When it comes to speciality coffee south of the river (in London), Federation Coffee has been flying the flag longer than most (almost six years in fact), with three years at its current location in the heart of Brixton Village. Although it now has company in the likes of Balance, Stir and Brixton Blend, Federation’s still a standard-bearer when it comes to speciality coffee in Brixton. There’s a house-blend on espresso from Kent-based roasters, Curve, with regularly-rotating single-origins from Curve and various guests on filter through the ever-reliable Moccamaster.
Federation occupies a couple of units in Brixton Village. You can sit inside or out, where the glass-roofed market arcades make for the perfect location, whatever the weather. Inside, you share the space with the counter, the seating in the windows all around the edges, giving you the perfect spot for people-watching, particularly if you get one of the window-bars.
If you’re hungry, there’s a good selection of cake on offer, backed up by an impressive breakfast/lunch menu, particularly when you consider the small space behind the counter in which the kitchen staff have to work. The menu is largely bread-based, with toast and toasted sandwiches, which suited me just fine.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Brixton Village and Market Row are a set of covered arcades in the heart of Brixton which date back to the 1930s. Given my love of coffee shops in Victorian Arcades, I was always going to like Federation Coffee, even though Brixton Village missed the cut-off by around 30 years! However, there’s something very Victorian in the soaring, glass-roofed arcades, even if the end result is less ornate than most.
Federation Coffee has a lovely spot, a unit on the corner of 5th and 2nd Avenue, with the adjacent unit on 5th Avenue added on to provide a single space. As a result, Federation has a simple, rectangular plan, the short side facing 2nd Avenue, while the long side runs down 5th Avenue. There are generous windows on both sides, plus several doors, one on 2nd Avenue (which is never used) and two (one for each unit) on 5th Avenue (both in use).
You can sit “outside”, the glass roof keeping the rain/wind away, but ensuring you get what sunshine there is. There are four two-person tables on 2nd Avenue and seven on the 5th Avenue side, three between the two doors and two more either side. In the colder months (ie February!), blankets are thoughtfully provided since it can get a little chilly out there!
Inside, the layout’s simple. The two-part counter, which looks like it’s been built out of scaffolding poles, occupies the back corner, leaving the windows free for seating. One part of the counter, facing 5th Avenue, holds the cake and till, the other, holding the three-group La Marzocco espresso machine, faces 2nd Avenue. The counters extend all the way to the high ceiling, the space above cleverly used for storage.
Five two-person tables make their home between the espresso machine and the windows along 2nd Avenue. Alternatively, there are three two-person window bars opposite the counter on the 5th Avenue side. Two are between the two doors (one for each unit) while the third is right at the back, beyond the final door, tucked in by the retail shelves on the back wall.
When it comes to the coffee, Federation has never been afraid to experiment. It used to be with north London’s Campbell & Syme, but when one of the founders left to form Curve Coffee Roasters in Margate in the middle of 2016, Federation went too, giving Curve a valuable early customer. These days, Curve provides a seasonal house-blend (currently Stardust Volume 2) as well as single-origin filters. Here it’s joined by various guests, a sole single-origin (which changes every 7-10 days) available as a batch-brew through the Moccamaster.
I had no idea what I wanted, so the manager, Nick, suggested I try a little of everything, offering to make me a split shot with the espresso and a half a cup of the filter (a Guatemalan from Bailies in Belfast), which was an excellent suggestion.
I started with the espresso, which was really fruity and well-balanced, becoming a little sharper on the second mouthful. As a piccolo, it lost a little definition, but was still very good, milk and coffee in perfect harmony. I moved onto the filter, another smooth, fruity coffee with good body, once again proving you don’t need hand-pour to make great filter coffee. As an aside, Federation’s one of a growing number extracting espresso at five bar, the lower pressure providing some excellent results.
I paired all this with an excellent blue cheese and marmalade toasty. The bread was crunchy and the blue cheese very blue. Too often cheese toasties are bland, but this had a nice kick.
December 2017: Federation Coffee has won the 2017 Best Espresso Award.
|UNIT 77-78 • BRIXTON VILLAGE • COLDHARBOUR LANE • LONDON • SW9 8PS|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Curve (espresso) + Curve & Guests (filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables (inside and outside), Window Bars|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch (Toasties, Toast), Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 18:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||24th February 2017|
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