Tag Archives: London Coffee Shops

Fashion & Coffee in London

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

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

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

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

  

 They’ve got all the gadgets

  

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

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

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

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

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

  


The London Coffee Diary 2: Curators Coffee II

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

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

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

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

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

The Entrance

The décor

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

Equipment and Coffee

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

The Espresso Stuff

The Espresso Stuff

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

The Brew Bar

The Brew Bar

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

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Food and other Drinks

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


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

So why go..

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

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Go girl!!!

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

Brew Bar

  


The London Coffee Diary 1: Mother’s Milk

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

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

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

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

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

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I was @ Kaffeine II


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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.

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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.

 

 

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A Flat White, An Espresso and An Espresso Macchiato in London

As some of you know, my real job, working for one of the United Nations (UN) Agencies, gives me the opportunity to visit different parts of the World a few times a year, and usually I’m lucky enough to connect through London, which means a day visiting cafes and shopping. So, just last week (21 April 2014), I was in London again and decided to try a couple of different cafes that I had never been before, so here goes a summary of my experience.

A Flat White

A Flat White

A Flat White

Nominated for the 2013 European Coffee Shop of the year, I had to visit New Row Coffee, located on 24 New Row, London, WC2N 4LA, in the Covent Garden neighbourhood. It was a bit of a trek from nearby Leicester Square underground station, as I was dragging my hand luggage, but it was worth the wait. I was early enough to avoid any queues, gape at the array of delicious cakes on show, but sadly I had just stuffed myself with food at the BA arrival lounge and can’t wait to visit again to taste some of these treats.

 

Treats @ New Row Coffee

Treats @ New Row Coffee

Anyway, back to the coffee. Their espresso blend hails from Union Roasted and unlike most of the reputable coffee shops in London, have a darker roast. I ordered a flat white as I hadn’t had an espresso milk based drink for a week.

It had hints of caramel, which turned out to be more pronounced for at least 30 minutes after I left the shop, developing into dark cocoa and toffee syrup, YUM! especially on a brisk Friday morning manouevring through the theatre land of London. So, if you visit London and happen to be in the theatre district and need a great coffee fix before your show and prior to eating out, where most probably they won’t serve great coffee, then check our New Row Coffee.

An Espresso

When you’ve only got a few hours in London to drink coffee and shop (my new past time, but one of my previous career dream was to be a fashion designer for men’s clothes), then you know that you may be pushed for time to sit down and divulge your taste buds in London’s exciting and very diverse culinary delights. So, when I entered Foxcroft and Ginger at 3 Berwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DR, off Oxford Street in the West End, I initially wanted to have a quick lunch, but looking at my time, just after 2pm, knowing I had to be at Heathrow Airport at 5pm, I decided a delectable lemon syrup cake and of course a double espresso.

An Espresso

An Espresso

It took longer than I expected, almost 10 minutes before my cake and coffee, so I didn’t waste time “being Italian” gulping my cake down (sugar rush to help speed around the shops) and an espresso (because I like coffee). Now back to that “Italian” thing. An espresso – this was probably the best “Italian” style espresso I’ve had, like how they should make espresso in Italian restaurants and why do I say this ? Because, it looked like a typical Italian espresso, using darkly roasted beans but on this occasion, the espresso had the right consistency of crema and had a sumptuous nutty syrup taste, which lasted long after I had left the shop – not bitter at all and a right digestive and pick me up for the afternoon, well done Foxcroft and Ginger. On the location, don’t get intimidated as the shop is located on a busy vegetable and fruit market part of Berwick Street, not far from a few famous restaurants like Polpette (an up and coming Italian restaurant) and famous restauranteur, Alan Yau’s Yauatcha. The good thing is that they are opened until 10pm every night, except Sunday and Monday, so again if you have a great meal in the area and want to finish with a great espresso, visit Foxcroft and Ginger.

 

An Espresso Macchiato

I was rushing to the airport and thought, I’ve got to make a stop at my favourite coffee shop in West End London, Workshop Coffee, located at 75 Wigmore Street, around the corner from the World famous Selfridges Department Store. I thought, would I prefer to get to the airport 2 hours before departure, as opposed to visiting Workshop, drinking coffee and buying a bag of expertly roasted coffee too – hmm ! well, you guessed – of course coffee won. I was truly rewarded with probably the best espresso macchiato I’ve ever had, wow.

An Espresso Macchiato

An Espresso Macchiato

a little heart that packs a punch – silky, syrupy, buttery sweet caramel, toffee macchiato – the milk was just little enough to lift the other elements front he espresso. An of course I got a bag of coffee too.

That was me done for the day. Three great coffees at 3 must-visit coffee shops in London.


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.