Tag Archives: London Cafes

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.

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Thanks @ Hackney Coffee Company for a Friendly Coffee

  

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

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

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

Friendly coffee

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

A pleasant cup.

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

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


@ Taylor St Baristas – Canary Wharf

Have you ever….

Been to a coffee shop that has two 3 group espresso machines

Been to a coffee shop that has a 2 group Synesso Cyncra espresso machine just for guest espresso

Been to a coffee shop where the staff interact with one another like they’re one happy family that they make you feel at home

Been to a coffee shop where the loyalty card rewards you for your custom by giving you your fifth cup free

WELL ! I have and lucky me and you could be just as lucky too, so just head down to Taylor St Baristas on the South Colonnade in grand Canary Wharf, London, the seventh branch of the company.

I had never been to a coffee shop owned by Taylor St Baristas (run by 3 siblings originating from a small town in Australia) before and this was one of two firsts, as it was also my first time in Canary Wharf (sorry! but it’s like the Dubai part of London) – all newish, well cut roads, clean with well groomed gentlemen and ladies walking about in a hurry, that is, until they walk into Taylor St Baristas. Ah! yes “finely crafted coffee for serious coffee drinkers”. Although only opened since early December 2011, it’s as if there was a petition by the inhabitants of Canary Wharf to only allow a serious coffee shop within their midst and they got one, making the shop one of the busiest coffee shop in London. Subsequently, the suits and posh skirts of Canary Wharf don’t seem that bothered waiting for a good cup of coffee, with millions of dosh to make back at work – that’s a great achievement because at my caffe in Cape Town, take-out customers tend to be in very much of a hurry, even though we position the espresso machine in a way that they can see that making a good espresso takes time. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the high flyers of London wait for a great cup of coffee. However, I do have to add, that common to their other busy spots (I went to 3, Canary Wharf, New Street and looked inside 125 Old Broad Street) Taylor St Baristas have scored a point with quick delivery service by (i) using at least 2 three group machines per shop, complimented with top of the range grinders (Mazzer Robur E, Anfim Super Camiano) in the ones I visited and (ii) having a dedicated staff member to take orders from customers whilst they queue, as opposed to waiting for them to get to the till to place their orders and wait even longer. Well! it has to be said, if you do sell more than 500 cups of coffee a day (and I have a sneaky feeling it’s much more than that), it’s great that the waiting time for the good stuff is reduced as much as possible, so thumbs up to Taylor St Baristas.

At Canary Wharf, space is at a minimum, because the shop is geared to serve the best – meaning that space has been allocated for staff to focus on preparing coffee, food and serving csutomers and for displaying a tantalising display of snacks, sandwiches, cakes and pastries. Plus, the inside space has been designed to make the decor more authentic than the surroundings outside with paintings, dark wood, writings on the espresso machine, hanging lights and blackboards and seventies style chairs.

I visited their Canary Wharf branch twice in 3 days and was lucky to have had both my flat whites made by Andrew Tolley (one of the owners).

Is this news ? Well, I thought so, as Andrew Tolley is also one of the UKs Barista Competition judges. Taylor St Baristas have a  bespoke Rogue Blend (roasted by Union Hand Roasted), but also offer coffee from the UKs top roasters, namely Square Mile Coffee and Has Bean. I had one guest espresso (roasted by Has Bean) prepared by Andrew using their Synesso machine at Canary Wharf and had another one roasted by Square Mile at their newly opened 8th coffee shop, about 10 minutes walk away at the Royal Exchange, where I met Laura Tolley (the second of three siblings that own Taylor St Baristas). I also stopped very briefly to meet older brother Nick Tolley at their New Street branch (opposite Liverpool Street Station), where I was tasted a very unusual aromatic filter brewed coffee – can’t remember the name, but I think it was roasted by Has Bean.

