Attendant Clerkenwell

My espresso, served in a classic black cup, at Attendant Clerkenwell, made with the Brazilian Esmeralda house espresso.I have a soft spot for Attendant, which started in 2013 in a converted, underground gentlemen’s toilet in Fitzrovia. It could easily have been a gimmick, but from the outset, Attendant was committed to top-notch speciality coffee, first from Caravan then, more recently, roasting its own. It also expanded, opening shops in Shoreditch and Clerkenwell. The original Attendant featured in the early days of the Coffee Spot, soon after it had opened, plus it was one of the first coffee shops I visited when COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in England in July.

All of this makes it rather bizarre that, until last week, I’d never been to Attendant Clerkenwell. What can I say? A lovely, quirky, irregularly-shaped spot with gloriously high ceilings, the loss is all mine. There’s outside seating, plus more seating inside, including a neat back room if you want something a little quieter. The offering is substantially the same as at the other Attendants, with its Brazilian single-origin on espresso, plus a single-origin filter option (currently only available as batch brew). This is backed up by a wide selection of cake and impressive breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, all prepared in the open kitchen behind the counter.

November 2020: with the new Government COVID-19 restrictions in England, Attendant is returning to takeaway service from Thursday, 5th November.

May 2021: Attendant is back to its normal opening hours following the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions in England to allow dining in.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On the corner of Leather Lane and Hatton Wall stands an interesting, curved façade...
  • ... home, on the ground floor, to Attendant Clerkenwell. As well as the benches...
  • ... outside the windows, there's a new outside seating area on the street itself.
  • The view front on.
  • You have to admire the simplicity of the sign.
  • A sign of the (COVID-19) times on the door.
  • Inside, and the counter, with its Perspex screens, is to the right...
  • ... while the seating is to the left, starting with this window-bar, and ending with...
  • ... this wooden bench and its three well-spaced tables along the left-hand wall.
  • The view from the back of the small seating area the front. However, there's more.
  • Attendant narrows towards the back, but just when you think you've reached the end...
  • ... it opens out again with this neat back room.
  • There's a single table on the left...
  • ... while this shot gives you more of a sense of the height of the ceilings!
  • Meanwhile, to the right there's a bench with two more of the small, round tables...
  • ... before you get to the back wall, there there is a four-person table on the right...
  • ... and another on the left.
  • The stairs, by the way, are off-limits to customers at the moment.
  • Time to return to the front part of Attendant.
  • Despite the windows at the front, there are lots of lights. These hang above the counter...
  • ... while these are in the windows themselves.
  • Obligatory close up.
  • This interesting light fitting (seen from below) hangs above the stairs at the back...
  • ... where the lights are more needed since there's just this small window in the back wall.
  • As well as the lights and the artwork on the walls, there are also lots of plants.
  • More plants on shelves above the stairs...
  • ... where you'll also find this mirror.
  • This graffitied pillar marks the boundary between front and back rooms.
  • In case you forget where you are.
  • To business. The obligatory QR Code for the NHS COVID-19 app is clearly displayed...
  • ... along with reminders to wear a mask.
  • If you don't have the NHS COVID-19 app, Attendant has its own check-in system...
  • ... while you can also scan the QR Code on the other side to see the menus.
  • There are plenty of signs on the floor to guide you along your way...
  • ... as well as convenient markers to show you where to queue.
  • There are more instructions, and hand sanitiser, by the till.
  • The two-part counter is on the right...
  • ... starting with the cakes at the front...
  • ... followed by the till where you order and pay...
  • ... and then, on a separate section at the back, is the espresso machine.
  • The drinks menu is on the wall behind the counter...
  • ... where you'll also find the food menus, although this set is from the back of the door.
  • You can buy retail boxes of Attendant's coffee...
  • ... along with reusable cups from Frank Green, including its new ceramic cup.
  • I had an espresso, made with the house espresso, the Esmeralda from Brazil...
  • ... which is where I'll leave you.
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Attendant Clerkenwell sits at the northern end of Leather Lane, home of the famous Prufrock Coffee. It’s on the western side of the street at the corner with Hatton Wall, where the buildings present a curved façade, giving the outside a great sense of space. Occupying about two-thirds of the façade, the main part is to the left (where you’ll find the door, flanked by two tall windows) with a narrower window to the right, separated by a wide stone pillar.

A pair of benches sit outside on the pavement, one either side of the door. The left-hand one has a small, square table, while there are two to the right. However, there’s more. Since the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in July, a further four two-person tables have appeared at the side of the street, the space (which was once occupied by street traders) marked out by low planters.

Inside, Attendant occupies a quirky space, long, thin and irregular, with wonderfully high ceilings. At its narrowest, it’s taller than it is wide, although there’s no real sense of this from the outside. The counter, which is in two parts, is to your right as you enter, while to your left, there’s a three-person window-bar. More seating occupies the left-hand wall, where a long, wooden bench houses three well-spaced two-person tables.

Since the façade of the building curves around the corner, the front of Attendant isn’t flat, with the narrow window to the right at about 30° to the other windows. The right-hand wall is at 90° to this window, while the left-hand wall is at roughly 75° to the front. As a result, Attendant quickly narrows, reaching a pinch-point at the end of the counter, the second part of which is parallel to the right-hand wall, further accelerating the narrowing.

I suspect that at this point, it was originally the end of the building’s front room, but these days the (admittedly very narrow) back wall has been knocked through, beyond which Attendant widens out again, forming a neat, five-sided back room with the same high ceilings. Admittedly, it’s still quite small, a large chuck occupied by an open staircase which descends steeply, turning back on itself, to a basement space which is currently off-limits.

There’s more seating back here, with a two-person round table at the top of stairs on the left. Meanwhile, a bench runs along the right-hand wall and continues along the two back walls which are at 30° to each other. A pair of round, two-person tables are on the right, with two rectangular four-person tables at back, all with low, comfortable, wooden-topped stools.

I’d just had breakfast at the nearby Caravan in Exmouth Market, otherwise I’d have been very tempted by the brunch menu. As it was, I settled for an espresso made with Attendant’s house espresso, a naturally-processed Brazilian Esmeralda. I’d had this in a cortado at Attendant Fitzrovia in July, where it went very well with the milk. On its own, it was just as good, with the same full-bodied, classic nut profile, but with a surprising sweetness.

At the moment, Attendant Clerkenwell is only offering batch brew through the Moccamaster (there’s usually a choice of V60 or AeroPress). To see me on my way, I tried the Finca Vera Cruz, a washed coffee (processed on the estate with an extended fermentation stage) from Colombia. It too was sweet and full-bodied, not what I was expecting from a washed coffee.

December 2020: Attendant Clerkenwell was a runner-up for the 2020 Best Physical Space Award.

Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Attendant (espresso + batch brew)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Payment Card Only
Saturday 10:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 30th October 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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4 thoughts on “Attendant Clerkenwell

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