9 places to drink coffee in London in 2022

Drinking Coffee in London

Last month I had the pleasure of my palate and my inquisitiveness to visit London and naturally took the opportunity to visit as many cafes as I could, whilst visiting some tried and tested ones too in the process. Despite having scorching temperatures with the hottest day ever recorded in London at 40C, I wasn’t discouraged on drinking my coffee hot nevertheless. One proviso – I was in around the West End a lot, so most of these cafes are near Oxford Street. So here we go.

Omotesando, 8 Newman Street, off Oxford Street (new)

Famous in Japan and not with an outlet in London, Omotesando has a very Japanese minimalist design. As you enter you are greeted with their loge in a kind of lobby space before you turn right into the cafe, decorated with wood and clean lines, decked with a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. The coffee is more on the darkly roasted style, so probably best with milk, which is what I had – a flat white.

Hints of chocolate and caramel if my taste buds memory serves me well.

Workshop, St Christopher’s Place, off Oxford Street (classic)

I’ve been here many times since they opened several years ago and on this very hot day – it was 38C, I knew I needed “hot” coffee after wandering the streets of London looking for a birthday card for my mum (hint: it is now very difficult to buy a physical birthday card in London). I opted for a filter cup using Ethiopian beans as I wanted something fruity to refuel my body before my search. To be honest the barista wasn’t very attentive – perhaps he was suffering from the heat but luckily I knew that the coffee would be roasted and their non-committed method – using the toddy, wouldn’t extract too much effort in preparing my delicious tasting coffee.

Blank Street, Charlotte Street, off Oxford Street (new)

A taste of Brooklyn, NYC in London is how I would start this report. In short, Blank Street are quite famous in New York and have landed in London in a big way, with plans to open a few shops – they have a few in London already and I later found out that my son’s friend works for them. I was drawn to the colours of the brand I must confess and upon entering and not spotting a manual espresso machine I was about to leave, when the very friendly barista offered to serve me. After sharing that I was thinking of not ordering because of my snobbish preference for manually brewed coffee, he convinced me to try an espresso on their unique automatic machine for FREE – how could I say no.

I must confess this is probably the best looking and tasting espresso I have had on an automatic machine. I’m guessing they manually pour their milk and they have a few healthy options on their menu to tempt the trendy healthy types to make this their main to-go.

Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street, off Oxford Street (classic)

A classic mainstay on the London specialty coffee scene, Kaffeine won best European coffee shop during their honeymoon years. Nevertheless , they still serve Squaremile coffee and prepare coffee properly. Again. it was a very busy hot day – this was the 40C day and we no air conditioner in cafes in London generally, the staff were a bit frazzled, making me a bit nervous when I placed my order for a cortado.

Glad that the heat and the business of the cafe didn’t disappoint and I’m glad that I satisfied my coffee craving that day here.

Kiss the Hippo, Canal Square, near Kings Cross (new)

Moving away from the West End now as our daughter wanted to show us another “happening” enclave in London, Canal Square in Kings Cross is an enclave of restaurants, a food market serving exotic foods and the future home of FaceBook HQ, London. On our way to discovering, I spotted this little pop-up cafe and instantly noticed the name, which I have known for a few years now. I went for a cortado – it was 37C

Nice and creamy with hints of milk chocolate and recommended if you are visiting Kings Cross, which also has Caravan – see next post.

Caravan, Granary Square, (classic)

I must confess, I didn’t have coffee here as I had just had coffee at kiss the hippo but nevertheless having coffee here will not disappoint. They have a huge space which incorporates a roastery (the inspiration for many coffee shops in London and beyond) a full restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had brunch and then I went in to look around and bought two bags of coffee (see previous post for my experience ).

Highly recommended for specialty coffee and dining, plus they have a great online store (I ordered many times when I lived in Europe).

Lantana, 13 Charlotte Street, off Goodge Street and near Oxford Street (classic)

Another one of London’s mainstay in the speciality coffee scene but one I never visited due to logistical reasons. They are famous for their breakfast and brunches and of course Aussie style coffees. This was literally my last experience on speciality coffee in London on my trip. As it was a nice summer’s day, we sat outside but inside is very cosy and I can imagine queues forming on a cold and windy day, as I had initially wanted to come here for breakfast but that’s another story. I decided to order a coffee and cake.

