Category Archives: London Cafes

London Coffee Diary 2016

Cappuccino from Black Sheep

If you follow me on instagram and can flick through all the fashion posts, you’ll see that I was in London last August to visit family, eat, shop and of course drink coffee. The main difference between this trip and last years, to keep things fresh, is that I went out of my way to visit cafes that I’ve heard off, but never visited, so prepare yourself for another coffeelinary (perhaps I should claim this word) journey.

 

Store Street Espresso (formerly Continental Stores) 54 Tavistock Place Bloomsbury (Russell Square)

A sister shop to another one of London’s greats, Store Street Espresso, Continental Stores, now known as Store Street Espresso 2, is in the heart land of London student city, Bloomsbury, i.e. Russell Square and its surroundings. In fact their shop is opposite where my brother lives but when I visited during the Christmas period they were shut because all the students were gone. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were opened this time around in mid-summer. It’s designed with simple yet very Londonish decor and I’m sure there’s a story to do with the coffee bar with it’s large trunk style wooden edifice. 


With bar stools and patio like space at the back of the shop, there’s plenty to choose from;  cakes, salads, sandwiches and of course coffee, backed up with good service. Using Square Mile coffee on a Synesso espresso machine, I couldn’t help but order my daily flat white.

 

I should emphasise that their flat white is in sticking with the strict volume proportion guidelines, where the focus is on tasting the coffee and not flavoured milk, so don’t expect a 330ml cup, just enjoy the coffee.

 

The Attendant, 27a Foley Street, Fitzrovia

If you’re an avid follower of new cafes and unusual places to visit in London, then you may already have heard of the attendant. In short, it used to be an underground public toilet in the heart of Fitzrovia (area between Oxford Street and Regents Park) and was converted into a cafe a few years back. Don’t worry, as I re-assured my wife, the hygiene specialist – my wife that is – the place doesn’t smell of human waste, just coffee and cakes. It’s dark lit with the old urinals separate sitting areas with a barstool. 


I actually visited three times because I wanted to buy the Kenyan coffee they used to brew my aeropress on my first visit – I triumphed on the third visit. The carrot cake as well as the banana bread with poppy seeds are also highly recommended.


The attendant with its lead baristafrom Germany , also seems quite popular with tourists as every time I visited it was quite obvious that people were visiting to take pictures and order coffee, so join either the tourist or coffee fanatic trail and visit when you want a break from shopping on nearby Oxford Street.

 

Black Sheep Coffee, 5-7 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia

Not that far from the Attendant if you know your way around Fitzrovia, is black sheep coffee. 


I’ve known about this company for over 2 years since I was exposed to their coffee at the Ampersand Hotel. One of their unique points if their dedication to getting the best out of robusta coffee – the inferior coffee bean to arabica – but they seem to be doing a good job as I witnessed for myself a few months back when I ordered and brewed their coffee in the comfort of my home, see here. However, I had never been to their cafe, located near Goodge Street. With a dark and cosy interior and la marzocco GB5, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to creative savoury and sweet delights, but of course as I was in a rush, I just came for the coffee and as it turned out an inspiring chat with one of the staff, Ben, about international development. 


My daughter got a bit carried away snapping away as I sipped one of their blends with love see pic above at the top of the post. Also on sale are their bottles of cold brew;

Holborn Grind, 199 High Holborn, Bloomsbury

Back to Bloomsbury and closer to the city and law den of London, you’ll find one of the outposts of “the grind” portfolio, Holborn Grind;


They already have soho grind, london grind and shoreditch grind. The decor is bright and great for taking instagram pics of coffee and food – see their instagram page, mainly because the bright red cups surrounded by lots of natural light. They focus not just on savoury and sweet bites but in the evening they transform into a bar. Here for my daily espresso milk based fix, I went straight for a flat white to accompany my toasted ciabatta sandwich.


