First Flat White of 2015 @ the Ampersand Hotel

As a treat to the family to end our two week long holiday in London, I decided to take up an offer of two-for-three at a lovely looking boutique hotel in South Kensington called The Ampersand – in case you are wondering what that means an “ampersand” is the official name for the & sign. So that’s your English lesson for the year. Now to the coffee.

We checked in on the first day of the years, 1 January 2015 – obviously and I was kind of worried that to celebrate the beginning of 2015 I wouldn’t get a decent cup of coffee – others wanted champagne but for me it’s coffee of course, love. So after checking in I noticed a cafe like setting adjacent to the checking in lobby, a nice pretty place for English Tea and cakes, and spotted…. a La Marzocco Linea 2 group machine (ahhh!). I naturally got excited and after quizzing the poor young Australian waitress about if she knew how to make good cup of coffee, I decided to take the plunge – she kind of retorted with “I’m Australian, so I know a good cup of coffee”. I’m not sure if the pressure from moi (coffee snob) was too much but her colleague, a waiter, decided to make the coffee and I could see in the background that he was really taking his time, et voila

1st Flat White of 2015
1st Flat White of 2015

 

Naturally, I was impressed as I won’t be blogging about this experience and I told the waiter afterwards that it was  a good flat white and he was really happy. So, first lesson of the year “don’t misjudge people based on your own bad experiences and always give people a chance”.

So, I came to find out that their coffee beans are from a new London coffee roaster group, called “black sheep” and to top it off, the use pure robusta – they are supporting an Indian coffee farm to bring you the best. See here for more info http://www.leavetheherdbehind.com

I had a couple more tasteful experiences which showed me that the waiters/waitresses had been trained properly – very important.

IMG_4399

Also, it was a great hotel to stay at, very well located for the museums, near the South Kensington tube station and if you are stuck in this vicinity looking for good cup of coffee and a hearty avocado filled breakfast, pop into the Ampersand on 10 Harrington Road for a quick cup – they also have take away cups if you’re really in a rush.

 

 

2015/01/img_4343.jpg

2015/01/img_4401.jpg

Vienna’s New Coffee Guys: KaffeMik and Zamm Good Coffee

Cortado at Zamm Coffee
Cortado at Zamm Coffee

Kaffemik

To change a culture, you need passion and commitment and you can quote me on that, so when I heard that some guys who were fed up with drinking bad coffee during their coffee breaks/lunchtime decided to open up a small café near their office, so, that they could at least have a decent cup of coffee during their breaks, I was impressed. This is the story behind Kaffemik, located on Zollergasse 5, of Mariahilfer Strasse – one of the main thoroughfares in Vienna. Craving the thought of experiencing their coffee and concept, I passed by for a flying visit one lunchtime. It’s small, reminiscent of a place where you know the focus is coffee, pure and simple, so it’s dominated by a La Marzocco Linea 2 group and an unassuming brewing station.

Kaffeemik this way
Kaffeemik this way

Also available are light pastries to accompany your coffee and a shelf displaying coffees on sale as well as other coffee geek gadgets, like aeropress and Hario V60s and accessories.

La Marzocco Linea
La Marzocco Linea

On offer, they have a house blend espresso, roasted by Rosterin (i.e. Vienna School of Coffee) and every month have a guest espresso and filter to sample or purchase on-line.

