Mother’s Milk


Thumbnail - Mother's Milk (DSC_9567)The first thing you need to know about Mother’s Milk is that it’s called Rosalind’s Kitchen. No, not really, but that’s what’s on the window of the tiny store on Little Portland Street, which is how I managed to walk past it three times without noticing even though I was looking for it! In fairness, there’s usually a bench and A-board outside, but it was raining when I went by and they’d just been brought inside.

When you do track it down, you’ll find a delightful little coffee shop with just enough room for the counter, an espresso machine and a few stools. I got told off on twitter for suggesting that it might be crowded with two customers, but I was only exaggerating ever so slightly. Yes, it really is that small.

The brain-child of baristas Will and James, the focus is entirely on coffee: no cake, food, tea or hot chocolate, just coffee. Despite its size, Mother’s Milk still manages to offer the usual espresso-range and filter coffee made via the Aeropress. The other thing that makes it stand out is the coffee itself: Mother’s Milk is London’s only permanent outlet for JB Kaffee, a micro-roaster from Munich.

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La Bottega Milanese, The Light

A flat white from La Bottga Milanese in Leeds. The coffee is in a white, tulip cup with the words "La Bottga Milanese" written on the inside of the rim, with the cafe's logo on the front.One of two outlets for La Bottega Milanese in Leeds, the branch in the Light pre-dates the recently-opened branch in Bond Court. Naturally, this being the Coffee Spot, I visited them in reverse order, first calling into Bond Court before venturing to The Light (which is a shopping and retail centre built around the old headquarters building of the Leeds Permanent Building Society).

The Light itself is a wonderful structure, of soaring brick facades and glass ceilings. La Bottega Milanese occupies a corner spot on the ground floor, just by the escalators up to the cinema. You can sit “outside” on the street without having to worry about being rained on, since it’s all enclosed by a glass ceiling.

If you’ve read my piece on Bond Court, you’ll already be familiar with La Bottega Milanese’s offering. If not, La Bottega Milanese expertly blends Italian espresso tradition with modern, third-wave roasting know-how from Grumpy Mule. The food’s pretty decent too: in the morning, pastries and other breakfast goodies, replaced at lunch by sandwiches and salads, which in turn give way to cake in the afternoon. Finally, come evening, there are small plates, tapas and beer/wine. Truly a café for all occasions!

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Foxcroft & Ginger Update

The letters "F & G" enclosed in a heart with an arrow through it, painted on the door, with Foxcroft & Ginger written underneathIt’s been almost two years since I first visited Foxcroft & Ginger on Soho’s Berwick Street, drawn by the recommendations of my friend Hayley and the descriptions of the legendary muffins. Since then I’ve been an irregular visitor, drawn back by the mis-matched crockery (which, although depleted in number, is still there) and, more importantly, the gorgeous basement, still a benchmark for Coffee Spot basements everywhere.

Although the number of Coffee Spots staying open into the evening has been steadily expanding, with the likes of Villiers joining the more-established Notes and Fernandez & Wells, Foxcroft & Ginger offers another alternative for those looking for good coffee in the evenings. It helps that between them they offer a wide variety of excellent food (and wine) to go with their outstanding coffee.

So, what has changed in the two years since I first went to Foxcroft & Ginger? Well, on the one hand, not a great deal, but on the other hand, quite a bit. Sometimes Coffee Spots re-invent themselves, but, in the case of Foxcroft & Ginger, it’s been a steady evolution, rather than revolution, which has driven change.

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A carved owl in the corner between counter and door at Télescope in Paris.Télescope is one of those semi-legendary Parisian cafés that’s closely associated with the rise of third-wave coffee in the French capital. I first tried to visit in May 2013, but was put off by the queue which reached out of the door and so gave it a miss. My loss.

Returning to Paris last summer, I made a point of putting Télescope top of my list and was quite fortunate to call in on the last day of my trip, which, coincidentally, was Télescope’s first day open after the holidays. Perhaps that explained the lack of queues this time around. Télescope is, by the way, pretty small, with just enough room for a few tables and the counter, which might also explain the queues on my first visit. It doesn’t take much before it’s overflowing!

