Our third shortlist in the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Coffee Spot with the Best Basement” Award. As regular readers will know, I have a soft spot for Coffee Spots with good basements. In 2017 this went to Laynes Espresso.
To some, a basement is a dark, sometimes dingy, cramped space. However, when they are at their best, basements are cosy, welcoming spaces that provide the perfect spot to curl up with your coffee. This award celebrates those Coffee Spots with outstanding basements, the sort of places you want to go and spend all day in! It also includes those Coffee Spots which, while not technically basements, have that basement-like feel to them.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
Technically not a basement, since you don’t go down any steps to get there, the lovely Wrecking Ball in San Francisco qualifies in all other respects. Down a short corridor from the street, you actually go slightly up to get into the space, which is on the ground floor, under an old townhouse on Union Street in Cow Hollow. The coffee is pretty decent too!
The first coffee shop of old friends, Sheffield’s Foundry Coffee Roasters, this has a magnificent basement-like lower ground floor. It’s inside Wharncliffe House, a striking five-storey building on the corner of Bank Street/Scargill Croft in the heart of the city centre. The main part of Foundry Coffee is on the ground floor, with the lower floor holding the kitchens as well as additional seating. Also on the Most Passionate About Coffee Award shortlist.
New York City‘s Underline Coffee is under the High Line, on the ground floor of a tall tenement block. Another one that’s not quite a basement, it has a real cosy basement feel to it, with seating at the front and the counter right at the back, where it’s most basement-like. Underline Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.
Staying in the USA, but moving on to New Orleans, Sólo Espresso is yet another non-quite basement on this year’s shortlist. Sólo Espresso even has windows along the side! That said, it too has many basement-like features, tucked away under and to the right of the restaurant above, more than enough to qualify it for this year’s shortlist. Sólo Espresso has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.
Hunter Gatherer Coffee in Portsmouth has a lovely, large back room, which you access via a couple of broad steps. Again, technically not a basement, it’s more than basement-like for my purposes. There’s plenty of seating back here, as well as a large play area for children, plus there’s the open kitchen right at the back. Hunter Gatherer is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.
Guildford’s Krema Coffee is, like Hunter Gatherer Coffee, another with a room at the back, accessed via a couple of broad steps. This one really does feel like a basement, a cosy hideaway in the winter and somewhere to get your head down and get some work done any time of the year. Krema Coffee has also been shortlisted for this year’s Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.
At last! A proper, honest-to-goodness basement! Lundenwic, at the end of the Strand, in London, is an awkwardly-shaped coffee shop, with a steep set of stairs on the right leading down to a magnificent old basement. This includes a low, vaulted cellar that extends out under the pavement, accessed via another small flight of steps leading down from the front of the basement proper.
Tokyo‘s Chatei Hatou is another not quite basement. A windowless L-shaped space on the ground floor of a building in Shibuya, it is more akin to a bar than a modern coffee shop, continuing the old tradition of the Japanese kissaten. You can either sit at the counter, watching your (pour-over) coffee being made, or take a seat at one of the large tables at the back. Chatei Hatou is also on the shortlist for the Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.
Staying in Tokyo, Koffee Mameya (literally “coffee beans”) is the successor to Omotesando Koffee, a legendary pop-up coffee shop that stood on the same physical site. Koffee Mameya is in a purpose-built space in the new building that replaced Omotesando Koffee’s original home. While on the ground floor, it’s a basement in all other respects. Also shortlisted for Best Takeaway Coffee, Smallest Coffee Spot and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.
A third entry from my two visits to Tokyo this year, The Roastery by Nozy is another basement in all but name. The Roastery (which is also a large coffee shop) is at the back of an open courtyard, but under a restaurant, giving it a real basement feel, and providing a very welcome escape from the heat of Tokyo’s sweltering summer when I was there in July. Also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Best Espresso Awards.
Another genuine basement, this time in Liverpool. Ropes & Twines specialises in great coffee and wine, putting its cellar, which runs the full length of the shop above, to good use. First of all, there’s a wine cellar, then there’s a larger training/events room, and finally, there’s an additional seating area. If you love old, vaulted ceilings, then this is definitely the place to go!
Café Myriade is in the basement of the Club Monaco clothing store on Montréal’s Dominion Square. It’s one of the most elegant coffee shops I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, and the ideal escape from the bustle of downtown Montréal. Whether you’re looking for a quick coffee during a shopping trip or for somewhere to hide out for an hour or two, this is the place! Café Myriade is also on the shortlist for the Best Physical Space Award.
After starting this list with lots of not-quite-basements, we’re finishing with a strong run of actual basements. Verve’s second Tokyo branch, this time in Omotesando, is in the basement below the Rag & Bone store, although, unlike Café Myriade, it has its own entrance from the street. There’s a light-filled front section, or, for the real basement experience, try the small room at the back.
The latest addition to the Daisy Green family, Scarlett Green, in Soho, has a genuine basement, and, along with Café Myriade, is one of the most elegant I’ve seen. More of a restaurant than a coffee shop, you can still pop in for a quick flat white any time of the day, but to make full value of your visit, you really need to stay for dinner. Try to get a table downstairs if you can!
We round off this shortlist with Edinburgh‘s Lowdown Coffee, another coffee shop in a genuine basement, following a long Edinburgh tradition. However, that’s about all that is traditional about Lowdown Coffee, which dares to do things differently, including offering full table service and a rotating cast of roasters from across Europe. Lowdown Coffee is also on the Best Filter Coffee and Most Passionate About Coffee Award shortlists.
A special mention needs to go to the following:
Exe Coffee Roasters, whose lovely basement was only used for training when I visited
VCR Bar & Showroom. underneath a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
Fade to Black, which also has a lovely basement which is only used for events
My Little Cup, Montréal, which is underground, but not really in a basement
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2018.
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