I must confess I sent my first cortado back as I didn’t like the infusion between the milk and espresso, but the second one was worth the fussiness.

Kafi Cafe inside LUSH, Oxford Street (new)

I heard about this cafe when scrolling through HasBean instagram feed and was shocked to know that there was actually speciality coffee shop on Oxford Street itself (the rents are crazy). In short, HasBean is one of the most respected coffee roasters in England, haling from the very northern part, Huddersfield so I was excited to taste their coffees after several years (I used to order online several years ago). Located on the first floor of LUSH – a very smelly soap shop – you will be greeted at the top of the stirs with an array of coffee to your left and a lime green Black Eagle espresso machine. I ordered a cortado as usual (this is the main coffee I order if I’m craving milk based but want a higher proportion of coffee in the afternoon).

Nice cup of coffee using Ethiopian beans with hints of fruit and caramel. Kafi actually have a bigger shop located a few minutes away at 20 Cleveland Street. Highly recommended.

Grind at Soho, 19 Beak Street, off Carnaby Street (classic)

I’ve been here many times when I’ve been in the area craving specialty coffee and so this time was the same. Again I went for a cortado or as it a short cortado

The barista wasn’t the friendliest – I’m not sure if Brexit and the service based industry is doing well with grumpy baristi and n general service staff. I digress but back to the coffee. Yes it was nice and once the barista saw that I was enjoying it, she was a bit more receptive, asking what I thought. Luckily for me I prioritise substance over fluffiness.

In summary, you will be spoilt for choice when you visit London, which host tons of specialty coffee shops. They may not be the friendliest, as I have become accustomed to very friendly baristi customer service in cafes in Dubai but they will be passionate about preparing your cup of coffee – just don’t film them without permission nor expect to chat with them about the coffee and more.

I’m Drinking the Sweetest Filter Coffee I ever had

I just got back from London and bought a few coffee bags from some London coffee roasters and first up on the filter was for Caravan Coffee Roasters. I selected a natural from Guatemala from their filter selection because I always find naturals more intriguing and especially more so from Central America, as naturals are quite rare from this part of the coffee growing world.

I brewed La Nueva Natural Guatemala on the Hario V60 as I have missed… yes, I had missed brewing coffee on a V60 for two weeks. Using a menu of

  • 15.3 g freshly ground coffee on my Wilfa Grinder
  • 94C on my fellow EKG kettle
  • First pour of 43ml
  • Wait for 40 seconds
  • Second pour all the way to 227ml of water

I decided to serve myself using a glass cup as opposed to a ceramic. I guess I thought I’d like to accentuate the sweetness of this cup as much as possible and yes I was comely taken aback.

My first sip just blew my taste buds away with the poignant sweetness, almost white sugar like, with hints of caramel. It was so sweet that I was just sitting down for a few seconds wandering if I had added something to the cup by mistake.

The bag mentions taste notes of brioche ( the classic sweet French bread, using lots of eggs and butter with sugar), flaked almonds and blueberry.

For me,

🔵 it was more like a sweeter berry (blueberries aren’t that sweet)

🔵 white sugar with hints of caramel 😋

On the second day, I served myself the coffee in a ceramic cup, and then the notes were more balanced, with cane type sugar and darker berries … perhaps blueberry 🫐

If you’re in the UK, I strongly encourage you to order this one of a kind sweet coffee (link above) as Caravan usually offer free delivery for orders over GBP20 and deliver very fast, based on when the UK was in the EU and I used to order to Vienna.

London Coffee Report 2019

I couldn’t really see out 2019 without my annual London Coffee Report depicting my coffee escapades in my favourite coffee city, London. Just like last year, I decided to share with you a mix of the traditional and the new, which I visited during our annual London holiday. Just to make things exciting, if you pay attention you’ll notice that each shop had a common trait.

Monmouth Coffee, Borough Market

On this occasion, our daughter convinced us to try something new and so we headed off to Borough Market, close to London Bridge. Naturally I was intrigued, as I love food and coffee, knowing that Monmouth Coffee was also located within Borough Market. I’ve been to the one in Covent Garden but never to this one. As we walked around like tourists, taking in the sights, the smells of London street food, tasting artisan breads, pepper sauces, buying exotic spices and scratching our head as to what to eat, I finally spotted Monmouth on the left side as you exit the market. It’s actually located on a side road and it was literally bustling out of its side, with customers on the street.

