As anyone who travels by train in the UK knows, good coffee is hard to come by. Every now and then, a coffee stand, such as The Flying Coffee Bean in my home town of Guildford, or Glasgow’s Luckie Beans, provides welcome relief, but a proper, sit-down speciality coffee shop is a rare find. This makes Canvas Coffee, located in the old station buffet on the concourse of Portsmouth and Southsea station, such a delight.
Since opening in a small kiosk across the concourse in March 2014, Canvas has gone from strength-to-strength, moving into the vacant station buffet six months later and slowly growing to occupy the entire space. In many ways, it’s a typical station coffee shop, with commuters calling in for their morning coffee on the way to the train or office, while a steady stream of people and their luggage kill time before their trains.
However, it’s more than that. With the Drake Blend from Winchester’s The Roasting Party served from a concise espresso-based menu, backed up with a range of options for lunch, plus cake throughout the day, it’s a destination in its own right, a large, spacious coffee shop that would grace any city.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Portsmouth & Southsea station, on the mainline from London Waterloo, is also served by trains along the south coast. The last-but-one station on the line, it’s far bigger than is warranted by the trains that use it. Unusually, the main station building is perpendicular to the mainline tracks, which run on an elevated section to the right, while two further tracks terminate at ground level, harking back to an older era when it was the end of the line.
Canvas Coffee is on the main concourse, just to the right (and, importantly, in front) of the ticket barriers as you come into the station. Alternatively, if you’ve arrived by train, it’s on the left, just after you’ve passed through the barriers. Large and spacious, Canvas occupies a simple rectangle, the long side running along the station concourse, with the door at the front towards the right-hand side. Although there are plenty of windows along the front and off to the right-hand side, all they offer is borrowed light from the station, so it has a subdued feel to it. The décor adds to this, with black walls, a white ceiling and an eclectic mix of wooden furniture.
The large counter at the back takes up maybe half the width of the shop, with a large kitchen area behind it. The seating is arranged around the edges, leaving plenty of space in front of the counter for the inevitable stream of takeaway customers, who file past the cakes and pastries to the till, where they order, before carrying on past the espresso machine and its grinders to the collection point at the counter’s end.
There’s a low two-person table immediately to the right of the door, and another at the back, separated by a high, five-person table. The back wall on this side is occupied by the chiller cabinet and shelves lined with crisps and bottles of water. The bulk of the seating lies to the left of the door, running along the front of Canvas. There’s another four-person high table, then a low four-person table, with a solitary two-person table between it and the counter. Next comes a glorious three-person sofa, back to the wall, facing the counter, with a low coffee table in front of it.
Moving on, there’s another four-person table beyond the sofa, plus a two-person table in the corner, before, finally, against the back wall, to the left of the counter, a ping-pong table has been pressed into use as additional seating next to a set of retail shelves.
Other than its location, there are two unusual things about Canvas, neither of which is readily apparent. The first is that it’s a social enterprise, helping those in early recovery from drug and alcohol addiction develop skills and confidence to take the next steps in their lives through volunteer opportunities and barista skills training courses, with the profits from the coffee shop supporting this work.
The second is that it’s home to Sunday Coffee Roasters, a separate business with a small roaster in the kitchen space behind the counter. For now, Canvas just sells the coffee in retail bags, providing a small range of single-origin coffees, although there are plans to add filter to the menu, so watch this space. I took a bag of the Costa Rican beans with me on my recent trip to Florida and I thoroughly enjoyed them through my Aeropress.
Getting back to Canvas itself, the concise coffee menu is based around the Drake Blend from The Roasting Party, which started up just before Canvas, Canvas being one of the Roasting Party’s first customers. The Drake Blend was developed specifically for Canvas, although you can now try it at The Roasting Party’s own coffee shop, Party on Pavilion. I had it as a piccolo, where it went very well with the milk, the coffee’s rich, sweet taste coming strongly through the milk.
December 2018: Canvas Coffee has won the 2018 Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award.
|PORTSMOUTH & SOUTHSEA STATION • COMMERCIAL ROAD • PORTSMOUTH • PO1 1EQ|
|http://canvascoffee.co.uk/||+44 (0) 7593 679213|
|Monday||06:00 – 18:00||Roaster||Roasting Party (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||06:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Sofa|
|Wednesday||06:00 – 18:00||Food||Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||06:00 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||06:00 – 18:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||3rd January 2018|
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