St Martin’s

A lovely flat white made with the Friday Street Blend at St Martin's in Leicester.Given its size, Leicester is not blessed with many speciality coffee shops, but those that it has are large by industry standards. Chief amongst these is the venerable St Martin’s, tucked away in the delightful St Martin’s Square, after which it was named. Talking of which, it goes by many names. Having started life as St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants, it’s also known as St Martin’s Coffee Roasters and, three evenings a week (Thursday to Saturday), Crafty, which is when it turns itself into a burger restaurant.

St Marin’s was started by husband & wife team, Andy & Ellie, and recently underwent a major refurbishment when the roasting operation moved out to a dedicated facility about 10 minutes’ walk away. Spread over two spacious floors, there’s plenty of seating both upstairs and down, with a mix of tables big and small, plus the occasional window-bar, sofa and comfy chair. Add to that a large outdoor seating area and you’re spoiled for choice.

St Martin’s has a blend on espresso and a regularly-rotating single-origin batch-brew, all roasted in-house. There’s a wide selection of tea, plus decent breakfast and lunch menus, everything being prepared in the kitchen next to the counter.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Tucked away at the edge of St Martin's Square you will find the wonderful St Martin's.
  • There's a large outside seating area, which is great when it's not raining.
  • Such a handsome, but rather weirdly-shaped, building.
  • There's more outside seating flanking the doors in the shape of picnic tables...
  • ... here, to the right of the door, separated off by large planters ...
  • ... while here, to left of the door, they're even under cover. Helpful when it's raining!
  • Stepping inside, and the seating is off to the left, in a triangular-shaped section...
  • ... while to the right is the counter and espresso machine...
  • ... with the kitchen tucked away in the corner to the left of the counter.
  • There's a stairway at the back, with some more seating and a set of retail shelves.
  • Another view of the main seating area off to the left.
  • It's mostly tables, but there is this window-bar at the back.
  • Time to go upstairs.
  • Downstairs, seen from the top of the stairs, courtesy of Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato.
  • Bizarrely, while the stairs are at the back downstairs, they're a central stairwell up here!
  • However, this leaves room for lots of seating up here. There's this group to the right...
  • ... with more seating at the back, behind the stairs (upstairs overhangs downstairs).
  • This seating is at the front, between the stairs and the front of St Martin's.
  • As before, the majority of the seating is in the triangular bit to the left.
  • There's even space in the corner for a pair of sofas!
  • Be careful though! The triangular part is on a lower level from the main part.
  • A handy sign gives you fair warning.
  • Just in case.
  • There are other teapots around upstairs. This one is my favourite.
  • St Martin's also has some interesting chairs.
  • There are some games shelves upstairs...
  • ... and a nice, sectioned off children's play area.
  • There are the usual exposed light bulbs, but also some proper lampshades...
  • ... as well as this cracking coffee grinder / lamp!
  • Time to go back downstairs to order.
  • The menus hang on the wall behind and above the counter...
  • ... although there are also menus on the tables. There's breakfast and coffee...
  • ... and, on the other side, lunch.
  • The coffee menu and the day's filter option are on this chalkboard by the counter.
  • You can buy all of the beans (several blends and single-origins) from the retail shelves...
  • ... while there is an abundant supply of cake next to the till...
  • ... and cold drinks in the chiller to the right of the door.
  • Off to the right is the espresso machine, which is where you also wait for takeout...
  • ... while St Martin's considerable range of tea is on display on the wall behind.
  • I started my day with a flat white, made with the Friday Street Espresso blend...
  • ... which I accompanied by avocado on toast for breakfast.
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For a long time, St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants (as was) was the only game in town when it came to decent coffee in Leicester, with the tea also highly recommended by Fancy A Cuppa. More recently, St Martin’s has taken its coffee game to a new level, with the roasting moving out from the shop to a dedicated facility. St Martin’s also made its London Coffee Festival debut this year, where I met head roaster, Ole.

St Martin’s occupies a weirdly-shaped building, best described as square, with a long triangle, its end cut off, on the left. It’s at the eastern end of St Martin’s Lane, part of St Martin’s Square shopping centre, a delightful, pedestrianised maze of open spaces and narrow walkways which, while largely redeveloped in the 1980s, has retained a lot of character.

St Martin’s faces north, a pair of picnic tables on each side of the doors. Further to the left, beyond the truncated end of the triangular bit, is a larger outdoor seating area. Inside, the main area’s given over to the counter along the right-hand wall, and the espresso machine, immediately to the door’s right, along the front wall. There’s also an open kitchen in the back right-hand corner, to the counter’s left. Directly ahead, against the back wall, stairs lead upwards.

There are two tables here, with retail shelves under the stairs, but the bulk of the seating’s in the triangular part to the left. There are tables in the middle, plus others along the front wall and at the triangle’s end, with a window-bar along the back wall.

Upstairs, however, is totally different, largely because it overhangs the downstairs at the back. This turns the stairs into a central stairwell, the seating arranged around it. The stairs deposit you at the front, with seating ahead of you. Turning left, you’ll find a handful of two- and four-person tables, with more at the back, behind the stairs. There’s another kitchen here, plus a small bar, against the right-hand walls.

Once again, the bulk of the seating’s in triangular part, where the two- and four-person tables are joined by an occasional six-person one. At the far end, there’s a pair of leather sofas (one two-person. one three-person) plus a comfortable chair, clustered around a coffee table. There’s even a small children’s play area in one corner.

Regularly-spaced pillars break up both the up- and downstairs, stopping each from feeling like a giant, open space. Three of the four walls are regularly pierced by old-fashioned sash windows with wooden frames, making for a bright space, particularly at the triangular end. Numerous exposed bulbs hang from the ceiling, especially upstairs in the square part, where there are fewer windows. Wooden floorboards and furniture, along with neutral tones for the walls and ceilings, complete a soothing look and feel, aided by quiet background music and a conversational hum.

St Martin’s has its Friday Street Blend on espresso, a mix of Brazilian and Rwandan beans. While I was there, a washed Kenyan (a Kainamui AB) was on batch-brew, St Martin’s giving me a bag of it to take home. If you like tea, I counted 23 black, 12 herbal, seven green and four fruit teas on the menu!

I kicked off my day with a flat white, a smooth coffee with chocolate notes, which went well with the milk. I paired with this with the old breakfast favourite of avocado on toast, which was lovely. Other breakfast options include toast, bacon sandwiches and American-style pancakes. For lunch, there’s rotisserie chicken, salads and a range of sandwiches.

ST. MARTINS SQUARE • 2-6 ST. MARTINS WALK • LEICESTER • LE1 5DG
www.craftystmartins.co.uk +44 (0) 116 251 2879
Monday 09:00 – 17:00 Roaster St Martin’s (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Window Bars, Sofas, Comfy Chairs; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 09:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 09:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 17:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 11:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 15th July 2017

You can see what fellow bloggers, Fancy A Cuppa (from 2012) and Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato (from a few weeks earlier), made of St Martin’s.

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