TAP (Tapped and Packed as was) is a chain of three central London coffee shops. I featured No 114 (Tottenham Court Road) earlier this year and thought it was time for another, the flagship No 193 on Wardour Street. TAP’s reputation is built on its coffee, all roasted in the Probat at the back of No 193. If you want to see it in action, you’ll need to visit on Tuesday (which, ironically, I’ve never managed).
TAP regularly rotates its coffee, having no house blend. At the moment there are two espressos, a blend (for milk) and a single estate (to have black). There are three single origins on the V60 filter: a Guatemalan, an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and a Rwandan Musasa Ruli.
As well as the attraction of watching the coffee roasting, No 193 is a lovely place to sit and drink said coffee. It’s the largest of the three, long and thin, but well-lit by a generous supply of windows. Inside it’s all wood, with bare floorboards and white-washed walls. The only exception is the coffee counter which is metal (albeit with a wooden top). The atmosphere is rounded off with quiet music and the gentle hum of conversation.
I must confess that “The Dry Goods Store” does not immediately strike me as the obvious name for a coffee shop. However, on further reflection, what are coffee beans other than dry goods? It’s only the finished product that is wet… And, in fairness, Dry Goods is far more than just a coffee shop. It combines the twin passions of its owner, Yasmeen: excellent coffee and cutting down on food/packaging waste.
Tucked away on a parade of shops, restaurants and delicatessens (I can recommend La Piccola Dely) in the leafy northwest London streets of Maida Vale, Dry Goods is a delightful place. It’s on Lauderdale Road, near its confluence with Elgin Avenue, Castellain Road and Morshead Road. It might only be a kilometre from the hustle and bustle of Paddington and its surroundings, but it’s a very different, and much more peaceful world.
Dry Goods is a throw-back to shops of a generation or two ago. It sells a range of, well, dry (food) goods including some excellent coffee beans from London roasters Volcano. However, it’s not just a bean retailer, since, perched on the end of the counter is a single-group espresso machine dispensing some lovely coffee.
Sitting on Windmill Street and occupying the front half of a barbers shops, Dunne Frankowski at Sharps represents the latest venture for London coffee legends Rob Dunne and Victor Frankowski, perhaps best known for their London coffee shop, Protein. From the street, the shop’s branding is that of upmarket barbers, Sharps, although the A-board proclaiming “Dunne Frankowski Coffee Bar” is a bit of a giveaway. That, and the extremely good-looking Spirit Triplette from Dutch espresso-machine wizards Kees van der Western which is plainly visible through the window!
Stepping inside, the focus is very clearly on the coffee, with Dunne Frankowski offering various options, including espresso from the aforementioned Triplette and filter coffee through an Aeropress or a more conventional filter machine. As is the fashion in quite a few speciality coffee shops these days, the beans are regularly rotated, with no particular house blend to fall back on.
As well as coffee, Dunne Frankowski has a limited food and cake menu, again on a guest basis, although in this case the suppliers change less frequently. Since opening a few months ago, food has been from F•A•T, with cakes from Violet, although I’ve been told that these are changing fairly soon.
Crystal Palace’s loss is Balham’s gain. I was supposed to be going Bambino Coffee in Crystal Palace, but when I got there, it was closed (permanently, as it turned out), so I turned around and went back to Balham where I had previously passed the highly-commended M1lk.
Located a few strides away from Balham Train and Tube Stations along Balham High Road, M1lk is a delightful place. Although the address is Bedford Hill, if coming from the station, you’re better off cutting down Hildreth Street on your right. You’ll find M1lk at the end, on your left. In the summer, tables spill out onto the pavement of the pedestrianised street, while in the winter, a large awning gives protection to a row of four tables and benches.
Inside, you are spoilt for choice with some excellent coffee, all-day brunches and lots of cake (unless you arrive at four o’clock, when most of it has been eaten!). The espresso is from London’s Workshop, while the filter coffee (made with an Aeropress) features beans from Koppi, making M1lk the Swedish roasters’ only permanent outlet in London.
Despite the explosion of great places around the country, good Coffee Spots at railway stations are something of a rarity, so while on my way to visit (the now defunct) Bambino Coffee in Crystal Palace, I was delighted to chance upon Brown & Green. It’s a lovely little place, tucked into the corner of the equally lovely ticket hall, built back in the days when railway stations were architectural statements in themselves.
Brown & Green plays a couple of important roles. First of all, it’s a place to grab coffee on your way to catch the train. While the coffee won’t have third-wave purists purring with delight, it’s a distinct notch up from the average station fare. Secondly, it’s a (self-styled) coffee-and-brunch neighbourhood café which just happens to be located in a railway station. It’s in this capacity that I visited Brown & Green.
The brunch menu isn’t extensive, but it’s pretty decent and I was impressed. A word of warning though: just be aware that if you are coming for lunch/brunch, the kitchen closes at 14.30 (a perfectly respectable time if you ask me) after which there is only a limited food menu available.
