London Coffee Scene 2011: Summary, PART II

 The West End (Covent Garden, Soho, Fitzrovia)

And we start with the place with the best gadget, Yep ! the La Marzocco Strada OR Notes Music & Coffee, located at 31 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, almost opposite Trafalgar Square from the Charing Cross End (Londoners will know where I mean). I’d heard that there was a cafe which had been first off the mark to buy and install the most up to date and probably most expensive espresso machine in the World when reading through my tweeter feeds, so a mental note was made to head down here for coffee. Not being a totally mad gadget man in general, but when it comes to coffee, I’m a victim, so after having being treated to lunch on a sunny day at Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant in Covent Garden by my brother, we headed down the road to Notes Music & Coffee. From the outside, you are tempted by the lovely array of sandwiches and cakes, BUT I knew that I was here for one thing, an espresso on a Strada machine. Doesn’t it look beautiful…

Josh, the barista, was busy and introducing myself briefly, I asked if I could take a picture of this lovely machine….. Warning ! coffee geek inside. So, I snapped away and then obviously asked for a Strada made espresso, which he made, using Square Miles’s Capao, extracted at 93 C – a bit bright for me with such a bean, which I believe is best extracted at a higher temp to highlight the nutty caramel toffee flavours. From one coffee expert to a geek, Josh kindly declined to accept payment. There ! I had had my first LM Strada coffee, yipee !

Flat White & Milk Bar, Soho

Well ! How could I not resist, another almost “must-go destination” for coffee in London, Flat White – where it all began (for me in any case). Needless to say, I had a flat white and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Cameron, owner and barsita, was still pouring latte art, about 5 years since opening – now ! how’s that for consistency and commitment. A note to the pretenders – the major downfall of start ups, is a lack of consistency and for charming brands, the invisibility of the owner/charismatic face of the biz. Thumbs up to Cameron. Still on that consistency thing, Flat White, still serve take away flatties with a latte heart

And yes, it was still delicious and yes, Flat White are the only cafe that Sqaure Mile Coffee create a blend for.

I actually finished my London tour, hours before my flight back to Cape Town with a visit to Flat White’s sister (why don;t they say brother ?) shop, Milk Bar on Bateman Street in Soho, where I had a fantastic espresso experience. I mean, who takes 5-7 minutes to make you an espresso ? The chief barista (I forgot his name, shame on me) at Milk Bar does, especially if he sees someone come into the cafe, order espresso and then ask him how long he’s doing the pre-infusion for, whilst admiring the Robur E Mazzer Grinder (the daddy of all daddy grinders). The first shot, which he didn’t want me to drink, went right through my tongue like a rocket, with a nutty like taste and the second, kind off filled my mouth, wrapping itself around the edge of my tongue and then coming back in – wow ! No pic, as I was struggling with last minute shopping, but nevertheless, a great culinary experience.

Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia

Last but not least, it was a trip I had been planning even before I packed my suitcases for my trip, a trip to Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, London W1, winner of Europe’s best independent coffee shop and more recently, winner of Britain’s best sandwich and coffee shop.

I think I should mention this up front as it’s been on my mind but what is with Aussies and coffee and why are they ruling the London coffee scene ? I can only stand by and admire and wish they would come to Cape Town and help me out with converting the masses to a great brew, but lucky London. OK ! I digress, we are at Kaffeine, my first priority on my last leg in London, which I visited on Saturday morning in the area known in London as Fitzrovia, which means the space in between Regent’s Park and Oxford Street, parallel to Great Portland Street – a quick geography lesson for non-Londoners.

I really loved the simplicity and yet high quality finish of Kaffeine, which incidentally is small and cozy and was quiet when we arrived around 11am, but I was told on a normal day, 570 cups are the norm and on a quiet day, 200+ (Oh London ! should I have opened my cafe in you ?). As you enter Kaffeine, you are tempted by delights like strawberry friands (another great Aussie invention) and yes I was tempted and asked for one to go with my flat white.

I brought an old University friend with me and asked him to try a cappuccino – “wow ! coffee can taste like this, now I know why you are so crazy about coffee Lameen” was his reply after his first sip.

Kaffeine have a Synesso Cyncra, use a Robur E (but of course) and Square Mile Coffee and are led by top barista Cathy, who kindly gave us complimentary coffees, spotting the coffee geek in me. The staff were very attentive and one promised to visit Cape Town very soon – so watch this space if he does, as I might offer him a temp job, before he heads back to London. Go Kaffeine Go and well done on all your achievements. Can’t wait to visit again.

And there you have it….

That’s all I can say and well done London, Londoners for appreciating great coffee and I’m sorry, but I have to say this, Aussies for helping out with the quality, et al.

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