There’s a first time for everything. The Attic, or to give it its full name, the Attic Gallery Coffee Bar, occupies the floor above Monday’s Coffee Spot, Harlequin Coffee and Tea House, making this the first time that I’ve done two Coffee Spots in the same building. The churlish might argue that since they’re owned by the same person, the lovely Gordon (who doubles as head barista), and even share a website, they’re actually one Coffee Spot, spread over two floors.
I beg to differ: Harlequin and The Attic are very different places and cater to very different customers. Both serve Has Bean coffee, but that’s where the similarity ends. While Harlequin is a speciality coffee shop masquerading as a traditional tearoom, The Attic employs no such subterfuge. In fact, I’d go as far as to describe it as coffee-geek paradise. Serving excellent food. And craft beer (and now gin & tonic too).
If you’re not really a coffee geek and are just looking for superb coffee in relaxing surroundings, then The Attic, with its comfortable sofas and lovely atmosphere, ticks those boxes too. However, just make sure you come on the right days: it’s only open Thursday to Saturday!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
As well as being two Coffee Spots in one building, The Attic’s a two-in-one itself: lovely coffee shop, plus coffee-geek heaven. Or, if you include food, three-in-one. Or four-in-one, counting alcohol, or five-in-one if you consider gin separately from craft beer.
As a coffee shop alone, The Attic’s well worth climbing two (fairly steep) flights of stairs for. The counter, in front of you as you enter, occupies most of the back half of the room, which is to your right. In a little nook by the counter, with a bench against the back wall, there’s a table, plus two chairs.
Immediately to your left, its back to you, is a three-seat sofa, with coffee table and four chairs opposite. Beyond this, against the wall, another three-seater, again with coffee table and chairs, occupies a prime spot by the first of two windows.
The second window, to its right, has another coffee table, a row of three chairs on either side. Between this and the counter are two pairs of tables, and, against the far wall, there’s a two-person table and a small bar with padded stools. There’s plenty of natural light, plus a generous selection of spots, with lights above the bar.
I’m always delighted when somewhere serving great coffee is open in the evenings. If there’s great food, that’s a welcome bonus. I had the veggie platter: proper Wensleydale, mature Cheddar, French Bree, hummus, olives, two house chutneys (tomato + regular), salad and artisan bread. The chutneys were very sweet, the cheese excellent. The Bree, in particular, was outstanding. The Wensleydale, medium-hard and so creamy, was the first I’ve really liked!
Despite this, The Attic, for me, is all about coffee. The menu, with its focus on the beans, is central: six single-origins are complimented by “the revolver”, a regularly-rotating blend or single-origin serving as the house-espresso (during my visit, “Kraftwerk”, an exclusive blend roasted for the Tour de France). Bean selected, there’s then a discussion about preparation methods: espresso, Aeropress, Kalita Wave, Chemex (for sharing). Reminiscent of Dublin’s 3FE, the key is engagement, having a conversation with the customer, but without crossing the boundary where he/she becomes uncomfortable.
When it comes to actually making the coffee, there’s an Anfim grinder for espresso (“the revolver”), while an EK43 handles the single-origins and decaf, grinding for any method, including espresso. The ultimate goal is consistency, achieved through volumetrics and repeatable processes.
After extensive consultation with Gordon, I tried the Tanzania Burka Natural, which was superb as an espresso. Smooth and sweet, it went down a treat without a hint of bitterness or acidity. I followed that with a flat white, using Has Bean’s regular decaf, which came strongly through the (amazingly steamed) milk. I took half an hour to drink it and it held its structure throughout, while tasting just as good cold as it did when hot!
The highlight was the couple of hours spent talking with Gordon, where his passion for everything, including the food and alcohol, shone through. The Attic/Harlequin is a continuing journey, starting in 2006 when Gordon took the business over. Moving into speciality coffee a year later, The Attic opened in 2011. Gordon’s now looking at more late-night opening and, since my visit, has added gin & tonic alongside the craft beer.
Who knows what comes next? Visit and find out for yourself!
August 2015: Since my visit in the summer of 2014, Gordon has re-arranged the furniture in The Attic. You can see some of the new layout in the gallery.
|2 KING’S SQUARE • YORK • YO1 8BH|
|http://harlequinyork.com||+44 (0) 1904 630 631|
|Monday||CLOSED||Roaster||Has Bean (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||CLOSED||Seating||Tables, Bar, Sofas|
|Thursday||12:00 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||12:00 – 20:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa (£0.30 under £15)|
|Saturday||12:00 – 20:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||21st June 2014, 23rd August 2015|
A special shout-out, by the way, to Aaron and Brittany, a lovely American couple I met at The Attic. Living in Manchester, they were on a quick trip over the Pennines to check out the York coffee scene :-).
You can find out what fellow coffee blogger Alison made of the Attic over on Black Coffee and Other Stories).
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