Tag Archives: Milk Bar

London Coffee Scene 2011: Summary, PART II

 The West End (Covent Garden, Soho, Fitzrovia)

And we start with the place with the best gadget, Yep ! the La Marzocco Strada OR Notes Music & Coffee, located at 31 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, almost opposite Trafalgar Square from the Charing Cross End (Londoners will know where I mean). I’d heard that there was a cafe which had been first off the mark to buy and install the most up to date and probably most expensive espresso machine in the World when reading through my tweeter feeds, so a mental note was made to head down here for coffee. Not being a totally mad gadget man in general, but when it comes to coffee, I’m a victim, so after having being treated to lunch on a sunny day at Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant in Covent Garden by my brother, we headed down the road to Notes Music & Coffee. From the outside, you are tempted by the lovely array of sandwiches and cakes, BUT I knew that I was here for one thing, an espresso on a Strada machine. Doesn’t it look beautiful…

Josh, the barista, was busy and introducing myself briefly, I asked if I could take a picture of this lovely machine….. Warning ! coffee geek inside. So, I snapped away and then obviously asked for a Strada made espresso, which he made, using Square Miles’s Capao, extracted at 93 C – a bit bright for me with such a bean, which I believe is best extracted at a higher temp to highlight the nutty caramel toffee flavours. From one coffee expert to a geek, Josh kindly declined to accept payment. There ! I had had my first LM Strada coffee, yipee !

Flat White & Milk Bar, Soho

Well ! How could I not resist, another almost “must-go destination” for coffee in London, Flat White – where it all began (for me in any case). Needless to say, I had a flat white and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Cameron, owner and barsita, was still pouring latte art, about 5 years since opening – now ! how’s that for consistency and commitment. A note to the pretenders – the major downfall of start ups, is a lack of consistency and for charming brands, the invisibility of the owner/charismatic face of the biz. Thumbs up to Cameron. Still on that consistency thing, Flat White, still serve take away flatties with a latte heart

And yes, it was still delicious and yes, Flat White are the only cafe that Sqaure Mile Coffee create a blend for.

I actually finished my London tour, hours before my flight back to Cape Town with a visit to Flat White’s sister (why don;t they say brother ?) shop, Milk Bar on Bateman Street in Soho, where I had a fantastic espresso experience. I mean, who takes 5-7 minutes to make you an espresso ? The chief barista (I forgot his name, shame on me) at Milk Bar does, especially if he sees someone come into the cafe, order espresso and then ask him how long he’s doing the pre-infusion for, whilst admiring the Robur E Mazzer Grinder (the daddy of all daddy grinders). The first shot, which he didn’t want me to drink, went right through my tongue like a rocket, with a nutty like taste and the second, kind off filled my mouth, wrapping itself around the edge of my tongue and then coming back in – wow ! No pic, as I was struggling with last minute shopping, but nevertheless, a great culinary experience.

Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia

Last but not least, it was a trip I had been planning even before I packed my suitcases for my trip, a trip to Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, London W1, winner of Europe’s best independent coffee shop and more recently, winner of Britain’s best sandwich and coffee shop.

I think I should mention this up front as it’s been on my mind but what is with Aussies and coffee and why are they ruling the London coffee scene ? I can only stand by and admire and wish they would come to Cape Town and help me out with converting the masses to a great brew, but lucky London. OK ! I digress, we are at Kaffeine, my first priority on my last leg in London, which I visited on Saturday morning in the area known in London as Fitzrovia, which means the space in between Regent’s Park and Oxford Street, parallel to Great Portland Street – a quick geography lesson for non-Londoners.

I really loved the simplicity and yet high quality finish of Kaffeine, which incidentally is small and cozy and was quiet when we arrived around 11am, but I was told on a normal day, 570 cups are the norm and on a quiet day, 200+ (Oh London ! should I have opened my cafe in you ?). As you enter Kaffeine, you are tempted by delights like strawberry friands (another great Aussie invention) and yes I was tempted and asked for one to go with my flat white.

I brought an old University friend with me and asked him to try a cappuccino – “wow ! coffee can taste like this, now I know why you are so crazy about coffee Lameen” was his reply after his first sip.

Kaffeine have a Synesso Cyncra, use a Robur E (but of course) and Square Mile Coffee and are led by top barista Cathy, who kindly gave us complimentary coffees, spotting the coffee geek in me. The staff were very attentive and one promised to visit Cape Town very soon – so watch this space if he does, as I might offer him a temp job, before he heads back to London. Go Kaffeine Go and well done on all your achievements. Can’t wait to visit again.

And there you have it….

That’s all I can say and well done London, Londoners for appreciating great coffee and I’m sorry, but I have to say this, Aussies for helping out with the quality, et al.


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.


