Flat Caps Carliol Square (Bunker Coffee Update)

The Flat Caps Coffee logo, taken from a bag of coffee roasted to mark Flat Caps' successful Kickstarter.Back in the summer of 2016, Joe of Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee, decided to launch a Kickstarter to fund a second coffee shop alongside the legendary basement on Ridley Place. Five months (and one successful Kickstarter) later and Flat Caps has not one, but two new coffee shops. Funny how these things work out… Flat Caps Carliol Square is the first of these, while the second, Flat Caps Campus North, is next door.

Eagle-eyed readers will spot something familiar about Flat Caps Carliol Square. Not long after the Kickstarter was successfully funded, the opportunity to take over Bunker Coffee & Kitchen presented itself. However, this isn’t just a re-badging of an existing operation: other than the physical space itself, Flat Caps has pretty much changed everything, creating a new coffee shop just as thoroughly as if a new build had been fitted out…

Those who know Flat Caps Ridley Place will at least find the coffee offering familiar: three coffees, each available as espresso or filter, changing on a regular basis from a limited cast of roasters. Added to that is a much-expanded food offering, taking advantage of the large kitchen space at Carliol Square, plus extended opening hours.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On Newcastle's Carliol Square, something's looking familiar...
  • ... only I don't remember that many light bulbs in the windows.
  • A closer look at the door reveals that something has changed...
  • ... and the familiar Flat Caps Coffee logo on the A-board gives it away.
  • Let's go in, shall we?
  • A panoramic view from just inside the door. Things have changed quite a bit!
  • The view from the left of the stairs, looking towards the counter...
  • ... and the counter itself.
  • This is the view from just by the side of the counter...
  • ... and for comparison, this is how it looked back in May before Flat Caps took over.
  • Back to the present. Steps lead down from the door, but there is step-free access too...
  • ... immediately to the right of the door, in fact, just by the large, communal table.
  • I was particularly taken by the communal table. So I sat there. All on my own :-)
  • To the left of the stairs are rows of two-person tables following the curve of the windows.
  • More tables, although the area in front of the counter has been left free...
  • ... as can be seen in this picture.
  • The view looking the other way, back towards the door.
  • The last of the seating is in the far corner, where you'll find armchairs and sofas...
  • ... including these ones in the corner itself.
  • Finally, you can sit at the counter on one of the bar stools.
  • The room has several of these cast-iron pillars which also have power sockets.
  • Remember I said that there seemed to be a lot of light bulbs? Well, I wasn't joking!
  • More of the light bulbs. And lots of plants too!
  • Unsurprisingly I was rather than taken by them all...
  • ... although these above the communal table really caught my eye.
  • See what I mean?
  • Possible candidate for the 2018 Coffee Spot Lighting Calendar?
  • I was also taken with some of the individual lights...
  • ... although of these, this one, above the counter, was my favourite. How many light bulbs?
  • Going back to the plants, there were plenty of these at ground level too.
  • These beauties were on the communal table...
  • ... although the staff told me that they take an awful lot of watering and misting!
  • The counter, as seen when approaching from the door.
  • The counter, with the kitchen behind it.
  • There are cakes on display all day...
  • ... while at lunchtime, the sandwiches make an appearance.
  • The menus are hung on the walls behind the counter...
  • ... with the drinks on the left...
  • ... and food on the right.
  • However, the menus are also on clipboards on the tables. Here's the food...
  • ... and this was the current coffee offering while I was there.
  • The ubiquitous EK-43 grinder does (almost) all the coffee...
  • ... including the batch-brew in the Moccamaster...
  • ... and the individual hand-poured filters.
  • There's aeropress and Kalita Wave, plus syphon for groups.
  • Meanwhile, while all of the coffee can be had as espresso, one goes on the Peak grinder.
  • Who needs a mirror when you have a Nuovo Simonelli espresso machine?
  • Talking of which, I started my day with a flat white...
  • ... whiich accompanied my breakfast of poached eggs and avocado on toast.
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Unlike Flat Caps Ridley Place, which is an actual basement, Carliol Square occupies an almost-basement at the bottom of a large, six-storey building on Newcastle’s Carliol Square. Whether Flat Caps is on the ground floor or basement is a matter of perspective since the street curves steeply up to the left, the front wall of Flat Caps following the curve, punctured by four windows. Each of these is at pavement level and consequently, they begin progressively further up the wall, each getting narrower until they disappear altogether in the corner opposite the door.

Personally I’m going for basement since, even from the double doors on the far right-hand side, you need to descend a few broad steps to reach floor-level. Once inside, it’s a remarkably large, uncluttered space, with an equally large, uncluttered counter at the back, behind which lurks the kitchen. At this point, the comparisons with the old Bunker Coffee end: pretty much everything else has changed.

Meanwhile, comparisons to Ridley Place are more contrast than comparison: whereas that was a one-man (Joe) operation, Carliol Square is a three-/four-person job. I didn’t get my tape-measure out, but I figure you could (almost) fit the seating area at Ridley Place in the kitchen area behind the counter at Carliol Square.

The actual seating area is probably four to five times that of Ridley Place. There are three rows of two-person tables which run parallel to the counter, while slightly following the curve of the wall. I suspect Flat Caps could have fitted a fourth row in, but instead left plenty of space between tables and counter for those ordering/waiting to order. There’s also a row of four-person tables along the windows, which definitely follows the curve of the wall.

On the right-hand side there’s a nook just beyond the door which is occupied by twelve-person communal table with stools. There are also a handful of stools at the far end of the counter, where you can sit and watch the coffee being made. Finally, in the far corner beyond the counter, are a small selection of armchairs and sofas, which prove extremely popular.

The counter has the cake on the right, with the menus on the wall behind the counter/kitchen, although there are also printed menus on the tables. The coffee is on the left-hand end of the counter, espresso machine first followed, around the corner, by the brew-bar.

The coffee offering is the same as at Ridley Place, with the same three beans on offer. These are bought in and when they’re gone, another takes its place. Each bean can be had through any of the preparation methods: espresso, batch-brew, Aeropress, Kalita Wave or (for two to four people) Syphon. However, one of the beans is preferred for espresso and batch-brew.

I started off with a flat white, made with Workshop’s La Parraquia from Guatemala, the preferred option for espresso. This was a lovely, fruity coffee, with the sort of interesting complexity I come to expect from coffee at Flat Caps.

Since there’s a kitchen, Flat Caps has an expanded food offering, including breakfast, which is available all day, and sandwiches, which make an appearance at lunchtime. I had avocado and poached eggs on toast which arrived on a huge plate, consisting of two slices of sour-dough toast, each covered with a sliced avocado and drizzled in a sweet, balsamic dressing. Perched, slightly precariously, on top of this ensemble were two perfectly-poached eggs. The bread, meanwhile was excellent, as were the avocados. My only complaint is that everything was so good that there was nothing to complain about…

December 2016: Flat Caps Carliol Square has won the 2016 Best Breakfast Award.

www.flatcapscoffee.com +44 (0) 191 232 7836
Monday 08:00 – 19:00 Roaster Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Sofas, Counter
Wednesday 08:00 – 19:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 19:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 10:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 6th December 2016

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