Nest is one of the more recent additions to the booming Brighton coffee scene that I wrote about in my latest Caffeine Magazine article. Located in the North Laines area, it’s easy to miss since it’s not on a main thoroughfare. However, it’s well worth tracking down.
Nest is the sort of place that put the lounge into coffee lounge: a relaxed, chilled-out space where you could easily end up spending all day without quite meaning to. It helps that the coffee is excellent, as are the cakes, and there’s more than enough food to keep you going through the day!
Seating-wise, you have the choice of downstairs at the back, or the slightly quieter upstairs. Both have fairly standard tables and chairs and, surprisingly for such a laid-back place, there is only one sofa, tucked away in a corner upstairs. On the other hand, more sofas might mean that no-one would actually ever leave! Large windows dominate the front of Nest, which, coupled with a window at the back and the clever use of mirrors, mean that the interior is very bright. This is also true upstairs, where windows front and back provide plenty of light.
South Coast Roast is the “coffee specialist” outlet of Boscombe’s finest, Café Boscanova, which is an interesting concept since the coffee at Café Boscanova is some of the best I’ve had! However, according to South Coast Roast’s Facebook page, it’s “an outlet for the baristas at Cafe Boscanova to focus more intently on speciality coffee”. The good news is that South Coast Roast lives up to that promise, serving some excellent coffee in lovely surroundings.
Situated right in the heart of Bournemouth on Richmond Hill, South Coast Roast occupies the site of the much-missed Poppy Mae. However, I can think of no better successor to Poppy Mae than South Coast Roast, so every cloud has a silver-lining. South Coast Roast serves Has Bean, regularly changing the coffee on offer and frequently serving its own special blends. While I was there, it was the Candy Cane blend on the espresso machine, along with single-origin decaf bean from Columbia. If you don’t fancy that, South Coast Roast has bulk-brew filter (a Columbian blend) and there’s a Clever Dripper option (a Costa Rican single-origin).
Literally a stone’s throw away from Monday’s Coffee Spot, Islington’s Tinderbox, we find relative newcomer, Coffee Works Project, which recently celebrated its first birthday. In fact, you could see Tinderbox from Coffee Works Project’s front window and vice-versa, were it not for the brick-built arcade, now occupied by a Jack Wills, which separates Islington’s Upper Street (Tinderbox) from the High Street (Coffee Works Project).
Coffee Works Project, as the name implies, is all about the coffee, although that shouldn’t detract from the excellent sandwiches and cakes, plus the quirky layout and lovely garden (sadly closed in the winter). However, pride of place goes to the Slayer espresso machine, the only one in London and one of (I believe) just four in the country. Using this beauty, owner Peter and his team get the best out of their Has Bean coffee, throwing some very impressive pour-overs into the mix.
While I was there, Coffee Works Project had two espresso single-origins, plus a decaf single-origin, to go with another three single-origin pour-over options and a bulk-brew filter thrown in for good measure. I did my best to sample them all, but may well have to return for another go!
Tucked away in the Upper Street entrance to the N1 Centre in Islington, you’ll find Tinderbox. From the street, it’s fairly unassuming: a couple of tables outside and what looks like a short corridor with a counter on the left and a bar at the back. Stand outside, though, and look up; you’ll see a balcony which promises more. Walk past the counter, up three flights of stairs at the back and you’ll find yourself in one of London’s most eclectic coffee spaces.
Second only to the Boston Tea Party on Bristol’s Park Street, Tinderbox has a long-standing place in my affections. I’ve been going there for almost 10 years and it’s still one of my favourite spots. It has an uncomplicated attitude, with a straightforward coffee and cake offering, along with a quirky attitude and layout that always makes it fun to visit. It’s also one of a growing number of places where you can get decent coffee after six o’clock in the evening.
The cakes are pretty impressive, with cheesecakes and traditional Italian offerings such as cannoli, plus Portuguese favourites pastel de nata and bolo de arroz. Tinderbox also has savouries such as sandwiches and stuffed flat breads.
Today’s Saturday Supplement is the first in an occasional series called “Meet the Roaster”. I did cover a roaster, Leighton Buzzard’s House of Coffee last year, back when the Coffee Spot was young and the Saturday Supplement wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. However, since the Coffee Spot’s focus is on places to drink coffee, rather than on how it’s produced, I’ve tended not to cover roasters.
That said, there are many wonderful small roasters out there and every now and then I find myself visiting one. So, I present the first “Meet the Roaster”, none other than Rave Coffee, who we met last month, when the Coffee Spot featured the café attached to Rave’s roastery in Cirencester.
That I went to Rave at all is down to Sharon, head box-packer and promoter-in-chief on twitter. Sharon arranged everything, handing me over to the owner, Rob, on arrival. I had a tour of the roastery, although “tour” might be overstating things: Rave fits nicely into a single industrial unit, going from green beans to bagged, roasted coffee via a series of stations around the room. It’s a little confusing to the untutored eye, but is actually a very smooth operation.