Café Myriade can claim to have planted the seeds of the wave of new coffee spots emerging in Montréal in the last 18 months. It opened back in 2008 and many of the recent crop, including Pikolo Espresso and Le Couteau/The Knife, can trace their lineage and/or inspiration back to Myriade and its owner, Anthony. It can also stake a claim to having introduced the awesome-looking Triplette espresso machine to Montréal.
However, despite this impressive heritage, I very nearly walked out of Myriade about 10 seconds after walking in. It was heaving, all the tables were taken, there was a queue at the counter and the loud music was really very loud. To cap it all, I was in a foul mood. However, I forced myself to stay and was very glad that I did.
Once I’d settled down and got a table, I found that I loved the place. The atmosphere was great, as was the music, although it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The coffee was excellent and the staff knowledgeable and helpful. Even the other customers were friendly! What’s more, it’s right in the heart of downtown Montréal where independent coffee spots seem thin on the ground.
You could argue that Bristol is in the middle of a golden age of coffee, putting it up there with the likes of Edinburgh. In the last nine months, four top-notch coffee shops, as good as any in the country, have opened. Each offers something different, but all share a passion for great coffee. Three of them, Wild at Heart, Small Street Espresso and Full Court Press [coming soon to the Coffee Spot], form a triangle in the centre of the old medieval city. Didn’t You Do Well is an outpost on Park Row, offering a specialist alternative to the grand-daddy of the Bristol coffee scene, the Boston Tea Party, just around the corner on Park Street.
Didn’t You Do Well nails its colours firmly to the speciality coffee mast with some unusual brewing technology (at least for the UK). It offers a choice of beans and a fairly severe outlook on how you take your coffee. This goes with a clean, uncluttered look which seems to minimise any distraction from the coffee itself. While others, such as Wild at Heart, might go for quirky surroundings, the quirkiness at Didn’t You Do Well stops with the name: everything else is focused squarely on the coffee!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
I can’t believe that it’s already been two weeks since the London Coffee Festival in Brick Lane. How time flies! Well, now that the dust has settled, it’s time to look back on my second visit, which was to the Sunday teatime session. I had intended to be there earlier in the day, but real-life took a hand and put paid to that. And, as regular readers will already know, mornings are not my friend.
If you didn’t manage to make it this year, you really should consider going next year. You’d be wise to book your ticket well in advance though, since pretty much every session this year either sold out or all but sold out before the day itself. I’m very glad I went: not knowing what to expect, I deliberately set my sights low, but ended up being delighted by everything there. The coffee was excellent, the food amazing, the people fantastic and to cap it all, the espresso machines were very, very shiny…
You can catch up with my exploits on my first day there, or read on to find out what I got up to on my last day…
Gimme! Coffee is both a roaster and a regional coffee shop chain with three branches in upstate New York, two in Brooklyn and the solitary branch in Manhattan on Mott Street. It’s been around since 2000, while the Manhattan outlet opened in 2008, making Gimme! Coffee a comparatively long-established player in the New York coffee scene (unless you compare it to somewhere like Caffé Roma!).
The Manhattan branch is essentially a takeaway place, although I got lucky with the weather and had a chance to sit outside while savouring my espresso. At a pinch, you could stand inside and drink your coffee, but when I tried that (while chatting to the staff) I found that I was constantly getting in the way of other customers.
For somewhere so small, Gimme! Coffee packs a lot in though, including bags of charm and character. As a result, instead of just being somewhere to grab a coffee to go, it’s established itself as a real asset to the neighbourhood. It’s the sort of place I’d make a point of going to if I lived in the area, even if it was only for a couple of minutes a day.
Pink Lane Coffee is, appropriately enough, on Pink Lane, handily located just across the road from Newcastle’s Central Station. Unfortunately, I was coming from the other direction and almost missed it. From the outside, it looks unpromising, tucked away on the ground floor of the Pink Lane Business Centre. If I’m honest, it doesn’t look much like a coffee shop, with the door set back from the lane, a rather unpromising, cramped little place. However, a bit like the Tardis, it’s a lot bigger on the inside. And much nicer.
When you do venture across the threshold, you’ll find a wonderful coffee shop, with something for everyone. The beans were from London’s Union Hand-Roasted and Bath’s Round Hill and the resulting coffee is lovely. As a place to sit and drink it, Pink Lane stands comparison to anywhere I’ve been. There’s a bench outside, while inside you’ll find comfy sofas, stools at the counter, intimate nooks, plus the usual mix of small and big tables. Throw in a generous supply of power outlets and free wifi and you have somewhere I could happily spend an entire day… In fact, it was so welcoming that I had to throw myself out!
