In typical Coffee Spot fashion, I have visited the branches of Artigiano Espresso in reverse order, starting with the most recently opened in Exeter, at the start of this year, before moving onto the (now sadly closed) branch on New Oxford Street a month later. It then took me the rest of the year to get around to visiting the original Artigiano Espresso, located directly north of St Paul’s Cathedral on Paternoster Square in the heart of the City of London. And just in time too, since there’s another Artigiano opening in Reading on Wednesday!
If you’ve been to either of the other Artigiano Espressos, the original will look very familiar. It’s the smallest of the three, even taking into account that it’s split over two floors, with a lovely, cosy basement. Very much a coffee bar during the day, catering to city workers, it turns into a wine bar in the evening, and a very successful one at that if the Friday night I went past was anything to go by (it was heaving!). I turned up the following Saturday morning for breakfast: again, timing was on my side, since Artigiano has only recently started opening at weekends.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The original Artigiano Espresso has an excellent setting. If the weather’s good, the outside seating on the pedestrianised street, makes a good option, providing a stunning view of St Paul’s Cathedral (providing you can see past the throngs of tourists). However, on the chilly Saturday morning I was there, I was heading inside!
The original Artigiano Espresso has bequeathed several features to its successors. All three branches (and, if the photos are to be believed, Reading too) have a strongly Artigiano-themed look-and-feel, including bare-brick walls, wooden floors and neat light-fittings. All have two counters, one for food and ordering, the other reserved exclusively for the (two) espresso machines.
The St Paul’s branch occupies a corner spot. The front is mostly taken up with two large windows, which In turn are actually mostly glass double doors. The ones on the left pitch you up in front of the main counter, cake and sandwiches to the fore, espresso machines to your right, cold drinks, bottled beer and wine to your left. Alternatively, entering through the right-hand doors leaves you in the seating area, a communal, six-person table with high chairs in front of you and the espresso machines to your left.
At the back of the room, to the right of the main counter, stairs lead down to the basement, while there’s a row of three two-person tables in front of the stairs, with two more against the right-hand wall, where another generous window lets in even more natural light. There’s a final two-person table against the back wall by the stairs.
The stairs double back on themselves, pitching you up under the counter, with the basement stretching away behind you and to your left. Now, as regular readers will know, I love a good basement, and Artigiano has one of the best, away from the bustle (on a busy day) of the counter and the espresso machines.
It’s long and thin (maybe half as deep as the space above), a long mirror on the front wall (opposite the stairs) making it feel much bigger. This also helps brighten things up. There’s a row of two-person tables along the wall with the mirror and a smaller row along the bottom of the stairs, while at either end there are some cosy coffee tables with comfy chairs. The best of these are at the far end, one effectively tucked away behind the stairs and in the other opposite corner.
When it comes to food and drink, the original Artigiano pioneered the successful food and coffee in the day, wine, beer and cocktails in the evening model that the other branches enjoy. I’m not qualified to comment on the alcohol, while for a discussion of the coffee, see my thoughts on the Exeter and New Oxford Street branches, where you can also find some thoughts on the food.
The coffee, as ever, is from Cornwall’s Origin, the Farmer 30 blend supplemented by a regularly-rotating single-origin (which was a San Jose from Nicaragua). There’s also tea from my friends in Bristol, the Canton Tea Co. I had a very smooth flat white, the perfect start to my day, with the coffee blending well with the milk. I also had an excellent croissant, the breakfast choice being limited to pastries, (non-vegetarian) breakfast muffins or yoghurt pots.
|1 PATERNOSTER SQUARE • LONDON • EC4M 7DX|
|http://artigiano.uk.com||+44 (0) 20 7248 0407|
|Monday||07:00 – 22:00||Roaster||Origin (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 22:00||Seating||Tables, Comfy Chairs, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 22:00||Food||Sandwiches, Cakes|
|Thursday||07:00 – 23:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 23:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||10:30 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:30 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||Yes||Visits||13th December 2014|
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