I first met Russell, or Doctor Espresso, as he is better known, at the Caffe Culture Show, where he threatened to come to see me on Christmas Day with a baseball bat (presumably as a present) if I didn’t visit his newly-opened café in Putney. So, one sticky summer’s evening in August, I fulfilled my promise, doing myself out of a Christmas present in the process…
Putney is rapidly becoming a speciality coffee hub for southwest London, with Doctor Espresso starting his own outpost just over the river, on the north bank of the Thames. However, third -wave coffee aficionados need not apply: Doctor Espresso Caffetteria is a lovely Italian-style café/espresso bar, distinctly old-school in outlook. It has London’s oldest working espresso machine, a classic Gaggia Tipo America, which is a joy to behold.
Of course, a venerable machine is of no use at all if the coffee coming out of it isn’t up to scratch, but fortunately Doctor Espresso’s Gaggia delivers a classic Italian espresso, using beans roasted in Italy: a fitting tribute to the great machine. This is backed up by some lovely Italian food: panini, calzone, pizza, pasta & salad, along with some delicious cakes and pastries.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Directly opposite Putney Bridge tube station (District Line) Doctor Espresso Caffetteria shares a divided shop with the greengrocer next door (who also has a florist stall out front). Seating is limited: there are three outside tables, one directly in front of the shop, with the other two under big sun umbrellas next to the florist stall. Inside, between window and counter, a small bar has four very comfortable bar-chairs which swivel 360 degrees. I had great fun trying these out (repeatedly!).
Other than the two LCD monitors mounted on the wall above the counter and a modern sound track, the look’s very 1950s, taking the lead from the Gaggia. Old clocks dot the place and I shared the window bar with a very old (and defunct) grinder. The décor is quirky: an old trumpet and violin hang on the wall for example.
It all feels very Italian: I could easily believe that I’d stepped into a neighbourhood café somewhere in Italy. It helps that the staff, with one exception (an Italian-speaking Albanian), are Italian, as were the two customers who came in after me. So, for a short while, sitting with my espresso, listening to the chatter of Italian, I really felt that I was in Italy. This illusion is somewhat shattered by Doctor Espresso’s dulcet Northern Irish tones, although his partner, Vanessa, who hails from Rome, goes a long way to compensate for this.
The Caffetteria is long and thin, tapering slightly towards the back. It’s not an ideal space, but the good Doctor, mostly by his own hand, has worked miracles. The counter dominates the right-hand side of the shop, the rest of the space given over to the small seating area at the front. The back is taken up with a small kitchen and salad bar. Pride of place goes to the 1956 Gaggia Tipo America lever machine, lovingly rebuilt by Doctor Espresso himself. This is the oldest (working) machine in London, beating Bar Italia’s venerable Gaggia (which the Doctor also rebuilt) by three years.
The Gaggia greets you from the end of the counter as you come in with its three rows of blue lights. Some modern machines can be very pretty, but nothing beats this beauty. Next to the Gaggia are the panini and calzone, with a small but tempting selection of cake at the back of the counter.
I treated myself to a double espresso. Just watching it being drawn was a pleasure: single pull to prime, then slow release to draw the shot. Repeat to get the second: espresso making as it used to be.
The coffee is reminiscent of old-fashioned Italian espresso, so naturally I approve. Mine was very good, strong and smooth, with none of the fruity notes and acidity I associate with third-wave coffee. Size-wise it was reminiscent of how coffee used to be in the UK last millennium, when I preferred a single shot because a double was too big!
I’d (cunningly) timed my first visit to coincide with Russell (& Vanessa) being out of the country. Russell somehow got hold of me on the phone while I was there and made me promise to visit when they were back (he’s very persuasive!). On my return, Vanessa herself pulled me a very short single shot which was even better… Espresso heaven…
October 2014: You can find out what happened when I visited Doctor Espresso Caffetteria as part of the Coffee Spot’s 2nd birthday celebrations!
February 2015: Check out the second Doctor Espresso’s, Doctor Espresso – Mama V’s, which is in Clapham High Street.
September 2016: See what I made of the third Doctor Espresso, Doctor Espresso N3, the biggest yet, which is in Fulham High Street.
|3 STATION APPROACH • PUTNEY BRIDGE • LONDON • SW6 3UH|
|www.facebook.com/pages/Doctor-Espresso-Caffetteria||+44 (0) 7961 167864|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Bespoke blend from Italy (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||Bar, Tables Outside|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 19:00||Cards||Cash Only (at present)|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Yes (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||9th, 28th August 2013|
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