Tag Archives: Soho Grind

London Coffee Report 2018

I cannot see the end of 2018 without sharing a brief report of my coffee experiences in my favourite coffee city, London. Although I spent the least amount of days in London in 2018 that I have done in the past few years, I tried my best to try at least two new spots, so lets’ start with these.

When in the City of London, try Rosslyn Coffee, 78 Queen Victoria St, London EC4N 4SJ 

By the City of London, I don’t mean the actually city. If you visit London and ask them how do I get to the city, they will direct you to the square mile area, which was originally the “city gate” of London. There’s actually a brick wall, mostly destroyed, around this square mile, which now hosts the financial area of London and perhaps Europe. It is also where most of money is made in London, according to some stats. To get to this coffee shop, take the northern or central line to Bank, the station next to the Bank of England – you couldn’t get more “city like” than this. From the station, I highly recommend using goggle maps to get tot he cafe like I did, as there are many streets in this vicinity. However, if you work in the city, then you’ll know how to get there – it’s not far from the Bloomberg HQ.

So now, time for coffee

 

This is actually a picture of a clock in the cafe. A small spot, designed to churn out coffee at high speed to a busy on the go crowd on their synesso espresso machine coupled with batch brew coffee on the go. There won’t be much time for any chit chat with the staff, order, wait, pick up and go. If you have a bit of time, facing the till, look to your right and you can buy some coffee to take home (roasted for them), which I did – their espresso blend to be precise. In any case, I ordered a cortado, being mid-afternoon – a milk chocolate taste – the standard, carefully prepared.

Also on offer, are pastries and brownie bars. If you have a bit of time, which you should always have for coffee – have your coffee in a porcelain cup (it taste much better) and sit on some high stools before that important meeting. If you are lucky and if they have time, chat with the staff, which I did, with one of the owners, James, formerly of Caravan Coffee (who opened this spot with Mat, also formerly of Caravan Coffee). Highly recommended if you are in the city and want some coffee well prepared with no frills.

The Best Coffee in Balham: Story Works, 31 St John’ s Hill vs  Birdhouse Coffee 123 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1SZ

Actually I didn’t give them that acclaim but it was awarded to them by a reviewer. The main reason I was here was because I stayed with my brother in Clapham and by default I just head into the city for my specialty coffee fix without checking if there’s anything worthy in this part of London. So, one Sunday morning, I decided to google and having scanned some reviews and pics of shops, I decided on two – Story works (the smaller version of Story coffee) and birdhouse. I must confess when I checked the pics, I was bias towards Story Coffee, with their bright looking shop and their Kees van der Westen Spirit machine. I thought they must know what they are doing, plus it was in much closer proximity to my brothers house.

At Story Works, opposite the Clapham Junction Railway Station, I’m not sure if they had a trainee by himself on Sunday but I already started getting nervous when I asked him some basic coffee questions like type of coffee and commented in the machine. I also timed the shot and heard the manner in which the milk was frothed and eventually poured – let’s just say I dint even bother to take a picture and after a few sips, I’m sorry to say, I couldn’t finish the coffee and left hanging with coffee withdrawal symptoms. That’s why I decided to take the other 6-7 minutes of walking up hill to birdhouse, where I passed by the original Story Coffee on 115 St John’s Hill, which was quite packed as they offer enticing looking food, but another time.

As you enter, I must say, there is absolutely no frills. It’s reminisce of a classic general shop, grey and hints of yellow, nothing special, but I wasn’t here to take pics of their decor, but to taste their coffee, prepared using one grinder and a La Marzocco Linea. After my not so amusing experience at Story Coffee, I was already sceptical, but it paid off and I must confess after this beautifully crafted cappuccino, I was thinking “the best coffee in Wandsworth” as one reviewer mentioned might not be off the mark.

Also on offer is food, so you can brunch and lunch too – check goggle for some enticing looking food to savour.

One proviso, to be fairer I plan to try Story Coffee next time when in this area, but for now Birdhouse wins.

Coffee and the Best Banana Bread – Saint Espresso Kentish Town and Baker Street

I know I went here last year but it is a good spot to meet family in this part of London. So you can probably guess how my family conversations go”where can we meet Lameen?” “a coffee shop but let me choose and tell you where”. If we are going to meet, let me take control and chit and chatter over good coffee and cakes, so we were back here again – family gathering over lots of coffee and some hot chocolate too.

Coffee was good but I must confess the banana bread was the best I’ve had and I let the chef know too.

On another occasion, I tried their coffee shop at Baker’s Street (located at 214 Baker St, Marylebone, London NW1 5RT), which is smaller for my daily cappuccino fix.

As you enter, you can pick up gadgets and coffee and as you approach the counter, there’s lots of treats (cakes, pastries, etc) to choose from before your coffee is made on their customised black linea La Marzocco machine. I met their manager, Rustam Baratov, who was very hospitable and we exchanged contacts.