Once inside, the focus is firmly on the coffee, with a regular rotation of beans from a range of roasters from around the world. The espresso typically changes every week, while there are usually two or three options through the Aeropress. Télescope also does a traditional French petit déjeuner and there’s an excellent selection of cake if you need some sustenance during the day!

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Boston Tea Party, Salisbury

The letters BTP (with the B in white, TP in blue) over the words Boston Tea Party (Boston in white, Tea Party in blue)Regular readers will know that I have a love affair with the Boston Tea Party, the West Country chain that started in Bristol in the late 1990s. Indeed, my first ever Coffee Spot was the original on Park Street. So, I thought it was about time I visited what is, so far, the closest Boston Tea Party to my home town of Guildford. It also happens to be, I believe, the biggest and occupies the oldest building, the Grade 1 listed Old George Inn, which dates back to the early 1300s.

As with all the other Boston Tea Parties, it has taken an iconic building and made it its own, unique place. Simultaneously, however, it’s instantly recognisable as a Boston Tea Party, a trick that’s very hard to manage and looks effortless when it’s pulled off.

Sprawling over three floors of a magnificent, historic building, the Salisbury Boston Tea Party boasts over 200 seats upstairs alone, plus an attractive outdoor seating area on the pedestrianised High Street. There’s the usual coffee offering from Bristol-based Extract Coffee Roasters, tea from Bristol-based Canton Tea Co, oodles of cake and an excellent food menu based around several all-day breakfast options.

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Grindsmith, on a rainy day in Manchester. A rainy day? Well, I never!A relatively recent addition to Manchester’s coffee scene, Grindsmith opened in February last year. Just across the river in (say it quietly) Salford, it’s a pioneer, funding itself via Kickstarter. I should confess that I have a vested interest, having funded Grindsmith sufficiently to get the Coffee Spot a prime spot on the counter-front, just below the espresso machine.

Grindsmith isn’t big, on the scale of Manchester’s very own Caffeine Cube, aka the original Caffeine & Co on St James’ Square. However, it’s surprisingly spacious and comfortable, dispelling my original misconception that it was little more than a glorified container. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: Grindsmith’s lovely, bright and gloriously-appointed shop would grace any open space in Manchester and beyond. Frankly, if it weren’t for the fact that someone would be bound to notice its absence, I’d be tempted to relocate it to my back garden…

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The word Peña written in black letters on woodPeña is a recent addition to Glasgow’s ever-growing coffee scene, having joined the ranks in the summer of 2014. Located in the West End, near the university, it is (literally) just around the corner from Artisan Roast and not far from the likes of Papercup and the Veldt Deli on the nearby Great Western Road.

Other than being a bit Tardis-like (small on the outside, surprisingly large on the inside), Peña’s main claim-to-fame is its toasted-sandwich-and-coffee business model. Unfortunately for Peña, I’ve dropped the Coffee Spot’s Best Cheese Toastie Award! Peña somewhat blots its copybook by serving soup (a soup toastie, anyone?) and cake to go with the toasted sandwiches, while there’s tea and shakes alongside the coffee.

However, this is redeemed by providing sweet as well as savoury toasties (The Nigella: white chocolate, raspberry jam, ricotta and almonds, caught my eye) and by getting its filter coffee from Berlin legends, The Barn. To my knowledge, Peña is the only place in Glasgow to regularly stock The Barn. The filter coffee is available via the Aeropress, with the particular beans on offer rotating on a regular basis. Espresso is provided by Workshop’s ubiquitous Cult of Done seasonal blend.

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Detail from the TAKK sign which hangs outside on Tariff Street: the TAKK logo, a cut-out T over the words "TAKK Coffee House", etched in wood in black .In Manchester’s Northern Quarter, five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Station, there is an unprepossessing street on which, about half way down, is an unprepossessing store front, part of a tall (four storey) terrace of solid, brick-built buildings. This in turn proclaims itself to be the home of TAKK, a relative newcomer to the Manchester coffee scene. Perhaps this is down to innate modesty (although given the A-boards, I doubt that) or maybe it’s a cunning ploy to lull you into a false sense of security, but the exterior really gives no clues as to the delights that await you when you step inside.

