The Cow & Co Cafe

The Cow & Co Cafe logo taken from the front of the menu.The Cow & Co Cafe started life in Liverpool as a design store in 2009. Over time, an espresso machine found its way into the store and, before long, customers were coming in as much for the coffee as for the various gifts and products on the shelves. Slowly, the design shop morphed into what you see today, the Cow & Co Cafe, a speciality coffee shop, with Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters on espresso and, for somewhere so small, an impressive food and cake selection.

It still retains its roots as a design store though, with a large set of retail shelves, while there’s also a rack of art, design and lifestyle magazines. Think of a smaller version of Manchester’s Fig + Sparrow crossed with London’s Kioskafé. The coffee offering and magazines are more on a par with Kioskafé, while the food and design elements are more in keeping with Fig + Sparrow.

Although it’s only small, Cow & Co packs a lot in, including a lovely mezzanine level, which more than doubles the seating capacity. There’s also a couple of tables outside on the pavement, the dead-end Cleveland Square being a pleasant-enough environment if you want to sit outside.

February 2019: Cow & Co is now called Thoughtfully Cafe, but as far as I can tell, nothing else has changed.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The Cow & Co Cafe on Liverpool's Cleveland Square on a dark, December evening.
  • This angle gives you a better view of the tables/benches out front on the pavement.
  • Inside, it's a compact, cosy spot, counter at the back, door on the left, seating to the right...
  • ... which consists of four two-person tables in the window, with a magazine shelf beyond.
  • There's also a retail shelf on the wall to the left as you come in.
  • But wait! What's this to the right of the counter? Stairs... Let's go up...
  • At the top of the stairs is a delightful mezzanine level with another six tables.
  • The view from the opposite corner at the back. Check out the little stools.
  • The view from the front of the mezzanine, looking towards the back.
  • Whatever you do, don't turn around and look down if you have a problem with heights!
  • Stairs always look steeper on the way down!
  • Before we go, one last look at the mezzanine.
  • There's not a lot of decoration up here, but these two shelves look interesting.
  • Very effective use of lighting!
  • Talking of lighting, there's more downstairs...
  • ... dominated by this row of lights running across the store.
  • There are (or were, this was just before Christmas) a set of fairy lights in the window.
  • Cow & Co is more than just a cafe: there's also a magazine rack.
  • On the opposite wall there's also a set of merchandising shelves.
  • I was very taken with/tempted by these cups. However, I resisted!
  • So, to business. The counter is at the back of the shop, espresso machine to the left...
  • ... and cake down the other end to the right. The menus are helpfully written on the walls.
  • The hot drinks are printed on the wall behind the counter...
  • ... while the surprisingly comprehensive food menu is chalked on the wall to the right.
  • There are also menus on the tables.
  • Cow & Co really does a surprising amount.
  • I was there late in the day for coffee and cake. There's an interesting selection of cake...
  • ... from which I selected the orange and cranberry cake to go with my cortado.
  • My cortado, in a glass, which is how I like it...
  • ... and my cake, on a plate, with a fork. All very civilised.
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The Cow & Co Cafe is another of those places which acts much bigger than it actually is, largely due to Cow & Co’s TARDIS-like qualities. From the outside, it looks really small, an impression reinforced by the fact that you can pretty much see all of it through the windows. The (glass) door is on the left, followed by three tall windows running the width of the store. Outside, a bench runs under the windows, two trestle-tables in front of it. The outside seating’s completed by another pair of benches, backs to the road.

Inside the layout’s deceptively simple. You’ll find the origins of Cow & Co to the door’s left: row upon row of hand-selected gifts and interesting products on shelves that occupy the entire left-hand wall from the door to the counter at the back. This is counter-balanced by the magazine racks on the right-hand wall, where publications such as Kinfolk and Milk rub shoulders with each other. To the door’s right is the downstairs seating: four square, two-person tables arranged in a square.

At first sight, that’s it. Except it isn’t. At the back, next to the magazine racks, steps leads intriguingly upwards. A quick climb and you’re at the back of the mezzanine level, which has space for another six two-person tables. The ceiling, unsurprisingly, is lower up here, but it’s still pretty spacious, although when it’s dark outside, it can be a little, shall we say, atmospheric. However, if you want a cosy spot to get away from it all, there’s nowhere better.

Returning downstairs, you’ll find the counter at the back of Cow & Co, occupying the space between the stairs on the right and the wall on the left. This is where most of the magic takes place, although, at first sight, there doesn’t seem much to it. There’s a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine on one end, while at the opposite end of the remarkably uncluttered counter, there’s a selection of cake. And that’s pretty much it. Except, on the wall to the right (and on the tables, in printed form) there’s Cow & Co’s seasonal menu, which includes at least six sandwiches. And soup. And toast. And, at weekend, waffles! Where, you ask yourself, is all this hiding?

Itrigued, you order something and that’s when it all becomes clear(er). The back wall, which I’d taken to be a series of blackboards, are, in fact, cunningly-disguised doors, allowing Cow & Co to hide a (very small) kitchen, which is where the food preparation takes place. Very clever.

Back to the matter in hand. It was late in the day, and I was after coffee and cake. Cow & Co use Origin’s Pathfinder espresso blend. I went for a cortado, which came in a pleasingly-small glass. It’s quite a dark, punchy coffee which goes well in milk, making a nice contrast with the sweeter espresso blends that I’m used to.

Having dithered a little over my choice of cake (it all looked good), I paired this with a slice of the orange & cranberry cake, which turned out to be just what I needed. A moist, orange-flavoured cake, stuffed with chunks of cranberry and topped with butter cream icing, it was very tasty without committing that cardinal sin of being overly sweet.

15 CLEVELAND SQUARE • LIVERPOOL • L1 5BE +44 (0) 151 709 1516
Monday 09:00 – 18:00 Roaster Origin (espresso only)
Tuesday 09:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Tables/Bench (outside)
Wednesday 09:00 – 18:00 Food Sandwiches, Salads, Cake
Thursday 09:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 18:00 Cards Visa, Mastercard
Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power Yes (upstairs)
Chain No Visits 16th December 2015

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Liverpool.

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