Ironically the first time I came across Artigiano was on twitter when it opened its first store in London near St Paul’s Cathedral. A second branch (now sadly closed) followed towards the end of 2013 on New Oxford Street, but I still didn’t get a chance to visit (since rectified). Then, when I was planning my trip to Exeter, up popped a tweet from Artigiano’s third branch. It was, I decided, fate.
In a further irony, despite setting up their first two cafes in London, Artigiano’s owners are actually from the Exeter area and, having established the concept, they opened their third branch closer to home just before Christmas.
The contrast between Artigiano and the first port of call on my Exeter trip, Devon Coffee, couldn’t be greater. While Devon Coffee is small and intimate, Artigiano is like a barn in comparison (albeit a very nice barn). A cathedral to coffee as customer put it (and I can see what he meant). You could easily fit most of Devon Coffee behind one of the two counters in Artigiano. The similarities don’t end there since both serve the same coffee from Cornwall roasters, Origin, although Artigiano has a much wider range of food, cake and alcohol.
August 2016: Artigiano has now added branches in Cardiff and Reading.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Bizarrely, although they are totally different in scale, my first port of call, Devon Coffee, and Artigiano have roughly the same dimensions, both being long and thin with wonderfully high ceilings. Artigiano is huge though, one of the Coffee Shops with the biggest single floor area I’ve been in. In contrast, Devon Coffee is about as long as Artigiano is wide.
Despite its narrow store-front and great depth, Artigiano is bright enough. Almost the entire store front is glass, with plenty of lights hanging from the ceiling and a sky-light at the back. The walls are a mix of bare (pale) brick and white wood panels, while the very high ceiling makes it feel very spacious, although I suspect that this (which is very echoy) will make it noisy when full.
There is a huge range of seating, starting with a small window-bar to the right as you come in, or a cocktail table to your left. Beyond that, on either side, are some low tables, then comes the first of two counters on your left. This one is dedicated to cake and sandwiches and is also where you order your coffee. Opposite it, on the right, is a row of high, four-person tables beyond which is a second counter in the back-half of the store, with a pair of two-group La Marzocco espresso machines, with a pair of grinders for the house-blend and guest (both from Origin). There’s also a lot more seating opposite the second counter; long, communal tables, a couple of smaller ones and some comfortable-looking armchairs and sofas. If that wasn’t enough, there are more seats beyond the coffee counter right at the back of the shop!
I was strictly on espresso for this visit, which was just as well since, despite its size, Artigiano doesn’t do pour-over (I guess the clue is in the name: “Artigiano Espresso & Wine Bar”). I had the house-blend, which was the same mix of Brazilian coffees that I had in Devon Coffee. However, it tasted very different, coming out as a bright espresso, which was quite fruity, but very (given my palette), surprisingly pleasant.
At this point I was caught taking pictures of my coffee by Charlie the barista who came over and offered me a single shot of the guest, a single origin from Nicaragua. This was a curious one, not as exciting as the house blend, but it got more interesting as it cooled (a neat trick with espresso since I rarely leave it long enough to get cool!) and had a slightly bitter aftertaste to it with the last mouthful.
We got chatting before I got introduced to Matt the manager, then Joe, one of the owners, came in and joined us. Normally I like to do my visits incognito, but at this point my cover was totally blown.
One of the things that impressed me with Artigiano was how busy it was: it had only been open a month and yet it was already buzzing, no mean feat when you are trying to fill a place as big as Artigiano. It was all the more impressive since the coffee is quite far from the standard fare served up by the chains and yet the good folks of Exeter seemed to love it!
|248 HIGH STREET • EXETER • EX4 3LF|
|Monday||07:30 – 23:30||Roaster||Origin (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 23:30||Seating||Tables, Bar, Sofas|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 23:30||Food||Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||07:30 – 00:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 00:30||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:30 – 00:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 18:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Yes||Visits||23rd January 2014|
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