As you enter the shop, there are seats to the front and left of you in wooden cubicle styles reminiscence of their Covent Garden branch. As you glance to your right, yo will see  the brew bar hosting a filter station and La Marzocco linea espresso machine. Just behind is the “coffee market” – coffee enthusiasts buying coffee from open wooden crates served by lots of staff. There’s lots of coffee from different parts of the World with scales to weigh your coffee – truly like a market. I quizzed the assistants as I wanted two distinctly different coffees for espresso and for filter.  Having bought my bags of coffee, I then had my daily cortado – more coffee than milk. Grab a seat outside on what was a hot London summer day.

The Shed, Clapham South Underground Station

Something New. When in London, we usually stay with my brother in Clapham but the closest station is Clapham South on the Northern Line. As we were rushing to catch the train on one of our first days, I caught a glimpse of a newish shop hosting a La Marzocco Linea machine.

Excited I popped my head in, took a picture and noticed with even more excitement, bags of Caravan  Coffee. I eagerly told the lone staff there that I’d be back. and so I was, ensuring that every time I headed off ahead of my family to order my coffee not just on one occasion but twice.

I found out that they had recently opened and were committed to using only Caravan coffee (fine by me). I definitely recommend Shed coffee on your way to work or if you are heading into London from that station, where you can get great Caravan roasted coffee prepared by very pleasant staff as well as some snacks like pastries, sandwiches and cakes.

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Soho and Paddington

Back to something traditional, the department of coffee and social affairs  – I like writing their name. I actually went to their spot at Paddington Central for my daily cappuccino before having lunch with my cousin in plush Paddington Central. Located in a a very avant garden building, they’ve tried to give it a homely feel with some wood decorations and sofas. There’s lots on offer from food, snacks, sandwiches and coffee of course.

For my second trip, I went to their shop on 3 Lowndes Court, just off Carnaby Street in Soho. It’s another very busy shop, visited by locals and tourists alike. As you enter, to the front of you is a shelf offering their coffees (even for nespresso)  and other merchandise – just to the right is where you can order, but there’s a little confusion, because there can sometimes be 2 queues – one eating to order and one awaiting their orders. The female baristi are hard at work, focusing on espresso using the La Marzocco linea machine and filter simultaneously, with another lady taking orders. They have many delectable cakes – the lamington being the most famous – haling from Australia – it looks like a chocolate sponge wrapped in coconut flakes. In this trip I ordered a daily cappuccino.

I definitely think that the department of coffee and social affairs should have a price for their name, as I think that it is just one of the best names for a coffee shop.

The Observatory, 64 Marchmont Street, near Russell Square 

Now back to something new. On our last day, we had to move to a hotel in Russell Square and has ing being starved of my daily coffee from an expert, I decided to head over to Continental Stores (Store Street Espresso sisters shop), but as I approached they had already closed. Walking back dejected, I noticed this really arty looking place, selling coffee – advertised as an art gallery selling specialty coffee. Never one to back down on a coffee challenge, I went in, noticing their La Marzocco Linea machine. I took in the sights, or should I say the art and atmosphere – it was quiet, as after all it was late afternoon.

I decided to order a daily Cortado and of course I couldn’t resist my favourite pastry, Pasties De Nata from Portugal, as a tasty accompaniment.

I really enjoyed my coffee – a blend using Brazilian and Uganda arabica coffee. Afterwards, I had a chat with the barista, Tim and he told me about their roaster, Redemption Roasters. If I wasn’t already loaded with coffee from my exploits, I would have bought one of the coffees but next time.

 

I hope you enjoyed your coffee exploits in 2019 like I did, especially in London. Oh! What was that one commonality of the shops – did you spot it? They all had La Marzocco Linea espresso machines. Obviously, I still have my favourites spots when In London. Earlier I wrote about my fave coffee shop, Prufrock – read here – which I visited again during this trip.

In addition, whenever I’m in the West End, I always pop into

Notes Coffee, located at Bond Street Station.

Workshop Coffee , located in St Christopher’s Place, near Selfridges

For Soho;

Soho Grind on 19 Beak Street

Wishing you all a pleasant 2020 and I hope you discover new ways to satisfy your coffee palate and please don’t pay or drink bad coffee in London. Enjoy your last day of coffee in 2019 and wishing you a great 2020.