It’s not as relaxed as the Soho Grind version, where I’ve been many times perhaps because of the clientele but if in the area, worth a visit nevertheless for a good cuppa ‘ coffee.

So, where else?

If you’re rushing out of Soho and want something sweet to got with your coffee, try Crosstown Doughnut and Coffee, located on 4 Broadwick Street, who serve Caravan Coffee.


If you happen to be in Camden Town, near the Regent’s Park end and need a caffeine fix, then stop by at the Coffee Jar on 83 Parkway, who serve renowned Monmouth Coffee in a cute urban hideaway serving cakes and savoury delights too.


Although known to many, I also dropped by at Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (formerly Speakeasy) located at Lowndes Court, just off Caranaby Street for my daily fix and to grab two bags of coffee (Kaldi gate for espresso and Kenyan Black Othaya for filter).


With so much to see and places to get a great cup of coffee, London’s is still my fave coffee and shopping city, good on ya mate!!!! Mind the gap

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Thanks @ Hackney Coffee Company for a Friendly Coffee

  

 Thanks to Jon Penn, co-founder of Hackney Coffee Company, located on 499 Hackney Road, London for reaching out to me through Instagram and sending me a bag of delicious Nicaragua Nuevo Segouia Catuai, natural dried arabica coffee.

About the coffee, the taste profile is advertised as rum, raisin and cascara tea. I can’t say for sure that I picked up those exact profiles, except for the cascara tea, when I tested it cold, leaving the coffee fro about 20 minutes. What I picked up was dried berries, like cherry, a fruity burst, medium acidity, well balanced and on calling dark chocolate.

   
  My colleague, an expert wine taster actually described it as a

Friendly coffee

By that, he meant, well balanced, pleasant to drink, raspberries, medium acidity and well balanced.

A pleasant cup.

On brewing method, I tried it out using an aeropress, but I must confess I loved it better using a Hario V60. This is where I was able to pick up a high tasting notes. In fact I liked this coffee so much, that I visited their website to try and order it, but form what I gather, they don’t have an online shop yet.

  
so, if ya down in East London, go grab a cuppa at Hackney Coffee Company, mate – sorry couldn’t help myself in putting a typical cockney accent.


Fashion & Coffee in London

   
 If you follow me regularly on Instagram, then you’ll know that I’m also into fashion. In fact I’ve even toyed with the idea of setting up a purely dedicated blog on fashion but time does not permit. Nevertheless, although I know far more about coffee than I do about fashion, the first career path I wanted to choose after being a pilot, was a men’s fashion designer. I digress a bit, but when I visit London, I find it to be if not the best, then one of the best cities to combine my passions for coffee and fashion.

Before and after treading up and down, checking out the latest fashion and sartorial stuff on offer, I’m always looking for coffee. So, if you visit the epicentre of fashion shopping in London, Oxford Street, during the Retail Sale season there’s plenty of coffee spots. My favourites are:

Workshop Coffee Fitzrovia, located in St Christopher’s Place – located parallel to Oxford Street and near Bond Street Tube Station on the Central and Jubilee Lines. I’ve written about Workshop before but, in essence they are one of the premier London-based coffee roasters with a few locations dotted around London. On offer is great coffee (espresso, filter), teas, hospitality and small bites.

  
Origins at Selfridges – Voted the best store in the World, I’m pleased to report that Selfridges now have a great coffee roaster, originally from the South West End of England, who roast and prepare coffee the artisan way.

  

 They’ve got all the gadgets

  

  And a special blend for both espresso and filter on offer. So, when shopping in the best store in the World, you can also grab a great cup of coffee – life’s good.

Still in the Oxford Street area, walk down or take the tube to Oxford Circus, and head to Carnaby Street to check out the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs spot in Lowndes Place. Delectable cakes, sandwiches, filter coffee and well-pulled espresso shots await the Soho shopper. There’s lots of space downstairs, so you can bring the kids too.

