HR Higgins in a well-established name in London Coffee circles, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. It’s also somewhere that’s been on my radar for some time now, so apologies that it’s take me until this week to get around to visiting. In the heart of Mayfair, a few minutes’ walk from Bond Street station, HR Higgins has a lovely, old-fashioned coffee (and tea) merchants’ shop upstairs (which features in its own Meet the Roaster). There’s also a takeaway counter up here, which caters to the morning rush.
However, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot is the lovely basement coffee room, which offers a full coffee shop service. If it’s too busy downstairs, you are always welcome to order your coffee, then take a seat at the window bar upstairs. There’s also a small outside seating area. In some ways, HR Higgins reminded me of the coffee scene in Tokyo, catering to a more traditional market (think dark roasts and multiple blends) and adapting to change (multiple single-origins, working directly with farmers). There’s a single option on espresso with multiple choices on pour-over, while if you’re hungry, HR Higgins tempts you with a small selection of cakes.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
HR Higgins is on the eastern side of Duke Street, on the ground floor of a row of brick-built Victorian apartments. Its modest, old fashioned shopfront is set back slightly from the street, with the entrance on the left, while a lightwell to the right reveals a small basement courtyard and the windows of the downstairs coffee room. Metal steps lead down to the courtyard, but are only for use as an emergency exit, not a short cut to the coffee room.
The upstairs part of HR Higgins is split in two, with the front half dominated by a takeaway counter on the right, complete with a row of V60s and its own espresso machine. There’s also a four-person window-bar which serves as overflow seating if downstairs is too busy. Meanwhile, at the back, the old-fashioned, wood-panelled retail counter dispenses coffee and loose-leaf tea, all weighed out on old-fashioned scales.
The entrance to the coffee room is between the two, a staircase on the right doubling back on itself to deposit you in the back, left-hand corner of the basement (which only extends back as far as the stairs). It’s surprisingly bright down here, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the small basement courtyard at the front, where a door on the right leads to the toilet (extending out under the pavement) and, via a second door on the left, the courtyard, which doubles as the smoking area. There’s a solitary table tucked away under the metal stairs and a single low bench running along the front of the window.
The modest counter is at the front on the right (your left as you look from the bottom of the stairs), with a small selection of cakes on the left and a menu on the wall to the right. The rest of the basement is given over to the seating, with a four-person window-bar at the front, two four-person tables against a wooden bench along the left-hand wall and four, two-person tables in a square arrangement in the centre.
The remaining seating is at the back, with a solitary two-person table at the foot of the stairs and another two-person table in line with the end of the counter, next to a pillar supporting the ceiling. Finally, there are two pairs of comfortable, wing-backed chairs along the back wall, effectively under the stairs, each pair with a single, low coffee table between them.
When it comes to coffee, there’s a single option on espresso, served from a concise menu. Currently this is a single-origin Brazil Daterra Bruzzi, although it will probably change in the next few weeks, with HR Higgins heading into autumn and the winter months with its blends, the specific option changing every month or so.
There’s more choice on pour-over through the V60, with the Higgins Coffee-House Blend joined by a dark-roasted Monsoon Malabar. If you want something different, there are three seasonal specials on pour-over, a Colombian Pacamara, Galapagos San Cristolbol and Jamaican Blue Mountain.
Having never had coffee from the Galapagos before, I went for the San Cristolbol. A full-bodied coffee, it grew on me as it cooled, developing a richness, with fruity highlights that was a nice contrast to the lighter, fruiter coffees that I often enjoy. I paired this with a gorgeous individual Bakewell tart. With a lovely, rich, thick pastry, and subtle almond taste, it had just enough jam to add to the sweetness without overwhelming it. Perfect.
December 2019: HR Higgins Coffee Room was a runner-up for the 2019 Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
|79 DUKE STREET• MAYFAIR • LONDON • W1K 5AS|
|www.hrhiggins.co.uk||+44 (0) 20 7491 8819|
|Monday||08:00 – 18:00||Roaster||HR Higgins (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Comfy Chairs, Window-Bars; Table (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:00||Food||Cakes|
|Thursday||08:00 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 18:00||Payment||Cash + Cards|
|Saturday||10:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||24th September 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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