Ciao!

Is this My Favourite Coffee Shop in the World? Prufrock Coffee, London

I often get asked, “So, Lameen what is your favourite coffee shop in the World?”. It’s a bit of a tricky question, because the modern age consumer doesn’t get easily satisfied with just the product – they want an experience. Sure, I’ve had great coffee in cafes, where I wished they had been a bit friendlier and the opposite holds sway too – good customer service but mediocre coffee. I often try and process that very quickly but I see that the questioner starts to get impatient – expecting me as a coffee lover to just pop out the answer. Furthermore, they get even more impatient when I start saying for espresso, it was…. and for filter, it has to be….. and I just really loved the concept and the staff at…… So, not to burden them with my complicated musings, I will default to Prufrock Coffee in London. And, you guessed it, “but why?”. Then I think to myself, if I have to start explaining the experience, that it was started by a former WBC Champion, that companies approach them to test new technology, that they started using reverse osmosis water, that they have a great barista academy, that they gave me a free barista tasting session, that I learnt a lot from chatting with them for hours, etc. Then they tune off.

So, I thought to myself, actually, when was the last time I visited Prufrock coffee and I realised shamefully that I hadn’t been back to Prufrock Coffee for about 6 years. After all, my post on my first visit in 2011 (read here) was so popular that the tweet advertising it, was retweeted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters and got me my most hits back then in one day – over 300. In addition, one of my pictures, when I used to use a Nikon Camera for all my coffee and food photos – was liked by Prufrock so much, they gave me a free tasting class – read here. So, I was well overdue a visit.

Located on 23-25 Leather Lane, Prufrock is on a busy week day market street. It is unusually big for a classic London specialty coffee shop and on their website, they even highlight that. I won’t go into the aesthetics, as you can read that in my original posts from 2011, however somethings have changed – more retail space to sell coffee, t-shirts and more and a stronger focus on food, without compromising on coffee of course. Prufrock are still very closely associated with Square Mile, so you can buy their coffees here too.

As you can see from above, they are very much still into the provision of both barista and specialised “coffee ” related training. Their website offers more options and if you recall from one of my earlier posts in 2019, I mentioned that they new coffee roasters in Vienna, Jonas Reindl, were trained by Prufrock. So a Coffee Lover’s Dream – Prufrock it still is. and I know that if I want to take my aspiring coffee career to the next level, it will start from Prufrock. In fact, even though I know it was lunchtime, it was quite busy and I just about got a space to sit. I noticed also, that a few tourist were visiting, buying souvenirs.

Now to the the coffee and my visit.

Visiting at lunchtime was probably not the best idea, but I needed great coffee as early as possible in the day. As you can guess, their fame has blossomed and not only was the cafe busy with what looked like regulars, but a few touristy looking customers were also paying homage. In fact I was lucky to get a sit, which was pleasantly opposite the brew bar, decked with the Victoria Arduino VA388 Black Eagle and accompanying Victoria Arduino coffee grinders.

 

For the coffee, they had two choices and if you have time and are serious, you can enquire which blend would be good for the type of coffee you desire – I was so excited to be “back” that I ordered two; the fruitier version as an espresso and the not so fruitier one as a piccolo.

 

Great of course. I started with the espresso and finished off with dessert – the piccolo.

After my coffees I wandered over for a chat to meet the baristi, Jake, who took my order and Aga, who prepared them. As Aga was busy making more great coffees, I had a chat with Jake, asking him about how long he had been working there and sharing with him my passion for coffee, etc. Very friendly, adding the experience of course. Before I left to rejoin the family, I noticed a delicious looking cake – I can’t remember now, but it had a rosemary and strawberry – very unique and the size of the slice was enough for two, so I bought that together with Square Mile’s Palestina Coffee for filter brewing.

Ah! so happy I went back and I pray it won’t be another 6 years before I visit. Still a great place for coffee and I think when I visit again, I’ll be doing more than just drinking coffee as I plan to start investigating adding the word “coffee” into my next career path, God willing.

So, is Prufrock my favourite coffee shop in the World? If I wanted to ask anyone or start a serious coffee career, they will top my list no doubt because I know that they are completely dedicated to coffee.

