It’s ironic that I travel around the country, seeking out great coffee shops, but I can’t manage to visit one that’s practically on my doorstep. However, I have finally rectified this oversight with a long overdue visit to the award-winning Giro (or G!RO Cycles, to use its full name) in Esher.
Giro follows that by now well-established tradition of combining coffee and cycling, pioneered by the likes of Look Mum No Hands! and Zappi’s Bike Café. However, in the case of Giro, it feels to me more focused on the coffee than the cycles. There’s no workshop, for example, and the cycling gear is to be found at the back of the shop. Make no mistake though; Giro is as passionate about its cycling as it is about its coffee and regularly attracts crowds (swarms?) of cyclists, especially on its weekend organised cycle rides. There are also regular evening events.
Talking of coffee, Giro uses Beanberry Coffee, roasted in nearby Woking. Beanberry specialises in roasting organic coffee, with a number of single-origins and a bespoke espresso blend for Giro, while forging close links with the coffee farmers. Giro itself has four filter options (all V60) to go with the espresso.
Slowly but surely, London Fields, beyond trendy Shoreditch on the commuter lines out of Liverpool Street, is becoming a coffee destination. Long-time home to stalwarts Climpson and Sons on Broadway Market, and more recently, with the roastery under the railway arches, it’s been joined in recent years by Terrone, at Netil Market, and the latest arrival, the well-regarded Silhouette. It’s also where London coffee-and-cycling giants, Look Mum No Hands!, chose to open its second permanent branch on Mare Street.
For those familiar with the original Look Mum No Hands! on Old Street or the South Bank Pop-up (back again for another summer), the branch on Mare Street will hold no surprises, serving up the same winning menu of Square Mile coffee, craft beer, substantial food (when the kitchen’s not closed!) and bikes. There are fewer bikes than at Old Street, the emphasis here slightly more on the coffee, beer and food. There’s also less outside seating, the selection limited to a little bench outside the side door and a pair of picnic tables on the broad pavement out front. However, to compensate for these minor shortcomings, the interior’s even bigger than the substantial Old Street and the pace more relaxed.
January 2016: Look Mum No Hands! has had to close as the landlord has redeveloped the building.
Glasgow’s Siempre Bicycle Café continues the long association between cycling and coffee, occupying a multi-facetted space right next to the Kelvinhall Metro station in Glasgow’s West End.
Out front, there’s a cycle shop and sales room, where you can, if you like, sit and take your coffee, while at the back, there’s an equally large room where more typical café seating shares the space with the counter, which itself encloses an open-plan kitchen. If you keep on going, there’s also a large, sheltered garden right at the back. Unless, of course, you’re coming from the station, in which case you reach the garden first, then the café and finally the bike shop. Siempre also has a takeaway window, so you don’t even have to go inside if you don’t want to.
Serving Dear Green Coffee’s Goosedubs blend on espresso, with single origins available as filter from both Dear Green and another local roaster, Charlie Mills, Siempre has got the coffee side of things covered. There’s also an impressive array of tasty-looking cakes, plus a very comprehensive food offering. This being a cycle shop as well as a café, there’s also plenty of secure bicycle storage both inside and out.
To celebrate the Tour de France, which enters its last week today, I thought it was about time I visited one of London’s most famous cycling cafés, Old Street’s Look Mum No Hands!. Ironically, I wrote about Look Mum No Hands! South Bank pop-up this time last year, with an update last month, so I really was overdue a visit to where it all started.
Towards the western end of Old Street, Look Mum No Hands! occupies a long, low building on the north side of the street. This being Look Mum, it’s one of the most bike-friendly places I’ve been: lots of bike-rack space out in the courtyard, a free pump for anyone wanting to top-up their tyre pressure and, just inside the door, a bike workshop.
That said, let’s not overlook the café side of the equation. With coffee from Square Mile, Look Mum No Hands! holds its own in an area dominated by top-notch coffee shops. There’s no pour-over or fancy options, just straight-forward espresso, loads of cake and a decent selection of other drinks. This backed up by a comprehensive food menu, served throughout the day, from 7.30 in the morning to 10 o’clock at night. Continue reading →
A big motivation for publishing some of my Saturday Supplements on Wednesdays is to get through my backlog of places such as today’s Saturday Short, Daily Goods London. I visited it in January, but, until now, hadn’t found the time/space to squeeze it into the Coffee Spot. This is a shame, since it’s a lovely little place that doesn’t need much squeezing, one which continues my love affair with small Coffee Spots.
Located inside Kinoko Cycles on London’s delightfully-named (and delightful) Golden Square, Daily Goods is another marriage of coffee and cycling that’s quite common these days (eg Oxford’s Zappi’s Bike Café, Shoreditch’s Look Mum No Hands and, just around the corner, Rapha Cycle Club). Unlike the others, which are more akin to coffee shops, Daily Goods is perhaps best described as a coffee counter or concession, occupying a small counter space inside the much large Kinoko Cycles.
Update: Daily Goods has now moved south of the river to Camberwell and its own coffee shop. Full details are on the Daily Goods website.
A short stroll down St Michael’s Street, just off Cornmarket Street, Oxford’s central thoroughfare, is the Bike Zone, a bicycle shop. What’s not immediately apparent, except to those in the know, is that it’s also home to Zappi’s Bike Café, one of Oxford’s best-kept secrets. Indeed, even walking past might not give it away, such is the small size of the sign, which advertises the presence (on the first floor) of this lovely little coffee spot.
Zappi’s Bike Café is not quite as well hidden as Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee, but it’s in that league. The small sign, well above eye-level, and a menu, painted on the door, are the only real giveaways. Even then you have to negotiate your way up a narrow, switch-back staircase and the make your way through the display room, past all the bikes, before you get to Zappi’s itself.
Zappi’s focus is on coffee, toasted sandwiches and banana bread, of which the staff are rightfully proud. The coffee comes from the local Ue Coffee Roasters, supplemented by a regularly-rotating guest blend. All the cakes, sandwiches and, most importantly, the banana bread, are made in the tiny kitchen behind the counter.