A great place to get a good coffee when shopping on Mariahilfer Strasse and I’m glad to report that they’re open on Saturday too.

https://www.kaffemik.at

 

Zamm Coffee

Welcome to Zamm
Welcome to Zamm

About a quick 10 minute walk towards the Burgasse end of Zollergasse  and a few streets over is another place driven by passion, Zamm Coffee on Kirchengasse 35, owned and run by Max. A pleasant young and talented guy – his café also poses as a mini-art gallery, which also displays very hard to get creative magazines like Folk, Cereal, Caffeine and Longberry – if you’ve never heard of these magazines, then you’re either not a serious caffeine lover or a graphic designer – if you’re curious, then head down to drink great coffee and read trendy magazines. In any case, Max gets his coffee from different roasters in Europe and has a simple menu, recognisant of the original Prufrock Menu by Gwilym Davies many years back. So there an espresso, espresso with some milk (i.e.Cortado) and with more milk (i.e. Cappuccino) but if you really want more milk, then he can make you a classic cafe latte too. Also on offer are various pour overs methods, aeropress, copper encrusted Hario V60 and Syphon, especially on Fridays. Ask Max for which filter coffees are best brewed on what.

Gadgets to droll over
Gadgets to droll over

I’m not entirely sure what drew Max into coffee – I was rushing as his café is not near my office at all, but he just got back from a “barista bootcamp” in Europe with leading figures like Jim Hoffmann of Squaremile. I expect he learnt a lot and must now be breaming with new brewing ideas. Check this Zamm “good” Coffee, where you can buy coffee gadgets, coffee, magazines and art.

https://www.facebook.com/zammcoffee
Well done Vienna – I don’t have to hold my coffee breath anymore for trips to London to taste and appreciate great coffee, made with passion.

The Best Pop-Up.. Caffe Couture @ Stephansplatz, Vienna

Just the other day I was running to the cinema and on looking to my right, I noticed in the window a…

Linea
Linea

Naturally I got excited – could this be… another cafe in Vienna dedicated to serving great espresso. So I walked in and lo and behold it was Georg Branny, owner of caffe couture and he mentioned that this was a pop-up shop.

A pop-up ? Yeah! in summary, a pop-up shop is a temporary site for a shop or in this case, a caffe, only available for a short period and Caffe Couture have a spot just off Stephansplatz (the St Stephens Cathedral – Vienna’s most famous landmark)  in the heart of Vienna on Jasomirgottstrasse until the end of May 2014, so if you’re near, “pop-in” for great espresso style coffee and filter style coffee too.

Fully equipped with not one, but two La Marzocco espresso machines – a refurbished Linea 2 group and a GS3 complimented naturally with some top class grinders.

the machines
the machines

I don’t have to reiterate again about the dedication of Georg Branny and his commitment to producing great espresso, but nevertheless, you won’t be disappointed if you visit to satisfy your caffeine fix in the centre of Vienna until the end of May, so pop by.

Long Black
Long Black

Essenti: A Marriage of Good Food and Coffee in Vienna

IMG_2295

Essenti, located on one of the famous streets to eat in Vienna, is a London style designed coffee shop, reminiscence of Otto Lenghi with freshly made food served in huge platters and offering  frozen yoghurt with fresh fruit toppings and of course coffee. It opened during the latter half of 2013 but already has a regular customer base. Whilst I’ll say they make a decent espresso, it’s probably the ideal place to get a good lunch to compliment an above average espresso. The owner, Marko, is very hospitable and warm and has a keen eye for detail. His shop is small, cosy but homely and welcoming with food prepared like home. There’s a lot of choice for a small place, with about 6 offerings of exotic salads, a daily quiche offering, two main dish specials and sometimes 3, small good-looking cakes and a huge array of nuts and condiments to top your frozen yoghurt, plus a whole list of drinks too.

It’s not often that I eat food that feels like you didn’t eat anything – confused ? Yes! you should be. What I mean is that so often you go out to eat and after you’ve eaten you feel full, a slight indigestion perhaps, bloated and worse, heavy. BUT, when was the last time you ate out and you actually felt nourished – like the food contribute to your well-being ? Think about it – for me, it was the last time I ate at Essenti and for me the first time I felt like that was at Zaika, located at the very prestigious London address of 1 Kensignton High Street, London SW1 – a Michelin Indian/European Fusion Restaurant. But, back to Essenti.

