The Meal Ticket

The flowchart drinks ordering menu at The Meal Ticket on Sheldon Square.When I first started working in Sheldon Square, behind Paddington Station, in the summer of 2013, there was nothing in the way of good coffee. Then came Beany Green in 2014, followed over the next couple of years by the likes of KuPP and Kioskafé. I stopped working there at the end of the 2015, at which point my office decided to upgrade its in-house café, bringing in Baxter Storey to run the operation, with coffee from Modern Standard. Not that I’m still bitter about that…

I didn’t quite escape Sheldon Square though, since my new job, which sees me travelling all over the world, also means I visit Sheldon Square about once a year, allowing me to keep tabs on the growing coffee scene, including the likes of Can Do Coffee and (the recently closed) Store Street Espresso. I was back there last week, when I found another crop of new places vying for my attention, including Darcie & May Green, twin barges tied up on the canal-side, another Can Do Coffee pitch and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, The Meal Ticket, which was then into its third week of operation, serving Caravan on espresso and batch-brew…

You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • An unfamilar sight in Sheldon Square last week: I'm sure this used to be a dry cleaner.
  • Now it looks like a rather lovely coffee shop with some outside seating on the square.
  • Depending on the weather, the windows can be folded back on one side, or here, on both.
  • Alternatively, on a rainy Monday morning, all the windows can be closed tight.
  • Regardless of weather, the entrance proper is on the right, shared with a boxing gym.
  • The gym's reception  is on the right, but the counter for the cafe is at the back on the left.
  • You place your order here and can also choose from a selection of sandwiches/cakes.
  • Meanwhile, immediately to the left of the door (and behind you) is a chiller cabinet.
  • The Meal Ticket (which is what the place is called) stretches off to your left...
  • ... and, when the doors are open at that end, you can come in that way...
  • ... in which case you need to make your way past the counter to the till at the other end.
  • There's not a huge amount of seating inside, just some tables opposite the counter...
  • ... although that shot doesn't give you the sense of space resulting from the high ceilings.
  • In all, there are three four-person tables opposite the counter...
  • ... which have a good view out through the windows over Sheldon Square.
  • It's a great spot for people-watching, as are the three tables outside.
  • The last of the views.
  • There are more windows at the far end, plus more seating, down the side of the counter.
  • There's a four-person high table, with a six-person one right at the back.
  • A view of the counter from the far end.
  • The meal ticket is set up for remote working: all the power outlets have USB charge points.
  • There are even recessed sockets in the floor (my bad back meant that I didn't try them).
  • Despite the abundant windows, there are also plenty of lights...
  • ... which mostly hang above the counter.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • So, to business. You order at the first counter to the left as you enter.
  • There's a small selection of cakes and, if you're in a hurry, premade sandwiches.
  • A handy flow-chart menu on the wall behind helps you order your coffee and other drinks.
  • There's also a brunch menu, served until two o'clock.
  • So to business. The main counter is at the back of the left-hand half of The Meal Ticket.
  • The drinks menu is joined on the wall by the menu for the salad bar...
  • ... which is down the left-hand side of the counter...
  • ... where you'll also find a larger selection of cakes.
  • The heart of the coffee operation is the Faema F71 espresso machine...
  • ... which dispenses shots of Caravan's ubiquitous Market Blend.
  • I started with a flat white to go in my Therma Cup on my first day back in Sheldon Square.
  • Lovely latte art.
  • The next day I popped back for a mid-afternoon espresso.
  • It's been ages since I had the Market Blend on its own.
  • The Meal Ticket also has batch-brew filter, rotating the options every day.
  • During the week I was there, some of the Niners series was on batch-brew.
  • I popped over on Wednesday to try No. 4, the Bumbogo from Rwanda...
  • ... and went back one last time on Thursday, when No. 8, a Colombian, was on.
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The Meal Ticket is on the eastern side of Sheldon Square, opposite my old office, overlooking the amphitheatre. Occupying what was an old dry cleaners, it shares the space with boxing gym, 12×3, which is down in the basement, while The Meal Ticket has the upstairs. To get to my old office from Paddington station involves walking right past it, so it would have been rude not to go in at least once…

On a sunny corner behind Zizzi’s and across from Starbucks, The Meal Ticket is relatively small. Long and thin, with immensely high ceilings, it’s effectively split into two, counter and seating in the left-hand side, with the door and till on the right. However, when the weather is good, the doors/windows are often opened up, so you can enter from the front or the left, in which case just make your way down to the far end to order.

Coming in through the door, the reception for the gym is to your right, with the stairs down to the basement directly ahead. The Meal Ticket, meanwhile, is off to your left, with the till at the back to the left of the stairs. You order here, with a handy flowchart menu for the drinks on the back wall. You can also pick up a sandwich or help yourself from a small selection of cakes. Once you’ve ordered, you’re handed a number (which I kept leaving behind) and directed to take a seat.

There are three tables outside on the broad pavement of Sheldon Square, with two massive French windows behind them. These can be opened independently, as can the door/window at the far end, joining the interior with the outside seating. A row of three four-person tables runs along the windows at the front, while the counter is behind that, occupying about three quarters of the back wall, leaving just enough space along the left-hand side for two high tables, a four-person one at the front, a six-person one at the back. And that’s it for seating.

The Faema F71 espresso machine takes pride of place to the right of the counter, while the flask for the batch-brew filter is on the left. There’s another selection of cake here, while behind that, along the left of the counter, is the salad bar, which is supplemented by a small brunch menu, served until two o’clock, featuring the usual variations of eggs and toast.

When it comes to coffee, The Meal Ticket uses Caravan, with the ubiquitous Market Blend on espresso. I began, on my first day, with an excellent takeaway flat white in my Therma Cup, which was good enough to see me return on the Tuesday for an espresso. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the Market Blend on its own and I was rewarded with a very fine, fruity espresso.

If you don’t fancy espresso, The Meal Ticket has batch-brew, with a range of single-origins, the particular option changing daily. During the week that I was there, the choices were from the Caravan Niners Series, with Nos. 4, 6 and 8 on offer. I popped in on Wednesday to try No. 4, the Bumbogo, a washed Burundi, and returned one last time the next day for the No. 8, another washed coffee, this time the El Fénix from Colombia.

The Colombian had an interesting taste and while I liked it, I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan, although it really mellowed as it cooled. Overall, I much preferred the Burundi, but didn’t actually think to make any notes, so can’t say much more!

Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Caravan (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday CLOSED Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power Yes
Chain No Visits 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th June 2018

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3 thoughts on “The Meal Ticket

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