In the history of Liverpool’s (relatively) short speciality coffee scene, Filter + Fox, on Duke Street, plays an interesting role. Originally set up as Duke Street Espresso, an off-shoot of the famous Bold Street Coffee, it was reborn as Filter + Fox just over a year ago, when the current owners, Owain and Chris, took over. They had already made a name for themselves with their Bold Street Cold Brew, but they brought with them a background of many years in the bar industry, building on Duke Street Espresso’s reputation for good coffee and adding food through the day and cocktails in the evening.
Filter + Fox employs the coffee and cocktails model pioneered in London by the likes of Shoreditch Grind, but with the sort of elegance more normally associated with the likes of Notes or Fernandez & Wells. The result is unique, very much one of a kind in Liverpool, and in many ways ahead of the game. The coffee is from London’s Nude Espresso, with regularly-rotating guests on filter. There’s food (all-day breakfast, sandwiches, small plates and bar snacks) and a limited cake selection throughout the day, while the well-stocked bar serves right up until midnight.
May 2019: Filter + Fox has been re-imagined as Volpi, serving coffee, aperitifs and pasta.
August 2020: Filter + Fox / Volpi has, sadly, closed for good.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Located towards the bottom of Duke Street, on the corner with Campbell Street, Filter + Fox makes the most of a simple space. As wide as it is high (and it’s very high), it’s perhaps twice as long, the narrow side facing Duke Street. A massive window, which stops maybe a metre from the ceiling, runs almost its full width, cut short by the glass door on the right-hand side. This alone would make for a very bright space, but there are two equally tall, albeit narrower, windows overlooking Campbell Street. The result is a gloriously bright, spacious place, aided by a simple, uncomplicated layout.
The counter is on the right, ahead of you as you enter. A four-person table occupies the window to your left, then seven, two-person tables stretch along the Campbell Street side. There’s a long bench against the wall, generously provisioned by multiple cushions, while each table also has a chair, back to the counter, which dominates the opposite wall. Aside from the espresso machine at the far end, the counter’s given over to seating, making it more like a traditional bar. You can sit here and count the bottles on the shelves behind the bar, but you’ll need to borrow the barista’s fingers and toes, plus those of several customers!
Filter + Fox is a classy establishment, cocktail bar as much as coffee shop, with service to match. There are some nice touches, such as flowers and menus on the table, and only paying when you leave. The coffee is predominantly espresso-based, Nude’s East Blend gracing the hopper, but there are also a couple of single-origins available through the Aeropress. These are from various different roasters drawn from all over the UK and Europe, with the selection changing every month. It just so happened that both were from Nude while I was there!
It had been a long time since I tried any of Nude’s coffee as an espresso and I remember not really liking it. However, I think my palate’s evolved since then, since I found this one much more acceptable, although still a little fruity for me. Nevertheless, it was a well-made, well-rounded espresso, with good body. Perhaps the most beautifully-presented espresso I’ve had in a long time, it arrived on a small tin tray, glass of (iced) water at one end, espresso at the other, the two being separated by a rather tasty wafer.
I paired this with a slice of red velvet and custard cream cake (the other choices were red velvet and chocolate or chocolate and salted caramel brownies with a butter cream frosting; I could feel my arteries furring up just from looking at the selection). I was a little worried by my selection; red velvet cakes can be, if done badly, overpoweringly (and sickly) sweet, while the addition of a custard cream (that is, a custard-flavoured cream, not, as I first thought, a well-known style of biscuit) promised more sweetness. As it was, I should have had more faith.
No-one could accuse what I had of being “light”, but it was far from heavy. The red velvet cake (all three layers of it) was delightfully moist, while the custard cream was subtle rather than overpowering, the two in combination proving to be divine: rich, creamy and very filling.
December 2016: Filter + Fox has won the 2016 Best Physical Space Award.
|27 DUKE STREET • LIVERPOOL • L1 5AP|
|http://filterandfox.co.uk||+44 (0) 151 708 9458|
|Monday||08:00 – 00:00||Roaster||Nude Espresso (espresso) + Guests (filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 00:00||Seating||Tables, Counter (inside) Tables, Bench/Windowsill (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 00:00||Food||Breakfast, Sandwiches, Small Plates, Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 00:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 00:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 00:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 00:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||6th May 2016|
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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