  
At the end of Carnaby Street, by Boots the chemist, turn right onto Kingly Street to be greeted by Soho Grind. Complimentary wi-fi is on offer in a dimly lit, but cosy looking funky coffee spot with seating downstairs too.

  
If it’s raining, then there’s only spot to go to in Central London, Westfield Shopping Centre, located at Shepherds Bush Central Line tube station. There’s tons of the famous shopping brands and in the section called the Village, all the premier brands await you too from Louis Vuitton, Boss, Hacket and Mui Mui. In other parts, there’s  Zara, Top Shop, Apple, as well as a multiplex cinema and huge food court, but where’s the coffee ? Head to the ground floor for Sacred, located next to Apostrophe, also with a La Marzocco Linea. Sacred are stocked with female baristas, who pull a chocolate based espresso shot, which goes well with milk.

   
 So, that’s it from me for 2015, here’s to a more pleasant and fulfilling 2016 with more coffee discoveries on the horizon.

  


The London Coffee Diary 2: Curators Coffee II

 Not too far from Mother’s Milk, and actually the street before, is Margaret Street, where you’ll find Curators Coffee Gallery on 51 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SG. For a history of Curators Coffee, see my post here. In summary, Curators Coffee is the brainchild of Catherine, former head barista at Kaffeine. Curators Coffee Gallery is the second location, right in the heart of London’s shopping universe.

BUT, before I tell you about this spot, let’s look at the word, CURATOR.

It’s linked to curate or curated, which for those who don’t sleep with a Dictionary under their pillow or I guess these days, have the Dictionary app on their mobile phone, means:

Someone who looks after something special like in a museum or a piece of art or who selects something special for a medium, like a website.

So perhaps, we can say that at Curators Coffee, they have paid particular attention to selecting their coffees and an how to present them, whilst looking after you or your taste buds.

The Entrance

The décor

It’s quite easy to walk by this spot, primarily because the decor is quite sombre – there are no bright lights announcing that you’ve arrived at this top coffee spot in the West End, nor is the entrance dominated by a lively crowd and loud music, accompanied by happy customers chatting at the top of their voice. The mood has been dictated, perhaps by the name, a gallery – well, here we have a gallery of coffee – and downstairs the wall is now littered with art. In addition, they’ve gone for low level lighting, a blue black mood and even though the ceiling is white, the shop floor only really lightens up on sunny days, where the Sun can easily peep through the ceiling window. But, don’t be fooled, where the decor can be sombre, but soothing, easy for you to escape, the coffee and attention to detail will awaken your coffee senses.

Equipment and Coffee

First up, for espresso drink lovers,  there’s a burgundy enclaved La Marzocco Strada, with corresponding Mahl Konig coffee grinders.

The Espresso Stuff

The Espresso Stuff

For coffee purists, the filter brew centre is dominated by copper designed Hario kettles, accompanied by a coffee menu sheet, where you can choose your coffee and style of preparation – chemex, hario V60 and aeropress.

The Brew Bar

The Brew Bar

The backdrop is dominated by coffees on offer and brew equipment to purchase. Curators tend to favour Nude Espresso Coffee Roasters (London based) as their in-house espresso blend but this is complimented, at least for the filter brew, with coffee from different English coffee roasters.

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Food and other Drinks

By curated, they have selected, tried and also offer coffee inspired cocktails – a strawberry one during the summer, which regularly sells out – trust me.


 On the food, there are sandwiches and salads, using exotic recipes, where the generous plates, reminiscent of Otto Lenghi cookbooks, are topped with colourful leaves, pomegranates, cranberries, various nuts, pulses and vegetables like sweet potato. Let’s not forget one of my faves, delectable cakes – I’m usually spoilt for choice on the sweet stuff as my tastebuds are lit up with excitement – banana and nut bread, carrot cake, brownies, pastries – ok, I’m getting carried away.

So why go..

Well for a start, the staff are friendly, know what they’re doing as one of the barista is a contestant for the latte art championships;

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Go girl!!!