London Stopover: A Flat White & A Double Espresso

The final leg of our journey was in London and as soon as I could, I rushed over to Flat White Cafe in Soho, flying through the door and spotting Cameron, the main owner of Flat White, I practically belted out, “A flat white please…” For me, it was like – I haven’t had really good coffee for almost 2 weeks and I need it now and wow ! wasn’t it worth waiting for – almost too good looking to drink.

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A beautifully poured “rosetta” on my flat white. Even Cameron was impressed by the very kind lady who poured this beautiful rosetta (I’m so embarrassed I didn’t get her name so that I could have mentioned it on this post, sorry !), and here it is one more time, up close and personal, so that you can almost taste it.

After my “flat white experience”, I rushed off to have a quick lunch and of course I needed a good espresso to finish off my lunch experience and no place better than Milk Bar (Flat White’s second shop), still in Soho. As there wasn’t much time to catch our flight, I ordered a double espresso in 25C heat outside, took a picture to share the experience and gulped it down.

To finish off, I took a picture of their custom made Black La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine. What a nice stop over in London to satisfy my espresso cravings.

Ciao !


A Day of Triple Espressos….. Hmmm !

I was on my travels again, which usually means in most cases, no espressos for at least a week. So, you won’t be surprised to learn, if you have been an avid reader of my blog, that as I had the opportunity to pass through London for the day on my way back to Vienna, I made a beeline (an English slang for “going straight/directly for…”) for Flat White in Soho. I bust inside, gasping for a flat white of course and thought, “I really need espresso”, so I ordered a triple espresso flat white, made with a bottomless portafilter. The barista looked impressed and went to work and as there was no queue at 10am on a Friday morning, I didn’t have to wait long. I got my camera out so that I can share the experience with you, at least a pic.

 

Caution: Triple Espresso Flat White

Caution: Triple Espresso Flat White

Before heading out, I snapped up a couple of bags of coffee beans (Flat White blend made by Square Mile Roasters of course) – what else can you ask for when you visit a cafe, triple espresso and some good bag of beans to take home – more about tasting these in the next post God willing.  

OK ! so the title of this post is “A Day of Triple Espressos….Hmmm !”, so I’m not finished, however, there was an exception, and that was on my visit to Milk Bar (Flat White number two). Well ! I had to have another espresso (actually a double ristretto) after snacking on a delicious roasted falafel sandwich from my favourite sandwich shop in London, Pret-a-manger. I digress, but I headed to Milk Bar, had a chat with the supervisor, Max, about the lovely black La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine and the grinders (tekky talk), ordered an espresso and walked round the back to take a pic of the other barista pouring a latte.

Anyway, whilst talking to Max, he told me that there was a new Fernandez & Wells coffee shop, around the corner at St. Anne’s Court, so I was off, at least to look. St. Anne’s Court is in Soho, sandwiched between Wardour Street and Dean Street on a little pedestrian alley way.

Initially, I just went in to chat and see the new concept – Italian style, without chairs and a minimal coffee menu – but I was intrigued when I saw the menu board and said “What is a Stumpy ?” “it’s like a triple espresso mini macchiato…” Well ! I had just had an espresso at Milk Bar, so I decided to break my “no-milk espresso drinks in the afternoon rule” and went for one, or should I say three. BUT, hang on a minute – it’s actually not a triple espresso, but a triple ristretto – Wow! and if you look carefully at the board, all espresso drinks at this new shop are triple ristretto – now that’s what I call an espresso lovers dream. Anyway the Stumpy was nice, worth a try.

Still on a tekky drive, I was lucky to meet with Jorge Fernandez himself – one half of the Fernandez and Wells company. Jorge is really into his coffee and he shared with me that they were trying out a new Monmouth Guatemala espresso blend for 2 weeks at the new shop, took me round to the back of the Synesso Cyncra machine and pulled another triple ristretto. There was tons of crema, but being a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to pictures, my small digital camera (my D60 was at home) couldn’t handle the light, so I just snapped the extraction instead.

After 68 grammes of fresh coffee (i.e 1 triple shot of 21 grammes, 1 Fernandez and Wells triple shot of 33 grammes and 1 double shot of 14 grammes) I went straight to the airport, before I got carried away on more caffeine and instead fly to Vienna on Caffeine Air. In any case, I am so glad that there is another new quality cafe in Soho/London and please visit when you get the chance.


Bean There – New Coffee Shops in London

When my mum offered to take the family to London for a week during the Xmas period I thought “Great, one week away in good old London” and then I thought “Hey ! now I can check those coffee shops that I missed in London last summer”. So to start of the “New” Year, I guess it is apt that I start of with “New” coffee shops in my favourite coffee city, London.

