Fitzrovia, in London’s West End, has, despite recent closures such as the much-loved Curators Coffee Gallery, a booming speciality coffee scene which comes in all shapes and sizes, including such oddities as Attendant (in an old public lavatory). However, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot is easily the smallest of them all, a title vacant since 2016 when Goodge St Espresso closed.
Alex Coffee is as small as they come, just a door and a window opening onto a simple interior, counter at the back and enough room for two small stools. Indeed, there’s more seating outside at the four-person table in front of the window. The coffee, from the Lake District’s Red Bank, is similarly simple: a concise espresso-based menu, plus batch brew and a cafetiere for two. If you don’t like it hot, there are almost as many iced options, plus hot chocolate and a selection of tea.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Alex Coffee, which opened in December 2017, is on Hansen Street, just around the corner from Attendant and Kin. Set back from the street and occupying an incredibly narrow store front, it’s very much a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place, one of the few I know of that’s far taller than it is wide (maybe three times as tall!). There’s a tall, thin door on the left and an equally tall (and almost as thin) window on the right, with a narrow, four-person table with small stools in front of it.
Inside, the layout’s even simpler. The counter starts about a third of the way back, running along the left-hand wall, housing an impressive three-group Victoria Arduino White Eagle espresso machine which looks far too big for such a small space. The till, meanwhile, is off to the right on a small counter extension of its own, the menu on the wall to the right.
If you want to sit down, you actually have two options. There’s a small window-bar to the right of the door with a single stool, while there’s another stool at the counter on the left, where you can sit and watch your espresso being made. However, other than two narrow shelves, one along each wall, which can be useful if you need to put your coffee down, that’s about it. If all this sounds rather cramped, it’s not. Paradoxically, Alex Coffee feels rather large, helped by the incredibly high ceiling and aided by the natural light from a front which is almost entirely glass.
The draw, however, is the coffee. And Alex, owner, barista and pretty much everything else, who can be relied upon to greet you with a friendly smile from behind the counter. Unusually for London, Alex uses Red Bank Coffee, all the way from Coniston in the Lake District, although the link between the two goes back much further, Alex having gone to the same law school as Tom, Red Bank’s owner. They were put in touch by a mutual friend, with Alex describing Tom as a kindred spirit in coffee.
Tom typically produces a bespoke seasonal espresso blend for Alex, although currently it’s a Brazilian single-origin which I tried as an espresso. Served in an over-sized cup, it was a lovely, smooth, well-balanced coffee that I’d have loved to try in milk. However, I’d arrived late on a Friday and was already over my daily caffeine limit, so that pleasure will have to wait for another day!
December 2019: Alex Coffee has won the 2019 Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
|1 HANSON STREET • FITZROVIA • LONDON • W1W 6TA|
|Monday||07:30 – 17:30||Roaster||Red Bank (espresso + batch brew)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 17:30||Seating||Table (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 17:30||Food||N/A|
|Thursday||07:30 – 17:30||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 17:30||Cards||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||12th July 2019|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to London for more great Coffee Spots.
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