I was treated to a larger than life bowl of beetroot and mint soup, followed by a plate of joyful colours, see below:

All freshly prepared with carrots, rocket (rucola), roasted sweet potato (my favourite), bulgur, decorated with raspberries, pine nuts, pomegranates and more. I finished off with an espresso naturally.

But, if you don’t know me by now – followers of my baking blog www.atastyblog.wordpress.com do, I also love dessert. I didn’t have time for it, but I took it back to my office and shared a bit with my daughter who happened to be passing by – ricotta and quice pastry tart – yummy! with a berry coulis.

OK! now that I got you drooling. You’ve got to check Essenti out – the food is great and for my standards, that’s a lot as I don’t usually use that adjective, ask my colleagues or the wife. I can’t wait to check out the frozen yoghurt when it gets warmer.

Before I go, I’ve got to talk about the coffee. Using a La Marzocco 2 group Linea, with support from Mazzer grinders and coffee from probably the best coffee roaster in Austria, Vienna School of Coffee (I’ve written about them on my blog – plus see my last post) and trained by Jo (of the Vienna School of Coffee), the standard of the preparation is above what you get in Vienna. Marko has two blends – one for pure espresso and one for milk-based espresso drinks. Essenti is getting so popular that MArko now has to double his staff from 2 to 4 and I hope he keeps up the standard with the coffee too, so that it compliments the great food on offer. 

Location: Servitengasse 5, 9th district

Open Mondays to Fridays only – so extended lunch breaks are your best option.

Website: www.essenti.at

 

20140315-164002.jpg

20140315-164228.jpg

20140315-164248.jpg

20140315-164340.jpg

Getting a Good Cup of Coffee in Dubai: RAW Coffee Company

20130913-225254.jpg

When you think of Dubai, you may think of Toobuy and many moons ago, when I thought about opening up a speciality coffee shop somewhere in the World, I thought about Dubai. Well, why not – they had big shopping malls, flashy cars, the best paid expatriates with tons of perks, a growing coffee lifestyle market, the highest amount of 5 starts hotels with the highest occupancy rates in the World at that time and even now the tallest building in the World, BUT they didn’t have good coffee.

20130913-225032.jpg

Sure, all the major coffee chains from the UK and the US are there but still, not good coffee. So, I thought, let’s break the bean and start something special. In any case, as you know, I chose Cape Town to pursue my dream (I sold Escape Caffe in February this year) but I’m glad to report that someone else beat me to it a few years back, RAW Coffee – at this moment, the only speciality coffee operator in Dubai, focusing on sourcing fair trade and organic coffees and roasted locally in Dubai – located at Warehouse 10, Al Manara, al Quoz – in an industrial complex of the very busy Shaykh Zayed Road.

I like what they’ve done with the place to make it feel more authentic – first of all it’s in a converted warehouse – as you enter on the left, there’s the La Marzocco Strada machine to make espresso based coffee and other gadgets as well as a brew bar with an Uber boiler to help make pour-over coffee.

20130913-225155.jpg

 

On the right they have a “green” living wall and some chairs. Walking through to the back, on the left hand side of the warehouse/shop, there’s a glass enclave featuring not one, but three coffee roasters – so they import and roast all their coffees (When the proprietor, Kim started, she only had one Probat, now she’s expanded to another two, a giant 18kg Coffee Tool roaster and a smaller Dietrich sample roaster).

20130913-225325.jpg

I think the main reason for this is that they also supply some restaurants – a list of their customers is on their website. Dotted around on the ground floor to add more authenticity are heaps of green coffee sacks. Right at the back of the shop, there are some stairs to a small sitting and workshop area at the top, overlooking the rest of the shop. You can sit and drink coffee from a very authentic solid wood table or relax on some bean bags. In any case, if there’s more than 4 of you, I would recommended sitting upstairs and chilling out.