I still believe that in order for you to serve the best you need to serve it with heart and that’s why for me, Taylor St Baristas is one of the best coffee shop experiences I’ve ever had. They are really expanding fast, already on their 8th shop and are probably the highest quality “chain” like cafe in the World to by knowledge, with Andrew, the coffeegeek part of the team, visiting if not all, the vast majority of the shops everyday to ensure that quality is never compromised. I wish them the best of luck.

Find out more about them, their shops and their services at http://www.taylor-st.com/


London Coffee Scene 2012: My Diary

Not the ideal time to pop to London in the middle of winter 2012, but I was tempted by a few opportunities just a couple of weeks back to visit London again – my fave city and my fave city for coffee of course. If you know me by now, you won’t be surprised to learn that my first stop was at Prufrock Coffee Shop on Leather Lane again, – well ! I had to take a look at the new Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine and drink coffee from it didn’t I ? Sadly, I forgot my camera at the hotel, so no pics of this beauty from me, but I can say, surprise, surprise that the flat white I had was good as usual. After my staple of Prufrock coffee, I went almost around the corner to St Ali, Clerkenwell, for lunch and coffee (again). The beetroot salad was delicious but I decided to spoil myself by ordering the Colombian Gaitania on an aeropress – naturally sweet, medium acidity and very pleasant to drink.

I decided to finish my day with a place that I’d dreamed about visiting, Tapped and Packed on 26 Rathbone Place in Central London. The vibe was English cool and although there were only two staff at the time, Louise, the main barista, managed to handle the small crowd that was pouring in at about 4pm. I sat down on a bench inside the cafe, flicked through the British newspapers, dug into my double stacked very English Victorian Sandwich Cake, spilling icing sugar onto the floor, washed down with some water, before savouring my 3rd Wave coffee, an El Salvador Finca La Fany, prepared on the Hario V60, roasted by Has Bean Roasters. I enjoyed my caramel sweet coffee.

Day 2 was a bit of a disaster on the coffee side, as after almost 4 hours of 1 interview, I didn’t get to taste coffee until 4pm – ahhhh ! now that’s a long time for me, but my coffee pangs were satisfied with a 150ml flat white at Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar, Coffee Smiths second shop, on 3 Lowndes Court, just off Carnaby Street in Central London. I also had the pleasure of having a nice Brazilian coffee (forgot the name), using the Filtro Brewer offered by the owners, Chris and Tim – thanks! Speakeasy decor is similar to most of the new coffee shops, but they’ve tried to arrange the seating in a manner that allows you to “speak easy – ily”, so most of the customers appear to be having meetings in hush hush tones – for a quieter meeting, there’s a downstairs seating area in the basement, airy and not stuffy at all. As with all the new age cafes, they’ve got a selection of coffees for you try to go with a handsome selection of cakes and pastries – all the lunch sarnies had gone.

From then on, I was kind off free to visit and sample coffees from different cafes, but I must confess, I confined myself to places that I had missed on my last coffee tour in April 2011.

Day 3, I headed off to unknown territory, Canary Wharf – Yes! after so many years of living and visiting London, I had never been to Canary Wharf. I must admit,it seemed a bit surreal – like Dubai in a way – new and straight roads with new buildings and skyscapers, BUT tucked in there was a superb coffee shop, who never compromise on quality and who seem to be raising the standard, in a tough city like London, for the expansion of high quality coffee and this can only be….

That is long for Taylor Street Baristas and NOT Taylor Saint Baristas (I thought it was the latter when I first saw the name). A very short history – Taylor St Baristas is made up off siblings, Nick, Laura and Andrew and have been operational for 7 years. Their first shop was in Richmond and they have just have opened their 8th shop (Exchange Tower in South Quays, about 10 minutes walk from their 7th shop in Canary Wharf). I was lucky enough to meet all three of them and I must say they were really friendly and warm – naturals. I think their characters together with their knack (English for talent/gift) for getting excellent locations, serving great coffee and their vision means that they have a long way to go on the road to more success. I promise a separate post on their Canary Wharf branch, which I went to twice.