I love coming here because I’m guaranteed well “curated” coffee and accompanying tasty delights in a relaxing atmosphere, where I can “escape”. I also use it as my primary meeting point to catch up with friends because the mood is so relaxed, especially downstairs, where you can easily spend hours just chatting.
 The staff aren’t going to hassle you to order every five minutes, but they don’t have to – once you pass by the till and see all that colourful food and smell the coffee, you’ll be heading downstairs, waiting for your order to be delivered to you.
So go get curated….

Brew Bar

  


The London Coffee Diary 1: Mother’s Milk

Milk Frothing
It seems like every year I’ve got to do an update on the London Coffee Scene, so here’s my 2015 version, part 1. Let’s start with the funnily named tongue in cheek, Mother’s Milk. I’m not sure where they got the name from, but our first culinary love, tends to be our mother’s milk, but perhaps here they meant, the first milk we fall in love as adults is a well frothed milk, used for a milk based espresso coffee drink.

It’s like a hole in the wall, and almost easy to miss, just off the Regent’s Street end closer to Regent’s Park – so, if you’re at Oxford Circus, with the Nike Store on your right, go around the corner and walk down and it’s the third street on the right, Little Portland Street. When I visited they were at number 12, but from 19 October 2015, they’ll be on 22-23 Little Portland Street.

Mother’s Milk is no frills, but what stands out in the left hand corner is the manual, hand lever 2 group Victoria Arduino espresso machine. It sits in the corner like a museum piece but comes alive when attended to by the barista, on this occasion, Will, one of two owners.

Naturally I ordered a milk based drink resembling a mini cappuccino, aka, a cortado – cuter version with a double shot of espresso and less milk. Well, you can’t come to a cafe called Mother’s Milk and not test out their milk frothing skills. A cute little love heart latte art to top it off.

 Anyway, another bonus on offer is the coffee used at this sweet spot, JB Kaffee from Germany. I had heard of them from another cafe in London, who thought they were one of the best coffee roasters in the World, so naturally I was excited to finally taste coffee from this roaster. In addition, I was tempted to buy one of the bags on offer – a wait for it, Costa Rica natural – this may not make sense, but I promise a separate post on it. In summary, this small spot packs a big punch – just before I left, a couple from Malaysia dropped by and from what I gathered whenever they are in London, they visit Mother’s Milk. Highly recommended whenever you’re in Central London and to buy great coffee too.

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I was @ Kaffeine II


Lucky me, it seems like I just travel the World visiting cafes and sampling good coffees, BUT, it’s really not like that, trust me. It’s just that whenever I get the opportunity to try something out involving the bean and new cafes, then I try and make the effort. So, I’ve got 7 hours in London on a beautiful war spring day in London and if you know my coffee fix programme, that means at least 2 cafes have to be visited in between my other passion, men’s fashion and food. So, my final stop this time, was literally like “saving the best for last”. Just opened in 2015, is the London renowned Kaffeine, who won best cafe in Europe a few years back – see my first post on them here. In any case, after all these years, they’ve now opened another shop, a lot closer to the shopping nirvana of Oxford Street, near the Tottenham Court Road End/Soho on 15 Eastcastle Street to be precise.


The first thing you notice is that it’s bigger than the first one – famous for great coffee, light bites and delicate sweet offerings, the first shop was always jam packed and you literally wanted to get in, drink up and get out, unless it was a Saturday morning – so here we have space, space for books, gadgets and coffee on sale, notably Square Mile Coffee Roasters, whom Kaffeine have been very loyal since their inception). The offerings are the same – deliciously named sandwiches, light bites and sweet treats – I was tempted by the latter… and of course great coffee, prepared with care, but wait for it, there’s more…
I unusually ordered a piccolo (similar to an espresso macchiato but with more milk and latte art). Sat down and went through the recent coffee books by James Hoffman and Anette Moldvaer of Square Mile Coffee Roasters.


