Finisterre is a surf shop, a surf shop which, for the last four months, has been home to a lovely little espresso bar. Tucked away on Earlham Street, between the busy Seven Dials and the even busier Cambridge Circus at the intersection of Charing Cross Road and Shaftsbury Avenue, it’s a haven of tranquillity and excellent coffee. Supplied by Brighton’s Small Batch, Finisterre doesn’t try to do too much, instead concentrating on serving top-notch espresso in a lovely environment, something which it does exceedingly well. The coffee menu is concise and to the point, with Finisterre making good use of Small Batch’s versatile Goldstone Blend.
There’s not a lot to Finisterre, although that statement holds true only if you’re looking at it as a coffee shop, which is a little unfair. Finisterre is also the flagship London branch of the Finisterre surf chain and, as a surf shop, there’s quite a lot to it. That said, the coffee shop has definitely got pride of place (and the best spot), sat in the front of the store and occupying the window, with a convenient bench outside on the quiet street.
May 2018: I’ve recently learnt that Finisterre is no longer doing coffee, although there are plans to reintroduce filter coffee, so watch this space.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Finisterre is long and thin, its generous window running almost its full width, interrupted only by the (glass) door on the right-hand side. Stepping inside, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in a coffee shop (an impression reinforced by the coffee-themed A-board outside). To your left, smack in the window, is a large, communal table with a pair of benches. While I was there, it was bathed in glorious spring sunshine.
Beyond this, on the left-hand side of the store, comes the counter, a lovely wooden affair, with a two-group La Marzocco facing the window, alongside two Mazzer grinders. Three stools line the counter-front where you can sit, within touching (stroking?) distance of the espresso machine.
The counter runs down the left-hand side of the store, which is where you order and pay. Up until this point, the only hint that you’re not in a dedicated coffee shop is a row of surfboards on the right-hand wall by the door, but I’ve seen far more esoteric coffee-shop decoration than that, so it’s no big deal. However, beyond the till, it soon becomes clear that Finisterre’s more than a coffee shop. The walls are lined with merchandise, including a rack of surf gear opposite the counter, while stairs down to more surf gear in the basement. Once you start looking more closely, there are signs of the surf shop everywhere, from the books on the communal table to the kit arranged discreetly on the wall.
Finisterre’s a quiet, relaxed place, with gentle music in the background. If you’re shopping in Covent Garden or Neal’s Yard and want to escape, Finisterre’s an ideal spot. Although on a narrow street, Finisterre’s south-facing, so really catches the sun, making it lovely and bright. Come evening, the multitude of lights make it a homely place.
I started with an espresso, a double shot of Small Batch’s lovely Goldstone Blend. I found it very well balanced, a sweet coffee with a touch of bitterness that went down very smoothly. I got chatting with barista, Jules, a Parisian surfer who arrived in London (and speciality coffee) via Australia. Asking about the second grinder, Jules confessed that it wasn’t used much. He told me it contained some left-over Brazilian beans, which he let me try.
However, since it was past its best, Jules wouldn’t hear of me paying. I found this honesty refreshing since plenty of places (the sort that don’t make it into the Coffee Spot) will happily take your money and served you a second-rate coffee. As it was, I had to agree with Jules; my second espresso wasn’t a patch on the first and that’s nothing to do with Jules’ coffee-making skills.
By then I was on a roll, so had a decaf, Small Batch’s Mexican Finca Muxbal. This is kept pre-ground in a small bag behind the counter; clearly surfers are, for the most part, fully-leaded! The decaf pulled a good, well-rounded shot, although not as punchy as the Goldstone (and that’s not just down to the lack of caffeine), lacking both the sweet notes and the touch of bitterness of the Goldstone. I felt it would go better in milk, so I had it as a piccolo, where it turned out to be very smooth, with a touch of (pleasant) sourness.
|7 EARLHAM STREET • LONDON • WC2H 9LL|
|www.finisterreuk.com||+44 (0) 207 379 5400|
|Monday||10:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Small Batch (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||10:00 – 19:00||Seating||Table, Counter, Bench (outside)|
|Wednesday||10:00 – 19:00||Food||Fruit|
|Thursday||10:00 – 19:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||10:00 – 19:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||10:00 – 19:00||Wifi||Free|
|Sunday||12:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||19th March, 21st April 2015|
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