Primal Roast

What looks to be a dinosaur's skull from the wall of Primal Roast in Glasgow, holding a Primal Roast takeaway cup between its open jaws.There’ve been a few openings in Glasgow since my last visit (for the previous Glasgow Coffee Festival, back in 2015), so when I returned for this year’s festival, I had lots of places to catch up on. Top of the list was Primal Roast, which opened in late 2015, and was the one place everyone said to visit. In the western part of the Glasgow’s compact city centre, it made the perfect kicking-off point for my one-day tour as I stopped by for breakfast.

Occupying a spacious basement on the north side of St Vincent Street, there’s a bright, sunny front section, with limited seating, and a large, cosy rear with multiple tables and sofas where you can curl up all day if you like.

The family-run Primal Roast is as much about food as it is coffee, with both reaching a similarly high standard. Local roasters, Dear Green Coffee, provide a bespoke house-blend on espresso, while there’s a continually-rotating cast of guests on filter through either V60 or Aeropress. If you’re hungry, there are full breakfast (until 11 on weekdays and all-day Saturday) and lunch menus, with extensive vegan options for both. There’s also a range of interesting cakes.

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Sarutahiko Coffee Omotesandō

The Sarutahiko Coffee logo from the front of one of its bags of coffee.Sarutahiko Coffee is a small, but growing, coffee shop/roaster chain in Tokyo. This branch shares space with a bookshop and travel agent in HIS, a multi-level shop on a quiet street near my office, one of several excellent coffee options within a five minutes’ walk. It’s also another recommendation from the Commodities Connoisseur (although he visited the flagship Ebisu branch).

Sarutahiko roasts all its own coffee, a considerable selection of which is on sale at the Omotesandō branch. There is a variety of espresso-based drinks, either hot or over ice, while there’s a large range of single-origins (six) and blends (five) available as pour-over using the V60. Although there’s plenty of seating, the Omotesandō branch is rather unusual in that it only serves coffee in takeaway cups, so be sure to bring your own.

Sarutahiko has several neat features. For example, although it’s counter service, you are given a playing card when you order, with an identical playing card being put down on the counter with your coffee, so you know which one is yours. On the retail side, each coffee has a card with tasting and origin notes, with the card’s colour indicating the darkness of the roast. Genius!

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25A Old Market

Detail from the window of 25A Old Market in Bristol25A Old Market is the younger sibling of No 12 Easton, and, like No 12, it has the virtue of using its address as its name. In this case, it’s on Bristol’s Old Market Street, east of the city centre and north of Temple Meads station, but within easy walking distance of both. As well as being a coffee shop of some note, the other thing it shares with No 12 is that it’s a deli and general provisions store.

Occupying a bright, uncluttered spot on the north side of Old Market Street, a relatively small street front belies the sizable interior. There’s limited seating upstairs with a communal table and two small bars, while downstairs, in a basement half open to the front window, is more seating in the shape of a couple of tables and a very comfortable-looking sofa.

The local Extract Coffee Roasters provide the house-espresso and a seasonal filter blend (available through the Clever Dripper) while regular guests make appearances on both espresso and filter. There’s also a wide range of (Extract) beans to buy. While it doesn’t have No 12’s extensive food menu, there are also decent breakfast, lunch and cake options if you’re hungry.

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Nkora

A fine flat white in a classic grey cup at Nkora in Shoreditch.Nkora is a relatively recent addition to London’s speciality coffee scene, joining the ever-growing crowd in and around the coffee hub of Shoreditch. A cosy spot, it’s bigger than it looks. Although the upstairs is small, with just a window-bar and a few tables, there is also a small back yard and, even better, a basement! This opened a couple of months ago and has two pairs of armchairs, plus a large, communal table.

With a small breakfast/lunch menu and an interesting selection of cake, Nkora’s focus is firmly on the coffee. The main roaster is Union Hand-roasted, which supplies the house-espresso, a single-origin Xejuyu from Guatemala. This is joined on filter by two or three single-origins, usually from Union and a guest roaster. These are available through either the V60 or Aeropress.

That I visited Nkora is largely down to Alexandra (aka AKBoogie on social media) who suggested it and joined me for coffee. Alexandra is perhaps best known (by me, at least!) for her ambitious 365 London Cafés project. You can follow her adventures on twitter and Instagram as she visits a (London) café every day over the period of a year. I told you it was ambitious!

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Grindsmith Cross Street

When visiting Manchester for the Manchester Coffee Festival, it’s traditional that I start one of my days at Grindsmith. Two years ago, it was the original, the Pod on Greengate Square, while last year I called in on the second branch on Deansgate. This year it’s the turn of the latest branch, on Cross Street. Bizarrely, this means that I’ve done all four Grindsmith branches in the order that they opened, having previously visited Media City, Grindsmith’s other opening this year.

Grindsmith’s always has interesting spaces. The Pod is just that, a pod/container with a coffee shop inside. Deansgate is at front of an amazing old warehouse, effectively the house-café for the Central Working/Rise co-working space. Meanwhile Media City is a bright, light-filled spot with a cosy mezzanine above the counter/kitchen.

The latest Grindsmith is a joint-venture with Chop’d, the London-based salad-bar chain, now rapidly expanding with this, its first branch outside London. The two share the space upstairs on Cross Street: if it’s food you want, the Chop’d counter is to the left, while if it’s coffee, the smaller Grindsmith counter is tucked away to the right, by the stairs down to the basement, where you’ll find additional seating.

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Flat Caps Carliol Square (Bunker Coffee Update)

The Flat Caps Coffee logo, taken from a bag of coffee roasted to mark Flat Caps' successful Kickstarter.Back in the summer of 2016, Joe of Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee, decided to launch a Kickstarter to fund a second coffee shop alongside the legendary basement on Ridley Place. Five months (and one successful Kickstarter) later and Flat Caps has not one, but two new coffee shops. Funny how these things work out… Flat Caps Carliol Square is the first of these, while the second, Flat Caps Campus North, is next door.

