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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Junction Coffee

The colourful front cover of the menu at Liverpool's Junction CoffeeJunction Coffee is the epitome of a neighbourhood café, serving the good folk of Aigburth, a suburb to the south of Liverpool city centre. Located near a busy junction (from which Junction Coffee gets its name) on the equally busy Aigburth Road, Junction Coffee has been quietly serving speciality coffee to its regulars since 2011 when the owner, Nathan, quit his job with the council to pursue his passion for coffee.

Junction uses Staffordshire’s Has Bean, which roasts a bespoke espresso blend for Junction, while there are usually two single-origin beans available through the Kalita Wave filter for those feeling more adventurous. There’s also hot chocolate, loose-leaf tea and a range of soft drinks.

However, there’s a lot more to Junction than just the coffee. It serves an impressive range of sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, panini, wraps and bagels, plus salads and a soup of the day. Add to that an impressive range of home-made cakes, plus ice cream, and Junction has you covered whatever the time of day.

October 2016: I heard the news that Junction Coffee has closed its doors for good over the summer.

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Mother’s Milk Update

A flat white in a glass from Mother's Milk as seen from above with a simple tulip motif.The original Mother’s Milk was on Little Portland Street, one of a growing number of speciality coffee shops in Fitzrovia, an area once the sole preserve of Aussie legends, Kaffeine. Mother’s Milk joined the likes of Attendant and since opening, Workshop, Curators Coffee Gallery and several others have moved in. But now Mother’s Milk has moved… all the way to Little Portland Street! That’s right, Mother’s Milk has upped sticks and headed east, all the way across Great Portland Street, shifting from No 12 to the far more excitingly-named No 22-23.

Many of the Mother’s Milk hallmarks remain from the original: Will and James are still behind the counter, while the delightful Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine is still on it, the coffee’s still from Munich’s JB Kaffee and it’s still frustratingly hard to find unless you know where it is!

The original Mother’s Milk at least had windows onto the street, but was confusingly called Rosalind’s Kitchen (which is why I walked past three times one my first visit). The new premises are a great improvement, but are in the back of a communications agency called Exposure, the only real clue to Mother’s Milk being the A-board outside.

January 2016: Bad news. Mother’s Milk has announced its closure with immediate effect.

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Silhouette

A flat white, seen from above, with tulip pattern latte art in a white cup on a white saucer.Silhouette joined a growing number of speciality coffee shops and roasters in the Hackney area, opening in February last year. Located just off Mare Street (close to the now-closed and sadly missed Look Mum No Hands!) it’s close to the likes of Climpson and Sons and others at London Fields (with the roastery just around the corner) and Terrone at Netil Market.

Silhouette itself is a delightful little spot, south-facing and on a corner, so it catches the sun, both from the generous windows at the front, as well as from the equally-generous windows along the west-facing side. Inside, the focus is on the coffee, where Silhouette offers both espresso and pour-over (using the Kalita Wave), filling its hoppers with whatever takes the fancy of owners Lee and Syirin (Syirin had just returned from a trip to Berlin, so the shelves held a smattering of bags from the likes of Five Elephant and Concierge (a new one on me).

Silhouette also does loose leaf tea, hot chocolate, cold-pressed juices and smoothies. There’s a menu heavy on toast/bagels, things on toast/bagels and salads. With a nod to Syirin’s Malaysian heritage, Silhouette also runs monthly Malaysian Supper Clubs on a Saturday evening.

October 2016: Some good news and some bad: Lee and Syirin ran a successful Kickstarter to fund a second coffee shop, but in an unexpected twist, the original Silhouette has had to close with immediate effect. It will be sadly missed.

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Lanark Coffee (Drink, Shop & Dash Update)

Shot of a tulip cup on a black saucer, taken from above. The coffee is almost gone, but the latte art pattern, a tulip, is still plainly visible in the remainder of the milk in the bottom of the cup.Drink, Shop & Dash was the smaller sibling and speciality coffee outlet of next door neighbour, Drink, Shop & Do on the Caledonian Road. It was part of a growing speciality coffee scene in the area, led by the (now venerable) Caravan and including Noble Espresso and Notes. Just around the corner from King’s Cross station, it was a welcome spot, especially when you needed to take the weight off your feet.

So, I was surprised and more than a little disappointed when Phil Wain reported on twitter that Dash had closed. However, all was not as gloomy as it first appeared. It turned out that the two key people running Dash had, for entirely independent reasons, given their notice within a week of each other. Faced with a sudden recruitment crisis, Drink, Shop & Do had a dilemma. Fortunately, up popped Greg of Haggerston’s Lanark Coffee. Greg knew of the predicament from links with Dash’s roasters Alchemy and a deal was struck.

No sooner had Dash closed, it had reopened, Greg taking over behind the counter at the start of September. Naturally, I had to go along and see what Greg and Lanark had done to the place…

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Box Office Coffee

The sign from the window of Box Office Coffee, Bridport.: the words "Box Office Coffee" in capitals, one word per line. The word "coffee" is in pink.Box Office Coffee, which opened in November 2014, is the second speciality coffee shop in Bridport, one of a number of Dorset towns which are making themselves destinations for coffee lovers. Box Office is the little sister of the famous Number 35 Coffee House & Kitchen, located in nearby Dorchester. Set inside the box office of The Lyric Theatre (have you worked out where the name comes from yet?), Box Office is considerably small than Number 35, but, in coffee at least, every bit its equal, offering the same jaw-dropping array of ever-rotating beans. Indeed, the only constant (other than excellent quality) is the decaf, which comes from London’s Workshop.

