Today’s Coffee Spot sees us staying in Shrewsbury with what is simultaneously a new name and a familiar face. The Condor is the new name, spiritual successor to English Bridge Coffee, occupying the same space at the end/start of Wyle Cop, next to the English Bridge. The familiar face is Raúl, who has taken the strengths of what went before (excellent, multi-roaster single-origin coffee and a warm welcome) while adding South American street food to the mix (with more than a nod to his Chilean heritage).
There have been other changes since my first visit almost exactly a year ago. Although the basic layout remains the same, the interior has had a make-over, the counter now forming an L-shape in the back, right-hand corner. This has simultaneously added a new seating area on the left-hand side while also seeming to give Raúl more space behind the counter, which is a neat trick. There have been changes on the coffee side as well. While remaining true to the ideal of being a multi-roaster, serving the best single-origin coffee from around the country, Raúl has added batch-brew filter and V60 pour-overs to the espresso-only menu that I remember from my original visit.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The Condor is on the northern side of the Wyle Cop, just before the English Bridge as you head away from Shrewsbury. Occupying the final unit on the ground floor of an old, three-storey terrace of buildings, The Condor is just four doors from newcomer, Pont, which has a similarly-sized (ie small) spot at the other end of the terrace.
Other than the name change, things look remarkably similar from the outside, although The Condor’s smart blue colour scheme stands out far more than the black of the original. The entrance is still on the left, the door occupying the right-hand side at the back of a small, recessed porch shared with the neighbouring nail bar. To the right, a single window stretches the full width of The Condor, flanked by two tall, stone pillars, while the exposed brick of the right-hand wall is broken by a tall sash window beneath which broad stone steps descend to Shrewsbury’s river walk.
Stepping inside, there’s not much to The Condor. The five-person window-bar still occupies the window at the front, while the window in the right-hand wall still has the wooden bench below it. This seats four, with a pair of narrow tables in front of it, with room for two or three more on stools. The big change is at the back, where a single, tiled counter once spanned the width of the building.
This is gone, replaced by a wooden-fronted, L-shaped counter which occupies the back, right-hand corner. This, in turn, has opened up the space to the left, now occupied by a single bench running along the back half of the left-hand wall, while the front half is taken up a neat blue dresser (the colour matching the exterior paint work) which holds the retail bags of coffee. Although it doesn’t sound like a big change, it feels like a more radical transformation, giving The Condor a much greater sense of space, but without robbing it of the intimacy that made its predecessor so special.
The other great strength, the coffee, also remains. Like its predecessor, The Condor is a multi-roaster, only serving single-origins, with Raúl looking for the most interesting coffee he can find. While I was there, he had two choices on espresso, both from Studio, a new roaster to me, which is based just outside Worcester.
My choices were a naturally-processed heirloom coffee from Ethiopia (Hambella Guji) or a washed Colombia Caturra (Cauca Popayan). I opted for the Cauca Popayan, which, as an espresso, was rich and full-bodied, although its finer points and tasting notes of banoffee, vanilla and pecan were, as usual, lost on my undiscerning palate. It was, however, quite lovely, served in an equally lovely handless ceramic cup.
Naturally, I also had to try the South American street food, which comes in the shape of a variety of empanadas, with at least one vegetarian and one vegan option. I chose the humita, a quiche-like structure with sweetcorn and cheddar, along with the paraguaya, which was more like a pasty filled with mozzarella and egg, both served hot with a spicy (but not too spicy) salsa and chimichurri on the side. As an introduction to South American street food, both my empanadas and the side dishes were delicious.
The final element of any visit to The Condor is chatting with Raúl and a random selection of customers. On this occasion, we put the world to rights, rounding things off with choosing the perfect album for Raúl to play while he closed up the store.
On my previous visit, I came away with several gifts of coffee from Raúl. This time I was the one bearing gifts, part of the coffee-go-round, with goodies from Time & Tide and Tandem Coffee in Maine. However, while my aim was to leave with less coffee than I arrived with, things didn’t quite work out like that, with Raúl insisting on taking two bags of coffee with me. One was the Cauca Popayan, which has been going nice through my Sage Barista Express, while the other was another Colombian coffee, the Uphill from Mission Coffee Works, which I’ve been enjoying through my cafetiere each morning.
|44 WYLE COP • SHREWSBURY • SY1 1XF|
|Monday||CLOSED||Roaster||Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:30 – 16:00||Seating||Tables, Bench, Window Bar|
|Wednesday||08:30 – 16:00||Food||Cake, Empanadas|
|Thursday||08:30 – 16:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:30 – 16:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free|
|Sunday||09:00 – 16:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||13th August 2023|
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