The welcoming exterior of Kilimanjaro on Edinburgh's Nicholson StreetOne of the great things about independent coffee shops is that everyone is keen to recommend other great coffee spots to you, which is how I found out about Kilimanjaro on Nicholson Street in Edinburgh. I was pointed in its direction by Artisan Roast and since you all know what I think about Artisan Roast, a visit was obligatory.

Just as well, since I may have walked straight past Kilimanjaro without a second look. And that would have been a shame, since I’d have missed a great cup of coffee in a lovely coffee shop. To be honest, while I applaud the wave of experimental coffee shops sweeping Edinburgh (and beyond), sometimes I long for a straightforward coffee shop, serving straightforward coffee. So it was a pleasure to find Kilimanjaro, a thriving coffee shop focusing on serving excellent coffee.

Kilimanjaro is average-sized, smaller than the near-by Brew Lab, but considerably bigger than stable-mate Wellington Coffee or Artisan Roast, for example. The bulk of the seating is up front with a narrow spur leading off to the back. The contrast in terms of look and feel with Brew Lab, which I’d just come from, could not be greater.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

Kilimanjaro on Edinburgh’s Southside can perhaps best be described as “off the radar”. I wouldn’t have known about it if Artisan Roast hadn’t pointed me in its direction. It’s actually part of a local group (chain would be putting it too strongly) of four coffee shops, all with common ownership. However, each is its own distinct place, with its own style and identity. The others are the nearby Press, Bruntsfield’s Project Coffee, and George Street’s Wellington Coffee.

None of them have websites and, as far as I can tell, there is no Twitter or Facebook presence either. Not that this seems to hold them back: I visited Kilimanjaro at lunchtime and it was heaving. Even when I left in mid-afternoon, it was pretty busy, with a constant stream of people coming and going. The simple fact is that Kilimanjaro is passionate about its coffee. There’s nothing fancy about it and it doesn’t try to do too much: just serve excellent coffee and food. In this it succeeds wonderfully well and I suspect that this is the source of its continued success.

Kilimanjaro, like its stable-mates, uses Square Mile coffee, a little ironic given that I was 400 miles away from Square Mile’s London home. While I was there, Kilimanjaro was serving the seasonal Red Brick espresso blend, along with the El Paraiso decaf espresso. There’s usually a third grinder offering a guest blend, but it was broken while I was there (where have I heard that before?).

I should have had an espresso, but I wanted something a little longer to go with my lunch, so I plumped for a flat white. It’s only really during the Coffee Spot tour of Edinburgh that I became aware that there seem to be two schools of flat white making. The first, the one I was used to, serves it in a round cup, like a mini-cappuccino. The second school serves it in a large espresso cup; Kilimanjaro definitely belongs to this second school.

The result is a slightly shorter drink than I’m used to, but as a fan of espresso, I associate short with good. As regular readers know, my main complaint with lattes, etc (coffee-flavoured milk drinks as I am apt to call them in a certain well-known High Street chain, recently been shamed into paying corporation tax) is that you can’t always taste the coffee through the milk. However, the big advantage of the espresso cup school is that it allows the coffee a much better chance of standing out. This is definitely the case with Kilimanjaro, where the coffee came through loud and strong.

The main downside is that since it’s a much shorter drink, I tend to find myself wanting more. On the other hand, from a marketing point of view, it means I buy more coffee, so it’s a win-win really.

It’s worth mentioning the other element of Kilimanjaro’s success, the food. I had soup for lunch, which was very good, but I kept casting envious glances at the various Panini that came out of the kitchen. Like its coffee, Kilimanjaro keeps the food menu simple, although it did have three types of soup on offer.

In short, Kilimanjaro succeeds because it’s focused on doing what it does (excellent coffee and food) and it does it very well.

+44 (0) 131 622 0135
Monday 09:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Benches, Couch, Tables (Outside)
Tuesday 09:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Wednesday 09:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Thursday 09:00 – 18:00 Cards Amex, Visa, Mastercard
Friday 09:00 – 18:00 Wifi No
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Power No
Sunday 11:00 – 17:00 Mobile 3G, Voice
Chain Local Visits 11th December 2012

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Edinburgh for more great Coffee Spots.

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6 thoughts on “Kilimanjaro

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  2. Great article. Now I’m really keen to check out the Edinborough cafe scene! Your insight into the sizes of Flat Whites (any of which would be better than a latte) are spot on. Theoretically a Flat White should be the same size wherever you get it and the Round Cup vs Espresso Cup shape shouldn’t make any difference. But in practise (as you’ve noticed) different cafes make their Flat Whites in different sizes.

    The smaller size is like a Cortardo or Cafe Con Leche and it’s definitely good to let the coffee do the talking. But for a lunch accompaniment, maybe a longer drink would have been better. It seems to be a matter of testing out each cafe (or looking around the tables when you walk to the counter).

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