A long time ago (at least, it feels that way) when I regularly visited London, I’d often wander past the Southbank Centre Food Market. Conveniently on the route from Waterloo Station to Hungerford Bridge (as I stubbornly still call the Golden Jubilee Bridges) it was made even better by the presence, at the foot of the stairs, of the Bean About Town coffee van, a lovely, old Citroen, run by the equally lovely, but not so old, Claire (who shares, by the way, her nationality with the van, both being French). It was one of the first places I wrote about on the Coffee Spot.
However, things change, I ceased to be such a regular visitor, and I didn’t notice when the van disappeared from the bottom of the stairs. Then, last Sunday, with an hour to spare, I decided to wander out of Waterloo and have a nose around the market, whereupon I stumbled upon a big sign saying “Coffee” at the far end of the market.
That’s new, I thought to myself. Only it wasn’t. It was the old Citroen van, with Claire still there, pulling shots. “What’s going on?” you might well ask. What’s going on indeed!
Having finally paid a visit to Flat Cap Victoria in last week’s Saturday Short, I thought it was high-time that the Coffee Spot got around to the other Flat Cap, which is tucked away south of the river in London’s Borough Market. Once part of a small fleet of Notes Barrows, Flat Cap Borough is now a standalone operation and, despite the similarities, Flat Cap Borough is independent of Flat Cap Victoria.
There are, however, still close ties to Notes, with all the coffee coming from the Notes Roastery. There are a range of single-origin beans that you can buy, with one of them in the hopper. During my visit, this was a Brazilian Cachoeirinha, a naturally-processed coffee. All the usual espresso-based drinks are there, but otherwise that’s it. If you’re after something to eat with your coffee, never fear. You’re in Borough Market and spoilt for choice!
At the northern end of Strutton Ground Market, not far from Victoria Station, is Flat Cap Victoria, a veteran of London’s speciality coffee scene. For the last eight years, from Monday to Friday, it has been turning out top quality espresso-based drinks in all weathers from a lovely barrow, its only protection from the elements, a black, open-sided gazebo.
Flat Cap was set up by co-owners Fabio (of Notes fame), Rob and Charlie, although Fabio and Rob no longer work on the barrow. Despite being co-owned by Fabio, Flat Cap is independent of Notes (for example, there are no links, other than the name, with Flat Cap Borough in Borough Market), although there are close ties, with Flat Caps using Notes Coffee. There’s a single-origin espresso which changes every few weeks, largely depending on what the roastery sends through. If you’re hungry (and there early enough!), there’s a small range of pastries.
When it comes to speciality coffee south of the river (in London), Federation Coffee has been flying the flag longer than most (almost six years in fact), with three years at its current location in the heart of Brixton Village. Although it now has company in the likes of Balance, Stir and Brixton Blend, Federation’s still a standard-bearer when it comes to speciality coffee in Brixton. There’s a house-blend on espresso from Kent-based roasters, Curve, with regularly-rotating single-origins from Curve and various guests on filter through the ever-reliable Moccamaster.
Federation occupies a couple of units in Brixton Village. You can sit inside or out, where the glass-roofed market arcades make for the perfect location, whatever the weather. Inside, you share the space with the counter, the seating in the windows all around the edges, giving you the perfect spot for people-watching, particularly if you get one of the window-bars.
If you’re hungry, there’s a good selection of cake on offer, backed up by an impressive breakfast/lunch menu, particularly when you consider the small space behind the counter in which the kitchen staff have to work. The menu is largely bread-based, with toast and toasted sandwiches, which suited me just fine.
The CoffeeWorks Project is a small chain of three London coffee shops, which, since the summer of 2016, has also become a roaster as well. I first came across is towards the end of 2013 when there was just one, the original in the Angel. Despite liking it immensely, it’s taken me three years to visit its second branch in Leadenhall Market in the heart of the City.
One of the many attractions of the original is the rambling space it occupies, which includes several interconnected spaces and a gorgeous downstairs garden to the rear of the property. In contrast, I went past the Leadenhall Market branch several times, but, from the street, it never looked that appealing. Its chipboard walls and counter gave it a slightly unfinished look and it never struck me as somewhere I would enjoy sitting and having my coffee, so I passed on by.
However, fate has a way of resolving these things. Last year, I met up my friend Oksana for coffee and we went to the Leadenhall Market CoffeeWorks Project. Far from finding it unappealing, I loved it and so I returned with my Coffee Spot hat on late one afternoon in December…
One of the Coffee Spot’s tag lines is “places I like to have coffee”, so today’s Saturday (on-a-Wednesday) Supplement is something of a departure for me since I’m not sure I’d describe Cafe X as somewhere I’d like to have coffee. Somewhere I’d go to get coffee, perhaps, but it’s definitely not somewhere to have coffee. However, there I was on Monday, in San Francisco, minding my own business, when Cafe X announced its grand opening. A block from my hotel. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so along I went.