For more on offer at Prufrock, I defiantly recommend visiting their website; https://www.prufrockcoffee.com

Brunch and Coffee @ Brew Cafe, Clapham, London

As many of you might know by now, if you sift through my Instagram page, you will know that I am not only passionate about coffee, but food and fashion too. In fact before coffee, it was food. When kids at school would be asked about their hobbies, I would always say art and food. So, in 2019, I’m going to be talking a bit more about food, especially my favourite meal of the day, BREAKFAST. For me, the ideal meal always involves good coffee and breakfast is so exciting because you start your day off with it.

Located on 45 Northcote Street, about 7 minutes walk away from Clapham Junction Railway Station, Brew Cafe is a very busy cafe, as there are not many cafes like it in this area. We arrived there around 1030am on a Sunday morning and luckily we didn’t have to queue for long – about 15 minutes. Typical of a London morning in March, it was a bit cold and cloudy, but as there were 4 of us and we didn’t want to wait an additional 15 minutes, we sat outside with blankets. Within a few minutes the queue started and it was obvious that it is very popular with young couples.

First up, I knew I wanted coffee and found out that they get their coffee from Allpress Espresso – one of New Zealand  premier coffee roasters, who opened up in London about 9 years ago in East London. Already familiar with their name, I could safely order coffee. So, I went for a cappuccino, brewed on their La Marzocco Linea machine;

As you approach their cafe, they have a placard outside, saying “best coffee in London”. I’m not sure about that but I may give them my “best coffee in Battersea” award. The coffee was well prepared and worth the wait. Now, whenever I stay with my brother, who lives about 7 minutes away, I know where to come and get a good cup of coffee before delving into London.

Now, to the food. This was confusing because they have so many nice things to order; Turkish eggs, which my daughter and brother went for; Sweetcorn fitters with tomato jam – tempting; folded eggs, which my son ordered; blueberry pancakes… and more. In the end, I went for Hake and Crab Fishcakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise with spinach under their “big plates” section;

Yum! See the full order below, with my side of smashed avocado. My son’s folded eggs must be the largest egg dish I have seen served at a cafe or restaurant and if you are really hungry, I would definitely recommend that – it must have been at least 4 eggs.

But there’s more. Based on their focus to order fresh and use very high quality producers, there are a lot more tempting things on their menu, which I would love to sample another day, especially their desserts and cakes – I ordered a take away New York blueberry cheesecake for my wife, but they have carrot cake, red velvet cake and even better you can order the whole cake to take home and you know I love desserts.

In summary, a great place to have brunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner – for the latter, their branch in Chiswick (pronounced Chissik) have specials in conjunction with La Luna cinema and offer wood fired pizzas too. I’m really looking forward to visiting again and you know how much I love a place that is passionate about preparing coffee as well as food. Definitely, one of the type of places I would like to own in the future God willing, well done Brew Cafe.

Check them out on http://brew-cafe.com

 

London Coffee Report 2018

I cannot see the end of 2018 without sharing a brief report of my coffee experiences in my favourite coffee city, London. Although I spent the least amount of days in London in 2018 that I have done in the past few years, I tried my best to try at least two new spots, so lets’ start with these.

When in the City of London, try Rosslyn Coffee, 78 Queen Victoria St, London EC4N 4SJ 

By the City of London, I don’t mean the actually city. If you visit London and ask them how do I get to the city, they will direct you to the square mile area, which was originally the “city gate” of London. There’s actually a brick wall, mostly destroyed, around this square mile, which now hosts the financial area of London and perhaps Europe. It is also where most of money is made in London, according to some stats. To get to this coffee shop, take the northern or central line to Bank, the station next to the Bank of England – you couldn’t get more “city like” than this. From the station, I highly recommend using goggle maps to get tot he cafe like I did, as there are many streets in this vicinity. However, if you work in the city, then you’ll know how to get there – it’s not far from the Bloomberg HQ.

So now, time for coffee

 

This is actually a picture of a clock in the cafe. A small spot, designed to churn out coffee at high speed to a busy on the go crowd on their synesso espresso machine coupled with batch brew coffee on the go. There won’t be much time for any chit chat with the staff, order, wait, pick up and go. If you have a bit of time, facing the till, look to your right and you can buy some coffee to take home (roasted for them), which I did – their espresso blend to be precise. In any case, I ordered a cortado, being mid-afternoon – a milk chocolate taste – the standard, carefully prepared.

