In keeping with the best Edinburgh coffee shop traditions, you’ll find Cairngorm Coffee in a basement, occupying a pair of joined spaces under a row of houses on the steeply-sloping Frederick Street. This is one of two branches, the other, on Melville Place, having opened in April 2015. This, however, is the original Cairngorm Coffee, having first opened its doors in March 2014, which means that it celebrates its fifth birthday this month.
Cairngorm Coffee started life as a multi-roaster, showing-casing coffee from across Europe. However, in April 2018, Cairngorm started roasting its own coffee. For now, the roastery is based in the family-owned café in Kingussie, just off the A9 in the heart of the Cairngorm mountains, but there are plans to move it to Edinburgh.
The coffee operation at Frederick Street is fairly simple, with a single-origin on espresso and another on batch-brew, although you’ll find a wider range at Melville Place. The coffee options change on a monthly basis and are served from a concise drinks menu, where they’re joined by an equally concise tea selection. If you’re hungry, there’s a short breakfast/lunch menu, heavily biased towards sandwiches and toast, plus a selection of cakes and pastries.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Cairngorm Coffee is on Edinburgh’s Frederick Street, where it runs down from George Street towards Queen Street. In a basement under a row of houses, it’s accessed from street level by a small, curving flight of broad steps leading to an open courtyard. This houses a single picnic-style table with a pair of benches, while there are two similar tables on the pavement at the top of the steps.
Cairngorm Coffee occupies a pair of square, low-ceilinged rooms which have been knocked together. You enter via the left-hand of the two which houses the counter and little else, while the seating is off to the right. The glass double-doors, by the way, are the only source of natural light in Cairngorm Coffee.
The counter is opposite the doors, occupying the back two thirds of the space, while off to the left is a tiled wall with a set of retail shelves, the menu perched on top. There’s also a chiller cabinet to the left of the counter, where you’ll find prepared sandwiches/panini and cakes. The espresso machine, a two-group La Marzocco Linea, is on the right, along with its Mythos One grinder. The till, which is where you order, sits in the middle. Although the bulk of the seating is off to the right, there are two chairs here, set just to the right of the door, presumably for customers who are waiting for takeaway coffee.
In contrast to the tiles and bare stone walls of the left-hand space, the seating area to the right has wood-clad walls, with coffee bags decorating the ceiling, although both sides share the wooden floorboards which run throughout.
A high, long six-person communal table extends from the back wall, effectively separating the seating area from the counter with three high, metal bucket seats on either side. Meanwhile, a four-person bar, with high stools, runs along the front wall. Unusually, it has two tablets embedded in it, presumably to provide internet access for those that need it. The only other seating is against the right-hand wall, accessed through the gap between the communal table and the bar. A wooden bench runs the length of the right-hand wall, lined with three round tables, each with a pair of chairs in addition to the bench.
During my visit, Cairngorm Coffee had a Brazilian single-origin (Quilombo) on espresso and a Nicaraguan single-origin on batch-brew filter. The barista recommended that I try the espresso in milk, so I had a piccolo. In keeping with tasting notes that included Clementine, Vanilla, biscotti and honey, it was pretty fruity, with the character of the coffee coming strongly through the milk.
Cairngorm Coffee Styles itself as “coffee and grilled cheese” so the menu was heavy on grilled cheese sandwiches. However, one of the pre-prepared panini, a Bree, tomato, pesto and spinach concoction, caught my eye, so I had that for lunch. With a crunchy exterior and a very tasty combination of fillings, it was pretty much the perfect accompaniment to my coffee.
|41A FREDERICK STREET • EDINBURGH • EH2 1EP|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Cairngorm Coffee (espresso + batch-brew)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Bar; Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with login)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||11th December 2018|
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