 

When in the West End again – Notes Coffee, Bond Street Station and Grind Soho, 19 Beak St, Soho, London W1F 9RP but of course

But of course…. I’ve got to add the to go places. My first stop since 2017 has been Notes coffee located at Bond street underground station because it is just where we always end up as soon as we arrive in London – the West end. You are guaranteed a good cup of coffee, whether espresso based or batch brew and there’s always tempting sweet bites and friendly staff for a more pleasant experience.

 

Another place in the heart of the West End is soho and for coffee, Soho Grind. During the summer they were celebrating their tenth anniversary, which meant a fantastic batch brew and by fantastic, I mean juicy mouthfeel, balanced acidity, fruity – so good I went back not twice but thrice. In fact it was so good I wanted to buy a bag or tin (Grind sell their coffees in tins) but it was so special that if they had a price, it would have been one I would  have had to hide from my wife, ha!. In any case it wasn’t for sale, just for their customers to enjoy over and over again, until it ran out – lucky me and my taste buds.

So there we are my London coffee report just in time before we hit 2019 God willing.

All the best for the new year; don’t drink too much…. coffee and here’s to more great coffee shops opening in London in 2019, enjoy!

 

 

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London Coffee Report 2017

I can’t believe it’s already 2018. Wow! time really flies. I was reviewing my blog for 2017 and it dawned on me that I didn’t do London coffee scene post for 2017, so here it is, a mix of the new, a fave and convenient, the classic and going back.

The Classic – Store Street Espresso – 40 Store St, Fitzrovia, London WC1E 7DB, UK

In fact it is quite baffling as to why since this London “classic” opened in 2010, around the time the World Barista Championships (WBC) were held in London, I have never been here. I first heard of them as they were one of the first coffee shops to use Square Mile Coffee way back then and they still use them. Sure I’ve been to their “sister” shop, Continental Stores, but not to the big brother. So one rainy August I trekked to Store Street where the shop is located – yes, the shop is named after the street it is located on.

When I finally got there, it was late afternoon and I was really panting for coffee. The place was fairly empty but you could tell that it was the sort of place that would have been very busy earlier in the day. As you walk in, all the action is on your left, Vittoria Arduino espresso machine, grinders, etc, fronted by grab me pastries and and cakes, even though most of them had gone already. As you walk past the brew station and before you approach the sitting area, just on your right they have coffee on sale and gadgets too. The place looks quite bright as they have a sun roof, similar to Colonna and Smalls in Bath. The staff look liked they had just finished a battle, but relaxed and still smiling. To test their milk based skills I went for a cortado using Square Miles Red Brick and some sugar, pasties de nata;

A tasty brew but I wasn’t finished. Before my new coffee, I took a walk around and started chatting to one of the staff, Toby. Taken aback by my questions, he offered me a special brew using the V60 and of course I trusted him – later on, he even refused to charge me for this cuppa – very kind indeed. I must confess I have forgotten the roaster, which I think was nordic based. It was just what you wanted from a filter brew, delicious mouth feel with fruit at the front with a  caramel underlying tone outside your tongue walls.

From my short stay there, I could smell the dedication to quality at this shop and definitely rate it as one of my top coffee shops in an already very high standard of coffee in London. Once again, thanks to Toby, Natalya and the barista girl for  great experience.

Going Back – Fernandez and Wells, 55 Duke Street, W1K 5NR

If you’ve been an avid follower of my blog you’ll know that when I used to visit London a lot during the noughties (2000-2009) I basically only trusted two brands for great coffee, Flat White on Berwick Street and its sister shop, Milk Bar during the time of Cameron and Fernandez & Wells located at Beak Street and St Anne’s Court back then. Since then Fernandez & Wells have expanded and now have 4 locations. In the summer, as I tried to dodge shoppers on Oxford Street, I walked down Duke Street, adjacent to the corner of Selfridges on Oxford Street and saw that located inside British Fashion shop, Jigsaw, there was a Fernandez & Wells neon sign. As it was time for one of my coffee fixes, I dragged my son in with me to check what was on offer. I was very pleased to see, I must say, that their signature drink, the Stumpy, was still on offer. In summary it is a triple shot cortado style drink – read about it’s origins here.

They have lots of tasty snack options too, which is captured in their recently launched cookbook, Rustic, available on amazon (no, I’m not sponsored by amazon). It’s actually on my wish list as Fernandez & Wells was one of the first London eateries I used to go for both good coffee and food.

