Tag Archives: Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

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!


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.


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.

  


London Coffee Scene 2011: Summary, PART I

Wow ! Wow ! That’s what I have to say about the London Coffee Scene in 2011. A few years back, whenever I went to London, I headed straight for SOHO, and to be precise, order a flat white at Flat White on Berwick Street, and stop for an espresso at its sister shop, Milk Bar on Bateman Street, also in Soho. If I wanted a little tasty snack to accompany an espresso or a piccolo, I would go to Fernandez and Wells on Beak Street, Soho. In fact, that’s what I did when I last visited London in July 2009 – head to Soho for great coffee. BUT, in the space of just 18 months, the speciality coffee scene in London has literally mushroomed, so that on my visit in April 2011, I had to carve out London just to check out the coffee scene. First up, I wandered into unknown territory for me, East London and more specifically Clerkenwell. I had lived in London for many years but I had never been to this part of London before – OK! I knew this is where Jamie Oliver’s famous Fifteen Restaurant was located, but that was it. Now to the coffee.

Clerkenwell, East of the Centre of London, Hangout for the Legal Types, etc – Get off at Chancery Lane Tube Station

This has to be the new hot spot for coffee with three choices, Prufrock Coffee, Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (the coolest name) and St Ali UK. I headed first for Prufrock Coffee on Leather Lane, 2009 WBC Champ, Gwilym Davies, spot. This is a must for all serious coffee lovers, with a brew bar hosting almost all forms for brewing coffee (hario woodneck, hario siphon, hario V60, aeropress, espresso machines, uber boiler, prototype grinder, a slow brewer and probably more). I had an espresso and a piccolo on my first trip and on my second (yes ! I had to go twice despite the distance) I had probably one of the best espressos of my life, using Square Mile roasted Colombian Pomorroso arabica beans.

I plan to do a separate post on Prufrock, so the above is just a taster.

Almost opposite Prufrock on Leather Lane too, is Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, which only opened in December 2010.

I went around lunchtime as it was rapidly getting packed with office workers looking for something tasty to eat to accompany their great cup of coffee. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that for a cafe that had only been opened for about 4 months, there were streams of people coming in and out of the Department. Hmmm ! perhaps I should have opened up my cafe in London’s East End and not Cape Town, but better weather and better cost of living in Cape Town won the day. With the lovely display of sandwiches on display, I’m not surprised that people were pouring in for lunch to fill their tummies with these tasty delights;

I met with Chris and sensing that I wasn’t just a normal customer, all the way from South Africa and with a hint of coffee knowledge, he gave me a complimentary piccolo and Spanish anise biscuit.

I really loved the space, which reminded me off my own (they even had the same La Marzocco 3 group linear machine I have at escape caffe), but a little more rugged and with little spaces to work. I really liked their Globe bicycle, pic below.

So, finally, St Ali – UK. If you are an international coffee buff, raise your hands – me, me….. okay I’ve got to keep writing this, you’ll have heard of St Ali, who are one of the most famous coffee establishments in Melbourne, Australia. They are like crazy about coffee – a destination in their own right. So, when I heard they were opening a cafe in London, I kinda went berserk, especially as they were going to be open before my trip. They are located at 27 Clerkenwell Road, almost hidden, but as you enter, there’s a coffee roaster in the window and their signage is lit up, so you’ve got no excuse in missing it.

I really loved their decors, which was a bit similar to mine at escape caffe, with exposed brick, but a bit darker and hence cozier than mine. As you enter, there it is, the famous Slayer Espresso machine (see below) greets you – sort of letting you know that although they serve food, they are serious about coffee. If that wasn’t enough, once you pass the Slayer and wander tot he back of the cafe, they have a gigantic coffee roasting machine.

Also at the back and next to the coffee roaster, there’s a green plant wall and an atrium of about three floors (I promise a pic summary of the London coffee scene later). I met with Baptiste (a French barista who worked at their Melbourne establishment, but has been relocated to London) and Tim Styles, formerly of Intelligentsia and more recently Square Mile Coffee and who has been recruited to oversee their coffee roasting operation. I had a flat white with my brother, looked around and on my second visit, bought their Cult of Done espresso blend. From what I’ve been reading, St Ali is becoming extremely popular with the London fashionista, featuring in Vogue, with queues outside on Sundays and their hiring like crazy already as they prepare to operate from 2 floors, offering both coffee and food.

In summary, head down to this part of London for a great cuppa (very English lingo) and as I observed, all cafes had a Mazzer Robur E grinder, which hints that each one is making hundreds of cups of coffee per day, so expect a queue at busy times.

For PART II, I’ll take you to central London, so watch this space.