Literally a stone’s throw away from Monday’s Coffee Spot, Islington’s Tinderbox, we find relative newcomer, the CoffeeWorks Project, which recently celebrated its first birthday. In fact, you could see Tinderbox from the CoffeeWorks 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 (CoffeeWorks Project).
The CoffeeWorks 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, the CoffeeWorks 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!
December 2016: The CoffeeWorks Project is now a mini-chain with three branches (this, Leadenhall Market and Blackfriars Road) and, since the summer, it has been roasting all its own coffee.
September 2018: Good news and bad news. The CoffeeWorks Project is now a mini-chain with five branches, but sadly the Leadenhall Market branch has had to close.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
From the outset, the CoffeeWorks Project cuts an impressive figure on Islington’s High Street. Windows dominate the store-front, along with grey-painted frames, which makes it both visually appealing from the outside and bright on the inside. Bars running the length of the windows either side of the door also make it seem very busy and welcoming.
Although quite big, the CoffeeWorks Project is on several levels, feeling like two shops knocked into one. This creates several distinct spaces, each one having a fairly intimate feel. A brick wall, quite possibly load-bearing, sits like an island in the middle of the store, separating the counter from the bulk of the seating. The only drawback to this arrangement is that it makes it difficult to sit and watch the Slayer in action, but maybe that’s just me.
I liked the overall look and feel of the CoffeeWorks Project. It was an interesting mix of wood and whitewashed walls, with the occasional patch of exposed brickwork where the plaster had come away. The only thing that seemed a little incongruous was the stainless steel kitchen in the corner. Downstairs is a lovely garden, sadly closed for the winter!
The CoffeeProject Works also has an interesting ordering system. In most coffee shops, you order, then, if it’s a takeaway, move along to collect your coffee. In the CoffeeWorks Project, the order point is at the far end of the counter, past the Slayer, while the collection point is at the front of the counter. This means that if there’s a crowd, you have to push past those waiting for their coffee to order yours.
Alternatively, if you’re new to the CoffeeProject Works, you may well do what I did: wander up to the takeaway part of the counter and look nonplussed until a member of staff directs you around the corner to the right place. In fairness, when you get there, you are standing right in front of the menus!
It’s well worth the confusion though, since the coffee is excellent. I was there with Lee from Matthew Algie, who knows a thing or two about coffee, and we were soon purring in appreciation over the quality of our pour-overs. Between us, we tried the Rwanda Shara (washed) and the Sumatra Wahana Lingtong (Natural), passing on the Kenya Karani (washed). While we both liked the Rwanda, the consensus was that the Sumatra was all-round a more satisfying cup. Although the Rwandan was very fine, with plenty of body, the Sumatran was sharper, with a little less body. While it was more adventurous than the Rwandan and did more for the palette, it wasn’t so adventurous as to scare me off!
Lee had to go at that point, but I followed it up (in the interests of self-preservation) with the decaf as a flat white. This meant passing up on the house bean, a Colombia Finca La Esperanza, which sounded quite interesting, and the guest, a Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo, which looked far too exciting for my palette! However, the decaf, a Colombia El Meridiano Rioblanco, was excellent, going very well with the milk. It was a lovely, smooth coffee, with no hints of bitterness or leaving a dry feeling in the mouth that you can sometimes get. The milk was also very well steamed.
|96-98 HIGH STREET • ISLINGTON • LONDON • N1 8EG|
|http://coffeeworksproject.com||+44 (0) 207 424 5020|
|Monday||07:30 – 18:00||Roaster||CoffeeWorks Project (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Bars, Sofas, Tables in Garden|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 18:00||Food||Cake, Lunch, Sandwiches|
|Thursday||07:30 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 18:00||Cards||Amex, Visa, Mastercard|
|Saturday||09:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free|
|Sunday||10:00 – 17:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Local||Visits||15th November 2013|
You can see what fellow blogger, Gladieater, made of the CoffeeWorks Project. You can also see what I made of Leadenhall Market branch of the CoffeeWorks Project, although this now now sadly closed.
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Maybe the reversal of the order system is focused on getting out? I’d be far less fazed by not having to get past people with a full cup to go!
Once you know how it works, it actually makes a lot of sense. It’s just very different from every other coffee shop in the world!
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