Something new – Ludenwic 45 Aldwych, London WC2B 4DW, UK

Just like 2017 flew by with a mad busy work schedule, so did life, because just this past summer, our daughter is already looking at University. As we were waiting to visit Kings College on the Strand, I was looking for somewhere to get my daily espresso milk based fix and I recalled that a few months ago a cafe at Aldwych liked one of my instagram pics and I thought I’d like to check them out. Another busy hub, where most of London’s lawyers work, Lundenwic is well located in a very bustling work area of London, in between London School of Economics and Kings College. It is quite a small shop with a Nordic touch, clean lines, delicious looking pastries, cakes and salads. Luckily, I was also hungry, so I grabbed a nice looking salad to go with my coffee.

Lundenwic use Workshop coffee, so expect a fruity bias, brewed on a La Marzocco Linea. One our last day of our summer holiday, we had to visit a pop-up macaroon ice cream sandwich shop, Yolkin and I was surprised to learn that Lundenwic were open on a Sunday, which with their location is very quiet, but I was very happy to visit them again. So, if you work in that area or are studying at one of London’s best universities, LSE or Kings College, or need a quick great cup of coffee whilst visiting Covent Garden/Theatre Land, then I highly recommend Lundenwic.

Something New Too – Saint Espresso & Kitchen, 296 Kentish Town Rd, London 

On the same trip as above, last summer, we rushed off to Kentish Town to see my cousin and as I waited for the rest of my family to catch up, I saw this little new spot, Saint Espresso & Kitchen.

I walked in briefly and took a quick look around and promised to be back and I was. Walking in, you could tell it was something this type of middle class neighbourhood had missed. Exposed brick, reticent of  New York Urban Retro, wooden stools with sone steel thrown in, offering breakfast, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and more and decked out with a La Marzocco Linea as the finishing touch to a classy spot. I found out that they also roast their own coffee but as our luggage was already on its way to Heathrow and my hand baggage was heavy, I resisted the temptation to buy more coffee.

I had a brief chat with the barista and mentioned that I write about coffee. Upon hearing that and I’m not sure if it was testament to his dedication, he pulled three shots of espresso, before he gave me my order, adding that it might be a bit bright. I must confess that of late whenever I walk into a cafe and mention I write about coffee, some baristi seem to up their game, especially if I’m ordering espresso – a plus for me and I ain’t complaining.

Sure it was a bit bright and flowery, perhaps due to the lower brewing temperature, their espresso menu or coffee but it was sparkly and gave me a lift as we headed down back to the tube to catch the taxing journey to Heathrow Airport. Saint Espresso & Kitchen are very well located, with literally under a minute from Kentish Town tube station on the Northern Line, so if you need that quick coffee rush or coffee on the go, I recommend you pop in before your morning journey to work. I found out afterwards that Saint Espresso have two other shops, one located on 214 Baker’s Street, quite close to the West End, and one at Angel on 26 Pentoville Road, so I am looking forward to checking these out too.

Convenient – Notes Bond Street Station

When my wife and I visited London to celebrate our 20 years wedding anniversary, we headed to Oxford Street via Bond Street tube station and as I walked out, I couldn’t believe what I saw – Notes of Covent Garden now had a small branch at Bond Street Station. Wow! how convenient – before, whenever I came to this end of Oxford Street, I used to head straight to Workshop Coffee at St Christopher’s Place, about 3 minutes walk away, but this is super convenient. When we visited in December, it was my first stop on many occasions.

It’s like a pop-up shop but of course with a strong focus on quality coffee, complimented with a selections of sweets and cakes. They also sell their coffee, which I bought on my last visit to a London coffee shop of 2017. They’ve got the gadgets, friendly and good baristi and offer more than coffee, like hot chocolate and teas.

Soho Favourites – Soho Grind (19 Beak Street, Soho) and Department of Coffee & Social Affairs (3 Lowndes Court, off Carnaby Street)

Occasionally, I find myself near the Soho part of the West End, just off Regents Street and as I wave through the crowds trying to avoid people congestion traffic, I dot through Soho’s side streets and usually stop over at Soho Grind for either filter brew or milk based coffee, where you can be met with a slightly more trendy crowd and friendly baristi. They have seating downstairs if it gets more crowded at the top.

If I’m closer to the Oxford Street end, I pop into Department of Coffee & Social Affairs, which is closer to the top end of Carnaby Street. It’s a lot busier here, with a few tourists around and more seating downstairs. If you want take out, let them know first, otherwise take a seat and wait to be served, which I must confess can be a bit slow. They have a menu for food and some delicious looking cakes too. As they are one of London’s coffee roasters, they sell their coffee too, and now roast for nespresso machines. I bought the latter for my bro, as he owns one.

Luck Londoners with all these high quality coffee shops, phew!

As busy as ever with more quality coffee shops to visit than ever, still makes London, I believe, probably the best coffee city in the World. I look forward to trying out new ones in 2018 or re-visting some old faves to check out if they have maintained their standards.


Fashion & Coffee in London

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

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

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

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

  

 They’ve got all the gadgets

  

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

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

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

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

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