In London, “Crosstown” is synonymous with “doughnut”. You can purchase these delightful creations from various Crosstown Doughnuts market stalls (I’ve visited both King’s Cross and Old Spitalfields) while they’re also available in several speciality coffee shops (again, from personal experience, Notes, King’s Cross and Origin at the British Library). However, for the last year, you’ve been able to get them in Crosstown’s own coffee shop in Soho, where you can wash down your doughnut with some excellent Caravan coffee. Or Kokoa Collection hot chocolate if you’ve not had a sufficient sugar rush!
It’s a small place, with enough space for a doughnut-laden counter (right) and a five-person bar (left). However, it’s worth paying a visit, if only because I know of nowhere else where you can sit in such close proximity to so many superb doughnuts. Beware though: Crosstown only has takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Cakesmiths is a Bristol-based cake baker of national renown, its cakes appearing in coffee shops up and down the country. Old friends of the Coffee Spot, Cakesmiths and I have a symbiotic (parasitic?) relationship: I go to coffee festivals and Cakesmiths feeds me cake… However, other than stalking Cakesmiths at festivals, you haven’t been able to get its cakes fresh from the baker’s hand, so to speak.
So, imagine my surprise and delight when, in May this year, Cakesmiths opened its very own coffee shop, called Bakesmiths, on Bristol’s Whiteladies Road. Bakesmiths, which spreads itself across two spacious, high-ceilinged floors on the corner with Aberdeen Road, calls itself a sister café to Cakesmiths. As well as Cakesmiths’ legendary tray bakes, cheesecakes and the like, Bakesmiths has an on-site bakery and kitchen where it makes all its own bread and many of the cakes, all baked fresh each day.
Add to that some fabulous espresso and bulk-brew filter coffee from the local Clifton Coffee Roasters, plus the occasional filter coffee roasted on-site, and you’re onto a winner. And that’s without mentioning the craft beer or the wine or even the all-day brunch menu, complete with specials, which magically appears at weekends.
A highlight of last summer’s (brief) visit to Portland was Tandem Coffee Roasters, the roastery doubling as a lovely, intimate coffee bar. I was staying on the opposite side of town and Google Maps suggested I’d pass Tandem Coffee + Bakery on my way. So off I went, keeping an eye out for said bakery, only to walk right past without noticing!
My excuse? I, fool that I am, was looking for something bearing a vague resemblance to a bakery. Instead, I should have been keeping an eye out for something bearing a striking resemblance to a gas (petrol) station… Obviously. I discovered my mistake at the roastery, so on my way back, I paid more attention: there, right where Google Maps said it was, I discovered the bakery, occupying an old gas station.
Just as Tandem Cafe & Roastery’s a roastery with coffee bar attached, so Tandem Coffee + Bakery’s a bakery with coffee shop attached. And lovely outdoor seating. It doesn’t have quite the same range as the roastery, just a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, the same single-origin on Aeropress and another on bulk-brew. Being a bakery, there’s also multiple savoury and sweet things to feast upon.
Today’s Saturday Supplement (yes, I know it’s a Wednesday; shush!) is a two-for-the-price of one deal: a visit to the third Bea’s of Bloomsbury outpost at Farringdon, and an update of sorts on the original Bea’s of Bloomsbury on Theobalds Road.
Having written about the original Bea’s and then the second outpost in St Paul’s within the first four months of the Coffee Spot’s life, I’ve taken my time to get to the third, and latest, of the Bea’s of Bloomsbury Empire of Cake. In fairness to myself, the Farringdon branch (or Mini-Bea’s as I like to call it) wasn’t actually open when I wrote about the first two. Even so…
Tucked away opposite Farringdon station in a curiously-shaped little building that’s almost all windows, there’s not a lot to Bea’s. Certainly it’s not the sort of place you go for a sit-down afternoon tea (unlike the other two). Although a pair of benches graces the pedestrianised street outside (with an excellent view of the Cross-rail excavations), this really is a takeaway coffee-and-cake kind of place, with a major emphasis on the cake (although there are sandwiches as well). Mind you, I expect nothing less when the company’s motto is “life is short, eat more cake”!
No trip to Harrogate would be complete without at least contemplating a visit to the famous Bettys Café Tea Rooms. I duly carried out my contemplation as I walked past in the morning, put off by the long queue snaking along the pavement. However, as I wandered past with an hour to kill in the evening before my train back to York, the lack of a queue led to a reappraisal and soon I was seated downstairs in Bettys, greedily surveying the heaving cake trolley.
Founded in 1919, Bettys sounds as Yorkshire as they come, but it was, in fact, the creation of a Swiss baker/confectioner, Frederick Belmont. Despite this, it’s quintessentially the British Tea Room and opinions about it vary considerably. I find my own ambivalence to Bettys both puzzling and informative.
On the one hand, having to queue for anything puts me off, plus it is, undoubtedly, a grand institution of the sort I am naturally suspicious off. On the other hand, were this Paris’ Angelina or Dublin’s Bewley’s, then I would (and have been) there like a shot. Perhaps it is just the familiarity of the British Tea Room that breeds contempt. Regardless, reach your own conclusions.
