Mesa 325

Mesa 325, written in white stencil on the grey concrete wall of Mesa 325.I went to Porto last month in search of Port and in the expectation of the excellent company of my friends, Dave, Ian and Lev. I did not expect to find any speciality coffee, except that which I had brought with me. However, Porto, it turns out, has a lot more speciality coffee than I had bargained for, led by the very excellent Mesa 325. The scene is still very new, though, with Mesa, in many ways the trailblazer, only having been open for just over two years.

Mesa uses a local roaster, Vernazza, offering a fairly standard espresso menu, plus “slow coffee” (which, it turns out, is filter coffee, a single-origin through the Chemex). There’s also Vietnamese coffee (with condensed milk) and affogato (espresso over ice cream). However, this is Portugal, so there’s not just coffee: Mesa has a wide range of cakes/pastries (some Portuguese and some less so) and there’s locally-brewed craft beer, whiskey, port (obviously) and loose-leaf tea.

The setting’s a lovely, cool, stone-lined room, firmly placing Mesa in third-wave coffee territory, rather than Portuguese café territory. Long and thin, Mesa is surprisingly bright, with windows at the front, counter at the back and seating in between.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Mesa 325, speciality coffee in Porto, at 325 Avenue de Camilo, east of the city centre.
  • The view from just inside the door, looking to the left...
  • ... and the view from the same spot, looking down towards the back of Mesa 325.
  • The bulk of the seating is towards the back, on the left-hand side...
  • ... while the counter itself is right at the back.
  • You can sit here too, if you like, at a little bar against the right-hand wall.
  • The view back towards the front of Mesa 325 from just in front of the counter.
  • Want something different? Try these high, two-person tables against the right-hand wall.
  • Most of the tables, however, are low, four-person tables on the left-hand side.
  • Perhaps the best seats, though, are these two armchairs near the window...
  • ... although if you fancy people watching, there's always the window-bar or the bench outside.
  • Mesa could be quite dark at the back. Fortunately, there are lots of lights.
  • Lots and lots.
  • This one hangs right at the back, between the counter and the kitchen.
  • There are more lights in the windows.
  • This one, meanwhile, hangs over the counter. I love the bulb's reflection on itself.
  • Another varient on the lighting theme is the angle-poise lamp by the counter.
  • Nice table decoration.
  • In case you forget where you are, it's helpfully written on the wall.
  • I particularly liked the coat-stand.
  • The wall to the left of the counter is adorned with pictures.
  • An interesting use for an old port box. Postcard, anyone?
  • This is a multi-functional display: Keeps Cups, Beer and Magazines.
  • The staff at Mesa were quick to point out that speciality coffee was getting noticed in Porto.
  • This magazine had a whole article deveoted to the scene...
  • ... including, of course, Mesa.
  • Mesa even got a mention in an article in a national magazine.
  • With those glowing endorsements, it's time to get some coffee.
  • But first, something sweet? There's an interesting array of pastries, some local, some not.
  • The coffee menu, meanwhile, is printed out in booklet form, with one on each table.
  • Espresso, anyone?
  • I started with a shot of the house blend and a bottle of (fizzy) water.
  • When I asked about the beans, the staff gave me some to play with!
  • My friends joined me later that afternoon: a good excuse for more coffee! This time: Chemex
  • Once the coffee has been ground and added, we're ready for the first pour...
  • Now, let it stand, bloom and filter a bit.
  • Now for the main pour...
  • A quick check of the recipe...
  • ... and that's enough. Now to leave it to brew...
  • ... before topping it up...
  • ... and leaving to filter a bit more.
  • All done!
  • I paired my coffee with a chocolate croissant. The beer is not mine. Nor is the doughnut.
  • My coffee in the cup. Someone's started on the doughnut. I'm questioning my life choices.
  • My friend, Ian, would like it be known that Mesa serves locally-brewed craft beer.
  • Quite a variety of locally-brewed craft beer, in fact. Apparently this is a good thing.
  • Meanwhile, my friend Lev would like it known that he was very happy with his choice of freshly-pressed orange juice. Far happier than this photo implies.
  • My friend Dave had a macchiato and a nata (Portuguese custard tart).
  • He also had an affogato, seen here in the making: espresso over ice-cream.
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Mesa 325 is a 20-minute walk east of central Porto, on the broad Avenue de Camilo, which is lined with trees in the centre and parked cars (the coffee bloggers’ bane), at the edges. Despite being just around the corner from the busy 24 de Agosto junction and metro station, it’s relatively quiet. Pleasingly, Mesa is at number 325, occupying the ground floor of a lovely, old, stone-built building. However, it could easily be missed if you weren’t looking for it, with just a short bench and A-board outside to attraction your attention, while the window doesn’t exactly shout speciality coffee.

However, it would be a shame if you passed by without stepping inside. Mesa stretches a long way back, being much larger than the narrow shop front implies. This has a (glass) door on the right, with a floor-to-ceiling window that occupies the remainder of the shop front. There’s a window-bar, which, at half the width of the window, only seats two, while next come a pair of comfy armchairs, backs to the left-hand wall, separated by a small coffee table. The main seating follows, two rows of three four-person tables, one along the left-hand wall, the other down the centre. The right-hand side’s left clear to give access to the counter at the back, although half-way down there’s a pair of high, two-person tables flush against the wall. Beyond that, you’ve got a clear run to the counter, which occupies Mesa’s full width, behind which is the kitchen. There’s one more seating option: a narrow bar on the right-hand wall, just before the counter.

There’s something of the basement about Mesa, which perhaps explains why I liked it so much. The right-hand wall (the end-wall of the building) is exposed, rough-dressed stone, while the left-hand wall is smooth concrete, matching the floor. The generous window floods the front with sunlight, while multiple lights prevent the back from being gloomy. Similarly, high ceilings give it a spacious feel.

I arrived first, trying out the espresso, a blend of Ethiopian, Guatemalan and Colombian beans. This was excellent: smooth, with fruity overtones, easily the best I had in Porto. When Dave, Ian & Lev arrived, we did our best to sample everything. I had a Chemex for one, using an Ethiopian single-origin. Surprisingly heavy and dark, it certainly had plenty of body and flavour. Not exactly what I was expecting from an Ethiopian, but a fine coffee nonetheless. We also managed, between us, a macchiato and an affogato, both of which were very good, while Ian had a locally-brewed Gyroscope India Pale Ale which he was very happy with, although he said it was more American-style than UK-style (if that means anything to you). Lev, meanwhile, had a freshly-squeezed orange juice.

Finally, we thought we should give the cakes a try. Between us, we sampled the natas (Portuguese custard tarts) and doughnuts (not so Portuguese), while I had a chocolate croissant, which was excellent, entirely made by the rich, chocolatey patisserie-crème filling.

Mesa, by the way, is considering roasting its own beans. Bizarrely, local laws prohibit roasting coffee and preparing food on the same premises, so Mesa would have to install the roaster in the kitchen at the back of the store and stop serving breakfast and lunch. Watch this space!

Monday 08:30 – 19:30 Roaster Vernazza (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 19:30 Seating Tables, Comfy Chairs, Window Bar, Bench (outside)
Wednesday 08:30 – 19:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 19:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:30 – 19:30 Cards Visa (others coming soon)
Saturday 10:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power Limited
Chain No Visits 16th May 2016

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