their shop. Their shop looks very traditional, but they do have one of those priced stickers on their coffee bags, which highlights that Her Majesty the Queen of England has given them her blessings, so I’m guessing that they know what they are talking about, having been in the business since 1942. Well ! it was refreshing to speak “bean talk” (a new term from moi on asking about what beans are good for different types of coffee brewing) with the two very helpful shop assistants, trying to catch them out on how well they knew their beans from their beanos (an old English comic). I often find that when you visit some coffee shops, staff don’t know what they are selling, which can be a bit frustrating to people like me wanting to broaden our coffee horizons. So, its refreshing when you meet people who know and can advise you on what to try, and as I am a variety type of man when it comes to food and coffee, I rarely try the same stuff – Monmouth’s Organic Espresso Blend and Origins of Cape Town’s Organic Sidamo are the exceptions. After a bit of a tug of war, I settled for Indian Malabar, as I have been a bit reluctant to try an Indian arabica. I also wanted something with Costa Rica in it, so I got a Santiago Blend, which is made up of beans from Costa Rica Tarrazu and Colombia Supremo. I’ll let you know what it tastes like God willing !