Detour Espresso

Detail from the Detour Espresso sign, taken from outside the shop in Edinburgh.When you’ve been away from Edinburgh for as long as I have (an embarrassing three years!), everything is new, even places that have been open for ages, like Lowdown Coffee. However, today’s Coffee Spot, Detour Espresso, is genuinely new, having only opened in August this year. Located on the south side of the Meadows, an area bereft of speciality coffee since the closure, long ago, of Freemans Coffee, it’s a welcome addition.

There’s not a lot to Detour Espresso, but it’s well worth making a detour to visit. Essentially a large, open cube (bless those high Edinburgh ceilings) you’ll find Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters on espresso with its Dark Horse blend, along with a guest single-origin, plus a further single-origin on pour-over/batch-brew from a different guest roaster. These guest roasters change every month or so, depending on how quickly Detour goes through the stock.

If you’re hungry, there’s a simple all-day food menu with breakfast and lunch options. This includes my favourite option of toast, plus a range of toasted sandwiches and soup of the day, while, for a change, you can have a warm savoury tart with side salad. There’s also plenty of cakes from old friends Cakesmiths.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Detour Espresso, on Argyle Place, Edinburgh.
  • When I rule the world, parking outside coffee shops will be banned!
  • Let's take a little detour...
  • Inside, and the counter dominates on the right...
  • ... while the seating is all down the middle and on the left.
  • A view of the seating from the back.
  • A long wooden bench runs in a C-shape, with this four-person table at the front...
  • ... followed by a row of two-person tables along the left-hand wall...
  • ... ending with another four-person table at the back.
  • There are two more two-person tables in the middle...
  • ... between the counter and the left-hand wall.
  • Off to the right of the door, steps lead down, but there's no seating down there.
  • Despite the big windows, it gets dark on a winter's afternoon in Edinburgh...
  • ... so the multiple lights come in really handy.
  • Nice logo (taken from the top of the menu board).
  • If you're going to have free wifi, you may as well tell people about it!
  • Handy opening times on the door.
  • So, to business. The view of the counter from my table at the back...
  • ... and the more conventional view when you walk in.
  • The food takes centre stage...
  • ... with lunch options on top...
  • ... and cake down below.
  • There's also a handy food menu which you'll find on the tables.
  • The drinks menu, meanwhile, is on the wall behind the counter...
  • ... and if you don't want coffee, there's plenty of tea...
  • ... or soft drinks.
  • The coffee selection is on a board on the top of the fridge...
  • ... while there are some beans for sales on the counter.
  • Grinder corner: two Mythos 1s for espresso + an EK-43 for filter next to the batch-brewer.
  • These match the white Rocket espresso machine.
  • I, however, was going for filter and this naturally-processed Ethiopian from Obadiah.
  • My coffee was served in the carafe, a glass on the side, all presented on a wooden tray.
  • My coffee in the cup...
  • .. and here, seen from above.
  • I'll leave you with my lunch, a very fine Edam sandwich on focaccia.
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Detour Espresso is one of a line of shops on the ground floor of a typical Edinburgh tenement row on Argyle Place, just south of the Meadows, a few steps away from the end of Middle Meadow Walk. The layout is pretty simple, with a single, recessed central door flanked by two tall, wide windows, making for a bright interior. The right-hand side, effectively in-line with the right-hand window, is given over to the counter, which runs from the back wall almost all the way to the front, its progress terminated by flight of steps which take up the window itself. These lead down to a basement, housing the toilets and storerooms, but sadly, no seating.

For that you need to remain upstairs, where you’ll find five tables arranged in a C-shape along the left-hand wall, a row of three two-person tables along the wall itself, capped off with a four-person table at either end. The first of these is in the window at the front, while the other is against the back wall. Finally, in the middle, there are a pair of two-person tables between the counter and rest of the seating.

The counter is an equally simple affair, starting with a tall refrigerated unit for soft drinks, followed by the Rocket espresso machine (a rarity in speciality coffee shops, I find), then the cakes/sandwiches and finally the till at the back.  There is a big, clear menu on the wall behind the counter, plus there are food menus on all the tables.

Since I was there for a late lunch, I treated myself to a sandwich, Edam on focaccia bread, one of three on offer (although it was the only vegetarian one, the other two being meat-based). It was, however, lovely, the bread in particular being rich and spongy, while the cheese had plenty of flavour.

I was quite surprised to see Quarter Horse on espresso (it turns out that Detour Espresso is the only coffee shop in Scotland serving Quarter House). However, the mystery was solved when chatting to the owner, who, I discovered, co-owns Peloton Espresso in Oxford (talking of cities I’ve not been to in a very long time, I’m way overdue a return to Oxford). Peloton, on the Cowley Road, is what used to be Quarter Horse Coffee before the owner, Nathan, set up Quarter Horse Coffee, Birmingham and started roasting. Speciality coffee is, at times, a very small world.

I was very tempted by Quarter Horse’s Dark Horse blend and the espresso flight Detour was offering, and I was also tempted by the single-origin Brazilian guest espresso from Steampunk Coffee. However, in the end, the San Rafael from Edinburgh roasters, Obadiah Collective, won out, although it turned out that Detour had just finished a bag of it and instead I was offered a naturally-processed Ethiopian, prepared through the V60.

This was only the second time I’ve had coffee from Obadiah, the first time being back in 2015 in Filament Coffee, the last time I was in Edinburgh… My coffee, a Girma Awocho from Ethiopia’s Gedeo region, was very fine, a fruity coffee, but not too punchy. It combined the fruitiness of naturally-processed coffees with the subtly I’ve come to expect from washed coffees, particularly washed Ethiopians. All-in-all, an excellent re-introduction to Edinburgh coffee!

39 ARGYLE PLACE • EDINBURGH • EH9 1JT +44 (0)7811 149305
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Quarter Horse + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 15:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits 10th December 2018

Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of Edinburgh’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Edinburgh.

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