The Press Room, Surbiton (COVID-19 Update)

A shot of Origin's Resolute blend in a classic red cup in The Press Room, Surbiton.This time last week, I went up to London and sat in a coffee shop for the first time in almost four months. Although I’d been nervous beforehand, everything went really well and, buoyed by my success, I set off again this week. However, rather than going all the way to London, I just went to Surbiton to visit The Press Room, calling in along the way at G!RO Cycles in Esher.

The Press Room is another coffee shop which I first wrote about in 2013, in the early days of the Coffee Spot. Although I’ve since visited the second Press Room in Twickenham, I’ve not been back to the original in many years. A return was therefore long overdue, especially once I’d learnt that it had reopened for sit-in customers on 4th July.

For now, there’s reduced indoor seating, with The Press Room operating the best door/table management system I’ve seen so far (albeit from a very small sample). If you don’t want to sit, you can order takeaway from the window at the front. Currently there’s a reduced menu, with just the Resolute blend from Origin on espresso, backed up by a good range of sandwiches and cakes.

You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • The Press Room in Surbiton, sporting its new logo on the awning. It's also sporting...
  • ... a new takeaway system (well, new since May), which you approach from the left.
  • Where once there was window-seating, now The Press Room has a takeawey counter.
  • You order here, on the left...
  • ... and pick up here, on the right.
  • The A-board tempts to you try the new summery iced drinks.
  • However, it's the other side that interests me: the indoor seatings is now open!
  • A rope, politely hung across the door on the right, prevents you from just wandering in.
  • The staff will check if there is a table, then you come in, but only as far as the check-in...
  • ... station where there are clear instructions.
  • With that out of the way, you can either go to your table, or place your order.
  • A handy sign on the floor tells you where to stand.
  • Other signs on the floor...
  • ... and on the walls also offer good advice.
  • Meanwhile there are polite notices on the tables reminding you not to hog them.
  • There is some seating at the front, but the bulk is at the back...
  • DSC_0015
  • ... with a long, thin table and a bar against the walll on the left-hand side...
  • ... and a padded bench with two-person tables on the right.
  • The last of the three two-person tables on the right in more detail, beyond which...
  • ... is a six-person table against the back wall.
  • Another view of the six-person table at the back.
  • The only other seating is at the front, opposite the counter.
  • There are three four-person tables here...
  • ... although the one right at the front has been repurposed as the check-in station.
  • The counter is on the left, where it's always been.
  • In pre-COVID times, you would have ordered here...
  • ... which is why the menu is on the wall behind the counter.
  • This is the view of the wall behind the espresso machine. Note that there are, as yet...
  • ... no Perspex screens (which are on order).
  • Nice wall display.
  • A clear and simple statement.
  • I was, of course, drawn to the lighting array at the back of The Press Room.
  • Some many bulbs!
  • Last one, I promise.
  • I had a cortado, which seems to be my usual order in The Press Room.
  • I was pleased to see that it was served in a glass...
  • ... while my pastéis de nata came on a plate.
  • Before I left, David, the owner, treated me to an espresso on the house.
  • I will leave you with this shot of espresso and cup.
Photo Carousel by v4.6

The Press Room is on the busy Claremont Road, directly opposite Surbiton Station. It reopened for takeaway service at the start of May, something for which it is perfectly suited. The front of The Press Room has a door at the right-hand end, while the remainder is occupied by a multi-paned, half-height window that, in warm weather, is fully opened to the left, something I commented on during my first visit in 2013.

In pre-COVID-19 times, the space left by the window would be occupied by bar-seating, letting customers look out on the busy road. For now, the seating is gone, repurposed as a takeout counter, allowing The Press Room to quickly reopen in May. You queue from the left, while a member of staff takes your order, which is prepared at the counter inside and brought out to you.

This service is still in operation, although now you also have the option to sit in, with the member of staff at the window doubling as door warden. A piece of rope politely strung across the door stops you from walking in by accident, allowing the door warden to check if there’s a table free.

If there is, you’re let in, where you’ll find a table opposite the door. This contains one of several hand sanitiser dispensers, as well as a QR code which you can scan on your phone. This takes you to a webpage where you can enter your details (although this can also be done manually, while if you have The Press Room’s loyalty app, you can just check in). Once the admin is out of the way, you can order and pay before going to your table, or you can come back once you’ve had a chance to think. It’s easily the best system I’ve seen so far.

The Press Room has undergone something of a facelift since I was last there, with the owner, David, making full use of the enforced closure during April. However, the basic layout is the same, with the counter set back from the window on the left, seating opposite it on the right, with more in the back half of the shop, although, as I’ve mentioned, the window seating has gone. The tables are more spaced out than before, David telling me that capacity has shrunk from over 50 to just 22, which falls to 10 if everyone is on their own. All of this explains the polite notices on each table asking you to limit your stay to no more than 45 minutes.

The seating starts with three four-person tables with fixed stools opposite the counter, the first of which has been repurposed as the check-in station (which I described above). Beyond this, a long, padded bench-seat runs along right-hand wall with just three well-spaced two-person tables. Opposite them, beyond the counter, is a tall, thin table running front-to-back and, to the left of that, a four-person bar runs along the left-hand wall. Right at the back, a six-person table occupies the back wall on the right, the toilet opposite this on the left.

Unlike other coffee shops I’ve visited post COVID-19, the counter doesn’t have Perspex screens. These are on order, but in the meantime, to give the staff working at the far end some extra protection, the front halves of both the long table and the bar to its left are out of action, replaced by a hand-sanitiser station.

It turns out that I am a creature of habit. On my very first visit in 2013, I had a cortado, which I repeated on my return. Served in a glass, it was excellent, rich and smooth, milk and coffee in perfect harmony. I paired this with an equally excellent pastéis de nata, the rich, creamy custard encased in some very flaky pastry. I rounded things off with a shot of Origin’s Resolute blend as an espresso, a true classic.

December 2020: The Press Room, Surbiton was a runner-up for the 2020 Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.

5 CLAREMONT ROAD • SURBITON • KT6 4QR +44 (0) 208 399 8313
Monday 08:00 – 16:00 Roaster Origin (espresso only)
Tuesday 08:00 – 16:00 Seating Tables
Wednesday 08:00 – 16:00 Food Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 16:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 16:00 Payment Cards only
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power A few
Chain Local Visits Original: 29th June 2013
Update: 21st July 2020

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