The Attic Gallery Coffee Bar

Thumbnail - The Attic (DSC_9395t)There’s a first time for everything. The Attic, or to give it its full name, the Attic Gallery Coffee Bar, occupies the floor above Monday’s Coffee Spot, Harlequin Coffee and Tea House, making this the first time that I’ve done two Coffee Spots in the same building. The churlish might argue that since they’re owned by the same person, the lovely Gordon (who doubles as head barista), and even share a website, they’re actually one Coffee Spot, spread over two floors.

I beg to differ: Harlequin and The Attic are very different places and cater to very different customers. Both serve Has Bean coffee, but that’s where the similarity ends. While Harlequin is a speciality coffee shop masquerading as a traditional tearoom, The Attic employs no such subterfuge. In fact, I’d go as far as to describe it as coffee-geek paradise. Serving excellent food. And craft beer (and now gin & tonic too).

If you’re not really a coffee geek and are just looking for superb coffee in relaxing surroundings, then The Attic, with its comfortable sofas and lovely atmosphere, ticks those boxes too. However, just make sure you come on the right days: it’s only open Thursday to Saturday!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • In the mean streets of York, under the steely gaze of the towers of York Minster...
  • ... there awaits, in fairly unpromising surroundings, a rare treat for the coffee lover...
  • ... for up these unassuming stairs lie not one, but two excellent Coffee Spots!
  • On the first floor, Harlequin, but if you keep going up the second flight of stairs...
  • ... and past the winding curve to the top landing, you come to... The Attic!
  • Stepping inside, you find the counter and this little table to the right...
  • ... while to the left is the rest of the seating.
  • However, since my visit, Gordon has re-arranged everything, so it now looks like this.
  • No prizes for guessing where I sat: at this lovely little table next to the counter.
  • It's a great spot for keeping an eye on what's going on at the counter. Say hello to Gordon.
  • There's also this little bar with padded stools on the other side of the counter.
  • ... although that's now been replaced by this little table.
  • If you fancy a tete-a-tete & I've nabbed the table by the counter, there's always this one.
  • Alternaitvely, if there are more of you, or you just want more space, try these tables...
  • ... or for more comfort, there's always this lovely three-seat sofa...
  • ... although it's now been replaced by this more practical table.
  • Fortunately, there's still this one by the door...
  • ... which looks practically unchanged!
  • I liked the decoration: this is a 35 kg micro-lot that was bought exclusively for The Attic.
  • So, to business. At first sight, the drinks menu is rather pedestrian...
  • ...until, that is, you see the real one that Gordon keeps behind the bar! What a selection!
  • In case you were wondering where the coffe's from.
  • The espresso blend in the hopper was Kraftwerk, roasted especially for the Tour de France.
  • There's an EK-43 for all the other beans. It grinds for both espresso and filter.
  • Talking of which, there are a variety of filter methods, including these Kalita Waves.
  • New additions to the counter since I was there in 2014 include these beer taps...
  • ... and a range of 50+ gins on a couple of shelves on the back wall.
  • Time I put Gordon, owner and chief barista, to work. First, weigh the beans.
  • A precise 18.5 grams please.
  • These go into the EK-43...
  • ... and a precise 18.0 grams comes out the other end. Just like magic!
  • Since we're being that precise, Gordon uses a funnel to fill the portafilter.
  • Not a drop (ground?) is wasted or spilt!
  • I love watching a craftsman at work.
  • Now for the tamping...
  • ... and then a quick flush of the group head.
  • Sadly I couldn't get a good angle without getting in the way, so I let Gordon get on with it.
  • However, it was a different story when it came to the latte art.
  • Latte art is a skill I've never mastered...
  • Gordon, on the other hand, has it nailed!
  • It's a thing of beauty, watching him built up the pattern, one element at a time...
  • It's already taking shape...
  • Almost there...
  • Just one more...
  • And now for the finish. With a flourish!
  • The finished article. Cracking cup too :-)
  • Here's one (Gordon) prepared earlier, an espresso, beautifully presented on a tray.
  • And here, all by itself.
  • The Attic's not just about the coffee you know. There's some excellent food too.
  • ... and a small but excellent cake selection.
  • I had the outstanding veggie platter, a meal fit for a king!
  • My dinner surveys The Attic from its prime location in the corner by the counter.
  • Not content with making me drink all that coffee and then eat all that food, Gordon made me some filter coffee too! Well, I couldn't say no, could I?
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As well as being two Coffee Spots in one building, The Attic’s a two-in-one itself: lovely coffee shop, plus coffee-geek heaven. Or, if you include food, three-in-one. Or four-in-one, counting alcohol, or five-in-one if you consider gin separately from craft beer.

