It feels harsh calling Store Street Espresso a chain, but technically, with the opening of the second branch of the Store Street Espresso empire, it is. The new outlet, Continental Stores, on Tavistock Place, is less than 15 minutes’ walk northeast of Store Street, home of the original Store Street Espresso, but it’s a totally different part of London.
Although it’s half the size of the original, resulting in a more intimate atmosphere, Continental Stores sticks to the same formula that has made Store Street such a success. The house-blend on the espresso machine is Square Mile’s Red Brick seasonal blend, while there’s also a guest espresso (from various roasters; Nude Espresso’s Guatemalan was on while I was there) and a decaf option. Finally, there’s a single-original pour-over filter coffee via the V60 (a washed Bolivian from Square Mile during my visit), with bulk-brew coming soon. Add to that Store Street staples of cake, sandwiches, soup, toast and very friendly staff and you’re onto a winner.
Grinder-geeks, by the way, will be fascinated by the Mahlkonig EK43 grinder which deals with the guest coffees and the decaf. It certainly cuts an interesting figure on the counter!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Although Continental Stores is much smaller and more intimate than Store Street Espresso, it shares many physical similarities. For a start, it’s long and thin, with a separate seating area at the back. Another similarity is the generous windows at the front and the skylight and window at the back. This, coupled with lots of lights, make it a bright, welcoming space, even on the dreary February evening when I visited.
Much has been made on social media of Continental Stores heritage as an old shop (which, I believe, is where the name comes from). Several people have commented on the lovely old store front which the coffee shop has retained. However, when I was there, it was hidden under the large, black awning… Never mind, I shall have to go back when it’s sunny!
Talking of which, there’s generous outdoor seating in the shape of several wooden benches, set back on the deep pavement, which would make a good option on the sort of warm, sunny day that you don’t get that often in February.
You enter via a slightly recessed door, and are immediately confronted by the counter, cakes to the fore. However, unlike Store Street, where the bulk of the seating is isolated from the counter, here you have several options, including bench seats in the windows either side of the door and, opposite the counter, a long, thin bar, complete with bar stools, running along the left-hand wall. A nice touch is the coat hooks hanging under the bar.
If you don’t fancy that, the small room at the back has a bench running around the right-hand and back walls with five wooden tables giving enough space for a dozen people. Power outlets are at a premium, but the staff have put a long four-way extension lead out to alleviate the problem.
The walls and ceilings are painted white, with a tiled floor in the main room and bare floorboards at the back, giving it a warm, stripped back feel. In order to stop it feeling too sterile, colourful abstract paintings hang on the walls. Both spaces are quite intimate, with very quiet, inoffensive background music adding to the atmosphere.
When I was there, no-one was talking much: everyone at the back was working on laptops (all six of us!) while the lady sitting at the bar opposite the counter was writing in a notebook. Despite this silence, the staff are actually very friendly and chatty once you engage with them.
It was the end of a long day of touring coffee shops for my birthday, so I decided to go decaf and was rewarded with an excellent decaf piccolo. The latte art, in such a confined space, was lovely, holding its pattern and structure to bottom of glass, always a sign of superbly-steamed milk. The coffee, from Square Mile, blended well with milk. The taste came through clearly without dominating; neither was it too bitter, resulting in a very smooth drink.
I was eating later on that evening, but I needed something to tide me over and was casting an eye over the cake when I spied the toaster. I worried that the sugar-rush from the cake would do me no good, but a pile of toast was exactly what I needed.
|54 TAVISTOCK PLACE • LONDON • WC1H 9RG|
|Monday||08:00 – 18:00||Roaster||Square Mile + Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Bar, Benches (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:00||Food||Sandwiches, Soup, Cake, Toast|
|Thursday||08:00 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 18:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa (£0.10 charge under £4.00)|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 16:00||Power||Yes (at back)|
|Chain||Local||Visits||17th February 2014|
You can see what fellow coffee-blogger, Marta, who writes My Daily Grind, made of Continental Stores. Check out what I made of the original Store Street Espresso, plus the branch near Paddington (which sadly closed in 2018).
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It’s quite close to a few other decent coffee shops such as Espresso Room, Fork, Bloomsbury Coffee House etc, but this immediately became my favourite one in the area when it opened.
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