Flat Cap Victoria

A lovely flat white at Flat Cap Victoria in my Therma Cup, made with a single-origin Brazilian coffee, roasted by Notes.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.

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Timmy Green

The Timmy Green logo from outside Timmy Green on Sir Simon Milton Square near Victoria Station.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.

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Badger & Dodo

A flat white in Badger & Dodo's trademark white cup, with the orange tree logoBadger & Dodo is a curious beast, and not just for its name. Starting life as a roastery in Cork in 2008, Badger & Dodo supplies coffee shops across Ireland. Except for the west coast. So, to plug the gap, in October 2014 Badger & Dodo opened its own café in Galway. As you do.

Occupying the corner of a modern, glass-walled building, Badger & Dodo is a bright and awkward-shaped spot. Just around the corner from the train station, bus station and coach station, there really is no excuse not to visit if you arrive in Galway by public transport (unless you arrive in late afternoon, when Badger & Dodo is closed). If, like I was, you leave by public transport, be sure to allow an hour or two before your train/bus/coach to sample the full coffee menu. Although maybe that’s just me…

Badger & Dodo serves a single-origin on espresso (which changes every five/six weeks or so) and another on filter through V60/Aeropress/Chemex (which changes every week or so). You can also buy a large range of single-origin beans. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a wide selection of handmade sandwiches/toasties, plus an excellent-looking range of pastries and cakes.

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Balance

My flat white, in a glass, at Balance in Brixton.After the venerable Federation Coffee, Balance, on Ferndale Road, is one of the more established names in Brixton’s speciality coffee, recently joined by the likes of Stir Coffee Brixton and Brixton Blend, plus, across the road, the new Volcano/Assembly Roastery. Established in 2014 by the owner, Ali, who I had the pleasure of meeting, Balance is a tightly-focused shop selling espresso-based drinks, with beans from The Roastery Department and Assembly, freshly-blended juices and a small selection of pastries, toasties and sandwiches.

It’s a tiny place too, with just enough space inside for the counter, espresso machine behind, where you can order and wait for your coffee. If you want to sit down, you need to head outside (although you’re welcome to stand at the counter like I did and drink your coffee) where you’ll find a bench and a couple of two-person tables on the pavement.

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London Grind

The London Grind logo, taken from the wall outside.London Grind, at the southern end of London Bridge, was the first of London’s growing Grind chain to offer full restaurant service in addition to its tried and tested espresso bar by day/cocktail bar by night model. It’s also undergone a recent expansion which has added a large seating area at the back and more than trebled the size of the kitchen.

There are several seating options, largely depending on why you are at Grind. If you’re dining, then there’s the aforementioned seating area, while if you are here for the espresso bar (day) or cocktail bar (evening) then you can sit at the counter. As a half-way house, a range of tables with padded benches lines the front wall where you can sit sipping your coffee/cocktails or having a more informal dining experience. As well as breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, there are also cakes and, at lunch-time, sandwiches.

This was the first time I’d visited a Grind since the chain started roasting its own coffee in its new Shoreditch HQ. In keeping with the tried and trusted Grind model, there is both a house-blend (for milk-based drinks) and single-origin (espresso, Americano, etc) on espresso, as well as decaf.

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Brixton Blend

The front of Brixton Blend, with the downstairs clearly visible through the glass door and windows.Brixton Blend is the slightly-more-minimalist younger sibling of Brockwell Blend, which opened last month just across the road from Brixton Tube Station. Occupying two floors of a narrow building directly across street from the David Bowie mural, it’s a welcome addition to the centre of Brixton, joining stalwarts Federation and Balance. When you consider that roasters Volcano Coffee Works/Assembly have also just moved in around the corner on Ferndale Road, you have the makings of a real speciality coffee hub in south London.

Brixton Blend is aiming for the takeaway market for the moment, even though it has plenty of space. This accounts for the minimalist nature of the seating (just two tables in the spacious downstairs, five upstairs) and the lack of proper cups, although there are tentative plans to give it a more permanent feel. Don’t let that put you off sitting in though, since the interior’s lovely and relaxed.

True to its name, Brixton Blend serves two espresso blends, one from the local Volcano and the other from Nude Espresso. These are joined by a decaf on the third grinder, while there’s a single-origin on bulk-brew. A small selection of excellent cakes is available for the hungry.

