Caravan is a rather successful chain of three coffee shop/restaurants, with a significant in-house roastery, supplying coffee shops all around the country with a variety of blends and single-origins. However, this is where it all started back in 2010 on the corner of London’s Exmouth Market. This is the original Caravan, which is still going strong, coffee shop by day, restaurant by night, serving excellent coffee and food throughout the day. Unlike others of its ilk, such as Notes and Grind, both of which now roast their own coffee, Caravan was a roaster from the start and, indeed, the original roaster is still down in the basement at Exmouth Market.
Caravan sits on a sunny, south-facing corner, windows on two sides, outside seating spilling out on Exmouth Market itself. Inside, coffee excellence is taken as standard, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, two more on pour-over and a third on batch-brew. However, Caravan is also about food, with table service to match. There’s an excellent, extensive breakfast menu until 11.30, with an all-day menu of small/large plates from noon. At weekends, brunch takes over from 10 until four. There’s also beer, cider, cocktails, spirits and a massive wine list.
Hoxton North started life in October 2013 on Parliament Street in Harrogate. I did try to visit back in 2014, when I was in Harrogate to see the likes of Bean & Bud, but I foolishly came on a Monday and, back then, Parliament Street had Mondays off. By the time I returned to Harrogate at the end of last year, there were two Hoxton Norths with this, the second branch, having opened in October 2016, just around the corner on Royal Parade. For a while the two branches operated in tandem, but in March this year, the original on Parliament Street closed, leaving Royal Parade as Hoxton North’s sole outpost for now.
In comparison to Parliament Street, where the focus was firmly on the coffee, Royal Parade has spread its wings a little, offering extensive breakfast and brunch menus, plus wine and beer in the evenings. The two spaces are very different as well, Royal Parade offering a larger, bright, open space, lacking Parliament Street’s cosy little nooks and crannies. When it comes to the coffee, there’s a house-espresso blend (Resolute during my visit), with decaf on the second grinder (a San Fermin from Colombia), both from Cornwall’s Origin.
The latest addition to the growing Daisy Green/Beany Green collective is a rather different beast from those which have gone before. Spread over two floors on the corner of the prodigious new Nova development near Victoria Station, Timmy Green takes the strengths of Daisy/Beany and builds on them. The original Daisy Green, plus the Paddington and Liverpool Street Beany Greens, gained a reputation for innovative brunch menus, but Timmy Green goes one better, turning this into a fully-fledged restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, complete with desserts, wine, beer and cocktails. And, of course, Roasting Party coffee.
The bulk of Timmy Green is downstairs, a triangular space providing restaurant-style table seating to the right and, in a tapering section to the left, cocktail tables and window-bars, plus a couple more intimate spaces. Upstairs, the mezzanine shares space with the kitchen as well as housing a few more tables.
There’s a large outdoor seating area in front of Timmy Green, with a narrower strip down the right-hand side. If all you want is coffee, a barrow with a bright yellow La Marzocco serves takeaway from half-an-hour before opening until three in the afternoon from its spot just left of door.
Not long after I visited the original Hot Numbers on Cambridge’s Gwydir Street, back in September 2014, a new roastery/café was announced. Sadly it took me almost two years to get back to Cambridge to check it out, finally returning in June last year and again in September. This post is about the café-side of Hot Numbers, with the roastery appearing in its own Meet the Roaster feature in due course.
It’s all very different from Gwydir Street. Whereas that’s a large, open space, Trumpington Street is long and thin, with the counter at the front on the right and seating down either side. Looking at it, it’s a miracle that Hot Numbers managed to squeeze a roaster in, but it did, tucked in on the right-hand side at the back.
All the usual Hot Numbers coffee goodness is here, with two single-origins and a decaf available on espresso and two more on pour-over, plus a fifth on bulk-brew. There’s also lots of technology on show: a Sanremo Opera espresso machine, Mahlkönig Peak grinders & Marco Beverage Systems SP9s. These are backed up with a selection of loose-leaf tea, craft beer, wine, a small but decent food selection and some excellent cake choices.
Small St Espresso, which opened in 2012, was one of Bristol’s first speciality coffee shops and is still one of my favourites, a masterclass on how to run a coffee shop in a small, intimate space. When I visited at the start of 2016, there were rumours of a second Small St, and then, at the very end of the summer, it opened. Going by the name Little Victories and describing itself as a sister venue to Small St, it was a must-visit on my return to Bristol at the end of last year.