So, what is Cafe X? Well, put simply, it’s an automated coffee shop, with a pair of high-end bean-to-cup machines and a robot arm that takes the place of the barista. There’s a choice of beans from local roasters, such as Verve (Santa Cruz) and Oakland’s AKA (previously known as Supersonic), plus a fairly standard selection of espresso-based drinks, but only one size (8oz). You order using one of the tablets attached to the Cafe X kiosk, or preferably ahead of time on your phone using the Cafe X app. Typically your coffee will be waiting for you in under a minute. Well, that’s the theory…
My final instalment from this summer’s trip to Copenhagen is perhaps its most famous name in coffee, the Coffee Collective. Known across Europe for the standard of its roasting, the Coffee Collective also has three coffee shops: the original, out to the west of the centre, the second, in the nearby roastery, and this, its third, right in the heart of the city at Torvehallerne, once again demonstrating that speciality coffee can thrive in the mainstream if done properly.
Torvehallerne is a food and produce market, which reminds me of Boston’s Public Market, where George Howell is doing a similar thing. The Coffee Collective occupies a long counter at the end of the eastern of Torvehallerne’s twin halls. There’s plenty of space, and a limited amount of seating in the shape of window-bars, although you can also take your coffee and make use of any of the public seating areas.
Talking of the coffee, it’s what you come here for. There’s a choice of a blend, single-origin or decaf through the Kees van der Westen espresso machine, or you can have one of three single-origins as a Kalita Wave pour-over, with a fourth on bulk-brew if you’re in a hurry.
George Howell is a something of a legend in American speciality coffee. He made his name as a roaster, but recently George, as his staff refer to him, has started opening coffee shops under the George Howell brand, starting in Newtonville in 2012. This, the subject of today’s Saturday Short, is the first branch in Boston, in the high-profile, newly-opened Boston Public Market, while a second Boston branch in the Godfrey Hotel on Washington Street opened this summer.
Boston Public Market is home to a high-quality espresso/coffee bar, catering primarily to the takeaway market, but with proper cups for espresso and glasses for cortados. It’s an impressive operation, with house-blend, single-farm and decaf on espresso, plus further single-farm coffees for the iced-coffee, bulk-brew (coffee of the week) and individual pour-overs, courtesy of twin Marco Beverage Systems SP9s. You can buy retail bags of coffee, plus various merchandising and coffee-related kit.
Frustrated at the London Coffee Festival by the failure of the irrepressible Edy Piro to photobomb my pictures, I went looking for him a couple of weeks later. Having (finally) visited Terrone & Co at Netil Market at the end of last year (and not found him there either!), I decided to head for Kingly Court in Soho, where Terrone & Co (Edy’s Italian coffee roasting company) has an espresso bar called Sottoscala.
For those that don’t know, Kingly Court, sandwiched between Kingly and Carnaby Streets at the western edge of Soho (and just around the corner from Soho Grind), is a marvellous, enclosed courtyard surrounded on all four sides by three storeys of cafés, bars and restaurants, with balconies running around the first/second floors. On the western side of courtyard’s ground floor, you’ll find Pizza Pilgrims, and, attached to that, under the stairs, is Sottoscala. But was Edy there…?
Another Shrewsbury gem, I discovered The Bird’s Nest thanks to the talented Cherie Jerrard. I’d come to see Cherie Did This, an exhibition of Cherie’s fascinating café illustrations at the Shrewsbury Coffeehouse. Afterwards, we met up for another tour of some of Cherie’s favourite Shrewsbury coffee shops.
The Bird’s Nest is in Shrewsbury’s Market Hall, which was built in 1965 (making it slightly older than me!) and is out of keeping with everything around it. However, its unappealing concrete exterior hides a delightful interior, particularly when you get to the back of the second floor, which is where you’ll find The Bird’s Nest, surrounded by market stalls.
It’s an interesting space, full of an eclectic mix of furniture. If I said it felt a little like sitting in a vintage store, I’d mean it in a nice way. The layout’s wonderfully confusing, with the kitchen in one corner, the coffee counter in the opposite corner and various other bits and pieces scattered around the edges. Not that any of this matters since there’s full table service. There’s a fairly standard espresso menu, bags of cake and, if you don’t arrive after the kitchen’s closed, full breakfast and lunch menus.