Just as at Number 35, there’s a choice of four beans, two on espresso and two on filter (although space limitations means that only the Aeropress is used for filter coffee). The beans are chalked up on boards behind the counter, along with notes giving origin, process, altitude and tasting notes (including with and without milk for the espressos). As at Number 35, the bean’s the king, with no mention of the roaster.

If coffee’s not your thing, there’s loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate and a choice of two different cakes.

April 2016: Extremely sad news. Box Office had to close in March due to circumstance beyond Number 35’s control. A great loss for Bridport, although fortunately Soulshine Cafe remains.

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Flat Caps Coffee Update

An espresso in a classic white cup, plus a glass of water, on an oval wooden platter, separated by a tea spoon.Flat Caps Coffee, brainchild of the lovely Joe Meagher, is not only one of my favourite coffee shops in Newcastle, but it’s one of my favourites in the whole country. The only problem is that I don’t get to Newcastle very often… However, whenever I’m in town, I make a point of popping in to say hello.

I first wrote about Joe and Flat Caps in April 2013, writing a longer piece after I visited in October that year for Caffeine Magazine. So, what’s changed since then? Well, honestly, not a lot. Joe’s still Joe, Flat Caps is still Flat Caps and the coffee’s still excellent.

However, since I published my Coffee Spot on Flat Caps, Joe has, in the way that coffee shop owners do, redecorated and also started using single-serve Kalita Wave pour-over filters. And every time he sees me, he nags me that the photos on the Coffee Spot are out-of-date…

March 2017: I’ve just learnt that Ridley Place is closing at the end of the month. Sad news, but I understand Joe’s reasons for taking this step. If you’re interested, this is what I wrote about the closing of Ridley Place. The good news is that Flat Caps will continue at Flat Caps Carliol Square and Flat Caps Campus North.

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Opposite Café Victoria Quarter

The Opposite Logo, from the top of the kiosk in the Victoria Quarter.Opposite is a chain of three coffee shops in Leeds. The original Opposite (opposite Leeds University, hence the name) is 10 years old, while the third, out in Chapel Allerton, opened just over a year ago. This, the second Opposite, opened five years ago, under the soaring stained-glass arcades of the Victoria Quarter shopping centre in the heart of Leeds.

The Victoria Quarter branch is an interesting hybrid. It’s a kiosk, and feels like it should be a takeaway spot, but it’s got seating. However, despite the soaring glass ceiling, it’s not exactly the same as sitting inside, which I discovered on a freezing day in February where it was about as a warm as sitting out on the street… That said, it is an absolutely magnificent setting and well worth visiting. Just remember to wrap up warm. Or go in the summer.

Despite its small size, the Victoria Quarter Opposite packs a lot in, including a full range of espresso-based drinks, along with filter options (all from London’s Square Mile). There’s also a decent range of food, including sandwiches and cakes. The only downside is that all the drinks are served in takeaway cups…

January 2017: Sadly I have learnt that Opposite’s Victoria Quarter branch has had to close. It will be sadly missed.

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Moon Beer & Coffee

A neon sign, "moon" on the bare brick chimney breast of Moon Beer & Coffee in ChesterI first came across what was then the Harvest-Moon Espresso Bar a couple of years ago, not long after it had opened in Chester and it’s been on my radar ever since. I popped by in 2013, but it was unexpectedly closed that day and I hadn’t had another chance until now.

In that time, Harvest-Moon has undergone some changes, not least a name change to Moon Beer & Coffee after getting a licence in November last year (although the signage and some of the social media hasn’t caught up yet). While the focus is still on coffee, with an old-school espresso menu based around a house-blend from Merseyside roasters Coffee 1652, plus regularly-rotating guests, Moon now offers bottled craft beer from around the world. There’s also food with an American slant. For breakfast: toast, porridge or bagels, with more bagels and sandwiches for lunch. Finally nacho or chilli bowls, plus hummus and Bavarian meat platters, are on offer.

Just around the corner from the Cathedral with the library across the street, Moon is a cosy spot. There’s not much seating, which spread across two inter-connected spaces, while the staff are friendly and engaging with both regulars and visitors alike.

December 2015: Moon Beer & Coffee closed over the summer, which is a real shame.

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Foxcroft & Ginger Update

The letters "F & G" enclosed in a heart with an arrow through it, painted on the door, with Foxcroft & Ginger written underneathIt’s been almost two years since I first visited Foxcroft & Ginger on Soho’s Berwick Street, drawn by the recommendations of my friend Hayley and the descriptions of the legendary muffins. Since then I’ve been an irregular visitor, drawn back by the mis-matched crockery (which, although depleted in number, is still there) and, more importantly, the gorgeous basement, still a benchmark for Coffee Spot basements everywhere.

Although the number of Coffee Spots staying open into the evening has been steadily expanding, with the likes of Villiers joining the more-established Notes and Fernandez & Wells, Foxcroft & Ginger offers another alternative for those looking for good coffee in the evenings. It helps that between them they offer a wide variety of excellent food (and wine) to go with their outstanding coffee.

So, what has changed in the two years since I first went to Foxcroft & Ginger? Well, on the one hand, not a great deal, but on the other hand, quite a bit. Sometimes Coffee Spots re-invent themselves, but, in the case of Foxcroft & Ginger, it’s been a steady evolution, rather than revolution, which has driven change.

September 2016: I’ve heard on the grapevine that Foxcroft & Ginger’s Soho branch has closed, although there’s no official word as to why… Very sad news.

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