Ground Coffee, Kemp Town

The word "ground" with the "g" and "d" replaced by portafilters.On my first visit to Brighton, I made it all the way to Hove to visit its branch of Ground, the second branch of this local chain (if chain is the correct term for somewhere with just two branches). However, I failed to get east of the centre and so it was only on my return that I finally managed to track down the original Ground in the delightful Kemp Town. After all that, I’m pleased to say it was well worth the wait!

Compared to the Hove branch, the original Ground is quite a bit smaller, and, as a result, much more intimate. It also benefits from being on a south-facing corner, so, unlike its Hove counterpart, it’s flooded with light on a sunny day.

There’s a relatively straight-forward espresso-based menu, complimented by bulk-brew filter and tea from Canton Tea Co. A decent range of cake is joined by toast and a selection of three sandwiches for the more savoury-minded. Currently the coffee is from Union, with North Star guesting on filter, but all that is about to change, with Ground due to move over to North Star for all its coffee as a prelude to roasting its own.

January 2016: Ground has now started roasting its own coffee under the name Pharmacie.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Approaching through Kemp Town from Brighton, one comes across this sunny corner...
  • ... where you'll find Ground, here since 2009. I, of course, arrived mid-redecoration!
  • This is what it looks like now it's finished (picture courtesy of Ground Coffee).
  • Check out the bench on the quiet street. It'll get the sun in a month or two!
  • Talking of the weather, the A-board's a bit optimistic; it was blowing a gale while I was there!
  • This, however, got my attention. Is this the furthest south Leeds' North Star has been?
  • Stepping inside, the view from the door.
  • Once again, I'd managed to catch it mid-decoration. This is what it looks like now the walls have been painted! Personally, I quite liked the bare plaster... (picture courtesy of Ground Coffee)
  • Some of the tables lining both sets of windows.
  • There's also a high table in the corner & another set of bar-chairs at the end of the counter.
  • The corner table in more detail.
  • I think if I hadn't been meeting a friend for lunch, you'd have found me here though...
  • ... with this great view along the counter.
  • The view from the back, looking across the sunny interior towards the door.
  • There's also this cosy little room off to the right.
  • A view back from inside the cosy room (picture courtesy of Ground Coffee).
  • The lights were simple but effective.
  • There's plenty of coffee, and coffee-making kit, for sale.
  • Ground has a small range of sandwiches, plus toast, for lunch. And cake, of course.
  • The tea and coffee menu.
  • So, what to have? Something from the espresso machine, perhaps?
  • I think not. This, after all, is what caught my eye.
  • My lovely cup of (bulk-brewed) Kenyan from North Star...
  • ... which went very well with my (toasted) goat's cheese sandwich.
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The Kemp Town Ground occupies a rectangular spot on the corner of Saint George’s Road and Bloomsbury Street. The door’s on the corner, at 45 degrees to both walls, with a generous window on either side. This ensures that the front of the store is very bright, while the longer of the two walls, which runs along Bloomsbury Street, is punctuated by smaller windows which provide plenty of light to the back. There’s also a cosy little room, similarly facing onto Bloomsbury Street, accessible through a doorway in the back wall.

To the left of the door, a padded bench with a couple of two-person tables occupies the window on the Saint George’s Road side, while to the right, another bench, this time with five tables, runs the length of the wall. There are also three two-person tables in the back room.

The counter is diagonally opposite the door and takes up about two-thirds of the far wall. At the end nearest Saint George’s Road there are four bar-chairs, so you can sit at the counter and watch the baristas at work if you like. There’s also a five-person table, again with bar-chairs, in the corner. That’s it for seating, other than a bench outside on the (relatively) quiet Saint George’s Road.

The décor is simple, but effective, with wooden floorboards combining with plain, plastered walls (although since my visit they’ve now been painted) and what looks to be a woodchip ceiling.  Everything else is wood, with a wooden counter and wooden furniture completing the look. The exception to this is the cosy room at the back with its warm, yellow walls and plain, white ceiling.

While I was there, Ground was using Union Hand-roasted on espresso, with a Kenyan Kiangio AB from North Star Micro Roasters on bulk-brew filter. Ground used to do a lot more with hand-made pour-over and Aeropress, but demand has dwindled over the years so now it’s just bulk-brew filter. However, things are changing on the roasting front, with Ground about to move to North Star for all its coffee. At the time of writing, Union’s still on espresso, but if you want some, you’re going to have to move quickly. I reckon that by the end of next week, it will all be gone. Even the move to North Star is, in some ways, an interim measure, since Ground has plans in place to start roasting its own coffee in the near future.

Since Union is something of a known quantity (I’d already had a Union flat white at Café Coho, I decided to try the North Star Kenyan, even though I have an in-built prejudice against bulk-brew filter. I needn’t have worried though; this was no dark, bitter, stewed excuse for coffee that fortunately is rapidly becoming a distant memory these days. Instead, I was served with a lovely, light cup, full of delicate flavours. Had the staff told me it was the result of a V60 rather than having come out of a flask, I’d have happily believed them.

My friend, who had joined me for lunch, went the Union route and pronounced herself very happy with her soy latte, while we both enjoyed a toasted goat’s cheese sandwich with rocket and fig jam. This was quite lovely, packed with flavour and beautifully toasted, the perfect accompaniment to our coffee.

34-36 SAINT GEORGE’S ROAD • KEMP TOWN • BRIGHTON • BN2 1ED +44 (0) 1273 696441
Monday 07:30 – 18:00 Roaster Pharmacie (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:30 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Counter
Wednesday 07:30 – 18:00 Food Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 18:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:30 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 31st March 2015

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Brighton and Hove’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Brighton & Hove.

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