Last year, I wrote about Caffé Roma, an old favourite of mine in the heart of New York City’s Little Italy. An old-fashioned Italian café, Caffé Roma is renowned for its excellent cakes, one of which is the St Joseph’s Cake. These are only made at weekends during February and March. Using a deep-fried dough, they can be had plain or filled with either cannoli or vanilla patisserie cream.
After publishing my original piece on Caffé Roma, I entered into e-mail correspondence with Vincent Jnr, whose father owns Caffé Roma. Knowing that I was back in New York, Vincent invited me over to say hello and, when I arrived, offered me the chance to have a tour of the bakery where the St Joseph’s Cakes are made. How could I refuse?
For today’s Wednesday-Saturday Supplement, we’re staying in New York City with L.A. Burdick. Like Monday’s Coffee Spot, Stumptown on West 8th Street, L.A. Burdick is another out-of-town incomer, although this time it hasn’t had to come as far as the West Coast. Originally from Walpole, New Hampshire, I first came across L.A. Burdick in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when a friend tipped me off about it a couple of years ago.
For those not in the know, L.A. Burdick is a chocolate shop, but not any old chocolate shop. L.A. Burdick has made its name selling high quality chocolate and, through its four in-house cafes, equally high-quality drinking chocolate. Although it does fairly good coffee (and tea, which I’m not qualified to comment on), in my personal opinion, you’d be mad to come here and have anything other than the hot chocolate.
It also sells cakes and pastries, which, it seems to me, is complete overkill. As regular readers will know, I am rather partial to a slice of cake or three. However, having once described L.A. Burdick hot chocolate as a “heart attack in a cup”, the last thing I want to accompany one is more calories!
To celebrate the latest issue of Caffeine Magazine, with its feature on the Oxford Coffee scene, I present the Companion Café & Bread Bar, the Natural Bread Company’s retail outlet on Oxford’s Little Clarendon Street. The Natural Bread Company has made its name, naturally enough, through its sourdough bread, which it sells at Oxford Farmers’ Markets and elsewhere. However, luckily for me, it doesn’t stop there, since it also takes its coffee and cake just as seriously.
The coffee, from Has Bean, came highly recommended by various Oxford people. Comments ranged from “the coffee’s very good” to “where I get my coffee on my days off” (this from a barista at Quarter Horse Coffee). With recommendations like that, it’s hard to go wrong! There are a couple of single-origin beans on the espresso machine as well as a bulk-brew filter option. There’s also tea from both Tea Pigs and Cardiff’s Waterloo Tea.
However, it was the cake that really sold it to me (not that it needed much selling if I’m honest). All home-made, the counter was groaning under the weight of the cake. And such a range: pastries, cinnamon buns, brownies, flapjacks, this list goes on… And there’s toast!
Lemana Café is a lovely place, tucked off in the High Street in Lymington, on the southern edge of the New Forest. It’s a place I’ve been aware of for a while, but never had the chance to visit, even though I go down that way once year on my way to Christchurch. However, I always go down the A35, by-passing Lymington, but this time I decided to take the detour down the A337 and was very glad that I did (if you are travelling by train, Lymington has its own branch-line down from Brockenhurst on the Bournemouth line).
A family-run affair, with mum, dad and six siblings all playing a part, Lemana Café is the sort of place that every town should have. The food is lovely, the homemade cakes are even better and the coffee’s pretty good too. Don’t come here expecting the latest third-wave single-origin espresso or a fancy pour-over though (although the staff will happily rustle up a ristretto, macchiato or flat white if you want). Do come here for a warm, friendly welcome in lovely surroundings, with great food and excellent cake.
November 2015: Lemana has upped its coffee game since my visit in 2013, switching roaster to Has Bean. There have also been changes on the tea front, with Dorchester’s Gilded Teapot providing a range of loose-leaf teas. You can see what else has changed in the Coffee Spot Update.
Hart’s Bakery has rapidly established itself as synonymous with good cake, at least in Bristol’s speciality coffee circles, where it supplies many of my favourite Coffee Spots. What I hadn’t realised, until I visited it myself, is that it’s also a fantastic little coffee spot in its own right, serving its own amazing cakes, soup, toasties and pasties, along with great coffee from local roasters, Extract.
Another advantage is that it’s right outside Bristol’s Temple Meads Station, which is good news for coffee lovers since that area is not awash with great coffee. It’s an interesting space: located under an arch of Station Approach, the ramp leading up to Temple Meads, it has the feel of a large air raid shelter, probably due to the corrugated metal ceiling that lines the presumably brick underside of the arch.
The staff were very friendly, greeting everyone with a cheery hello as they come in. Sometimes you don’t want that, but entering such a large and open space, it makes you feel very welcome. Head baker, Laura [Hart], serves as well as baking, which all adds to the atmosphere, giving it a very communal feel.