TAP, Russell Square

A beautifully-presented filter coffee at TAP, Russell Square, served on a wooden tray with the coffee in a metal jug and a tulip cup on the side.TAP, or Tapped And Packed, as it used to be known in the early days, was one of the pioneers of London’s speciality coffee scene. From its original shop on Rathbone Place, it rapidly expanded to become a mini-chain of three, adding branches on Tottenham Court Road and Wardour Street, both of which I visited in the Coffee Spot’s first year, although I’ve still never been to the original! TAP was also a pioneer coffee shop/roaster, installing a roaster at the back of No 193 (the Wardour Street branch), which supplies all the shops.

However, after that initial rapid expansion, everything went quiet for five years, TAP happily going about its business, roasting and serving excellent coffee from the three stores. Until the end of the summer, that is, when, on the eastern edge of Russell Square, the fourth TAP appeared, extending the mini-chain beyond its Fitzrovia heartland and into Bloomsbury.

If you’ve been to the other three TAPs, then the new branch will hold no surprises. There’s a beautifully-concise espresso-based menu, plus three single-origins on pour-over through the V60. There’s also a selection of sandwiches and salads, plus a range of excellent cakes, all available until 4.30 each afternoon.

December 2017: TAP has been bought by the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs chain. I don’t know what this will mean for TAP and whether it will retain its own unique character, so watch this space!

September 2018: The TAP on Russell Square has closed and will be re-opening as branch of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, now also owned by the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.

November 2019: After a year as a branch of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, this location now appears to be permanently closed.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • A new addition to London's Russell Square can be found on its eastern side...
  • ... while the A-board promises much.
  • The view from inside the door: it's the new TAP by the way, the first one in years!
  • The layout is unusual, but quite logical. On the left is a long counter with the food...
  • ... where you can help yourself, or just follow the arrow to the till, where you order/pay.
  • The counter, meanwhile, is right at the back. I think the arrow only applies for takeaway!
  • If you're staying, they'll bring the coffee to you. The seating's in the middle/on the right.
  • As well as the central communal table, there's a bench along the right-hand wall...
  • ... which stretches all the way to the back.
  • You can just about squeeze two people onto the stools on the other side of the tables.
  • Meanwhile, the bench runs along the wall, then continues a short way along the window.
  • Another view of the communal table in the centre. Note everything is bolted to the floor!
  • A view from the back. There's a window bar at the front beyond the communal table.
  • Despite the large windows, there are lots of lights, including these on the left-hand wall.
  • More conventional lights/lamp shades hang over the rest of the tables.
  • There's not a lot decor, but these two pictures are the exception...
  • ... while an American flag hangs at the back on the right.
  • The interior is fairly austere, but enlivened by these plants above the central table.
  • The food is displayed on shleves on the left-hand wall. Interestingly, you serve yourself.
  • The cakes are on the top shelf, while sandwiches are in the basins below.
  • The cakes continue towards the back, while the sandwiches give way to salads.
  • Finally, there's a basket of pastries down by the till.
  • Also down by the till is this delightfully concise drinks menu.
  • If you need more information, the filter coffee and tea options are on these clipboards...
  • ... while the filter options are also on cards on the tables.
  • Unless you are ordering takeaway, you don't really need to get down to the counter...
  • ... unless, of course, you want to buy some beans to take home with you...
  • ... or watch your pour-over being made at the filter station down by the water tap.
  • Talking of which, I went for a pour-over, beautifully presented on a wooden tray...
  • ... with the coffee in a pot and a tulip cup on the side.
  • I also helped myself to a slice of the excellent caramel apple crumble tart.
  • Finally, I will leave you with this: a reflection of the light in my coffee...
  • ... and the light itself which was hanging above my table.
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TAP became known as much for the bicycles which hung over the doors of its stores as for its name, which you really have to look for. The new branch, however, has dispensed with the bicycle, a new logo, which looks like a large cog, replacing it in the window. I’m not sure what it stands for, but then again, I never knew what the bicycle stood for either. That’s the beauty of branding!

The new branch also breaks the naming scheme that had served TAP so well, with each store known by its street number: No 26 (Rathbone Place), No 114 (Tottenham Court Road) and No 193 (Wardour Street). Instead, it’s known as Russell Square, occupying a large, open space midway along the square’s eastern side. Two large windows, each with a bench outside on the pavement, face towards the square, with the door at the left-hand end. Inside it’s easily the most spacious of all four branches, and surprisingly austere, particularly for a company that made its name with beautiful wooden furniture and warm, welcoming interiors.

Not that TAP’s dispensed with the wooden furniture, which is still present, and still bolted to the floor in traditional TAP fashion. However, it’s a very bare bones sort of place, with its concrete floor, plain, whitewashed walls and high, black ceiling, although it has far more charm than my description implies!

TAP’s always done things differently, with a clear separation of counters, one for ordering coffee, the other for making it. Here it’s taken to its logical extreme with a couple of long shelves on the left-hand wall containing cakes/pastries on top and sandwiches/salads down below. It’s help yourself, with plates if you’re staying in and boxes/bags if you’re leaving, while the till’s at the far end, below a cut-down drinks menu offering espresso (two options), espresso with milk (four options) and “other” (mocha, iced latte, cold brew and hot chocolate). There’s also a choice of three single-origin filters, with details on a separate card. This can be found by the till or on the tables, but you do have to know to look for it. You order here, paying for anything you’ve picked up from the cakes/sandwiches/salads. If you’re staying, you’re also given a playing card in a small milk bottle so that the staff can deliver your coffee.

There’s a large, imposing counter at the back, starting with a larger version of the pour-over options on a clipboard, followed by shelves of retail bags which partly obscure the three grinders and the espresso machine. At the far end, at a slightly lower level, is the pour-over bar with four V60s, an Über boiler and dedicated grinder.

The remaining space, which is considerable, is given over to seating. There’s a single, long, eight-person communal table in the centre of the room with plenty of space to move around it. A three-seat window-bar occupies the right-hand window, while a single, wooden bench runs along the right-hand wall with eight tables in front of it, each with a stool on the other side. All the stools, with the exception of those on the communal table, which are definitely single-seaters, can accommodate two people, as long as they know each other quite well.

TAP has three different espressos: one for black drinks, another for use in milk, with the third’s decaf. The single-origins on pour-over change every three months. Typically, I visited during the last week of the autumn offerings, so you can expect a different set of filter options than I had. That said, my Guatemala Petaton Huehuetenango was a lovely brew, rich, sweet and nicely balanced. Served in a metal jug with a tulip cup on the side, it was beautifully-presented on a small wooden with circular hollows, one each for the cup and jug.

I paired this with an excellent fine caramel apple crumble tart, a bit of a mouthful in more ways than one! A classic pastry tart base, it had a rich, sweet, sticky caramel and apple filling, topped with an oat-based crumble. Superb!

Monday 07:30 – 19:00 Roaster TAP (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Window-bar, Benches (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 19:00 Food Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 19:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 15th November 2017

For a different perspective, you can see what fellow coffee blogger, Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato, made of TAP, Russell Square.

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4 thoughts on “TAP, Russell Square

  1. Pingback: TAP, 193 Wardour Street | Brian's Coffee Spot

  2. Pingback: TAP, 114 Tottenham Court Road | Brian's Coffee Spot

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  4. Pingback: TAP, 193 Wardour Street | Brian's Coffee Spot

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