Espresso Kitchen

A classic white tulip espresso cup with the Espresso Kitchen logo on the frontI discovered Espresso Kitchen while in Bournemouth researching my feature on Dorset in Caffeine Magazine, Issue 15. It came highly recommended, by the folks at South Coast Roast no less, so I decided I really ought to pop over. In an area known as The Triangle, Espresso Kitchen’s just a few minutes’ walk from Richmond Hill/South Coast Roast. It’s a tiny place, seating nine at a push, and feels even fuller and busier, with all available surfaces covered with decoration of every conceivable type. A complete contrast, for example, to Monday’s Coffee Spot, the similarly-sized, but incredibly minimalist BLK Coffee.

Unlike BLK, which is less than three weeks old, Espresso Kitchen is approaching its third birthday. Owner and head-barista Fran is Italian. In setting up Espresso Kitchen, she wanted to recreate the traditional Italian espresso-bar atmosphere of her homeland, the sort of friendly, chatty place where everyone knows (almost) everyone else.

However, when it comes to the coffee itself, Fran parts ways with her compatriots. She’s no fan of the darkly roasted, bitter, robusta-inspired stereotype of Italian espresso. Instead, she turned to local roaster, Beanpress Coffee Co, who supplies the house-blend, and, along with various guests, a second espresso too.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Espresso Kitchen, tucked away on a corner in the heart of Bournemouth.
  • A busy, enticing A-board, much like what you'll find in Espresso Kitchen itself.
  • The outside seating. The road is quite quiet, if you don't mind the odd bus rumbling by...
  • ... but the view's not very enticing! Oh well, you can't have everything, I suppose...
  • Stepping inside, there's not much to Espresso Kitchen. This is the view from by the door.
  • Meanwhile, this is a panorama taken from the left-hand wall. And really, that's it.
  • A quick tour of the seating, starting with this table by the espresso machine...
  • ... which is one of two against this bench on the right-hand wall.
  • There's a window-bar along the front window, to the right of the door...
  • ... and there's this chair in the corner.
  • To the left of the door, there's another bar, this time along the left-hand wall.
  • The bar, as seen from the opposite side of the Espresso Kitchen.
  • I appreciate the hooks under the bar. There's another set under the window-bar.
  • Espresso Kitchen is full of nick-knacks, such as this hand-grinder at the end of the bar.
  • In the opposite corner, Espresso Kitchen has its own reusable cups on sale.
  • In yet another corner (by the window-bar), a wonderful vintage telephone. Nice roses too.
  • Talking of flowers, there are these pot-plants in the window to the left of the door.
  • There's also this one. Understandable sentiment: I don't want to be picked up in cafes either!
  • Bournemouth has a large, active surfing scene: cue surf boards attached to the ceiling.
  • They are both now part of the lighting system. You can see it better in this one.
  • There's also this highly-decorated surf board strapped to the wall.
  • Talking of decoration, take a look at these hand-drawn portraits of the staff.
  • Espresso Kitchen is cash only, in case you hadn't noticed.
  • As well as branded re-usable cups, there are Espresso Kitchen t-shirts to be had!
  • Light-fitting fans need not feel excluded. The light-fttings range from conventional...
  • ... through less conventional...
  • ... to re-used kitchen implements, including a colander...
  • ... and a cheese grater!
  • Getting back to the counter, what's that on the espresso machine?
  • Now that's the sort of riot I approve of!
  • There is quite an extensive selection of homemade cake on the counter...
  • ... starting with these two (gluten-free) beauties...
  • I'll let the labels do the talking.
  • Next up, we have the slices.
  • Again, the labels say it all. The Louise Slice sounds interesting.
  • And the final selection.
  • I can't help feeling, though, that the labels or lids got swapped over at some point!
  • The drinks menu is on the right-hand wall and is as busy as Espresso Kitchen itself.
  • The house-blend and guest are described along the top of the menu...
  • ... along with that oft over-looked cousin, the decaf.
  • The beans are from local roaster, Beanpress Coffee Co.
  • More beans!
  • There's also tea. Plenty of tea. All from Tea Pigs. And another vintage telephone.
  • Retail tea.
  • Okay, let's put Fran to work.
  • My espresso (the guest, a single-origin Ethiopian from Beanpress) is extracting...
  • And here it is, along with a slice of the lemon polenta cake.
  • My espresso, with a glass of water, naturally. Check out the globe!
  • My slice of the excellent lemon polenta cake.
  • I'll leave you with a shot of the house-blend, which I prefered to the guest.
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Espresso Kitchen occupies a small spot on the corner of Commercial Road and the pedestrianised Avenue Road. Rather than being in the tourist heart of Bournemouth (where the rents militate against independent speciality coffee shops), this is a shopping area, with the bus station just around the corner. You can sit outside if you like, where a small, round two-person table is to the right of the door, a two-seater garden bench to the left. Espresso Kitchen is north-facing, so only catches the sun first thing, making it a shady spot, while the street’s quiet enough, with only the odd bus rumbling past.

Inside, Espresso Kitchen is almost square in layout, tapering ever so slightly towards the back. The door is towards the left, while the window to its right stretches the full width to the wall. It has its own window-bar, complete with two bar stools and a chair in the corner. There’s another bar, with two bar stools, on the left-hand wall, running from the window to the counter. The rest of the seating is provided by a bench against the right-hand wall that runs from the window to the counter. A couple of tables, each with its own chair, sit in front of it.

The counter itself occupies the full width of the back of the store, with just enough room for three cake stands on the left and a two-group La Marzocco on the right. The grinders are up against the right-hand wall behind the espresso machine.

The décor can best be described as quirky, surf-boards strapped to the ceiling, an old-fashioned telephone in the corner, old newspapers on the walls in place of wallpaper, that sort of thing. The gallery does a far better job of describing it than I ever will. There’s a small library of books by the espresso machine to round things off.

As the name suggests, Espresso Kitchen does espresso and not a lot else, certainly not pour-over (there really isn’t the room). Local roaster, Beanpress Coffee Co, run by Ben, the son of Tom, who owns Poole’s Little Red Roaster, supplies the house-blend and shares guest espresso duties with various other roasters. While I was there, both house- and guest-espresso were from Beanpress.

I started with the guest, a single-origin Ethiopian. I was offered the option of a single shot, but went with Fran’s recommendation of a double. It arrived in a large tulip cup, accompanied by a glass of water. While it was okay, I wasn’t that excited by it, which, for an Ethiopian, I found surprising. I followed this up with the house, a blend of Ethiopian and Peruvian, which I found was much more to my liking, the Peruvian supplying it with a bit more body (or “oomph” as my initial notes suggested).

As well as coffee (and loose-leaf tea from Tea Pigs), Espresso Kitchen has an excellent range of homemade cakes, which tend more to modern British staples than Italian pastries. Spoilt for choice, I selected the lemon polenta cake (gluten and dairy free) which was excellent. It had a really lemony taste, with great texture (which I put down to the polenta), but it avoided being too sweet. It’s the sort of thing I could eat all day!

69 COMMERCIAL ROAD • BOURNEMOUTH • BH2 5RN +44 (0) 1202 972420
Monday 08:00 – 18:00 Roaster Beanpress + Guests (espresso only)
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables x 2, Bars x 2; Table & Bench (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:00 Food Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 18:00 Cards Cash Only
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 17:30 Power No
Chain No Visits 28th April 2015

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