TAKK, which is “Thanks” or “Cheers” in Icelandic, is a friendly, welcoming place, its size concealed by what appears to be a relatively small store front (it’s got roughly the same floor area as Manchester’s North Tea Power). The coffee is excellent, with a bespoke house-blend from Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Roasters (NorthernProjekt) and regularly-rotating single-origins from various guests on filter, with Berlin legends The Barn as a mainstay. Add to that an increasing focus on food, with locally-sourced ingredients, regular specials and simple menus, part of TAKK’s push to be the place for breakfast, lunch and coffee.

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Laynes Espresso, Belgrave Hall

The letters "LE" for Laynes Espresso in black on white, in the centre of a black circle with the words "Belgrave Music Hall" around the edge.Leeds’ much-loved Laynes Espresso, down by the station, has a second outlet, perhaps best described as a pop-up concession (although it’s permanent) on the ground floor of the sprawling Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen. Occupying a simple counter at the back of the main room, at first sight there’s not a lot to Laynes Espresso, just the espresso machine, some cake and a bar with three stools. There’s no pour-over filter and none of the food (not even toast!) that you’ll find at Laynes HQ.

However, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Since Laynes is part of Belgrave Music Hall, you can take your coffee and sit anywhere you like, including the roof terrace. You want food? There’s burgers (Patty Smiths) and pizza (Dough Boys). There’s even a bar… And, once a month, Laynes takes the place over for Sunday brunch!

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Coffee Culture, York

A beautiful piccolo in a glass at Coffee Culture, York.Coffee Culture in York is an independent coffee shop, not to be confused with any other coffee shops called Coffee Culture anywhere else in the UK (or the world for that matter). In city full of great coffee shops (Spring Espresso; Perky Peacock, Gillygate; Harlequin) in some fantastic settings (The Attic; Perky Peacock, Lendal) you need to be something special in order to stand out. Fortunately, Coffee Culture occupies perhaps the most unique space I’ve seen for a coffee shop. Split over three floors of (what feels like) a very old building on York’s Goodramgate, connected by a narrow, windy and rather wonky set of staircases, Coffee Culture is a delight. Unless you sit downstairs, be prepared for lots of steep stairs to climb!

Coffee Culture gets its coffee from local roaster, York Coffee Emporium with a house-blend and two guests. During my visit they were a Peru Tinku (Fairtrade and Organic) & Australian Skybury Limited Edition. All three are available as espresso drinks or as a cafetiere for one or two. There is a limited range of cake, but an impressive food menu for somewhere so small, all of which is cooked in the tiny kitchen behind the counter.

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Forum Coffee House

The Forum Coffee House logo, with a drawing of a Chemex coffee brewer between the words "Coffee" and "House".A relative newcomer to Bath’s rapidly-expanding coffee scene, the Forum Coffee House had only been open for a month when I visited it in October as part of my Caffeine Magazine trip. In a city which can boast the coffee legend that is Colonna & Small’s as well as some outstanding physical spaces, any newcomer needs something special about it in order to carve out its own niche.

Part of The Forum, Bath’s largest convert venue and an old Art Deco cinema, the Coffee House takes its lead from its surroundings, being a beautifully-appointed and fairly unique space. Its island counter is the focus of the coffee house, while simultaneously dividing it into a series of smaller, more intimate spaces.

However, the Forum Coffee House doesn’t rest on its laurels, backing this up with a strong coffee-offering from Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Company. A concise espresso-based menu (offering the house espresso-blend and a decaf) is supplemented by the Forum’s signature, a choice of two single-origin beans through the Chemex. While I was there, the options were Indonesian or Brazilian.

There’s also a decent range of tea, bottled beers, wine and soft drinks, plus a small range of bread-based snacks and cake.

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