Also on offer, are pastries and brownie bars. If you have a bit of time, which you should always have for coffee – have your coffee in a porcelain cup (it taste much better) and sit on some high stools before that important meeting. If you are lucky and if they have time, chat with the staff, which I did, with one of the owners, James, formerly of Caravan Coffee (who opened this spot with Mat, also formerly of Caravan Coffee). Highly recommended if you are in the city and want some coffee well prepared with no frills.

The Best Coffee in Balham: Story Works, 31 St John’ s Hill vs  Birdhouse Coffee 123 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1SZ

Actually I didn’t give them that acclaim but it was awarded to them by a reviewer. The main reason I was here was because I stayed with my brother in Clapham and by default I just head into the city for my specialty coffee fix without checking if there’s anything worthy in this part of London. So, one Sunday morning, I decided to google and having scanned some reviews and pics of shops, I decided on two – Story works (the smaller version of Story coffee) and birdhouse. I must confess when I checked the pics, I was bias towards Story Coffee, with their bright looking shop and their Kees van der Westen Spirit machine. I thought they must know what they are doing, plus it was in much closer proximity to my brothers house.

At Story Works, opposite the Clapham Junction Railway Station, I’m not sure if they had a trainee by himself on Sunday but I already started getting nervous when I asked him some basic coffee questions like type of coffee and commented in the machine. I also timed the shot and heard the manner in which the milk was frothed and eventually poured – let’s just say I dint even bother to take a picture and after a few sips, I’m sorry to say, I couldn’t finish the coffee and left hanging with coffee withdrawal symptoms. That’s why I decided to take the other 6-7 minutes of walking up hill to birdhouse, where I passed by the original Story Coffee on 115 St John’s Hill, which was quite packed as they offer enticing looking food, but another time.

As you enter, I must say, there is absolutely no frills. It’s reminisce of a classic general shop, grey and hints of yellow, nothing special, but I wasn’t here to take pics of their decor, but to taste their coffee, prepared using one grinder and a La Marzocco Linea. After my not so amusing experience at Story Coffee, I was already sceptical, but it paid off and I must confess after this beautifully crafted cappuccino, I was thinking “the best coffee in Wandsworth” as one reviewer mentioned might not be off the mark.

Also on offer is food, so you can brunch and lunch too – check goggle for some enticing looking food to savour.

One proviso, to be fairer I plan to try Story Coffee next time when in this area, but for now Birdhouse wins.

Coffee and the Best Banana Bread – Saint Espresso Kentish Town and Baker Street

I know I went here last year but it is a good spot to meet family in this part of London. So you can probably guess how my family conversations go”where can we meet Lameen?” “a coffee shop but let me choose and tell you where”. If we are going to meet, let me take control and chit and chatter over good coffee and cakes, so we were back here again – family gathering over lots of coffee and some hot chocolate too.

Coffee was good but I must confess the banana bread was the best I’ve had and I let the chef know too.

On another occasion, I tried their coffee shop at Baker’s Street (located at 214 Baker St, Marylebone, London NW1 5RT), which is smaller for my daily cappuccino fix.

As you enter, you can pick up gadgets and coffee and as you approach the counter, there’s lots of treats (cakes, pastries, etc) to choose from before your coffee is made on their customised black linea La Marzocco machine. I met their manager, Rustam Baratov, who was very hospitable and we exchanged contacts.

 

When in the West End again – Notes Coffee, Bond Street Station and Grind Soho, 19 Beak St, Soho, London W1F 9RP but of course

But of course…. I’ve got to add the to go places. My first stop since 2017 has been Notes coffee located at Bond street underground station because it is just where we always end up as soon as we arrive in London – the West end. You are guaranteed a good cup of coffee, whether espresso based or batch brew and there’s always tempting sweet bites and friendly staff for a more pleasant experience.

 

Another place in the heart of the West End is soho and for coffee, Soho Grind. During the summer they were celebrating their tenth anniversary, which meant a fantastic batch brew and by fantastic, I mean juicy mouthfeel, balanced acidity, fruity – so good I went back not twice but thrice. In fact it was so good I wanted to buy a bag or tin (Grind sell their coffees in tins) but it was so special that if they had a price, it would have been one I would  have had to hide from my wife, ha!. In any case it wasn’t for sale, just for their customers to enjoy over and over again, until it ran out – lucky me and my taste buds.