MILK BAR, 3 BATEMAN STREET, SOHO

So, as promised in my post of 17 October 2008, this time I found the new Flat White coffee shop, called the Milk Bar, located on 3 Bateman Street and also in Soho.  

Milk Bar is on a busy street in Soho and it has a bit of a different vibe to Flat White. For one, it seems like there’s a little bit more space, which doesn’t make it as cult and cosy as the original Flat White. They also offer cakes and snacks and naturally the star of the shop, the customized black La Marzocco is centre stage almost right in front of you when you enter the shop like a display. There are some seats outside the shop. Milk Bar has a bit of a psychedelic feel to it and I think that is what inspired me to add this psychedelic tint to this freshly poured Flat White, which I had to order naturally being in Flat White’s second shop.  

BAR ITALIA, FRITH STREET, SOHO

Not too far from Milk Bar is one of Soho’s landmark drinking establishments, Bar Italia, located on Frith Street.

Bar Italia is appealing to its followers not only because when you enter you think you are in Italy with tiled floors, manual lever ancient espresso machine, 1960’s style ring register and that continental feel but because it is one of very few coffee bars that is open 24 hours a day – “Now how cool is that ?” (one of my wife’s famous quotes). It is kind of assuring that if you are out late in central London and really want some good tasting Italian espresso, then you can find a coffee shop open all hours, where you can get one. So going with the flow being in a little bit of Italy in downtown London, I ordered an espresso naturally.

It had a very Italian taste and I’m guessing that the coffee beans had both arabica and robusta in them, just like the Italians like. In any case, my visit in the afternoon was quick and Bar Italia was quite empty compared to the last time I walked past it, when I walked on by because the crowds were spilling onto the street.

ANDRONICAS WORLD OF COFFEE, HARRODS, KNIGHTSBRIDGE

For my next stop, you will have to take a taxi (if you are in a hurry and can afford one) or jump on the Tube (London’s underground rail network system) and head for probably London’s most famous department store, Harrods.  Ok ! for those who know Harrods, it is located in the most prestigious and expensive part of London and probably the UK, and Harrods is not a cheap store either. In any case, I was drawn here because during my attendance at Caffe Culture, May 2008 (see my post of 30 May 2008) I spotted a Mirage La Marzocco machine owned by a coffee roasting company called Andronicas World of Coffee. I was duly informed by the owners that they were located in Harrods (confirmed by a blog post in coffeegeek.com) and as the Exhibitors gave me a voucher for a free espresso at Andronicas, I thought on my next trip to London, I’ll try out their cafe at Harrods. I’ve been trying ever since, until now in the middle of the shopping frenzy that is London in late December, I dragged my 7 year old son to Harrods with a promise to visit the toy shop there.

Andronicas is located on the 4th floor of Harrods, set in a pristine environment that inspries you to relax and take it easy. They’ve got lots of coffee stuff around their seating are like cafetieres, coffee cups and this antique looking mini-espresso machine, which I couldn’t resist taking a picture off.

Being late afternoon, I ordered an espresso macchiato from the barista.

The owner was otherwise occupied and I was dying to chat to him about the shop. As soon as he finished, I quickly grabbed his attention and started talking to him about Caffe Culture and the shop. Being a true gentleman and noticing that I kept on instructing my son to behave and sit down, he offered to make him a hot chocolate in an espresso cup to calm him down, at least until he finshed it. I liked the macchiato and promptly asked the owner what part of the World they were from, but as it was their special 1849 blend and I wasn’t known to them (I could have been a secret coffee blend spy), I was just told that it is made up of 4 of the World’s finest coffees. In any case, I was delighted to detect two types of tastes in my mouth, one at the tip and the other at the back. Nice coffee. I tried to buy some bags of this special 1849 blend but being unique, Andronicas let you buy the raw green beans and choose from one of 5 different roasting blends, which takes around 25 minutes to roast. You can choose between light to burnt dark roast and I am guessing they would advise you which roast goes best with which bean, see below;

Now ! that’s really unique and if I had a specialist coffee shop I would follow this example. Sadly, because I was in a rush and had to take my son to the toy department I missed out on this opportunity, Ahhhhh ! However, I was informed that as Andronica have been supplying freshly roasted coffee to Harrods for over 20 years, I could get some coffee downstairs in the famous Harrods food hall. I rushed down there but the special 1849 blend was naturally sold out, so I bought two other varieties (more of that in my next post God willing).

For more on Andronicas, see 

http://www.andronicasworldofcoffee.com/

and if you can, I strongly recommend ordering their coffee (they might ship outside UK – I’ll check God willing and let you know) a visit and would like to confirm that Harrods is the best department store that I have been to, to buy freshly roasted coffee, because their coffee is roasted by serious experts and people committed to quality, who ensure that Harrods receive freshly roasted coffee twice a week in order to maintain the quality and of course their reputation.