Eagle-eyed readers will spot something familiar about Flat Caps Carliol Square. Not long after the Kickstarter was successfully funded, the opportunity to take over Bunker Coffee & Kitchen presented itself. However, this isn’t just a re-badging of an existing operation: other than the physical space itself, Flat Caps has pretty much changed everything, creating a new coffee shop just as thoroughly as if a new build had been fitted out…

Those who know Flat Caps Ridley Place will at least find the coffee offering familiar: three coffees, each available as espresso or filter, changing on a regular basis from a limited cast of roasters. Added to that is a much-expanded food offering, taking advantage of the large kitchen space at Carliol Square, plus extended opening hours.

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Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Copenhagen

"Copenhagen Coffee Lab" written above "Kaffebar & Mikroristeri" on an A-board made of five, vertical wooden planks.You would think that it goes without saying that the Copenhagen Coffee Lab is in Copenhagen, wouldn’t you? However, I first came across it in Lisbon of all places, where it has the most unlikely of outposts. However, Copenhagen Coffee Lab’s home is in Copenhagen, where you’ll find both the roastery and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Copenhagen Coffee Lab’s only coffee shop.

This is located right in the heart of Copenhagen, within sight of the famous Christiansborg Palace and a few steps from tourist central where the canal boat tours vie for your business. Despite this, it feels off the beaten track, aided by being tucked away in a basement, with just some tables on the pavement outside to advertise its presence. Well, that and an A-board. And a trike at the end of the street.

However, it’s worth finding, both for the space, and for the excellent coffee. The Copenhagen Coffee Lab roasts all its own coffee, with a pair of single origins on espresso and, usually three more options on filter through V60, Kalita, Aeropress. The aim is to have an African and South American coffee on espresso and at least one of each on filter.

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Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters (Yorks Bakery Café Update)

Detail of the Yorks sign which used to hang above the door at Yorks Bakery Cafe, Stephenson Street, and now occupies the back wall of the newly expanded Yorks Cafe & Coffee Roasters.I visited Yorks Bakery Café on Birmingham’s Stephenson Street in January 2016, not long after it had opened, replacing the original on Newhall Street, which had to close due to a major refurbishment. Even then, changes were afoot at Stephenson Street since the neighbouring unit had become available, giving Yorks the chance to expand. I wrote up my original visit, intending this post to be a short update describing the new space.  However, on my return last month, I found the newly-expanded Yorks to be so radically different that I scrapped that plan and decided to start from scratch…

Also worked subtly into the expansion was a name-change from Yorks Bakery Café to Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters, reflecting Yorks move into roasting its own coffee. As well as plenty of additional seating, Yorks has used the extra space to install a very shiny Probat roaster. There’s also a fabulous basement which houses more much-needed seating and a large kitchen. This is now turning out a really impressive (and expanded) breakfast & brunch menu, plus an equally impressive lunch menu. Yorks is serving espresso-based drinks using a seasonal single-origin, plus bulk-brew filter with a rotating single-origin which changes every week.

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Bunker Coffee & Kitchen

The word BUNKER written in white, in the centre of a large black circle, with the smaller words "COFFEE & KITCHEN" written below/When it comes to Bunker Coffee & Kitchen, the first thing that most people I talked to in Newcastle said is that it does excellent food. Having had a fantastic lunch there, I can attest to this first hand. However, this seems to overlook the other part of Bunker’s title, namely the coffee. Like, for example, Jesmond’s Café 1901, Bunker’s built its reputation on food, while it seems that its excellent coffee has passed by almost unnoticed. This, I feel, is a shame, since the coffee I had was pretty damn good too.

Bunker occupies an almost-basement in a large, curved building at the top of Newcastle’s Carliol Square. It’s a large, uncluttered space, with plenty of seating, the sort of place you could hold a business meeting in or sit with your laptop for an afternoon. The food’s all freshly-prepared on site and the lunch menu, with soup, curry, salad box and a choice of three wraps, changes daily. The coffee, which, in contrast, only changes every couple of weeks, is from local roaster, Colour Coffee. There are single-origins on espresso, filter (V60, Aeropress or Chemex for two) or, if you’re in a hurry, batch-brew from the ever-reliable Moccamaster.

November 2016: Bunker Coffee is no more, but rather than closing completely, the space was taken over by Joe of Flat Caps fame, reopening as Flat Caps Carliol Square.

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Panna

A flat white from Panna, Liverpool, in an interestingly-shaped cup and saucer.Panna, located in Liverpool’s business district, just north of the centre, is tucked away in the basement of Silkhouse Court on Tythebarn Street. In a city full of lovely, old Victorian buildings (such as the nearby old Exchange Station), this is a disappointing slice of modern, stark, concrete functionality. The setting notwithstanding, Panna’s a lovely spot and, for somewhere that’s effectively a basement and entirely below street level, it’s surprisingly bright.

Panna opened in 2013, offering baguettes and coffee. However, the offering’s steadily expanded as demand has grown. These days there’s an interesting and innovative breakfast menu (to 11.30) and an equally interesting and innovative all-day brunch/lunch menu, with all the food prepared in the small kitchen behind the counter. Sandwiches are still available, as is a range of cakes and cookies.

The coffee side of Panna has also grown, with Has Bean providing the espresso blend and, since last summer, local roasters Neighbourhood Coffee offering a selection of single-origin filters through the V60. These were introduced to give customers something different from the typical Americanos, Panna being rewarded with a slow migration to pour-over. There’s also an interesting range of alcohol-based coffees and loose-leaf tea, served in individual infusers.

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