In speciality coffee circles, Omotesando Koffee is something of a legend. Named after its home in Tokyo’s Omotesando district, this pop-up coffee shop was credited by some as helping to transform the Tokyo coffee scene. Sadly, it was a relatively short-lived affair and, while I visited its successor, Koffee Mameya, I missed the original (although you can read what my friend Bex made of it when she was there in 2014).
From those humble beginnings, Omotesando Koffee has gone on to spawn a series of coffee shops around the world, including branches in Hong Kong and Singapore. In the summer of 2018, a ripple, for want of a better word, went through the London speciality coffee scene. Omotesando Koffee was opening on Newman Street in Fitzrovia.! Excitement mounted for the rest of the year, until, in the middle of December, Omotesando finally opened its doors, perhaps the most anticipated event in London specialty coffee that year.
A minimalist coffee shop, offering a bespoke house-blend from Assembly (with components from Brazil, Colombia, Uganda and Ethiopian) on espresso and pour-over, plus single-origins on pour-over and batch-brew, it offers a slice of modern Japanese coffee culture. Naturally, I had to take a look…
You can see what I found after the gallery.
Unlike Koffee Mameya, which is something akin to a coffee consultation crossed with a retailer, Omotesando Koffee is similar to the original pop-up, a minimalist coffee shop (in terms of both design and offering), bringing a slice of modern Japanese coffee culture to the UK.
This minimalism starts with the façade, a simple, glass front with black frames, recessed door on the left, three tall, wide floor-to-ceiling windows on the right. In lieu of a name, there’s a sign above the door, a simple white square on a black background.
Stepping inside, there’s a counter directly ahead of you, the body of the coffee shop off to your right. In a move that’s reminiscent of a typical Italian espresso bar (and which I don’t recall seeing anywhere in Tokyo) you order here, taking your ticket through to the main counter, where the baristas make your drink.
You’ll find all the seating in with the main counter. A single, long window-bar runs across all three windows, with nine fold-out stools attached to metal pillars. At the far, right-hand end, a nook has another two fold-out stools, and that’s it for seating. The remaining space is occupied by an enclosed kitchen area in the back, right-hand corner, and the counter, which takes up the rest of the back of Omotesando Koffee.
This is very reminiscent of coffee bars I saw in Tokyo, a minimalist wooden affair with a wooden frame. There’s an open counter-top to the front, with the pour-over (a pair of single-serve Kalita Wave filters, each with its own kettle and scales) to the right. You’ll also find pre-weighed shots of beans here in glass tubes. The counter extends backwards on the left, holding the espresso machine, a three-group La Marzocco Strada, and its twin Mythos One grinders, while on the right is access to the kitchen.
Having said that the separate counter/till was very typically Italian, the ordering process is more like that at Koffee Mameya, with the barista explaining, at length, the options available and the philosophy behind Omotesando Koffee. At the moment, Omotesando Koffee is offering a single bespoke blend on espresso, with a fairly concise menu, plus several filter options.
First of all, you can have the house-blend or a light-roast single-origin (also available on batch-brew) as a pour-over. The single-origins change on a weekly basis and are currently from Assembly, which also roasts the house-blend, although there are plans to also offer single-origins from Denmark’s La Cabra, plus the occasional Japanese-roasted coffee.
All this was explained to me by head barista, Damiano, who I’d previously met when he worked at Lundenwic. At most, he wants one or two single-origins on pour-over, with another on batch-brew, all offering a contrast to the house-blend. Talking of which, this is a darker roast (which was stressed to me when I ordered), designed to replicate Omotesando Koffee’s Japanese house-blend and is a good deal darker than you’ll find in most UK speciality coffee shops. Naturally I had to try it, first having it as an espresso and then, at Damiano’s insistence, in a cappuccino.
I liked my espresso, very much a throw-back to the sort of coffee I was drinking five or so years ago, but very nicely done. Dark, not too bitter, it had good balance to it. I also enjoyed my cappuccino, the coffee standing up to the richness of the milk.
If you are looking for a slice of modern Japanese coffee culture, then I heartily recommend Omotesando Koffee, which is as close as you’re going to get without actually going to Japan itself.
|8 NEWMAN STREET • LONDON • W1T 1PB|
|Monday||07:30 – 18:00||Roaster||Assembly (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 18:00||Seating||Window Bar|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 18:00||Food||N/A|
|Thursday||07:30 – 18:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 18:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Chain||International||Visits||14th February 2019|
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.
You can also see what my friend Bex made of Omotesando Koffee when she visited in January 2019.
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