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ManCoCo

Detail from the wooden board outside the ManCoCo coffee bar and roastery in Manchester.The concept of the railway arch as home to a coffee shop (The Fields Beneath or Doctor Espresso  – Mama V’s spring to mind), roastery (Neighbourhood Coffee), or, indeed, bakery (Hart’s Bakery), is well-established. For the last couple of years, their ranks have been swelled by Manchester’s ManCoCo, which is, as far as I know, the only combined coffee bar/roastery in a railway arch. Tucked away on Hewitt Street behind Manchester’s Deansgate, ManCoCo takes a little bit of finding, but once you find Hewitt Street itself, ManCoCo is pretty obvious, on the north side of the street.

ManCoCo is both roastery (established five years ago) and coffee bar (18 months). Occupying a single arch, the roastery’s to your left, while the coffee bar’s on the right, the two separated by a fairly heavy-duty wooden partition. The coffee bar is no afterthought, by the way. A substantial operation in its own right, there’s plenty of seating, a decent selection of coffee, including a blend and single-origin on espresso, while you can have any of ManCoCo’s range of single-origins as a pour-over through the V60. While I was there, the choice extended to 11 different beans. If you’re hungry, there’s sandwiches and cake.

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Idle Hands Pop-up

The Idle Hands logo, taken from the A-board outside the pop-up on Dale Street.Idle Hands started as a long-term pop-up by Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. I had a hit-and-miss relationship with Idle Hands, constantly turning up when it was closed before finally visiting during last year’s Cup North. Idle Hands moved out earlier this year, finding a temporary home with barbers Mr Beardmore in the building on Dale Street that will become its permanent home. Eventually.

The building’s being redeveloped, and, in a tale of woe which you can read on Idle Hands’ website, the opening date has been pushed back and back. Originally scheduled to move in permanently by the end of October, this now looks like early next year. In the meantime, the developer has allowed Idle Hands to move into 32 Dale Street, in the space next door to its future permanent home of 34 Dale Street. It’s a bit makeshift, but at least Idle Hands is back and serving coffee!

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The LP Café

Some of the LPs for sale on the wall at Watford's The LP CafeThere aren’t that many places which combine speciality coffee and music, something that has always surprised me. Swindon’s Baila Coffee & Vinyl springs to mind, as does Oxford’s The Keen Bean Coffee Club (which I believe has changed hands since I last visited) while Porto’s Bop is a recent arrival. In fairness, today’s Coffee Spot, Watford’s The LP Café, has been on my radar for a while: I’ve just never had reason to go to Watford before now…

I’m very glad that I eventually made the trip though. The LP Café, as the name suggests, combines serving speciality coffee with selling vinyl LPs. It’s an interesting combination: one very much a recent thing (speciality coffee), the other very old school, but rapidly coming back into fashion (LPs).

The coffee (espresso only) is from London stalwarts, Climpson and Sons, a roaster, in speciality terms, almost as old as vinyl itself. Its Estate Blend is supplemented by a guest espresso (also from Climpson and Sons) on the second grinder. Breakfast and lunch options are joined by a tempting array of cakes. As well as the LPs (which you can buy on-line and collect in person), there are also bags of coffee for sale.

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200 Degrees, Carrington Street

A piccolo in a glass and on a green saucer, made with the guest espresso at 200 Degrees, Carrington Street.Once-upon-a-time, there was a roaster in Nottingham called 200 Degrees. Then, after a little while, there was a coffee shop. And, that, it seemed, was that. Until this summer, when suddenly up sprang two more coffee shops, one in Birmingham and this one, on Carrington Street, next to Nottingham Station. Now, in fairness to 200 Degrees, I’ve known about the second Nottingham branch ever since I visited the original in the city centre last summer. It’s just that, as is so often the case with coffee shops in older buildings, everything took that little bit longer and summer last year slipped into autumn, then winter, before turning into spring and finally, summer this year!

However, it was definitely worth the wait: the new 200 Degrees is quite stunning. All three coffee shops are elegant, but this one even more so. Plus, with its glass front and side windows overlooking the canal, it’s easily the brightest of the three. The usual 200 Degrees elements are all there: plentiful seating, house-blend, guest and decaf on espresso, with a single-origin filter and another on nitro-cold brew. This is all backed up with some excellent breakfast and lunchtime options, with cake throughout the day.

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