I finished off Day 3 with a visit to Notes, Music & Coffee second shop, 36 Wellington Street in Covent Garden (I went to shop 1 in April 2011). The decor and ambience was reminiscent of a Parisian cafe and I told the owner Fabio that, whom I met for the first time – call it Continental cool. Well, they’ve been consistent with the gear here as they also have a La Marzocco Strada together with all the other stuff you’d expect as well as a selection of coffees. I could resist the temptation to order the Brazilian Capao (my favourite coffee of 2010), roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters, prepared on the V60. Although I enjoyed my coffee, I detected that this seasons’ harvest (probably from 2011), wasn’t on the same level as the 2009/2010 one, which completely blew my mind. I got an added bonus by bumping into Mr London Coffee Celebrity himself, James Hoffmann (Square Mile Coffee) after meeting with the UK operators of New Zealand outift, Ozone Coffee Roasters (Liz Bain and James). Slight digression, but Ozone Coffee Roasters are quite big in New Zealand and are planning on opening their first international shop this March in London, located at Leonard Street, just off the Old Street Circus bordering Shoreditch/Clerkenwell/the City.

For Day 4, it was off to the West End in Central London to do some shopping for the family and for my palate, so I stopped off at newbie Sensory Lab – sister shop of St Ali. Sensory Lab is on 75 Wigmore Street, just off St Christophers Place in the direction of Selfridges Department Store.

Sensory Lab is well kitted out with a Synesso Cyncra espresso machine, Uber Bolier to help accurately prepare aeropress, V60 coffees et al. They have a coffee menu with a selection of coffees. It is easy to be intimated by the decor as you enter the coffee shop with the rows of coffees, coffee equipment and blue grey walls, but all this will be softened by the attendant, friendly and knowledgeable staff. I went for my usual milk based morning drink, Cappuccino, made with St Ali’s Cult of Done Espresso.

With a nicely laid out stash of coffees, I couldn’t but, grab a bag of the Colombian Gaitania, that I had had earlier in the week.

took some pics and left for lunch on Australia Day at…

Kaffeine – where I enjoyed my scrumptious lunch “bufala mozzarella, spinach and chimichurri retro baguette (this was my second attempt, as it was sold out the day before), finished off with my best espresso of my trip, Square Mile Coffee Red Brick Espresso Blend – yum, full on. I really wanted to take a pic but Kaffeine was so packed, I barely got enough arm room to eat my sandwich. The staff, including Peter Dore-Smith (the owner), were completely swamped with customers queing and pouring in and out of the cafe.

After all the pics I’ve seen of the place, I had to make the trek to finish off my London cafe expedition with a visit to finally meet, Sang Ho (aka Korean Barista) at Tapped and Packed 114 Tottenham Court Road. Full as ever, from what I read, there was no space to sit down. The decor is brown, with a mirror used to list their coffees and prices. As you enter, all the seating area is along the windows dotted like a square shape. Next to the till, they have a coffee recipe for third wave coffee, where I was treated to an “on the house” Brazilian Capim Branco prepared on the Hario V60 by Sang Ho himself (a day before he was crowned barista champion in the South East England heats).

Next to the V60 station, there’s the uber cool, copper water tank, where regulars know this is where you get your water from. The pic at the top of this post is located just outside their shop, but I couldn’t resist snapping away at these flat whites, waiting on the side, prepared by their custom made Nuova Simonelli, with wooden porta-filters and trimmings.

After a brief chat with Sang Ho about coffee I realised that it was the end of my coffee tour. As I walked down Tottenham Court Road towards Oxford Street, I noticed lots of coffee shops, but if people knew about Tapped and Packed, near Warren Street Station, I don’t think they’ll compromise on their taste buds to buy coffee at the coffee chains and pretenders nearby.


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.