Dovecot Café, by Stag Espresso, is the in-house café of the Dovecot Contemporary Art Gallery and Tapestry Studio on Edinburgh’s Infirmary Street. It’s been around since 2011, making it an established player Edinburgh’s speciality coffee scene. Despite this, it seems to go under the radar, although I’ve heard consistently good things about it and its occasional pop-ups.
Like 6/8 Kafé’s latest venture inside Birmingham’s Millennium Point, this is speciality coffee in a mainstream setting and, as such, can only be applauded. If only all galleries/museums served coffee to this high standard. Oh well, we can dream.
Stag Espresso uses Lancaster’s J Atkinson & Co., which, as far as I know, is the only place in Edinburgh where you can get it. There’s no pour-over, just a solid espresso-based menu using Atkinson’s Archetype espresso blend, backed up with a wide range of loose-leaf tea from Edinburgh’s Anteaques, a good range of soft drinks and an outstanding cake selection.
Judging by the crowd that was there during my visit (hardly a table was unoccupied), it also does a roaring lunchtime trade, offering sandwiches and soup as the mainstays. Best of all, there’s that rarest of things in speciality coffee, full table service.
December 2015: Richard, of Stag Espresso, has sold up and moved on, with new ownership (Leo’s Beanery) taking over the cafe in the new year…
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
I’m glad that I’d heard such good things about Stag Espresso from a variety of sources, otherwise I might not have ventured in. From the outside, it doesn’t shout speciality coffee, while the interior can best be described as efficient, even clinical perhaps, although that’s a little harsh. However, its clean, white, bright interior, with white plastic-covered tables and contrasting black seats, won’t appeal to all.
And yet, look closer. On the shelves, teapots from Brew Tea Co, with Keep Cup Brews for sale. On the menu, piccolos/flat whites alongside the more typical cappuccinos/lattes. And then, the clincher; behind the counter, bags of coffee from J Atkinson & Co. Count me converted.
Entry is via the Dovecot, where on your left, Stag Espresso is through a large pair of doors. The layout’s simple, almost square, with windows to the left, overlooking Infirmary Street, while the counter’s to the right. Three rows of square tables occupy the space in between. These are mostly two-person ones, but three four-person tables are thrown in for good measure. And you could probably push some of them together if you had to.
Infirmary Street slopes steeply down, while Stag Espresso’s on the same level as the gallery foyer, making the back of the café a metre or so above the street level. At the back, on the left, a broad flight of steps descends to street level and an alternative door. This is in use for the first two hours of the day (08:30 – 10:30) when the Dovecot’s closed, but Stag Espresso’s open. Two cosy tables are tucked away by the windows, below the level of the rest of the café, so if Dovecot’s stark whiteness offends you, pop down here and pretend you’re in cosy little coffee shop.
Regardless of the merits of colour scheme/layout, it’s a bright, cheerful place and, even at its busiest, it was, to its immense credit, never painfully noisy, a rare delight. The other bonus is table service, lifting Stag Espresso above the crowd. I’d gone for lunch and had the ginger and sweetcorn soup because, I reasoned, it couldn’t taste as bad as it sounded. I was right; it was quite lovely. I also had a half sandwich (Bree, tomato and chutney) which was excellent, the bread in particular being soft and chewy.
I paired that with a flat white, the Archetype blend going very well with milk, resulting in a very smooth, light drink. Curious, I tried it as an espresso and was surprised at how bright it was, particularly given how smooth it was in milk. It was one of those that coated the top of your tongue, but left the sides of your mouth alone, which I appreciated. I probably prefer it with milk, but am curious to see how it fares as a piccolo.
If you think I’m being a little harsh about Stag Espresso’s interior, I probably am. I had a long chat about coffee shop design with the owner and head barista, Richard, where he decried the current trend for the stripped-back-wood/bare-stone look that dominates third-wave coffee shops (it’s so prevalent that you could call it the third-wave look). Even though I really like it, Richard has a point. Stag Espresso is definitely cut from a different mould. Give it a go.
December 2015: Stag Espresso was a runner-up for the Coffee Spot Special Award for 2015.
|DOVECOTE STUDIOS • 10 INFIRMARY STREET • EDINBURGH • EH1 1LT|
|https://dovecotstudios.com||+44 (0) 7590 728974|
|Monday||08:30 – 17:00||Roaster||J Atkinson & Co (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||08:30 – 17:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||08:30 – 17:00||Food||Lunch, Cakes|
|Thursday||08:30 – 17:00||Service||Tables|
|Friday||08:30 – 17:00||Cards||Cash Only|
|Saturday||10:00 – 17:00||Wifi||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||20th October 2015|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Edinburgh for more great Coffee Spots.
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