I discovered Espresso Kitchen while in Bournemouth researching my feature on Dorset in Caffeine Magazine, Issue 15. It came highly recommended, by the folks at South Coast Roast no less, so I decided I really ought to pop over. In an area known as The Triangle, Espresso Kitchen’s just a few minutes’ walk from Richmond Hill/South Coast Roast. It’s a tiny place, seating nine at a push, and feels even fuller and busier, with all available surfaces covered with decoration of every conceivable type. A complete contrast, for example, to Monday’s Coffee Spot, the similarly-sized, but incredibly minimalist BLK Coffee.
Unlike BLK, which is less than three weeks old, Espresso Kitchen is approaching its third birthday. Owner and head-barista Fran is Italian. In setting up Espresso Kitchen, she wanted to recreate the traditional Italian espresso-bar atmosphere of her homeland, the sort of friendly, chatty place where everyone knows (almost) everyone else.
However, when it comes to the coffee itself, Fran parts ways with her compatriots. She’s no fan of the darkly roasted, bitter, robusta-inspired stereotype of Italian espresso. Instead, she turned to local roaster, Beanpress Coffee Co, who supplies the house-blend, and, along with various guests, a second espresso too.
South Coast Roast is the “coffee specialist” outlet of Boscombe’s finest, Café Boscanova, which is an interesting concept since the coffee at Café Boscanova is some of the best I’ve had! However, according to South Coast Roast’s Facebook page, it’s “an outlet for the baristas at Cafe Boscanova to focus more intently on speciality coffee”. The good news is that South Coast Roast lives up to that promise, serving some excellent coffee in lovely surroundings.
Situated right in the heart of Bournemouth on Richmond Hill, South Coast Roast occupies the site of the much-missed Poppy Mae. However, I can think of no better successor to Poppy Mae than South Coast Roast, so every cloud has a silver-lining. South Coast Roast serves Has Bean, regularly changing the coffee on offer and frequently serving its own special blends. While I was there, it was the Candy Cane blend on the espresso machine, along with single-origin decaf bean from Columbia. If you don’t fancy that, South Coast Roast has bulk-brew filter (a Columbian blend) and there’s a Clever Dripper option (a Costa Rican single-origin).
I’d heard good things about Poppy Mae. Very good things, in fact. So it was with some relief that I managed to track it down in its new location on Richmond Hill in the centre of Bournemouth (thanks to Luke from Café Boscanova for the directions). I was there back in November, two weeks after Poppy Mae had reopened following the move from its old home in Westbourne.
Honestly, I thought I was in love when I had visited Café Boscanova the day before, but now I’m torn. Poppy Mae is lovely, an old insurance office that has been gutted and pretty much left at that, with what looks like a homemade bar for the espresso machine and grinders and a table chucked in the middle of the room. Minimalist might be overstating it.
However, while it might look as if Poppy Mae had been thrown together on an absent-minded weekend, nothing could be further from the truth. Talking to the owner, Matt, the love, care and pure passion that had gone into Poppy Mae was evident from the start, resulting in a wonderful place. It doesn’t hurt that the coffee is excellent too 🙂
SAD NEWS: Poppy Mae was forced to close in mid-January, I believe largely due to factors outside of Matt’s control. It will be greatly missed. The good news is that space has been taken over by South Coast Roast, the self-described radical wing of Cafe Boscanova.