Coffee Lab is the rapidly-growing mini-chain, spreading out from its home in Winchester across Hampshire and into Salisbury, led by head-barista and six-time UK Latte Art Champion, Dhan Tamang. When I visited in November, this was the westernmost outpost of the Coffee Lab empire, although since then the Gloucester branch has opened its doors. Meanwhile, its march southwards has only been stopped by the sea. The status of its eastern and northern borders remain unclear, but I expect news in the near future…
Meanwhile, back to Salisbury, where the Coffee Lab is tucked away on a busy corner on the evocatively-named Blue Boar Row, just to the north of Salisbury’s medieval centre. There’s seating outside on the broad pavement or inside in a modest ground floor space. The coffee, as ever, is from The Roasting Party, with two blends on espresso, the house-blend (Create) and Thrive (Heisenberg). You can also have filter through V60 or Aeropress, with a choice of two single-origins, each of the stores having their own selection.
There’s also a wide selection of tea and soft drinks, while if you’re hungry, there’s a modest selection of sandwiches (which can be toasted) and an excellent range of cakes.
October 2020: The Salisbury Coffee Lab has now closed, while the Coffee Lab as a whole is down to just three locations, two in Winchester and one in Stockbridge.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Coffee Lab’s Salisbury branch opened in June 2016, the first outside of its home town of Winchester. Although bigger than the original, it’s still fairly small, occupying a single, open space on the ground floor of a tall row of buildings on the northern side of Salisbury’s Market Place. If you like sitting outside, the broad pavement holds four round tables, although be warned that the road is very busy.
Inside, there’s a four-person window-bar on the left, spanning the two ¾-height windows at the front. These, coupled with the glass door on the right and the south-facing aspect, means that the Coffee Lab gets plenty of sun, even on the winter’s day I was there. The window-bar continues along the left-hand wall, where it runs under a large mirror, but there are only two seats, which are towards the back.
A large, eight-person communal table projects from the wall behind the window-bar, followed by a solitary, stand-alone two-person table with low stools. At the back, on the right, is the counter, while opposite it, on the left, are two four-person high tables with low-backed high chairs. There’s a small kitchen area right at the back, plus access to a staircase leading to several businesses upstairs, where you’ll also find the toilets, which are right at the top (four flights in all), so you’ll get a decent workout!
All the tables, window-bars and display tables are made of scaffolding poles with wooden tops, the floor is chipboard, while the walls and low ceiling are plain and whitewashed, giving it a utilitarian feel. The counter, which is half-tucked under the stairs, is on the right, with a direct line from the door, although you first have to negotiate your way past tables stacked with cakes. Once you’ve got past them, there’s a display case full of sandwiches, but don’t relax because no sooner have you safely negotiated them than you are ambushed by the baskets full of pastries on the counter top…
When it comes to coffee, the Coffee Lab has two espresso blends, Create (which, before a recent re-brand, was known as Einstein) and Thrive (was Heisenberg). Unless you specify, you’ll most likely get the Create blend. Although I am often tempting to order a flat white to check out the latte art (with training from six-time UK Latte Art champion, Dhan Tamang, the baristas rarely disappoint), I wanted something different this time, so asked the barista for a recommendation.
After some discussion, I was offered an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe through the V60 or a Guatemalan through the Aeropress. I selected the Yirgacheffe, although it was a tough call. Served in a carafe with a double-walled glass cup on the side, I was very pleased with my choice, the Yirgacheffe turning out to be a lovely, smooth brew, which more than held its own as it cooled.
I wasn’t planning on having anything else, but having been ambushed by the cinnamon buns, I caved in. The barista and I had a slight disagreement about whether to have it cold (me) or warm (her), but I have long since learned not to argue with judgement of baristas and so warm it was. Naturally, she was right. Not too sticky, not too sickly, and with a rich bread dough, it was absolutely perfect.
|35 BLUE BOAR ROW • SALISBURY • SP1 1DA|
|Monday||07:00 – 17:00||Roaster||The Roasting Party (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Window Bar, Tables (Outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 17:00||Food||Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 17:00||Payment||Card + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:30 – 16:30||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||24th November 2017|
You can also see what I made of Coffee Lab’s original Winchester location (now closed) and its Stockbridge location (still going strong).
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