Kaffeine Eastcastle

The front of Kaffeine, door to the left, windows to the right, with a pair of benches in front of the window acting as tables.Kaffeine, with its original store on Great Tichfield Street, is something of a legend in London coffee circles, part of the first wave of Aussie/Kiwi (in this case, Aussie) influenced coffee shops to appear in the capital. The second Kaffeine, a hop, skip and jump away on Eastcastle Street, took a while in coming, but in 2015 it opened its doors, effectively reproducing the original’s successful model in a similarly-sized, but differently-shaped space. This one’s a simple rectangle, with the short-side facing the street, counter on the right, seating on the left. There’s also a window bar and a long bench outside on the relatively quiet street (although I was there on Sunday).

There’s the ubiquitous Red Brick from Square Mile on espresso, all the usual favourites on the menu (the largest drink is a 7.5oz latte) and the added bonus of a coffee-tasting flight. There’s also cascara, a selection of loose-leaf teas and a small range of soft drinks. If you’re hungry, there’s a limited range of three baguettes/brioche (which can be toasted) and three salads, which you can have individually or in combination. Finally, there’s a selection of cakes, including the Aussie staple of toasted banana bread.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Kaffeine's second branch is on London's Eastcastle Street, not far from the original.
  • The view approaching from the direction of Great Titchfield Street, home of the original.
  • There are a couple of benches outside on the street, under the awnings.
  • Wise advice on the A-board.
  • The view from just inside the door: this is about it, by the way. While not the biggest place in the world, it's bigger than the original.
  • You're naturally drawn to the counter on the right-hand side, and these two stand-alone bars.
  • Once you've filtered down between counter & bars to order, you end up here, at the back. The majority of the seating is provided by the bench/tables opposite the counter.
  • If you're not staying, the only sensible route to get out is back the way you've come...
  • There's also seating in the windows to the right of the door.
  • Another view of the window-bar. Check out the lights in the window.
  • Seeing double.
  • On the outside, looking in.
  • The (very prominent) Kaffeine logo in yellow neon is to the right, behind the counter.
  • Lovely, isn't it?
  • Back to the lights: these beauties hang in a row above the counter.
  • Elsewhere lighting is provided by bare bulbs, as in the window, or opposite the counter...
  • ... where these two rows of bare bulbs hang from a specially-designed lighting rig.
  • Right at the back, there's the water station, magazine rack and a pair of retail shelves...
  • ... where you can buy, among other things, bags of coffee and some coffee-related kit.
  • This is by the business end of the copper-topped counter and the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle.
  • However, you start at the other end, by the food.
  • The cake is on top, savouries underneath.
  • The end-on view of the cake. There is rather a lot of it!
  • There are slices, traybakes and natas (Portuguese tarts)...
  • ... and pastries, pies and loaves...
  • ... while Kaffeine even has its own jam and marmalade.
  • Just in case, there are also some cookies in jars.
  • Down below, there are sandwiches/brioche to the left, with salad in the middle.
  • There's a choice of three salads: you can have one, two, or a mix of all three if you like.
  • At the far end are these dainties, known as cakes, not to be confused with the cake above!
  • In lieu of a shot of the menu, I present the tasting flight, backed up by a row of soft drinks.
  • Sadly I was there for a quick lunch, not really the ideal companion to a tasting flight!
  • Although I did have this lovely flat white, which I failed to take a great photo of...
  • ... until I switched to the Instagram view.
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Kaffeine’s second branch is towards the eastern end of Eastcastle Street, five-minute’s walk from the original, with which it shares many features. There’s the black exterior, benches sheltering outside beneath a large, black awning, with “Kaffeine” and the street number written in white above. The original has the door on the right, windows on the left, Eastcastle, which is a shade wider than its parent, reverses this.

Inside it’s also slightly bigger and, with its high ceilings and abundant lighting, feels that bit bigger. Another element borrowed from the original is locating the counter on the opposite side from the door. In Eastcastle, you enter on the left, so the counter’s occupies the right-hand wall, leaving just enough space for a five-person window-bar in the floor-to-ceiling windows on the right.

The remaining seating’s on the left, a wooden bench running the length of the wall opposite the counter. Anyone who’s been to the original will be familiar with the four narrow, high tables which line the bench, each with an additional two bar stools. In theory each table can seat four, but it’s a real squeeze.

Many places would have stopped there, but Kaffeine’s put a pair of narrow two-person bar-style tables in the space in front of the counter. In Kaffeine’s defence, since every table was taken during my visit, the extra tables are needed. However, it does make Eastcastle a very crowded space.

The counter’s a thing of immense beauty, clad in brass, which, it turns out, has natural anti-bacterial properties, making it very hygienic. In theory, the layout’s logical since you file past the food, order at the till, then move past (or stop to admire) the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine. The retail shelves and water station are at the end of the counter, where you can wait for your order if you’re not staying.

Well, that’s the theory. In practice, because of the bar-tables in front of the counter, the flow is very constrained. For example, if people are looking at the cakes, it’s hard to get past to order at the till. Similarly, there’s not a lot of room to wait at the far end, nor is it easy to get out again if the seats are taken or if there’s a queue at the counter. All of this means that Eastcastle is not the most conducive space for lingering, despite its quiet, relaxed atmosphere. On the other hand, if your café’s that small and popular, a regular turnover of customers/tables is no bad thing!

Although everything’s packed in, it doesn’t feel that cramped, helped by the tall, exposed ceiling and generous south-facing windows. Beautiful white tiles on three of the four walls (the wall behind the counter is painted black) also help with the feeling of light/space. Even so, the lighting can be subdued, particularly at the back, so the numerous light bulbs are both necessary and welcome.

The food is impressive, almost all of which comes from the kitchen downstairs, with the menu changing on a weekly basis. I was there for lunch and had a very fine salad, which comes in a choice of medium or large. You can have any combination of the (three) salads you like, so I combined the char-grilled broccoli (very crunchy) with the steamed leeks with baked eggs (very tasty). The perfect lunch.

I’d have liked to try the tasting flight, which consists of a single-shot espresso & single-shot flat white, plus a glass of cascara. Sadly, there wasn’t really time, so I settled for a flat white, expertly-made, the Red Brick holding no surprises.

December 2016: Kaffeine Eastcastle has won the 2016 Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award Award.

15 EASTCASTLE STREET • LONDON • W1T 3AY
www.kaffeine.co.uk +44 (0) 20 3730 5878
Monday 07:30 – 18:00 Roaster Square Mile (espresso only)
Tuesday 07:30 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Window Bar
Wednesday 07:30 – 18:00 Food Sandwiches, Salad, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 18:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:30 – 18:00 Wifi No
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 24th April 2016

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