Kaffeine Eastcastle (COVID-19 Update)

The front of Kaffeine, door to the left, windows to the right, with a pair of benches in front of the window acting as tables.If you ever need evidence that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for operating a coffee shop during the COVID-19 pandemic, I  present Kaffeine, the London-based chain of precisely two coffee shops. I’ve already looked at how the original Kaffeine, on Great Titchfield Street, has adapted to COVID-19 and today it’s the turn of Kaffeine Eastcastle, which reopened at the start of September. Although less than five minutes’ walk apart, how the two shops are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is quite different.

Of course, there are similarities, with both adhering to the same underlying principles, but in each case, the response has been moulded to/by the needs of the individual shop. Perhaps the biggest difference is that while Great Titchfield Street offers table service, Eastcastle, with its lower footfall, has a more traditional counter service model.

In terms of what’s on offer, little has changed. The espresso-based menu still has Square Mile’s ubiquitous Red Brick at its heart, along with a single-origin option, while there’s also a single-origin filter, which changes monthly. The concise brunch menu is served until 2 pm (3 pm at weekends), supported by an all-day selection of salads, tarts and toasted sandwiches, plus cake, of course.

You can see what else I found after the gallery.

  • A familiar and welcome sight since the start of September: Kaffeine Eastcastle is back!
  • It's also looking remarkably similiar to how it used to. This is the view from my visit in 2016.
  • Back to 2020 and here's the view front on...
  • ... which, other than the addition of the bike racks, again looks similar to how it did in 2016.
  • However, there is one change: the two tables and benches to the right are Kaffeine's too.
  • The biggest change, however, is when you step inside: I've never seen it this quiet!
  • Here's an equivalent view from my 2016 visit. And it's been like this every other visit too.
  • The layout, however, is very similar. The window bar to the right of the door is still there...
  • ... although you're not going to see people packed in like this for a while yet.
  • The tables and the bench along the left-hand wall are also still there...
  • ... although the table at the far end has been removed to make space for a waiting area.
  • A view of the tables from the far end.
  • And another view from the back, this time looking towards the windows.
  • Another change: these two stand-alone bars, seen here in 2016, are still in place...
  • ... but they are no longer in use (and they've been unboxed too).
  • More good news: the yellow neon Kaffeine logo, seen here in 2016...
  • ... is still behind the counter. And I got a better shot of it this time around!
  • In other news, I was still as fascinated by the lights, including these two rows of bulbs...
  • ... hanging from a bespoke lighting rig. Can you guess which photo was from 2016?
  • Obligatory close-up.
  • And, for good measure, one from underneath.
  • One small change from my first visit. These plants now hang in baskets high up on the wall.
  • The first sign of change though, is when you walk in, to be greeted by this sign.
  • Next, there's a one-way system...
  • ... clearly marked by these arrows on the floor.
  • The stand-alone bars now act as barriers, separating the in-flow from the out-flow.
  • The one-way system leads down the front of the counter...
  • ... to a waiting area at the far end, which is for takeaway customers.
  • This is conveniently next to the retail shelves, which are against the back wall...
  • ... again looking very similar to how they did in 2016.
  • Then, when you have collected your coffee, the arrows lead you out again.
  • So, to business. The counter runs almost the full length of the right-hand wall.
  • This is how it looked in 2016...
  • ... and here's an equilavent view from my recent visit in September.
  • Very little has changed: the counter still has the cakes and salad at the front...
  • ... while the Black Eagle espresso machine is still at the far end. The till is in the middle...
  • ... where, rather than marring the counter's beauty with Perspex, there's a window!
  • You order and pay here, where you'll also find details of...
  • ... that month's single-origin filter option, and, if you're in time...
  • ... the brunch menu. One day I'll get there early enough! If you're staying...
  • ... head to a table, where you'll find individual hand sanitister and some instructions.
  • I missed out on brunch (again) so had this excellent tart and salad instead.
  • However, I did get to try the espresso tasting flight, a single-shot espresso/flat white...
  • ... artfully presented on a slate, which is where I'll leave you.
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At first sight, Kaffeine Eastcastle looks much as it always has done, with its narrow storefront on the northern side of Eastcastle Street. The door is on the left, while the bench is still in front of the two floor-to-ceiling windows. However, off to the right, past the entrance to Wells Mews, are two further benches in front of an empty store front. They, along with the two narrow tables in front of them, belong to Kaffeine, instantly tripling the available outdoor seating.

The next change comes as you step inside. There’s no rope blocking your entrance as there is at Great Titchfield Street, but there is a table, complete with a handy bottle of hand sanitiser, set a little way back from the door. This doesn’t block your way, rather it gives you pause for thought with its polite request that you wear a mask.

The layout, familiar to anyone who has been to Eastcastle before, hasn’t changed, with the six-person window-bar running the full width of the two windows to the right of the door, the counter running almost the full length of Kaffeine down the right-hand wall and a wooden bench running the full length of the left-hand wall. Finally, the two narrow, stand-alone bar-style tables than run down the centre of Kaffeine, between the counter and the bench, are still there.

However, there have been plenty of changes. For starters, there’s a one-way system, clearly marked by the large arrows on the floor. The two stand-alone tables in the centre are now off-limits, serving instead to delineate the one-way system, which takes you to their right and along the front of the counter, past the till, to a waiting area at the far end, before bringing you back to their left, past the benches and so to the door. There’s one more change to the seating. The bench along the left-hand wall, which used to have four long, thin four-person tables, now only has three, the final one having been removed to make space for the waiting area at the far end.

The other changes are more subtle, such as the individual bottles of hand sanitiser and the card for your contact details on each table, which will be familiar to anyone who has been to Great Titchfield Street in the last few months. However, my favourite change is on the counter.

This striking beauty is Eastcastle’s centrepiece and, in my opinion, would be marred by the addition of tall, Perspex screens. However, since Eastcastle offers counter service, something is needed to protect the staff/customers at the till. The solution is as elegant as the counter itself: a large, ornate window-frame, glazed of course, which hangs from the ceiling, providing the necessary physical barrier.

I visited mid-afternoon, missing out on the tempting brunch menu. Instead, I had the last slice of the excellent goat’s cheese flan and the mozzarella, courgette and tomato salad, both of which were very tasty. I paired this with the coffee tasting flight, something I’ve missed out on every other time I’ve visited either Kaffeine!

The tasting flight is a single-shot espresso, single-shot flat white and palate cleaner, all artfully arranged on a slate. I started with the espresso, the Red Brick really excelling on its own, with a little bit of fruitiness coming through in the second mouthful. The flat white, in contrast, was very smooth, the single shot getting a little lost in the milk. Nevertheless, it was an excellent return to Eastcastle!

December 2020: Kaffeine Eastcastle was a runner-up for the 2020 Happiest Staff Award.

www.kaffeine.co.uk +44 (0) 20 3730 5878
Monday 07:30 – 17:00 Roaster Square Mile (espresso + batch brew)
Tuesday 07:30 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Window Bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 17:00 Payment Cards Only
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi No
Sunday 09:30 – 17:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits Original: 24th April 2016
Update: 22nd September 2020

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.

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