Given that I’ve written about both Small Batch’s coffee and about places serving Small Batch, I thought it about time that I wrote about Small Batch itself. For those who don’t know, Small Batch is a well-established and well-respected roaster and coffee shop chain in Brighton and Hove, which I covered on one of my first assignments for Caffeine Magazine. In all, there are four Small Batch coffee shops in Brighton and Hove, with coffee stalls at both Brighton and Hove stations, and a roastery/café in Hove. Naturally, this being the Coffee Spot, I started at the end, not the beginning, visiting the newest Small Batch of all, the Norfolk Square branch.
On the busy Western Road, between Brighton and Hove, this might be the most beautiful of all the Small Batches. Located in an old bank branch, it is an elegant, bright, high-ceilinged space, enhanced by an island counter that subtly dominates the room. There’s a range of seating, including at the counter itself, where you can watch the espresso machine in action or marvel at the brew bar on the opposite side. You can also sit outside if you wish.
And, of course, there’s Small Batch’s excellent coffee.
Mr Wolfe is one of those places which is preceded by its reputation. It’s also one of those places where its reputation is far greater than the actual place itself. Not that Mr Wolfe fails to live up to its reputation, far from it. It’s just that Mr Wolfe has such a big (and good) reputation, far in excess of its small physical size.
Tucked away on Montpelier Place on the Hove side of Brighton, it’s on the next street back from the main east-west artery, the Western Road. A stone’s throw from Small Batch Coffee’s lovely Norfolk Square branch, Mr Wolfe is just a little off the beaten track, making it a quiet alternative to many of Brighton’s bustling coffee shops.
This does mean that you have to track it down, but, on the plus side, it means that everyone who comes in really wants to be there, which all contributes to a friendly, neighbourhood atmosphere. It’s like popping around to a mate’s for (really good) coffee and some excellent home-made cake. To push the metaphor a little further, Mr Wolfe’s a mate who’ll also make you sandwiches or poached eggs, plus he’ll do you brunch at the weekend.
Redroaster is something of a Brighton legend, first opening its doors on Saint James’s Street almost 15 years ago. Back then it was something of a pioneer, a café-cum-roaster, producing all its own beans on a small, red roaster which gives the coffee shop its name. The roaster is still there, in pride of place behind the counter, but ever since Redroaster opened a dedicated roastery in Kemp Town to supply its growing wholesale business, it’s been semi-retired. These days it’s only in use as a sample roaster, or when the big one in Kemp Town is broken!
If I said Redroaster didn’t look like a modern, speciality coffee shop, I don’t mean that in a bad way. It feels like a throw-back, the sort of café I would have rejoiced in finding even 10 years ago, which shows how far tastes/trends have evolved in the coffee business. It’s also testament to the fact that Redroaster has been doing its thing for a quite a while now, long before most of the current wave of roasters discovered speciality coffee. The simple fact is that Redroaster has been roasting and serving single origin coffee long before it became fashionable.
Brighton‘s Bond Street Coffee is the latest venture for old friend of the Coffee Spot, Horsham Coffee Roaster. It was set up towards the end of 2014 with co-owner and manager, Chris, who I first met a couple of years ago when he worked at Coffee@33. I’ve also known Bradley, the man behind Horsham Coffee Roaster, for a similar length of time, so I confess to being slightly biased. However, several people, including the barista at my first stop of the day, Café Coho, and Mike, the manager of The Flying Coffee Bean in Guildford, told me good things about Bond Street Coffee, so I suspect it’s more than just bias on my part.
Bond Street, unsurprisingly, exclusively serves Horsham Coffee Roaster coffee, highlighting and showcasing Bradley’s output. There are two espresso and two filter options, all single-origins, which rotate on a regular basis. While I was there, there was an Ethiopian on both espresso and filter, with a Peruvian as the other espresso option, and a Rwandan on filter, all of which were washed (for the uninitiated, washing is the processing method, whereby the coffee bean is extracted from the coffee cherry). There’s also decaf, although it’s less well advertised.
When I first went to Brighton, I came across Nest, a lovely, cosy spot in Brighton’s North Laines. Back then I wrote that Nest was the “sort of place that put the lounge into coffee lounge: a relaxed, chilled-out space where you could easily end up spending all day without quite meaning to”. On my return last month, I was wandering the Laines, as you do, when I thought to myself, “ooh, Nest should be down there”. So down I went, only to discover that Nest was no more and, in its place, was Jolliffes.
The good news, for those of you who liked the original Nest, is that not much has changed from the original concept. It’s still a great place to come and spend time, lounging around with your coffee and cake. The roaster has been changed, from Has Bean to the local Redroaster, but the cakes are still both locally-sourced and excellent.
I was there only three weeks after the new owners took charge, so expect a few more changes to the décor as they spruce things up, but as far as I’m aware, there are no plans for any radical changes.
Café Coho is a chain in the strictest sense of the word (there are two of them). Queens Road is the second of the two, very handily placed just a stone’s throw from Brighton Station and around the corner/down the street from the likes of Coffee@33 and Taylor Street Baristas. Despite this stiff competition, it more than holds its own, being a lovely spot, the décor full of brick and wood. As a bonus, on the day I was there, it was flooded with sunshine.
