Abchurch Yard in the City of London, has been home to various coffee carts over the years, including Flat Cap (old Cannon Street site) and, most recently, Feijoa Tree. However, at the start of June, Matt took over the pitch, a lovely young man who I met in 2016 when he was in charge of the CanDo Coffee kiosk in Paddington.
Currently, Matt has a fairly simple set-up, with a single mobile stand sheltering under a large umbrella. There’s a single-origin espresso from Curve Coffee Roasters, along with a decaf from Caravan, served from a basic espresso menu, although, in a neat twist, everything costs £2.50. Matt also has matcha all the way from Japan, a small number of cakes and retail bags of various single-origins from Curve. It’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own, although there are some seats if you want to hang around.
When I first started working in Sheldon Square, behind Paddington Station, in the summer of 2013, there was nothing in the way of good coffee. Then came Beany Green in 2014, followed over the next couple of years by the likes of KuPP and Kioskafé. I stopped working there at the end of the 2015, at which point my office decided to upgrade its in-house café, bringing in Baxter Storey to run the operation, with coffee from Modern Standard. Not that I’m still bitter about that…
I didn’t quite escape Sheldon Square though, since my new job, which sees me travelling all over the world, also means I visit Sheldon Square about once a year, allowing me to keep tabs on the growing coffee scene, including the likes of Can Do Coffee and (the recently closed) Store Street Espresso. I was back there last week, when I found another crop of new places vying for my attention, including Darcie & May Green, twin barges tied up on the canal-side, another Can Do Coffee pitch and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, The Meal Ticket, which was then into its third week of operation, serving Caravan on espresso and batch-brew…
Crosstown Doughnuts has been a staple of several London coffee shops, as well as being available direct from Crosstown at various London markets. Then, Crosstown opened its own coffee shop, in Soho. And then another. And another. And, earlier this year, the fourth opened, in the new Nova development north of Victoria Station.
If you know Crosstown Doughnuts, you know what to expect. If you don’t, you’re in for a treat. However, that’s not all. As well as doughnuts, there’s coffee, and not just any old coffee. Crosstown serves Caravan, the ubiquitous Market Blend in the main grinder with a seasonal guest, always a single-origin, and also from Caravan, in the second.
The Victoria branch is a pod, a rather space-age looking contraption with outdoor seating. Inside, there are two small corner bars, each with two stools. Not really designed for customers who linger, it’s actually a really neat spot.
Caravan is a rather successful chain of three coffee shop/restaurants, with a significant in-house roastery, supplying coffee shops all around the country with a variety of blends and single-origins. However, this is where it all started back in 2010 on the corner of London’s Exmouth Market. This is the original Caravan, which is still going strong, coffee shop by day, restaurant by night, serving excellent coffee and food throughout the day. Unlike others of its ilk, such as Notes and Grind, both of which now roast their own coffee, Caravan was a roaster from the start and, indeed, the original roaster is still down in the basement at Exmouth Market.
Caravan sits on a sunny, south-facing corner, windows on two sides, outside seating spilling out on Exmouth Market itself. Inside, coffee excellence is taken as standard, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, two more on pour-over and a third on batch-brew. However, Caravan is also about food, with table service to match. There’s an excellent, extensive breakfast menu until 11.30, with an all-day menu of small/large plates from noon. At weekends, brunch takes over from 10 until four. There’s also beer, cider, cocktails, spirits and a massive wine list.
Brooklyn Coffee, on the busy Commercial Street in the heart of Shoreditch, has been around for just over three years. During that time, plenty of people have sung its praises and, while I’ve called in a few times, I’ve never been in a position to write it up for the Coffee Spot. Until a fortnight ago, that is.
Brooklyn Coffee is, as the one-word A-board outside clearly states, all about the coffee. Admittedly, there’s a limited breakfast menu, a reasonable selection of cakes, cookies and pastries, plus beer straight from the fridge, but it’s the coffee, from local roasters, Caravan, that takes centre stage. Not that Brooklyn Coffee aims to dazzle you with variety: there’s one option (blend or single-origin) on espresso, with decaf on the second grinder, while filter drinkers have a single-origin available on bulk-brew. Finally, Caravan’s Special Bru blend makes an appearance for the iced coffee.
In London, “Crosstown” is synonymous with “doughnut”. You can purchase these delightful creations from various Crosstown Doughnuts market stalls (I’ve visited both King’s Cross and Old Spitalfields) while they’re also available in several speciality coffee shops (again, from personal experience, Notes, King’s Cross and Origin at the British Library). However, for the last year, you’ve been able to get them in Crosstown’s own coffee shop in Soho, where you can wash down your doughnut with some excellent Caravan coffee. Or Kokoa Collection hot chocolate if you’ve not had a sufficient sugar rush!
