Given its size, Leicester is not blessed with many speciality coffee shops, but those that it has are large by industry standards. Chief amongst these is the venerable St Martin’s, tucked away in the delightful St Martin’s Square, after which it was named. Talking of which, it goes by many names. Having started life as St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants, it’s also known as St Martin’s Coffee Roasters and, three evenings a week (Thursday to Saturday), Crafty, which is when it turns itself into a burger restaurant.
St Marin’s was started by husband & wife team, Andy & Ellie, and recently underwent a major refurbishment when the roasting operation moved out to a dedicated facility about 10 minutes’ walk away. Spread over two spacious floors, there’s plenty of seating both upstairs and down, with a mix of tables big and small, plus the occasional window-bar, sofa and comfy chair. Add to that a large outdoor seating area and you’re spoiled for choice.
St Martin’s has a blend on espresso and a regularly-rotating single-origin batch-brew, all roasted in-house. There’s a wide selection of tea, plus decent breakfast and lunch menus, everything being prepared in the kitchen next to the counter.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
For a long time, St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants (as was) was the only game in town when it came to decent coffee in Leicester, with the tea also highly recommended by Fancy A Cuppa. More recently, St Martin’s has taken its coffee game to a new level, with the roasting moving out from the shop to a dedicated facility. St Martin’s also made its London Coffee Festival debut this year, where I met head roaster, Ole.
St Martin’s occupies a weirdly-shaped building, best described as square, with a long triangle, its end cut off, on the left. It’s at the eastern end of St Martin’s Lane, part of St Martin’s Square shopping centre, a delightful, pedestrianised maze of open spaces and narrow walkways which, while largely redeveloped in the 1980s, has retained a lot of character.
St Martin’s faces north, a pair of picnic tables on each side of the doors. Further to the left, beyond the truncated end of the triangular bit, is a larger outdoor seating area. Inside, the main area’s given over to the counter along the right-hand wall, and the espresso machine, immediately to the door’s right, along the front wall. There’s also an open kitchen in the back right-hand corner, to the counter’s left. Directly ahead, against the back wall, stairs lead upwards.
There are two tables here, with retail shelves under the stairs, but the bulk of the seating’s in the triangular part to the left. There are tables in the middle, plus others along the front wall and at the triangle’s end, with a window-bar along the back wall.
Upstairs, however, is totally different, largely because it overhangs the downstairs at the back. This turns the stairs into a central stairwell, the seating arranged around it. The stairs deposit you at the front, with seating ahead of you. Turning left, you’ll find a handful of two- and four-person tables, with more at the back, behind the stairs. There’s another kitchen here, plus a small bar, against the right-hand walls.
Once again, the bulk of the seating’s in triangular part, where the two- and four-person tables are joined by an occasional six-person one. At the far end, there’s a pair of leather sofas (one two-person. one three-person) plus a comfortable chair, clustered around a coffee table. There’s even a small children’s play area in one corner.
Regularly-spaced pillars break up both the up- and downstairs, stopping each from feeling like a giant, open space. Three of the four walls are regularly pierced by old-fashioned sash windows with wooden frames, making for a bright space, particularly at the triangular end. Numerous exposed bulbs hang from the ceiling, especially upstairs in the square part, where there are fewer windows. Wooden floorboards and furniture, along with neutral tones for the walls and ceilings, complete a soothing look and feel, aided by quiet background music and a conversational hum.
St Martin’s has its Friday Street Blend on espresso, a mix of Brazilian and Rwandan beans. While I was there, a washed Kenyan (a Kainamui AB) was on batch-brew, St Martin’s giving me a bag of it to take home. If you like tea, I counted 23 black, 12 herbal, seven green and four fruit teas on the menu!
I kicked off my day with a flat white, a smooth coffee with chocolate notes, which went well with the milk. I paired with this with the old breakfast favourite of avocado on toast, which was lovely. Other breakfast options include toast, bacon sandwiches and American-style pancakes. For lunch, there’s rotisserie chicken, salads and a range of sandwiches.
July 2020: I’m not sure when the split happened, but St Martin’s Coffee Shop is now serving Allpress on espresso with a single-origin on batch-brew filter. Meanwhile, St Martin’s Coffee Roaster is still going strong.
|ST. MARTINS SQUARE • 2-6 ST. MARTINS WALK • LEICESTER • LE1 5DG|
|www.stmartinscoffeeshop.co.uk/||+44 (0) 116 251 2879|
|Monday||09:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Allpress (espresso + batch-brew)|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Window Bars, Sofas, Comfy Chairs; Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 17:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||09:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||09:00 – 17:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||11:00 – 16:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||15th July 2017|
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