The Espresso Room (was New Row Coffee)

The New Row Coffee logo, taken from the sign hanging outside the shopNew Row Coffee has been around for several years, pleasingly occupying a spot on New Row, just off St Martin’s Lane, midway between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. I’ve walked past on several occasions, but never had reason to stop, always being put off by its size (or lack thereof). However, on a recent visit to Freed’s on St Martin’s Lane to buy some new dance shoes, I decided to change all that. I was so impressed that I returned the following week with my camera, and exactly one week later, here it is on the Coffee Spot!

New Row’s one of those small coffee shops that thinks it’s actually much bigger. For somewhere with just two tables and a pair of seats at the counter, it serves a range of coffee that would put many larger rivals to shame. Joining the obligatory espresso menu, built around Caravan’s ubiquitous Market Blend, there’s a regularly-rotating filter coffee (also Caravan) through V60, AeroPress or Syphon. Add to that a decent range of cakes and, a recent addition, a small sandwich and savoury tart selection, and you have a place for all occasions. If you can find a seat!

July 2017: Following the change of ownership (see after the gallery), New Row Coffee has been rebranded The Espresso Room. The Market Blend is still on espresso, but it’s been joined by various guests, both on espresso and pour-over. Otherwise, little appears to have changed.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • New Row Coffee, a lovely little spot, on, appropriately enough, New Row.
  • The promiment sign helps you find it from down the street.
  • There's not a lot to New Row. The counter occupies the entire back wall...
  • ... with a little seating area at the left-hand end of the counter.
  • The only other seating is in the window, where two tables line a window-bench.
  • The two window tables seen from outside.
  • Talking of windows, I loved the decorations.
  • Despite the front being all windows, there are plenty of lights, such as these above the tables.
  • This is one of four that hang above the counter.
  • I always find that flowers are a nice touch in a coffee shops.
  • New Row's reading material is pretty good too.
  • Also, you have to admire a place which makes its own cold brew on the counter...
  • New Row has a nice re-use message...
  • ... backed up by a good range of Keep Cups to buy, plus other coffee goodies. And coffee.
  • The right-hand side of the counter is dedicated to cakes.
  • For somewhere so small, it's an impressive range. Plus there are now sandiwiches/tarts.
  • Well, since you asked so nicely, it would be rude not to! (it was a very fine carrot cake).
  • This side of the counter also holds a chiller cabinet for the cold drinks...
  • ... while there's a range of loose-leaf teas for those of that persuasion.
  • However, I'd come for coffee, which is the domain of the left-hand side of the counter.
  • ... although the menu (plus espresso machines and grinders) are on the back wall.
  • On my first visit, I was after espresso. New Row times all its shots and weighs the dose in.
  • My lovely piccolo in a glass, using Caravan's ubiquitous Market Blend.
  • On my second visit, a week later, I fancied filter coffee.
  • I was in luck: a new Burundi coffee had just come in that morning from Caravan.
  • My barista recommended it through the V60 and who am I to disagree?
  • The ground beans (17 grams in all) go into the pre-rinsed filter paper...
  • ... and we're off. My barista had an interesting pouring technique that I'd not seen before.
  • For the first pour, he very deliberately poured all the way around the edges, being careful...
  • ... not to pour into the centre of the coffee. This was to reduce the water coming through...
  • ... and left an island of dry coffee right in the centre...
  • ... wihich was then carefully soaked as well, right at the end of the process.
  • The coffee was then left to bloom. This one was really fresh, so there was lots of blooming!
  • Slowly the water subsides. He might be onto something with this pouring technique!
  • After the bloom, it's time for a top-up. At this point, things become more conventional.
  • Between top-ups, the coffee is left to filter...
  • ... before being topped up again.
  • The trick here is never to let the water completely through before topping up again.
  • The cup has come out, so we must be almost done.
  • Even now though, the V60 is still pretty much full to the top.
  • Just a little more to go: we're aiming for 250 ml out in about 3½ minutes.
  • And there it is, served in a carafe, just how it should be.
  • And here, in the cup.
  • I paired my filter coffee with an excellent toasted beetroot and bree bun.
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New Row Coffee changed hands about a year ago, when it was bought, along with its sister shop, the much larger FreeState Coffee (now closed). The new owner also bought The Espresso Room, a venerable London institution which predates even New Row (and is even smaller still), making a chain of three rather disparate coffee shops, each with its own character.

New Row’s layout is pleasingly simple. Slightly wider than it is deep, the front consists of floor-to-ceiling windows, with the door on the right. The counter, a two part affair, occupies the back half of the store, cake (and now food) on the right, coffee on the left, where two stools allow you to sit and watch your coffee being made. The main seating is in the window, a bench running the width of New Row. There’s enough space for a pair of four-person square tables, each with a couple of low stools, so, if you all squeeze up, it seats 10.

New Row has a very tempting cake selection and has recently started serving sandwiches (one meat, one vegetarian) and savoury tarts at lunchtime. This, however, is in its early stages and may well change. Loose-leaf tea and soft drinks are also available, although the main draw is the coffee.

For such small space, New Row’s an object-lesson in what you can do when you’re well-organised. A work surface against the back wall holds (from right-to-left) the sink, espresso machine (two-group La Marzocco) and its grinder, filter grinder, sandwich toaster and hot-water boiler. The tea’s tucked away on a shelf on the left-hand wall. Well, I suppose it has to go somewhere.

On my first visit, I only had time for a cheeky piccolo, which arrived in a glass, Caravan’s Market Blend, as ever, going well with milk. I had more time on my return, so had a pour-over, which is made on the left-hand part of the counter (it also holds the takeaway lids and an impressive cold brew apparatus). If you sit at the counter, you get a lesson in the method of your choice: V60, AeroPress and Syphon.

There’s only one choice of bean, usually a single-origin (but can be a blend), which changes every week or so. That morning, the new beans (Burundian Buziraguhindwa) had arrived, and my barista recommended it through the V60, which was an excellent decision. It’s quite a subtle coffee, but very well-balanced and has good body.

Since it was lunchtime, I tried one of the new sandwiches, a toasted beetroot and brie bun. This was really tasty, the strongly-flavoured brie going well with the beetroot. I was a little worried that these dominant flavours would overwhelm my coffee, but it more than held its own.

You can read what happened when I tried the same bean through the AeroPress at Yorks Bakery Café in Birmingham.

24 NEW ROW • LONDON • WC2N 4LA +44 (0) 20 3583 6949
Monday 07:30 – 19:00 Roaster Caravan + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Counter
Wednesday 07:30 – 19:00 Food Cakes, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:30 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:30 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa (£0.50 charge under £5)
Saturday 08:30 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:30 – 19:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 27th January, 3rd February 2016, 31st July 2017

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9 thoughts on “The Espresso Room (was New Row Coffee)

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