Cairngorm Coffee, Frederick Street

A piccolo in a glass on a red saucer at Cairngorm Coffee, Frederick Street, Edinburgh.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.

  • On Frederick Street, next to Eteaket, you'll find a pair of tables on the pavement...
  • ... which belong to Cairngorm Coffee, tucked away...
  • ... in this basement, with its little outdoor courtyard.
  • There's another picnic table, with a couple of benches, outside in the courtyard.
  • A broad flight of steps curves down on the left.
  • The picnic table in the courtyard as seen from the door to Cairngorm Coffee. Let's go in.
  • The glass double doors, as seen from the inside of Cairngorm Coffee.
  • There are a pair of chairs, presumably for takeaway customers, to the right of the door.
  • Meanwhile, off to the left, there's a set of retail shelves with the menu above.
  • The counter, which is directly ahead, greets you as you enter.
  • A view of the counter from the seating area to the right...
  • ... which we can see here from just to the right of the door.
  • A low bench runs along the right-hand wall, with a number of round tables. This one...
  • ... is in the front corner, while this one is at the other end.
  • I've seen a lot of stag heads decorating walls in my time, but this is my favourite.
  • More Highland-related decor, a ski on the wall between the two spaces.
  • The right-hand wall, meanwhile, is decorated by a range of clocks.
  • If I had a 'Best Ceiling' Coffee Spot Award, this would win hands down!
  • Cactus!
  • You order at the counter, the till to the left of the espresso machine.
  • The menu, meanwhile, is off to your left, at the top of the retail shelves.
  • The concise drinks menu is at the top, with an equally concise food menu below.
  • There's another, more detailed, food menu to the right of the till.
  • Breakfast is at the top, with sandwiches in middle, and lunch at the bottom.
  • There's more food, including panini, sandwiches and cakes in the chiller cabinet to the left.
  • There's a single choice on espresso, with the beans on display on top of the grinder.
  • Coffee & grilled cheese: not a bad combination.
  • I was there for lunch, enjoying a bree, tomato, pesto and spinach panini.
  • To accompany it, I had a piccolo, which, for such a small glass, had...
  • ... some really impressive latte art, which is where I'll leave you.
Slider Script by v4.6

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.

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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  1. Pingback: 2019 Awards – Coffee Spot with the Best Basement | Brian's Coffee Spot

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