So there we are my London coffee report just in time before we hit 2019 God willing.

All the best for the new year; don’t drink too much…. coffee and here’s to more great coffee shops opening in London in 2019, enjoy!

 

 

London Coffee Report 2017

I can’t believe it’s already 2018. Wow! time really flies. I was reviewing my blog for 2017 and it dawned on me that I didn’t do London coffee scene post for 2017, so here it is, a mix of the new, a fave and convenient, the classic and going back.

The Classic – Store Street Espresso – 40 Store St, Fitzrovia, London WC1E 7DB, UK

In fact it is quite baffling as to why since this London “classic” opened in 2010, around the time the World Barista Championships (WBC) were held in London, I have never been here. I first heard of them as they were one of the first coffee shops to use Square Mile Coffee way back then and they still use them. Sure I’ve been to their “sister” shop, Continental Stores, but not to the big brother. So one rainy August I trekked to Store Street where the shop is located – yes, the shop is named after the street it is located on.

When I finally got there, it was late afternoon and I was really panting for coffee. The place was fairly empty but you could tell that it was the sort of place that would have been very busy earlier in the day. As you walk in, all the action is on your left, Vittoria Arduino espresso machine, grinders, etc, fronted by grab me pastries and and cakes, even though most of them had gone already. As you walk past the brew station and before you approach the sitting area, just on your right they have coffee on sale and gadgets too. The place looks quite bright as they have a sun roof, similar to Colonna and Smalls in Bath. The staff look liked they had just finished a battle, but relaxed and still smiling. To test their milk based skills I went for a cortado using Square Miles Red Brick and some sugar, pasties de nata;

A tasty brew but I wasn’t finished. Before my new coffee, I took a walk around and started chatting to one of the staff, Toby. Taken aback by my questions, he offered me a special brew using the V60 and of course I trusted him – later on, he even refused to charge me for this cuppa – very kind indeed. I must confess I have forgotten the roaster, which I think was nordic based. It was just what you wanted from a filter brew, delicious mouth feel with fruit at the front with a  caramel underlying tone outside your tongue walls.

From my short stay there, I could smell the dedication to quality at this shop and definitely rate it as one of my top coffee shops in an already very high standard of coffee in London. Once again, thanks to Toby, Natalya and the barista girl for  great experience.

Going Back – Fernandez and Wells, 55 Duke Street, W1K 5NR

If you’ve been an avid follower of my blog you’ll know that when I used to visit London a lot during the noughties (2000-2009) I basically only trusted two brands for great coffee, Flat White on Berwick Street and its sister shop, Milk Bar during the time of Cameron and Fernandez & Wells located at Beak Street and St Anne’s Court back then. Since then Fernandez & Wells have expanded and now have 4 locations. In the summer, as I tried to dodge shoppers on Oxford Street, I walked down Duke Street, adjacent to the corner of Selfridges on Oxford Street and saw that located inside British Fashion shop, Jigsaw, there was a Fernandez & Wells neon sign. As it was time for one of my coffee fixes, I dragged my son in with me to check what was on offer. I was very pleased to see, I must say, that their signature drink, the Stumpy, was still on offer. In summary it is a triple shot cortado style drink – read about it’s origins here.

They have lots of tasty snack options too, which is captured in their recently launched cookbook, Rustic, available on amazon (no, I’m not sponsored by amazon). It’s actually on my wish list as Fernandez & Wells was one of the first London eateries I used to go for both good coffee and food.

Something new – Ludenwic 45 Aldwych, London WC2B 4DW, UK

Just like 2017 flew by with a mad busy work schedule, so did life, because just this past summer, our daughter is already looking at University. As we were waiting to visit Kings College on the Strand, I was looking for somewhere to get my daily espresso milk based fix and I recalled that a few months ago a cafe at Aldwych liked one of my instagram pics and I thought I’d like to check them out. Another busy hub, where most of London’s lawyers work, Lundenwic is well located in a very bustling work area of London, in between London School of Economics and Kings College. It is quite a small shop with a Nordic touch, clean lines, delicious looking pastries, cakes and salads. Luckily, I was also hungry, so I grabbed a nice looking salad to go with my coffee.

