Ironically I seem to be visiting the various Artigiano Espresso branches in reverse order of opening. First I went to the Exeter branch (opened just before Christmas). Then, three weeks later, I was in London’s New Oxford Street, where Artigiano opened about a month before it did in Exeter. All that’s left for me now is to visit the original branch at St Paul’s. Which has been open a year or more…
Regular readers will know that I really liked the Exeter branch and I have to say that I like the New Oxford Road branch even better! It’s very similar to Exeter, only more so, with the added bonus of a really lovely mezzanine level. Overall it’s about half the size, which, coupled with the layout, gives it a more intimate feel.
It has the same Artigiano offerings of food, cake, coffee (from Cornwall’s Origin), beer/wine/cocktails, friendly staff and late evening opening which make the chain as a whole such a winner. Add to that the wonderful surroundings and the only thing that puzzles me is why it’s not packed out every day. So, do yourself a favour and get down to New Oxford Street right now!
December 2014: Sadly, too few of us made it down to New Oxford Street (myself included) and Artigiano Espresso has now closed. However, there’s a new Artigiano in Reading if you’re interested.
You can read more of my thoughts after the (massive!) gallery.
Artigiano Espresso on New Oxford Street is about half the size of the mini-chain’s new Exeter branch (I’ve heard that the St Paul’s branch is half the size of Oxford Street, leading me to formulate Artigiano’s Law: each new coffee shop must be twice the size of the previous one). It’s a lovely space, pretty much the same width/height as Exeter, but only half as deep. It’s done out in similar fashion: exposed brick walls, white wooden panelling and wooden flooring, but with the bonus of a lovely mezzanine level at the back. This is pretty generous in size and has some great seating, including coffee tables, traditional tables/chairs, armchairs and a couple of great sofas.
Downstairs the bulk of the seating is as you come in. On the left, there are some tables between the window and the counter, while on the right, there’s a table in the window, a low six-person table with bar-stools and a high eight-person table with high bar chairs. Opposite the counter, stairs lead up to the mezzanine.
As in Exeter, the counter holds the cold drinks, food and cake, while there is a separate counter for the espresso machine. This is right at the back, under the mezzanine level and there is some more seating back here. The food/drink offerings are also the same as Exeter: beer, wine and cocktails to go with soft drinks, tea/coffee, and sandwiches/nibbles. In this respect, it reminds me a little of Notes.
I was there twice, once on a very quiet, wet Wednesday evening and again on the morning of my birthday. During the evening it was very dark inside, with the lights kept deliberately low. I think the staff were going more for bar atmosphere than coffee shop. This makes it a nice cosy spot for a quiet drink and chat (although the music’s a bit loud for chatting; I note it was quieter during the day). However, using a laptop or reading is tricky. At half the tables I tried, it was so dark that I couldn’t see my keyboard to type on, let alone read! On my return in the daytime, the huge windows at the front, couple with the generous lights and a pair of large mirrors, meant that was very bright, although the mezzanine level was still suitably subdued.
All the coffee is from Cornwall’s Origin. On my first visit I had a very smooth decaf flat white, with good milk structure and flavour, although the coffee could have done with coming through the milk a bit more. I also had a tasty cheese and tomato bun with a good, crisp crust to give it a bit of body and a tomato with some taste to it.
On my return, I kick-started my day with a piccolo and a very fine pain au chocolate. Artigiano had just switched to an exclusive house-blend from Origin, a mix of two Brazilian beans, one pulped and one naturally processed. It went very well with the milk in the piccolo, not getting lost as the decaf had. This prompted me to try it as a straight espresso, where I found it equally as good. It was sweet when first hitting the palate, but then gave way to a touch of bitterness which I really liked.
|104 NEW OXFORD STREET • LONDON • WC1A 1HB|
|www.artigiano.uk.com||+44 (0)20 7580 4435|
|Monday||07:30 – 22:30||Seating||Tables, Armchairs, Sofas|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 22:30||Food||Sandwiches, Nibbles, Cake|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 22:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||07:30 – 22:30||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Friday||07:30 – 22:30||Wifi||Free (O2, registration required)|
|Saturday||09:00 – 22:30||Power||Limited|
|Sunday||09:00 – 22:30||Mobile||3G, Voice|
|Chain||Yes||Visits||12th, 17th February 2014|
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