Coffee Island is, unusually for the Coffee Spot, a chain and an international one at that, which started on a Greek island in 1999 and now has over 300 shops throughout Greece, Cyprus and south-east Europe. However, its branch on St Martin’s Lane is (so far) the only UK one. Opening earlier this year with a considerable media push, I was away at the time and so missed all the fuss. I popped in later in the year and I liked what I saw…
A modest exterior hides a surprisingly-large coffee shop with plenty of seating and a mezzanine level at the back. I’d describe Coffee Island as coffee geeks meet the mainstream, so while there’s a house-blend, decaf and five single-origins, there’s also flavoured coffee, which is not something you normally associate with the speciality end of the market. There’s also a large retail section (beans and equipment), tea and food, the latter in the shape of salads, sandwiches and cake.
There’s an excellent range of options for the coffee including espresso, Greek coffee (Ibrik), bulk-brew or pour-over using the V60, Aeropress or Chemex (for one or two). If you want to compare coffee or methods side-by-side, it’s awesome!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
From the outside, Coffee Island presents a modest façade on Upper St Martin’s Lane, with a small, enclosed seating area in front of the shop. This has three small tables in front of a single, large window with the door to the left, plus there’s a fourth table tucked behind a pillar beyond that. It makes a pleasant spot, well-sheltered and set back from the road, but during my visit, lots of people were smoking, which put me off, so I went inside.
Coffee Island’s modest exterior hides an impressively large interior. Slightly wider on the right than the window would suggest, there’s a lot more off to the left, while the shop itself goes a long way back. It’s also very tall, with enough space for a mezzanine level at the back, beyond a central, island counter.
The seating downstairs is on the left and beyond the counter, where it’s tucked under the mezzanine. This leaves the front of the store, between window and counter, largely uncluttered. The idea is that the staff greet you here, offering you advice and talking you through the options, with the menu handily-placed on the left-hand wall above the seating. It’s a neat system, but takes a little getting used to. Alternatively, if you know what you are doing, head around to the right-hand side of the counter to order/pay. Then, disappointingly, you have to wait to collect your coffee before taking it to your seat.
If you only want beans, you don’t even have to go that far. Instead head for the counter in the window immediately to the right of the door. There’s a large selection of beans, which can be weighed out in any quantity you like and, if required, ground as well.
There are two high, four-person tables on the left,-hand wall with two more small tables beyond that by the counter. A large communal table runs width-ways behind the counter, while there are four four-person tables against the back wall, with the stairs to the mezzanine level at the back on the right. These double-back on themselves, depositing you at the front of the mezzanine, where you’ll find a row of long, narrow tables overlooking the counter, complete with seven low bar-stools. Behind this are two rows of tables, with two four-person tables in the middle, plus three more against the back wall. At the back on the right, above the stairs, an L-shaped wooden bar completes the seating.
I was spoiled for choice, but one thing jumped out at me: two micro-lots from the same farm in Nicaragua, each a different varietal, one washed and one naturally-processed. Wanting to try them side-by-side, the barista recommended a V60 of each, so I said yes, watching while he made the coffee, happily talking me through the process. I had the option of having them back-to-back, but decided to have them side-by-side to facilitate the comparison.
The two coffees were served in carafes, with a Coffee Island-branded glass Keep Cup. The first thing to say is that they tasted very different. My favourite, by far, was the washed coffee, which had plenty of body and which matured nicely as it cooled, bringing out its fruity notes. In contrast, I actually didn’t like the natural, which is rare, since there are very few good-quality pour-overs that I dislike. Thinner, and with a metallic taste, I was unimpressed. I did check with the barista, and we both preferred the washed over the natural. I should also say that he didn’t taste anything metallic in the natural, so perhaps it was just me.
|5 UPPER ST MARTIN’S LANE • LONDON • WC2H 9NY|
|www.coffeeisland.co.uk||+44 (0) 20 7836 3007|
|Monday||07:30 – 21:00||Roaster||Coffee Island (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 21:00||Seating||Tables, Bar, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 21:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||07:30 – 21:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 21:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 21:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 21:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||International||Visits||29th May 2017|
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