Located on the wonderfully-named Spike Island, south of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, Little Victories is part of the Wapping Wharf development, sitting at the bottom (northern) end of Gaol Ferry Steps. Occupying a ground floor corner unit, it’s a big, open space with enormously high ceilings.
Operating as a speciality coffee shop by day, it morphs into a casual bar in the evening (Wednesday to Saturday), bringing craft beer, small plates and coffee-based cocktails to Bristol. All the coffee is from local roasters, Clifton Coffee Roasters, with two options on espresso and two more on available as pour-overs through the Chemex, while bread comes from Hart’s Bakery.
The first ever speciality coffee shop I visited in Philadelphia was Ultimo Coffee’s Graduate Hospital branch on Catherine Street. It is therefore a little ironic that it’s taken me two years to visit the original, Newbold, on South 15th Street, where Ultimo started back in 2009. As is usual in these cases, the loss is all mine.
Ultimo, rather unusually, shares the space with Brew, a speciality bottle beer company, with Ultimo and the coffee taking the front of the store and Brew taking the back, the two sharing the seating. Ultimo, also unusually, has a strong focus on pour-over coffee, something which is slowly catching on in the US, but which Ultimo has championed from the start, using Bee House drippers to serve an interesting selection of single-origin filters to go with two more on espresso.
During my visit in February, Counter Culture was the house-roaster, with occasional guests on espresso and filter. However, since then Ultimo has started roasting its own coffee (with the roastery based at Newbold), which is now available on-line and in both stores. If you’re in a hurry, there’s bulk-brew until 11am, while for those with a sweet tooth, there’s a selection of cake.
Just to the east of Cambridge’s historic centre, on the busy Regent’s Road, you’ll find Novi, coffee shop and brunch spot by day, bar (and cocktail bar) by night. In keeping with the likes of Notes in London or Liverpool’s Filter + Fox, Novi combines speciality coffee and beer/wine/cocktails, but with the sort of food output you’d get from somewhere like Villiers Coffee Co.
A surprisingly large place, in a lovely, 1930s building, Novi occupies the ground floor, although there are plans to open the upstairs areas on a more permanent basis. There’s generous seating opposite the counter at the front, more seating towards the rear by the kitchen, and a small, enclosed courtyard out the back. With windows front and back, as well as down one side, it’s a bright, airy, uncluttered space.
The coffee is from Bury St Edmunds’ Frank and Earnest, with a single-origin on both espresso and pour-over through the V60. Coffee is served well into the evening, while there is beer, wine and cocktails until 3am! There’s food, with a full brunch menu served until four o’clock, plus a bar menu in the evening. And, of course, cake.
Stir Coffee Brixton is a relative newcomer to the area, having only opened at the start of the year. I first became aware of it when I ran into one of the owners at Rag & Bone Coffee (he lived across the road at the time) when I was struck by his enthusiasm and dedication. Fast forward six months, and I finally found myself in Brixton for the Volcano Coffee Works/Assembly launch, so I made a point of taking the 15 minute walk south along Brixton Hill (surely the world’s flattest hill) to Stir.
Stir isn’t quite a multi-roaster, but it mixes up its coffee on a regular basis. There’s a house-blend on espresso from Mission Coffee Works, plus a second espresso from Assembly, which is joined by a decaf on the third grinder. There are also two or three choices on filter, through either the Aeropress or V60, while if you ask nicely, there’s also the Chemex, even though it’s not on the menu. All the coffee choices, except the house-blend, change regularly. There’s also loose-leaf tea, beer (bottles or cans) and various soft drinks, plus a small, but excellent range of food, including a decent selection of cake.
Like Lisbon’s branch of the Copenhagen Coffee Lab, which I’d visited previously in the day, Fábrica Coffee Roasters is not a home-grown affair, but it feels more Portuguese. Long, thin and very basement-like, it has a lot in common with a Portuguese café bar, although with its comfortable sofas, upcycled furniture, hand-made counter and lights encased in cages, it wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch!
At the heart of Fábrica is the coffee roasting operation, which is tucked away beyond the counter at the very back of the store in a space that doubles as a retail area. Here the very shiny 5kg Probatone roasts all of Fábrica’s coffee, which you can also buy to take home. Like the Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Fábrica has an impressive output, with three options on espresso and another three on filter, which can be had as an Aeropress or Kalita for one, while the V60 and Chemex options come either for one or two.
There’s a decent menu, all the food prepared on-site in the kitchen to the left of the counter, plus lots of cake. This being Portugal, it’s not just coffee, of course, with beer and wine also making an appearance.
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.