Le Cafe Alain Ducasse, Coal Drops Yard

The signature espresso at Le Cafe Alain Ducasse in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, served in a double-walled glass cup and a small square of chocolate.Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is part of the new Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, a few minutes’ walk north of the station. Alain Ducasse, a French chef who, over the years, has had 21 Michelin stars to his name, hit the headlines earlier this year with a £15 cup of Yemeni coffee, which had the likes of The Guardian and the Financial Times weighing in on the subject. High time, I thought, that I popped along to see what all the fuss is about.

Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is a rarity in London, a coffee shop which just sells coffee, whether it be by the cup or by the bag (all the coffee is available for sale in retail bags). It is also, by London standards, expensive, although, £15 cups of coffee notwithstanding, not outrageously so. My espresso, for example, cost £2.50. What you get for your money, other than some very fine coffee, is the whole experience. While you can just order a coffee to go, you would, in my opinion, be missing out if you did. Rather, you should linger, enjoying both the coffee and the company, either of your fellow customers or of the staff.

June 2022: I’ve learnt that Le Cafe Alain Ducasse has closed its Coal Drops Yard coffee shop, although the roastery in Paris is still going strong.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

Coal Drops Yard is the latest King’s Cross development, located between Granary Square, home of Caravan, and Regent’s Canal. Home to various shops, cafes and restaurants, including Redemption Roasters, today’s focus is on Le Cafe Alain Ducasse, which is in a row of canal-side arches which sweeps down in a gentle curve from Granary Square to form a large, enclosed, pedestrian square. Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is on the left-hand side, near the bottom, just at the start of the square, right next to Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, Alain Ducasse’s high-end chocolate shop.

The first thing to say is that Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is a gorgeous café in its own right. Occupying a single arch, maybe twice as long as it is wide, it faces onto the square (sadly, for those hoping for canal-side views, the arches have their backs to the canal). Three round two/three-person tables occupy the space in front of the arch, which is pretty much all glass, double doors on the right, a large, square window on the left. There’s a second, smaller window in the right-hand wall towards the back, looking into the neighbouring arch. Fortunately, this is an open passageway leading to the canal towpath, the window providing additional light and a glimpse of the canal.

The layout immediately puts the focus on the coffee. A large counter, set back from the window on the left, has a three-group La Marzocco Strada on the front corner, its transparent back letting you see the boilers and pumps. Next is the till, then the pour-over station, with its scales and temperature-controlled kettles. Behind this, against the left-hand wall, are three Mythos 1 grinders (house espresso, single-origin and decaf), an EK43 grinder for filter/single-origin espresso and a pair of automated SP9 brewers, used during busy periods. Finally, attached to the wall itself, long, glass cylinders hold the various beans.

You can sit at the counter, where there’s a pair of long, narrow stools at the front, to your left as you enter (ideal for watching the espresso machine), with four more along the side of the counter, past the tills (ideal for watching pour-over). Opposite these, against the right-hand wall, is a four-person bar, then a small, two-person table in the arched window. The remaining space contains retail shelves: coffee and chocolate on the right, before the four-person bar, equipment in the window at the back next to the small table, and a mix of coffee and equipment on the back wall.

All the coffee’s roasted in-house (albeit in Paris). There’s a house-blend, the Signature Espresso (Brazil, Ethiopia and Laos), two single-origins (Ethiopia and Kenyan) and three rare origins (Panama, Jamaica and Peru), with the two rarest origins (the £15-a-cup Yemen and a French-grown coffee) sold out already. These can be had either as espresso or pour-over through a metal V60, although there are plans to add a cafetiere option and the possibility of a filter tasting flight, which would be excellent.

I began with a pour-over of the Peruvian rare origin. I was offered a chance to smell the beans once they had been ground (they were divine) and I also took the opportunity to watch the pour-over being made: a first pour for the bloom, then three further pours. Everything was served in double-walled glass vessels: a carafe for the coffee, plus a cup, with the recommendation that I leave it to cool a little before trying it, and a carafe of water. The only thing not double walled was the glass for the water. The coffee itself was excellent, with plenty of body, but with a delicate taste, which matured as it cooled.

I followed this up with a shot of the Signature Espresso, also served a glass cup. Both coffees came with a small square of 75% dark chocolate, which I rather wasted on my filter coffee, since I ate it while waiting for the coffee to cool. With the espresso though, I interspersed sips of coffee with nibbles of chocolate. As a result, the first sip was nicely-balanced, while in contrast to the chocolate, subsequent sips had more acidity.

In all, I spent over an hour at Le Cafe Alain Ducasse, where I was well looked after by the baristas, Kuba and Giuseppe (who made my coffee). We chatted about coffee in between (them) serving other customers, several of whom joined in the conversations, including Johnny and Sam, a pair of Kiwi roasters who’d cheekily popped over from Caravan.

www.lecafe-alainducasse.com +44 (0) 20 3668 7749
Monday 09:00 – 18:00 Roaster Alain Ducasse (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:00 – 18:00 Seating Counter, Bar, Table; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 09:00 – 18:00 Food No
Thursday 09:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 18:00 Cards Yes
Saturday 09:00 – 20:00 Wifi No
Sunday 10:00 – 18:00 Power No
Chain International Visits 20th August 2019

For some alternative views, take a look at what Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato made of Le Cafe Alain Ducasse in January, not long after it opened. Meanwhile here’s what Mathew of Pen & Camera made of it after a more recent visit in October 2019.

Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.

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