Doctor Espresso – Mama V’s

A beautiful espresso at Doctor Espresso - Mama V's, made with the restored 1957 Gaggia Tipo America lever machineWhat’s going on? For the third Coffee Spot in a row, I’m visiting places in the order in which they opened! Hot on the heels of the original Artisan in Putney and the first Society Café on Bath’s Kingsmead Square, comes Doctor Espresso – Mama V’s in Clapham High Street!

I visited the original Doctor Espresso, Doctor Espresso Caffetteria, opposite Putney Bridge tube station, in the summer of 2013, not long after it had opened. So it seemed fitting that I should pop into Doctor Espresso’s second venture, named Mama V’s (after Vanessa, co-owner of Doctor Espresso) a couple of months after it had opened. Following the precedent set by the Caffetteria, Mama V’s is also right by a station, this time the overground, where it is nestled in an arch under the line by Clapham High Street station.

Mama V’s serves the same basic menu as the Caffetteria: coffee, cake and some lovely Italian food (panini, calzone, pizza, pasta & salad). If ever a place was designed to appeal to me, it’s Doctor Espresso’s. Pride of place, of course, goes to a classic 1957 Gaggia Tipo America lever espresso machine, just one year younger than the one in the Caffetteria!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The view of Doctor Espresso - Mama V's, as seen approaching from Clapham High Street...
  • ... and here's the view as you come the other way, from Clapham High Street station!
  • Nice, clear signage.
  • That about sums it up.
  • However, the A-board is not about to left out of the act.
  • An interesting boast!
  • Mama V's, seen head-on.
  • One of the two tables sat outside, one either side of the door.
  • The view in through the (right-hand) window...
  • ... and the view in through the left-hand one, where we have the beautiful Gaggia.
  • Stepping inside, there isn't much space for seating. To the right is this window bar...
  • ... while at the back on the right is this interesting sofa and (book) table.
  • The sofa, according to Russell, comes from Bill Gates' old office at Microsoft.
  • The table, meanwhile, does not. Nice calendar though!
  • The spine of the top 'book' actually holds two drawers.
  • Next comes the counter, the dominant feature of Mama V's, hand-built in glass & copper pipe.
  • Finally, we have the other counter, home of the espresso machine.
  • And, in pride of place, facing the window, the 1957 Gaggia Tipo America.
  • That's not all. Over on the main counter, there is this (working) 1932 cylnder model...
  • ... while the grinder, which also works, is from the 1950s.
  • I forgot to ask about the statue. Pretty though.
  • The till, which has also been fully restored, dates to 1923.
  • Just as in the Doctor Espresso Caffettiera, there are musical instruments on the walls.
  • Nice lantern...
  • ... and the obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • There are pictures on the walls too, only the walls quickly become the curve of the ceiling.
  • The menu, over by the espresso machine, has a similar problem to the pictures.
  • However, this is what I came for...
  • ... although there are lots of sweet things to tempt you by the espresso machine.
  • ... including these croissants...
  • ... while all the savoury things are on top of the counter.
  • However, to business. The Gaggia was busy while I was there.
  • I love watching a lever machine in action (when in the hands of an expert).
  • First, the initial pull.
  • Let the handle come about half way up...
  • ... and then the second pull.
  • Now we just let the handle return to the upright position as the coffee extracts...
  • Presumably this is where the term 'pulling a shot' came from.
  • Almost there now...
  • And we're done!
  • My beautiful espresso (prepared earlier).
  • It being lunchtime, I was tempted by something savoury to go with it...
  • I settled for the Calzone Parmigiano, which came on its own wooden paddle.
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In size, Mama V’s is similar to the original Doctor Espresso Caffetteria, although the layouts are very different. The Caffetteria’s long and thin; Mama V’s wide and, while deep, the back’s given over to the kitchen, leaving a seating area not much bigger than the Caffetteria’s.

Mama V’s occupies the final railway arch in a row running along Voltaire Road, which connects Clapham High Street with the station of the same name. It immediately reminded me of Bristol’s Hart’s Bakery and Kentish Town’s The Fields Beneath, although neither of those is technically under a railway line. In size, Mama V’s is similar to Fields, while in layout and feel, it’s more reminiscent of the much bigger Hart’s.

Coming out of the station, turn left and, following the railway, you’ll come to Mama V’s, tucked away in a sheltered corner, affording plenty of space for outdoor seating. For now there’s just a couple of tables, one either side of the door, but come the warmer weather, expect to see this expanded.

The front of Mama V’s is completely glass, so it’s both very bright inside and you can see everything from out on the street. Sensibly, the gorgeous Gaggia has its own counter on the left-hand side, facing the window for all to see.

Entering through the glass doors in the centre of the arch, you’re immediately confronted by the main counter. Built by the fair hands of Russell, aka Doctor Espresso, this wonderful construction of glass blocks flanked by copper piping is modelled on a similar (but smaller) counter at the Caffetteria. It holds the savoury goodies and separates the customers from the kitchen at the back of the arch.

To your left is the second counter, holding the Gaggia Tipo America lever espresso machine, beautifully restored by Doctor Espresso. This L-shaped counter has the Gaggia facing the window and the bottom of the L facing the customers, providing a convenient point to order your coffee and food.

What seating there is occupies the remainder of the space: between the Gaggia and the window is space for a narrow window-bar, while on the other side, a four-person, L-shaped bar occupies the right-hand window and some of the wall. Beyond that, tucked between wall and main counter, is Russell’s other pride and joy, a sofa which came from Bill Gates’ office. There’s also a lovely coffee table in the shape of two giant books resting on top of each other.

The Gaggia, the second-oldest espresso machine in use in London, dates from 1957, but it’s not the oldest working espresso machine at Mama V’s. On the main counter is a 1932 Tossetti & Pirovano cylinder machine, also restored by Russell, but for various reasons, it’s not in use. Even older is the 1923 till, which despite being in full working order, isn’t in use either. Instead, Mama V’s uses (much to my amusement) an iPad till.

Doctor Espresso uses a classic Italian espresso blend, with beans roasted in Italy, which is very much to my taste. I had an espresso, which was as wonderful as ever, strong and smooth without being bitter. I backed this up with a Calzone Parmigiano, a lovely, crisp, folded pizza packed full of vegetables and oozing with cheese, all consumed on Bill’s old sofa!

You can also see what I made of the third Doctor Espresso, Doctor Espresso N3, on Fulham High Street, which I visited in 2016.

10 VOLTAIRE ROAD • LONDON • SW4 6DQ +44 (0) 7961 167864
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Bespoke blend from Italy (espresso only)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Sofa, Window-bar, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 22:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 22:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 22:00 Wifi No
Sunday 07:00 – 17:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 17th February 2015

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8 thoughts on “Doctor Espresso – Mama V’s

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