Cult Espresso

Thumbnail - Cult Espresso (DSC_6406)Continuing my theme of visiting Edinburgh and calling in on a coffee shop shortly after it opened, I present Cult Espresso. Unlike my previous victim, Fortitude, which opened four weeks prior to my visit, Cult Espresso opened on Monday and I was there on Thursday! I was already aware of Cult Espresso from social media, and when I heard on twitter that it had opened, I pencilled it in as a must-visit on my first day.

Run by father-and-son team, Kevin & Gary, Cult Espresso is, I think, the first to bring coffee from Bath’s Round Hill Roastery to Edinburgh on a permanent basis. Before setting up Cult, Gary ran a coffee kiosk on Dalmeny station. Originally using Lavazza coffee, it wasn’t long before Gary progressed to Round Hill, so was natural to continue the relationship when Cult opened.

I’ve been to several coffee shops that are corridor-like in layout (Goodge St Espresso and, in particular, NYC’s Gasoline Alley spring to mind). However, Cult takes this one step further by seeming to actually be built inside the corridor between two tenement buildings! While this sounds an unpromising set-up, it results in a lovely space, full of multiple, intimate little areas.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Cult Espresso on Buccleuch Street, tucked away between two tenement buildings.
  • The view from just inside the door, where you get the full corridor feel.
  • This little bar is to the right as you come in...
  • ... while these two comfy chairs and their coffee table are to the left.
  • There are more tables on the left beyond the comfortable chairs.
  • The four-person table on the left-hand side.
  • Looking back towards the door from the top of first flight of steps...
  • ... and the view in the other direction. The window at the end lets plenty of light in.
  • Looking back towards the door from the bottom of the steps.
  • There's this communal table at the bottom of the steps, plus the water station.
  • To the left, a flight of steps leads down to the toilets.
  • I don't normally do photos in the toilets, but I couldn't resist the toilet-roll holder.
  • Back in the corridor, we've almost reached the end, where Cult Espresso opens out.
  • The space at the end of Cult Espresso: sofa (hidden on left), tables (right), counter (back).
  • One of the small tables on the right at the back of Cult Espresso.
  • One last look down the corridor to the (now) far distant door...
  • The counter right at the back of Cult Espresso with Gary & Kevin hard at work.
  • The beautiful Kees van der Westen espresso machine, affectionately known as Florence.
  • Cult Espresso has a lovely selection of cups, all from the equally lovely Machina Espresso.
  • Meanwhile, at the other end of the counter, there's cake! And quiche. And sandwiches.
  • There are also some croissants and other pastries to the right of the counter.
  • The hot drinks menu on the wall to the left of the counter.
  • The bean options are 'Bert' & 'Ernie'. Unless those are the names of the two grinders...
  • As well as espresso from Florence, there's pour-over filter behind the counter (plus soup!).
  • The pour-over set-up, using Kalita Wave filters, in more detail.
  • An interesting collection of kit on a shelf above the filter station.
  • The coffee, if you hadn't worked it out already, is from Round Hill Roastery.
  • There's also loose-leaf tea from Edinburgh's very own Eteaket.
  • Look what else I found! Really, is there no escape?
  • I was there for lunch and tried the soup, from Union of Genius. It was nice, but spicy!
  • I also had an espresso, the Ethiopian Kochore, which came before the soup.
  • My espresso in more detail. It was as beautiful as the cup it came in!
  • Talking of beautiful cups, Gary made me a shot of the La Libertadora from Columbia.
  • It was also lovely, as was its cup, plus it had the most amazing, thick crema.
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From the street, it’s easy to miss Cult Espresso. I should know: despite looking for it, I managed to walk right past. If ever a shop needed an A-board, this is it! The entrance, no more than an opening between tenement buildings, is glass with a single glass door. Inside, you’re in a long, thin corridor, with concrete floor and ceiling, bare brick walls to either side. Stretching off into the distance, down two short flights of steps, you can just make out the counter at the back. Immediately to your left is a coffee table, flanked by two armchairs, while on the right, after a set of coat hooks, is a small bar with four stools. The rest of the seating is along the left-hand side, leaving a clear path to the right, all the way to the counter.

A two-person table’s attached to the wall opposite the bar, then a four-person table. Next, on the right, the first short flight of steps is quickly followed by the second. A lovely little niche, on the same level as the top-part of the corridor, holds a two-person table, iron railings fencing it off from the drop. It overlooks a communal table on the left at the bottom of the second flight of steps.  This runs lengthways, a bench on either side. Beyond this, the corridor narrows, then opens into the main space, once an old workshop in the courtyard behind the tenements.

It’s not exactly bright, but it’s far from gloomy, with light from the glass front supplemented by a picture window at the corridor’s end and industrial lights on the walls. The high ceiling helps provide a sense of space. On the grey, November lunchtime I was there, the light was, shall we say, subdued.

The main space feels like a basement. There’s a two-seat sofa tucked away against the left-hand wall, a packing case for a coffee table. Opposite, a pair of two-person tables are attached to the wall, the comparative lack of furniture making it feel spacious. Multiple spots in the ceiling mean it’s brighter than the corridor. Subdued music and quiet conversational hum round off a great atmosphere.

Cult Espresso was still getting going with the food: there was a toasted Rueben sandwich, soup (lamb plus spicy vegan alternative) and quiche, with an interesting selection of cake and pastries. I tried the soup, which was close to being a stew, no bad thing on the day I was there. Full of lentils, coconut and chunks of vegetables, it was warm and filling, but very spicy, so I recommend that you don’t have it with your coffee.

Sensibly (for once) I’d worked out the soup was spicy so had my espresso first. This was an Ethiopian single-origin from Round Hill, made on Cult’s beautiful Kees van der Westen. It had come highly recommended by Paul of Razzo Coffee and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s very complex, with lots of fruit notes, but well-balanced. It was incredibly smooth, with very much a roof-of-the-mouth feel.

As a parting gift, Gary made a shot of the other single-origin from Round Hill that was on offer. A Columbian, it had one of the thickest cremas I’ve ever seen. While I liked it, it’s fair to say that I preferred the Ethiopian.

October 2015: I popped back into Cult Espresso on my latest visit to Edinburgh to wish it an (early) happy first birthday. It was good to see it going as strong as ever. I probably missed this on my first visit, but as well as Round Hill, Cult takes regular guest roasters from all over the UK and beyond.

Monday 07:30 – 18:00 Roaster Round Hill + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 18:00 Seating Tables, bar, sofa
Wednesday 07:30 – 18:00 Food Sandwiches, Quiche, Soup, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 18:00 Service Order at counter
Friday 07:30 – 18:00 Cards Cash only
Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 27th November 2014

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

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