Notes, King’s Cross

Note's slogan on the wall at King's Cross: Coffee for Early Birds, Wine for Night Owls.Notes was always more than just a coffee shop, mixing coffee by day with wine and small plates of an evening, in surroundings that spoke of elegance. For a while, there was Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and various coffee barrows. Then, two years ago, along came a roastery and now, within the space of a year, four new stores, with a heavily over-subscribed foray into crowd-funding to fund further expansion (albeit at the expense of Covent Garden and all but one barrow).

King’s Cross/St Pancras, just north of King’s Cross, between Noble Espresso (now Craft Coffee) and Caravan, is the first of the new Notes that I’ve visited (I’ve since between to both the Canary Wharf and Crossrail Place locations). Smaller (and hence more intimate) than the original Notes, you can sit downstairs, opposite the counter, or upstairs in the cosy mezzanine. Alternatively, try the great selection of outdoor seating on the secluded Pancras Square.

With coffee roasted at the nearby Notes Roastery, there’s a single-origin (which changes every couple of months) and decaf on espresso. Another single-origin is on filter, available either as a V60 or bulk-brew. This changes every few days, Notes rotating through its selection of single-origins as each bag runs out.

July 2020: Notes has now reopened, although the upstairs seating is currently closed due to COVID-19. See what I made of it when I visited in August.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Notes, as seen from the St Pancras side of Pancras Square.
  • The outdoor seating, somewhat depleted by the rain!
  • An alternative approach, from the direction of King's Cross...
  • ... or along the side, where it's sheltered from the rain/shaded from the sun.
  • The entrance is at the other (northern) end. Again, the table here is sheltered.
  • The view from just inside the door, with the three tables opposite the counter.
  • There's another table immediately to your right.
  • I'm particularly fond of these high bar stools.
  • The rest of the seating is up the stairs at the back.
  • The stairs double-back on themselves. This is the view from halfway up.
  • At the top, there's this lovely mezzanine level.
  • The view back towards the stairs.
  • There's a padded bench on the left-hand wall...
  • ... with low stools and fixed, cantilevered tables.
  • Notes' story is on the wall for all to see.
  • The rest of the seating is along the opposite edge of the mezzanine level.
  • One of the tables in detail.
  • There's one last table right at the far end of the mezzanine.
  • The view down from the mezzanine.
  • As well as the bar-stools, the high-back chairs are neat too.
  • As are the numerous light-bulbs...
  • I particularly liked the ones with the bent supports.
  • See what I mean?
  • However, I also liked the ones with the straight supports.
  • Although pride of place goes to this lovely contraption!
  • Time to head back downstairs...
  • ... and to the counter to order.
  • The coffee (and tea) menu is clearly displayed behind the counter...
  • ... as are the summer drinks.
  • This being Notes, there's also wine and beer.
  • The wine list is hanging up here...
  • ... while the beer speaks for itself!
  • Coffee is from the twin espresso machines, each with its own grinder.
  • Although to find out what's on, you have to go and look at the grinder itself...
  • ... while for filter coffee, you have to ask to see the bag!
  • There are also soft drinks, sandwiches and salads in the chiller cabinet...
  • ... and cakes (although it was late on Sunday evening, so sadly numbers were depleted)...
  • ... and fruit.
  • Talking of food, in the evenings there are small plates. I had this on a previous visit...
  • ... and bagged a mackerel fishcake salad to take with me on the train on my second visit.
  • When you order coffee, you get a bag to put on your table with a number...
  • ... although actually this is more accurately the view you have of it!
  • My rather dedraggled-looking espresso.
  • ... and my Crosstown Creme Brûlée Doughnut.
  • I followed this up with a lovely piccolo.
  • From my previous visit, a dinky little cake and decaf piccolo.
  • I'll leave you with the dinky cake in more detail.
Photo Carousel by v4.6

Notes, long, thin and tall, has two walls made almost entirely of glass. Approached from the north, the door’s on the left of the narrow side. Outside, a square, three-person table stands to the right of the door, which, along with a row of square, four-person tables by the windows, is undercover, protected from the sun/rain. Next to them, rows of round, four-person tables line the open space of Pancras Square, running parallel to Notes’ long side.

Immediately ahead of you as you enter, the counter occupies most of the left-hand side. There’s a low, two-person table immediately to your right, with three high, square three-person tables against the right-hand windows opposite the counter. At the back, a takeaway podium is followed by stairs, which, doubling-back on themselves, lead to the mezzanine above the counter. To the left, underneath the stairs, is the toilet.

The mezzanine’s a tapering wedge, widest at the back by the stairs. A well-cushioned bench runs down the left-hand wall, four round, two/three-person tables cantilevering from the wall. Opposite this, overlooking the store below, is a four-person table by the stairs, followed by two three-person round tables. At the apex, just above and left of the door, is a four-person, oval table.

The décor’s wood and metal, a surprisingly harmonious mix, while the counter is a lovely, wooden block affair. The windows mean it’s very bright, although on the May evening and overcast Sunday afternoon I was there, the multiple interior lights were absolutely necessary! It can be noisy, but nowhere near as bad as Trafalgar Square, which can be painfully loud. At least, I thought so until I was trapped upstairs between two tables who reacted to being in a noisy environment by competing with everyone to see who could talk the loudest!

The espresso was a Gedeb (Ethiopia Yirgacheffe). Although it’s taste that ultimately counts, it was the worst-looking espresso I’ve had in ages and pretty cool by the time it arrived. A bright, acidic coffee, it was perfectly drinkable though. In the staff’s defence, they were very busy and, shortly after I ordered, the heavens opened, sending the customers outside scurrying for cover, while the staff rushed to clear the tables. So, it’s possible my espresso had been standing for a while before I got it. Under such circumstances, there are plenty of baristas who’d have pulled the shot again, but ultimately there was nothing that merited sending it back.

To accompany my espresso, I snaffled the final Crosstown Doughnut, served with a rather superfluous cake fork. After an experimental prod or two, I abandoned it for the more traditional (and messy) method of picking it up with my fingers. It did not disappoint: a solid, tasty dough with a crisp, caramelised sugar glaze, encasing the perfect vanilla custard filling, rich and tasty without being overly sweet.

Wanting to give the coffee another try, I had a piccolo. For me, the Gebed goes much better with milk, the sweetness taking the edge of its acidity. On my previous (evening) visit, I’d had a decaf piccolo which was just as lovely.

Notes’ food is also impressive. First time around, I’d had the vegetarian plate, a delicious and varied selection of goodies. This time I bagged a mackerel fishcake salad to eat on the train.

ONE PANCRAS SQUARE • LONDON • N1C 4AG +44 (0) 20 3479 1576
Monday 07:30 – 21:00 Roaster Notes (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 21:00 Seating Tables, Benches, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 21:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Dinner, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 22:00 Service Order at Counter/Table Service (outside)
Friday 07:30 – 22:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:00 – 22:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 18:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 28th May, 12th July 2015

You can see what fellow coffee-blogger, Bex, makes of Notes in her blog Double Skinny Macchiato.

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