Lundenwic use Workshop coffee, so expect a fruity bias, brewed on a La Marzocco Linea. One our last day of our summer holiday, we had to visit a pop-up macaroon ice cream sandwich shop, Yolkin and I was surprised to learn that Lundenwic were open on a Sunday, which with their location is very quiet, but I was very happy to visit them again. So, if you work in that area or are studying at one of London’s best universities, LSE or Kings College, or need a quick great cup of coffee whilst visiting Covent Garden/Theatre Land, then I highly recommend Lundenwic.

Something New Too – Saint Espresso & Kitchen, 296 Kentish Town Rd, London 

On the same trip as above, last summer, we rushed off to Kentish Town to see my cousin and as I waited for the rest of my family to catch up, I saw this little new spot, Saint Espresso & Kitchen.

I walked in briefly and took a quick look around and promised to be back and I was. Walking in, you could tell it was something this type of middle class neighbourhood had missed. Exposed brick, reticent of  New York Urban Retro, wooden stools with sone steel thrown in, offering breakfast, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and more and decked out with a La Marzocco Linea as the finishing touch to a classy spot. I found out that they also roast their own coffee but as our luggage was already on its way to Heathrow and my hand baggage was heavy, I resisted the temptation to buy more coffee.

I had a brief chat with the barista and mentioned that I write about coffee. Upon hearing that and I’m not sure if it was testament to his dedication, he pulled three shots of espresso, before he gave me my order, adding that it might be a bit bright. I must confess that of late whenever I walk into a cafe and mention I write about coffee, some baristi seem to up their game, especially if I’m ordering espresso – a plus for me and I ain’t complaining.

Sure it was a bit bright and flowery, perhaps due to the lower brewing temperature, their espresso menu or coffee but it was sparkly and gave me a lift as we headed down back to the tube to catch the taxing journey to Heathrow Airport. Saint Espresso & Kitchen are very well located, with literally under a minute from Kentish Town tube station on the Northern Line, so if you need that quick coffee rush or coffee on the go, I recommend you pop in before your morning journey to work. I found out afterwards that Saint Espresso have two other shops, one located on 214 Baker’s Street, quite close to the West End, and one at Angel on 26 Pentoville Road, so I am looking forward to checking these out too.

Convenient – Notes Bond Street Station

When my wife and I visited London to celebrate our 20 years wedding anniversary, we headed to Oxford Street via Bond Street tube station and as I walked out, I couldn’t believe what I saw – Notes of Covent Garden now had a small branch at Bond Street Station. Wow! how convenient – before, whenever I came to this end of Oxford Street, I used to head straight to Workshop Coffee at St Christopher’s Place, about 3 minutes walk away, but this is super convenient. When we visited in December, it was my first stop on many occasions.

It’s like a pop-up shop but of course with a strong focus on quality coffee, complimented with a selections of sweets and cakes. They also sell their coffee, which I bought on my last visit to a London coffee shop of 2017. They’ve got the gadgets, friendly and good baristi and offer more than coffee, like hot chocolate and teas.

Soho Favourites – Soho Grind (19 Beak Street, Soho) and Department of Coffee & Social Affairs (3 Lowndes Court, off Carnaby Street)

Occasionally, I find myself near the Soho part of the West End, just off Regents Street and as I wave through the crowds trying to avoid people congestion traffic, I dot through Soho’s side streets and usually stop over at Soho Grind for either filter brew or milk based coffee, where you can be met with a slightly more trendy crowd and friendly baristi. They have seating downstairs if it gets more crowded at the top.

If I’m closer to the Oxford Street end, I pop into Department of Coffee & Social Affairs, which is closer to the top end of Carnaby Street. It’s a lot busier here, with a few tourists around and more seating downstairs. If you want take out, let them know first, otherwise take a seat and wait to be served, which I must confess can be a bit slow. They have a menu for food and some delicious looking cakes too. As they are one of London’s coffee roasters, they sell their coffee too, and now roast for nespresso machines. I bought the latter for my bro, as he owns one.

Luck Londoners with all these high quality coffee shops, phew!

As busy as ever with more quality coffee shops to visit than ever, still makes London, I believe, probably the best coffee city in the World. I look forward to trying out new ones in 2018 or re-visting some old faves to check out if they have maintained their standards.

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

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.

  

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