Some places I’m sold on when I walk in the door. Others take a little while to grow on me. Some never do and so don’t make it into the Coffee Spot. It’s fair to say that I was sold on True Grounds from the moment I saw it from across the street. I’m not sure why, but I’ve learnt over the years to trust my Coffee Spot radar: it rarely lets me down. So it was with True Grounds.
True Grounds is a neighbourhood coffee shop par excellence. It’s the sort of neighbourhood coffee shop that makes you want to move into the neighbourhood. It might be off the beaten track up in Somerville, north of Boston, but I’m glad that I went out of my way to pay it a visit. What makes it for me is the space, a bright, sunny, warm and welcoming place to drink my coffee, which was, by the way, excellent.
I might have been swayed by the bright, sunny day, but whatever it was, True Grounds made a lasting impression on me!
Store Street Espresso, unsurprisingly located on Store Street, is a wonderful place. It’s been open for about 2½ years and I’ve been aware of it for some time, having walked past several times and given it admiring glances. However, until recently, I’d never had the opportunity to go in. Fortunately for me, Store Street Espresso more than lived up to its external promise.
I like pretty much everything about Store Street, from the layout of the store, through the friendly and knowledgeable staff, right up to the coffee and cake. It’s a place that’s not afraid to experiment, with regularly-rotating guest coffees (including European and American roasters) supplementing the regular offerings from Square Mile. At the same time, it stays true to its core values of serving good food and excellent coffee. It has a pretty decent filter coffee and a mean slice of toast, both of which are pretty rare. That it’s open until seven o’clock in the evening is a huge bonus.
My only regret is that I didn’t know about Store Street when I was a regular visitor to the British Museum, otherwise I would have spent a lot more time in it back then.
Yesterday I went to the London Coffee Festival in Brick Lane, London, the flagship event of UK Coffee Week. Friday was an industry day, with a public session in the evening, followed by the launch party. If you’ve already got your tickets, you can check out some of the things you might want to see when you go. If you are thinking of going, but don’t have a ticket, then it’s too late: the Festival is now sold out! Make sure you go next year instead!
If you are going, I have three tips for you. The first is that there is no cloakroom, so whatever you bring, you will have to wear/carry around with you while you’re there. Since it’s very crowded, best not bring your rucksack unless you absolutely have to! Secondly, do bring some water, since while there’s plenty of coffee to drink, you’ll soon get dehydrated if you don’t have something else to go with it. Finally, everything is served in takeaway cups, so if you hate waste, bring your own!
So, what did I get up to while I was there…?
It’s fair to say that I was blown away by the coffee scene in Montréal. I came to it armed with precisely zero foreknowledge and left deeply impressed with the range and quality of the coffee spots dotted around the city. Café Plume is another of the new crop of places which have bloomed in the last 18 months or so. It was recommended to me by Marie- Ève of the Pikolo Espresso Bar and her recommendation proved to be spot on.
Café Plume is best described as a neighbour café. Located on the eastern edge of the plateau area of Montréal, opposite Parc Jeanne-Mance, it’s a laid-back, relaxed and friendly place with coffee that’s every bit as good as its setting. Throw in a generous provision of power outlets and free wifi and you have the sort of place that makes you want to move in next door (or, in the case of Café Plume, move into one of the flats above the shop). Or maybe just move into Plume itself!
Regular readers will know of my love affair with the Boston Tea Party, the coffee shop chain which started off in Park Street, Bristol, and is steadily spreading north, east and south. That’s not to say that I like all the branches, but the ones I don’t tend to be the exception rather than the rule. So, when I found myself in Worcester on a rainy Saturday afternoon with an hour or so to kill, I made a bee-line for the Boston Tea Party on Broad Street.
Like its siblings, the Worcester BTP is instantly recognisable as a BTP, but sufficiently different to be its own place. Also, like every one I’ve been to except the Cheltenham Road branch, it’s split over two floors. And this one has its own aeroplane! With lots of windows, plenty of space and a great layout, this is a relaxing place to drink good coffee with friendly, helpful staff, which is all I’m really looking for.
[Note that if, like me, you use Googlemaps, in this case, don’t! Googlemaps has the BTP on the corner of Angel Street and Angel Place, whereas it’s actually on the corner of Broad Street and Angel Place.]