The coffee is from Union Hand-roasted, with a decaf option, but unlike many places in Brighton, there’s no guest roasters or pour-over. There is, however, a comprehensive breakfast/brunch/lunch menu, with a lavish array of cake and pastries. I ‘d only come in for an early-morning coffee before starting a day of café-hopping, but I made the mistake of sitting in the sun-filled room at the back, which is by the stairs down to the kitchen… After a constant stream of breakfasts coming up the stairs (plus harassment on twitter), I finally cracked and ordered poached eggs on toast (I’d have had the Eggs Florentine, but I’d already had one breakfast that day before setting off!).
On my first visit to Brighton, I made it all the way to Hove to visit its branch of Ground, the second branch of this local chain (if chain is the correct term for somewhere with just two branches). However, I failed to get east of the centre and so it was only on my return that I finally managed to track down the original Ground in the delightful Kemp Town. After all that, I’m pleased to say it was well worth the wait!
Compared to the Hove branch, the original Ground is quite a bit smaller, and, as a result, much more intimate. It also benefits from being on a south-facing corner, so, unlike its Hove counterpart, it’s flooded with light on a sunny day.
There’s a relatively straight-forward espresso-based menu, complimented by bulk-brew filter and tea from Canton Tea Co. A decent range of cake is joined by toast and a selection of three sandwiches for the more savoury-minded. Currently the coffee is from Union, with North Star guesting on filter, but all that is about to change, with Ground due to move over to North Star for all its coffee as a prelude to roasting its own.
January 2016: Ground has now started roasting its own coffee under the name Pharmacie.
Nest is one of the more recent additions to the booming Brighton coffee scene that I wrote about in my latest Caffeine Magazine article. Located in the North Laines area, it’s easy to miss since it’s not on a main thoroughfare. However, it’s well worth tracking down.
Nest is the sort of place that put the lounge into coffee lounge: a relaxed, chilled-out space where you could easily end up spending all day without quite meaning to. It helps that the coffee is excellent, as are the cakes, and there’s more than enough food to keep you going through the day!
Seating-wise, you have the choice of downstairs at the back, or the slightly quieter upstairs. Both have fairly standard tables and chairs and, surprisingly for such a laid-back place, there is only one sofa, tucked away in a corner upstairs. On the other hand, more sofas might mean that no-one would actually ever leave! Large windows dominate the front of Nest, which, coupled with a window at the back and the clever use of mirrors, mean that the interior is very bright. This is also true upstairs, where windows front and back provide plenty of light.
April 2015: Nest is no more, having been taken over and renamed Jolliffes at the start of March. You can see what I made of the new place…
I was put onto Coffee@33 by Bradley of Horsham Coffee Roaster, so when Caffeine Magazine asked me to write an article on the Brighton coffee scene, I made Coffee@33 my first stop, although it very nearly wasn’t. Coffee@33 is fairly unassuming from the street and I actually walked right past it before realising my mistake!
My immediate reaction on stepping inside was that it’s a pop-up. However, nothing could be further from the truth since Coffee@33 was one of the forerunners of the current speciality coffee boom in Brighton, having been set up five years ago. Coffee@33 has that stripped-back look that is so-beloved of many modern coffee shops, only with Coffee@33, you get the feeling this isn’t an affectation or the result of a trendy designer, rather it’s just how it is. There’s no music, no art on the walls, nothing, in fact, to distract from the coffee itself, which is what Coffee@33 is all about.
Coffee@33 gets its beans from legendary London roasters, Monmouth, and from the local Horsham Coffee Roaster, which supplies an exclusive espresso house-blend, along with a decaffeinated option and regularly-rotating filter options. This compliments an espresso blend and another filter option from Monmouth.
A short walk down Queen Street in the direction of the sea from Brighton Station sees you arrive at Taylor Street Baristas, set back from the street on a slightly elevated pavement. From the outset, it’s a very tempting place, the sort of coffee shop that makes you want to immediately step inside. I’d have gone in even if it (a) wasn’t on my list and (b) hadn’t been recommended by other Brighton coffee shops.
Inside, Taylor Street Baristas is just as welcoming as it appears from the street. However, for me the main draw is the lovely little garden at the back. Good coffee shops with decent gardens are in short supply, so it’s always a pleasure to find another one (the lucky folks of Brighton also have The Marwood: it’s not fair!).
It also helps that the coffee is excellent. Taylor Street Baristas offers the usual espresso-based menu, along with batch-brew filter and V60/Aeropress options. The house blend (Rogue Espresso) is from Union Hand-roasted and there are regularly-rotating guest espressos and guest filters. While I was there, the guest espresso was Has Bean’s Kicker blend, with a Has Bean Costa Rica on the batch-brew.
November 2015: Taylor Street Baristas has closed its iconic Brighton branch to concentrate on the stores in London, plus the chain’s expansion plans. I know that there were plans to sell it as a going concern, so watch this space, but for now it’s closed.