As a coffee shop alone, The Attic’s well worth climbing two (fairly steep) flights of stairs for. The counter, in front of you as you enter, occupies most of the back half of the room, which is to your right. In a little nook by the counter, with a bench against the back wall, there’s a table, plus two chairs.

Immediately to your left, its back to you, is a three-seat sofa, with coffee table and four chairs opposite. Beyond this, against the wall, another three-seater, again with coffee table and chairs, occupies a prime spot by the first of two windows.

The second window, to its right, has another coffee table, a row of three chairs on either side. Between this and the counter are two pairs of tables, and, against the far wall, there’s a two-person table and a small bar with padded stools. There’s plenty of natural light, plus a generous selection of spots, with lights above the bar.

I’m always delighted when somewhere serving great coffee is open in the evenings. If there’s great food, that’s a welcome bonus. I had the veggie platter: proper Wensleydale, mature Cheddar, French Bree, hummus, olives, two house chutneys (tomato + regular), salad and artisan bread. The chutneys were very sweet, the cheese excellent. The Bree, in particular, was outstanding. The Wensleydale, medium-hard and so creamy, was the first I’ve really liked!

Despite this, The Attic, for me, is all about coffee. The menu, with its focus on the beans, is central:  six single-origins are complimented by “the revolver”, a regularly-rotating blend or single-origin serving as the house-espresso (during my visit, “Kraftwerk”, an exclusive blend roasted for the Tour de France). Bean selected, there’s then a discussion about preparation methods: espresso, Aeropress, Kalita Wave, Chemex (for sharing). Reminiscent of Dublin’s 3FE, the key is engagement, having a conversation with the customer, but without crossing the boundary where he/she becomes uncomfortable.

When it comes to actually making the coffee, there’s an Anfim grinder for espresso (“the revolver”), while an EK43 handles the single-origins and decaf, grinding for any method, including espresso. The ultimate goal is consistency, achieved through volumetrics and repeatable processes.

After extensive consultation with Gordon, I tried the Tanzania Burka Natural, which was superb as an espresso. Smooth and sweet, it went down a treat without a hint of bitterness or acidity. I followed that with a flat white, using Has Bean’s regular decaf, which came strongly through the (amazingly steamed) milk. I took half an hour to drink it and it held its structure throughout, while tasting just as good cold as it did when hot!

The highlight was the couple of hours spent talking with Gordon, where his passion for everything, including the food and alcohol, shone through. The Attic/Harlequin is a continuing journey, starting in 2006 when Gordon took the business over. Moving into speciality coffee a year later, The Attic opened in 2011. Gordon’s now looking at more late-night opening and, since my visit, has added gin & tonic alongside the craft beer.

Who knows what comes next? Visit and find out for yourself!

August 2015: Since my visit in the summer of 2014, Gordon has re-arranged the furniture in The Attic. You can see some of the new layout in the gallery.

2 KING’S SQUARE • YORK • YO1 8BH +44 (0) 1904 630 631
Monday CLOSED Roaster Has Bean (espresso + filter)
Tuesday CLOSED Seating Tables, Bar, Sofas
Wednesday CLOSED Food Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 12:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 12:00 – 20:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa (£0.30 under £15)
Saturday 12:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power Limited
Chain No Visits 21st June 2014, 23rd August 2015

A special shout-out, by the way, to Aaron and Brittany, a lovely American couple I met at The Attic. Living in Manchester, they were on a quick trip over the Pennines to check out the York coffee scene :-).

You can find out what fellow coffee blogger Alison made of the Attic over on Black Coffee and Other Stories).

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