Now, to the coffee. Upon entry, I ordered a flat white as I usually do to test out their milk frothing and latte art skills. I noticed that another customer was very impressed with the latte art as he kept looking at it and I silently thought “Erm! I know this is new to you, but eventually you’re going to have to drink it”.

20130913-225222.jpg

Lots more people, mainly expatriates, shuffled in briefly to buy bags of coffee. For my second test – I usually order a pour over to test the roasters skill with the bean and have to confess, I thought the coffee a little too darkly roasted for me – it was good with milk but as a pour over, pure black, slightly bitter with no delicate notes picked up. I quizzed the barista present as to how he prepared my coffee and in conclusion the water was too hot (over 92C) and the dimensions (20g with 200ml water) way too high. He apologises profusely and my cousin, accompanying me for his first speciality latte (he is used to chain style coffee) bought two 500g bags of coffee for me to take back to Vienna, so that appeased the barista somewhat.

I would have loved to have met Kim but it was Friday afternoon and I guess her time off.

In any case, to the best of my knowledge, if you want a speciality coffee experience in glitzy and flashy glass skyscrapers Dubai, I recommend you escape into RAW coffee.

Visit them online at www.rawcoffeecompany.com to order coffee and get directions to where they are. They’re open 7 days a week; offer barista courses and sell all types of equipment for the very keen home barista.

 

 

Prufrock Coffee: The Standard

Well ! I promised a followed up post on just Prufrock alone and here it is. Dare I say it, but I think this is probably the best coffee destination in London. I have been tracking the success of Gwilym Davies since he won the WBC in 2009 and after tweeting back and forth that I was coming over, literally off the plane and after freshened up in the BA Lounge (that’s another story), I headed straight for Prufrock Coffee on Leather Lane. It seemed like a lifetime getting there because Prufrock is located in the legal district of London and more specifically on a market street and as it was a public holiday, the streets were dead. I was even beginning to wonder if they were open, but of course they were – serious coffee drinkers never sleep.

On the outside, there’s this:

Not sure what it is, but in the window display, there’s a bike and some exclusive looking coffee gadgetry – you have arrived.

Walking inside, it comes across as a bit bare, there are some stairs leading downstairs on your right (more on that later), some chairs and an old paino, but as you get further in and glance to your left, there it is, the “the brew bar” – loaded with a 3 group Nuova Simonelli Aurelia (courtesy of WBC 2010), Robur E, a prototype grinder, hario V60, aeropress, a slow brew gadget (see below)

 a chemex, a woodneck, an Uber Bolier, the WBC award, a manual espresso machine and I’m sure I’ve missed something. There’s also a wooden retail shelf, stocked with Square Mile Coffees.

Now, we are talking coffee. In short, there’s almost every gadget known to coffee geeks, to make good quality coffee at Prufrock and if you think they are there for show, take a sit and let them educate you, but make sure you have the time and a clean palate to take your taste buds on a twirl.

So, what did I do ? Well, of course as a WBC champion to make me an espresso. After that, I had a piccolo from another barista. On my second visit – I had to go at least twice in 4 days – I asked Jeremy to make me an espresso, using the exclusive to Prufrock (roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters) Pomorroso – Single Estate Colombian Arabica. I have to say, this was probably one of the best espresso I’ve ever tasted – creamy, wrap around your lips, nutty, fruity and soothing to the tummy (stomach for non-Brits).

So, on the stairs leading downstairs, Gwilym showed me their future barista training academy, equipped already with a nice looking La Marzocco Linea 3 group, the Penny University Brew Bench and other bits – would love to train there one day.

They are just beginning to find their feet, but I think the idea is to grow into the space. This is pure coffee nirvana, so don’t expect anything to eat, even though they tend to have the occasional delivery of cakes. They’ve also got some books – I bought the latest London Coffee Guide book and some coffee equipment to buy. I think they may roll out more stuff later, but pay them a visit on Leather Lane, if you love coffee and if you are curious, walk in, learn and drink.

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.