Grind, which started with the original Shoreditch Grind, is a growing London chain of espresso bars by day and cocktail bars by night. Soho Grind was the second, and has since been joined by four others. For six months last summer, there was also the pop-up Piccadilly Grind, the only one I’d visited up until now.
Soho Grind’s a lovely spot: a long, narrow espresso bar upstairs and, in the evenings, a cosy basement which serves as cocktail bar/restaurant with full table service. There’s coffee, Grind’s own bespoke espresso blend, roasted down in Hove by the excellent Small Batch, plus tea and soft drinks. In the evening, there’s wine, a small selection of bottled beer, and cocktails, including a very fine Espresso Martini, one of the few alcoholic drinks I actually enjoy.
In keeping with its siblings, Soho Grind has a small range of (very good) cakes and sandwiches during the day, and a menu of small plates with an Italian theme in the evening. These are tasty, but not particularly filling. I had an excellent crostini with roasted red peppers, rocket and shaved pecorino, which I supplemented with some very moor-ish toasted almonds from the nibbles menu.
January/May 2017: Grind is now roasting its own coffee. You can see what I made of it at London Grind (January) and Exmouth Market Grind (May).
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Soho Grind in Soho’s southeast corner on Beak Street, has a plain black and white exterior, enlivened by a splash of red from the hoarding’s “Soho Grind” legend and a flash of red neon from the window’s “Espresso Bar” sign.
Entering at the far left, there doesn’t seem to be much to Soho Grind. A window bar’s immediately to your right, running the store’s full width (wide enough for four well-spaced bar stools), with the remainder of the right-hand side occupied by the counter. The three-group La Marzocco sits at the counter’s end, facing the window, where you can perch on a single stool.
Opposite the counter, against the left-hand wall, runs another narrow bar with bar stools, above which are three angled mirrors, like those sometimes found in Italian espresso bars (although in Italy they’re typically above the espresso machines, allowing you to watch the baristas at work).
However, there’s more. Turn right on entering and, following the gap between counter and window-bar, you’ll arrive at the top of a flight of stairs against the right-hand wall. A neon sign on the wall promises French lessons, but what you actually get is a very cosy basement-bar.
The stairs take a left at the bottom, pitching you in the middle of the room. To your left, underneath the upstairs window, is a genuine bar, hidden by some lovely, wooden shutters during the day. There’s a wooden bar snaking along the wall opposite the stairs with space for eight bar stools. In a very civilised move, there are three pairs of power outlets above the bar and a number of coat hooks underneath. A padded wooden bench occupies a slight recess on the back wall, opposite the bar, with three round tables and a scattering of matching stools.
The floor is wooden, the bar looks as if it’s made of left-over floorboards, while the walls are either whitewashed plaster or white, wooden planks. The ceiling, however, steals the show with its tin squares, some painted white and others restored to their natural glory.
The basement has plenty of lights, but none provide much illumination, just a low, orange glow, supplemented by ~10 flickering candles, scattered about on tables, bar and purpose-built little wooden wall-shelves. The effect is quite magical.
I visited Soho Grind twice, first during a February evening and again in the afternoon two months later. I’ve always liked Soho Grind’s coffee, and enjoyed the decaf piccolo I had. It had a strong, dry taste which went well with the milk, which was very well steamed, the latte art surviving to the bottom of the glass.
I got chatting with Marco the bartender (good bartenders and good baristas are very similar beasts) and decided that it would be criminal not to have an Espresso Martini. A few shakes later and Marco served me an excellent (decaf) Espresso Martini. It was very smooth, the coffee coming clearly through and with a lovely sweet taste overall. On my return, I had an espresso which was very well made, although a little on the sharp side for my palette.
A word of warning: it’s very small both upstairs and down and can get very loud, especially if the music’s turned up. On my second visit, I found it sufficiently loud to be oppressive.
December 2015: Soho Grind was a runner-up for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award for 2015.
|19 BEAK STREET • LONDON • W1F 9RP|
|www.sohogrind.com||+44 (0) 20 7287 7073|
|Monday||07:30 – 23:30||Roaster||Grind (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 23:30||Seating||Bars, Tables|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 23:30||Food||Small Plates, Sandwiches, Pastries, Cake|
|Thursday||07:30 – 23:30||Service||Order at Counter/Table Service|
|Friday||07:30 – 00:00||Cards||Amex, Visa, Mastercard|
|Saturday||09:00 – 00:00||Wifi||Free|
|Sunday||09:00 – 19:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Local||Visits||5th February, 5th April 2015|
Disclaimer: In the second half of 2015, Grind launched a bond to fund its expansion. I invested in this bond, and, like all bond-holders, receive free coffee as a reward (although I still have to pay for my Espresso Martinis and food). I published the Soho Grind Coffee Spot before the bond was launched.
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I like all the Grinds, although the change in atmosphere from coffee shop to cocktail bar from the late afternoon onwards is slightly disconcerting. I always feel awkward trying to order a coffee if I’m in one of them after work.
I know what you mean. The cocktail bar draws a different crowd.
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