Took some pics, ate my sweet treat and drank my coffee, but wait, what’s that in the corner – what kind of espresso machine is that ?

Ever curious, I walked over to the barista and he was so keen that someone came up to him to ask about the machine that he gave me a very quick run down and I must say, I don’t think his colleagues appreciated it (hope he doesn’t get into trouble). In any case I recognised the machine from the Vienna screen showing of “a film about coffee”, the Nuova Simoneli Black Eagle VA388. After some brief reading, the machine was designed in collaboration with James Hoffmann and as stated on the Nuova Simoneli website, it’s the first espresso machine to have;

both “T3” and “Gravimetric” technologies. The first ensures thermal stability, the second always provides the right amount of coffee in the cup. The combination of these two technologies means the barista can ensure a consistently excellent espresso, personalized by enhancing the features and aromas of each type of coffee

The gravimetric one really got me – the ability of the machine to weigh the coffee and extract the right brew weight all in one – Wow! that is really taking it to the future and it comes as no surprise that this espresso machine is the most expensive in the World, as the barista proudly told me.


So, in summary, Kaffeine have upped the game – they’ve got a new site, nearer to more people, bigger than the first, with an expanded menu and the best espresso machine in the World, so why go, I think you have the answer, GO get your self some great coffee and more.


Best Coffee Moments of 2014

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I just wanted to share with you some of my top coffee moments of 2014 (yeah, I know we are already approaching the mid half of the second month) but this site is about sharing the love.

First up, was my first Chemex experience, which my palate witnessed at Curators Coffee new shop on Margaret Street, just off Regent’s Street, Oxford Circus, London. As I had a bit of time to burn (i.e. I wasn’t in a rush) I decided to try a non-espresso based coffee and have my coffee expertly “curated”, selecting their top coffee to be brewed on the chemex. I wasn’t really expecting anything out of the ordinary as I’ve only really had a few exhilarating experiences when having filter brews outside my home or office. But wow! the flavours of the Kenyan coffee were at one point refreshing then, fruity with a balanced acidity pic at the top of this post. OK, I know the coffee plays a really important part but I think on this time, the brew process was able to extract some really precious delicate flavours, making this one of my key coffee moments of twenty 14.

 

OK, let’s move to where the coffee was the “star”. Fresh after making coffee for Tom Cruise and team on the set of Mission Impossible 5 in Vienna, Jo Wechlesberger (Vienna School of Coffee) asked me to help her lift a very heavy La Marzocco Strada 2 group into her shop. A few bloodshot marks later, she invited me to taste a very exquisite coffee she had just roasted.

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After a very delectable palate experience, I was like “wow!” that was great – wild berries and a fruit bomb in your mouth – what s that ? An Ethiopian Sidamo, scoring over 90 and known as Nekisse N2, mixed heirloom varieties and naturally dried in the sun. Jo’s taste profile was wild strawberries, peaches, passionfruit, rhubarb, creamy with a long lasting clean finish. But it gets better – I was actually on the verge of buying what undoubtedly would be my most expensive coffee at 100 Euros a kilogram – yep, that’s right, instead Jo gave me a 150g bag for free, for helping her and another gentleman lift the espresso machine inside her shop. I was more than ecstatic, even declining the offer, preferring to pay to support the artisan coffee trade, but Jo insisted and I could see my wife in the background, winking just take the gift, so I did. Of course I enjoyed every little bit of this coffee, sharing it on one occasion with a colleague who loves wine and has been schooled how to taste – naturally he was very excited.

 

I don’t have a picture for this next experience but having a cold brew coffee served in a tall wine glass was another wow experience courtesy of Otto from Balthasar Coffee, Vienna. To emphasise the point, Otto gave  me a trial in a typical porcelan cup and most of it in a tall wine glass – again another fruit bomb but with a delicate cocoa and long lasting finish, proving that how you serve it is very important.