It’s a small place, with enough space for a doughnut-laden counter (right) and a five-person bar (left). However, it’s worth paying a visit, if only because I know of nowhere else where you can sit in such close proximity to so many superb doughnuts. Beware though: Crosstown only has takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
New Row Coffee has been around for several years, pleasingly occupying a spot on New Row, just off St Martin’s Lane, midway between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. I’ve walked past on several occasions, but never had reason to stop, always being put off by its size (or lack thereof). However, on a recent visit to Freed’s on St Martin’s Lane to buy some new dance shoes, I decided it was time to pay a visit. I was so impressed that I came back the following week with my camera, and exactly one week later, here it is on the Coffee Spot!
New Row’s one of those small coffee shops that thinks it’s actually much bigger. For somewhere with just two tables and a pair of seats at the counter, it serves a range of coffee that would put many larger rivals to shame. Joining the obligatory espresso menu, built around Caravan’s ubiquitous Market Blend, there’s a regularly-rotating filter coffee (also Caravan) through Aeropress, V60 or Syphon. Add to that a decent range of cakes and, a recent addition, a small sandwich and savoury tart selection, and you have a place for all occasions. If you can find a seat!
July 2017: Following the change of ownership (see after the gallery), New Row Coffee has been rebranded The Espresso Room. The Market Blend is still on espresso, but it’s been joined by various guests, both on espresso and pour-over. Otherwise, little appears to have changed.
My visit to The Fleet Street Press was an exercise in going from the sublime to the ridiculous, since I had just come from the soaring, glorious space that is The Wren, to the small, intimate series of spaces that make up The Fleet Street Press. Really, the two of them are like chalk and cheese, representing the two extremes of coffee shop spaces, and yet I love them both.
The Fleet Street Press fills a fairly awkward, long, thin space at the start of Fleet Street, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. Spread over two floors, the highlight is a cosy basement, stuffed with sofas and armchairs, although upstairs, with its bright, window seats, bar opposite the counter and intimate nook at the back, is pretty decent too.
Talking of decent, The Fleet Street Press serves a bespoke seasonal house-blend (The Press Blend) on the espresso machine, roasted by Caravan, plus regular guests and a daily-changing single-origin on filter. Add to that a wide range of loose-leaf tea from London Leaf and award-winning hot chocolate from Kokoa Collection and you’re onto a winner. And I’ve not even mentioned the wide range of cakes and the friendly staff…
Since I’m now officially London’s second best coffee blogger (behind Daniel of Cups of London Coffee), I thought I ought to blog about somewhere in London for a change… So, I present Monday’s Coffee Spot, Caravan’s roastery and second outlet, its wonderful space just north of King’s Cross station.
I popped into Caravan one Friday morning before work to pick up the new Coffee Spot Espresso Cup. However, while I was there I realised that the place was long overdue a write-up for the Coffee Spot, and thus today’s Coffee Spot was born…
A roastery, coffee bar and restaurant, Caravan, in its cavernous space in an old grain warehouse next to Regent’s Canal just north of King’s Cross, is many things to many people. To me, it’s a great place to sit inside at the counter at the back, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with the baristas, or, on a summer’s evening, sitting outside with a carafe of one of Caravan’s many fine single-origins. As well as the single-origin pour-overs, I have always liked Caravan’s Market espresso-blend and generally keep an eye out for its coffee wherever I go.
Brickwood Coffee and Bread is just a couple of doors along from Clapham Common stalwart, Black Lab. The new kid on the block arrived at the end of this summer with a burst of social media activity. Fortunately, the reality lived up to the virtual hype.
For starters, Brickwood is a lovely place. As one would expect from the name, the interior is all brick and wood: exposed brick walls, bare floorboards, a wooden counter and lots of wooden tables. The ceiling, although not brick or wood, is amazing, made up of a patchwork of old coffee sacks. If you don’t fancy sitting in the main area there’s a large, secluded garden and a basement, which has a very different character from upstairs.
Brickwood serves a fairly standard espresso-based menu using London-roaster Caravan’s Market Blend, a great all-round coffee. There’s a good range of sandwiches and an extensive brunch menu, as well as what looked to be an excellent range of cake. However, I was there for brunch and wasn’t able to sample any (although judging by the rate at which the cakes were going, that didn’t seem to be putting most people off!).