Notes, King’s Cross (COVID-19 Update)

Notes is back! Details of the online ordering system, displayed on every table at Notes, King's Cross.The very first coffee shop I visited following the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions in England was Notes, Trafalgar Square. I doubt I could have chosen better, to be honest, with Notes’ customary quality shining through. My coffee, a cortado, was served in a glass, while my food came on a proper plate with real cutlery. So, when I was looking for somewhere to have coffee and some food before catching my train on Monday, I immediately thought of Notes at Pancras Square, sandwiched between King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. The fact that my train was leaving from Euston, a 15-minute walk away, was entirely secondary in the decision-making process.

King’s Cross was one of three Notes locations that reopened in July and is probably the best suited of all, with a large outdoor seating area. There are changes, obviously, to account for COVID-19, but these are minimal. Online ordering at your table is encouraged, while the upstairs seating area is understandably closed, but otherwise, this is very much like the Notes of old. And, even better, with the area still really, really quiet, sitting out in Pancras Square meant blissful silence. Make the most of it while it lasts!

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Beany Green South Bank (COVID-19 Update)

The colourful front of the Beany Green container on the South Bank at the foot of Hungerford Bridge.The container is back! Yes, that’s right, Beany Green, that little container of sunshine at the foot of the Hungerford Bridge on the South Bank, is back! It had actually reopened a few weeks ago, but when I went up to London in mid-July, I discovered that it was closed again due to essential bridge repairs. However, I was not to be denied and, when I went through London on Monday, I made of a point of calling in to find that it was open again!

For those that don’t know, this is one of the original Beany Green coffee shops, which opened in June 2014. These days it’s more a bar serving good coffee, although during the day it still has a coffee shop vibe. Essentially an outdoor operation, it hasn’t been too badly affected by COVID-19, although it (and the surrounding area) is much quieter than it used to be.

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Notes, Trafalgar Square (COVID-19 Update)

A cortado, served in a glass (a rarity during COVID-19) at Notes, Trafalgar Square.On Tuesday, I caught a train to London. I went to visit coffee shops, something I once took or granted, but which, thanks to COVID-19, I hadn’t done for almost exactly four months. Although I didn’t have a firm itinerary (I intended to wander around, see who was open, and take things from there), there was one coffee shop which I planned to visit, heading straight there from Waterloo.

Notes is on St Martin’s Lane, a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square, which is how it gets its name. Like Attendant, where I ended Tuesday’s short excursion, I first wrote about Notes back in 2013, although, unlike Attendant, which had recently opened, Notes was already well-established by that point. Since then, I’ve visited several other Notes and have always been impressed by the quality and attention to detail.

Notes had reopened just four days before my visit, on Saturday 11th July, but I knew from its social media posts that it was offering a sit-in service, which I was keen to try. More than anything, I wanted to see how the reality of sitting in a coffee shop during the COVID-19 pandemic matched my (perhaps gloomy) musings on the matter.

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Octane: Westside

My cortado, made with the Petunias house-blend, at Octane: Westside in Atlanta.Until Monday, I’d never been to Atlanta. The closest I’d come was passing through Peachtree Station en-route to New Orleans two years ago. I also managed a brief stop at the airport in January on my way to Portland. However, on Monday this week, Amanda and I stepped off Amtrak’s Crescent Service (the very same train that I caught to New Orleans) and I was in Atlanta. Naturally, our thoughts to turned to coffee, and where better to start than with Octane?

Octane was a pioneer of Atlanta’s speciality coffee scene until it was bought in 2017 by Revelator Coffee, much to the consternation of many. Octane had several locations in the city, but the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Octane: Westside, is, I believe, the original and the only one to retain the Octane name.

Located in a converted garage, it’s a large, spacious place, with a small amount of outside seating and limited parking. The Petunias blend is on espresso, with two single-origins on pour-over via the Chemex. If you want something stiffer, there’s a full bar, offering a wide range of drinks from 11:30 each day. If you’re hungry, there’s a broad selection of cakes and savouries.

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139 Coffee

A classic espresso (Ground Coffee Society's Caveman blend) in a classic cup, served at 139 Coffee.139 Coffee continues a fine tradition, combining coffee and cycling inside Cycle Exchange in Kingston Upon Thames. Just off Richmond Road, north of the centre, Cycle Exchange occupies a long, thin concrete shell with windows on three sides, making for a surprisingly bright, open space. It’s an unlikely location at first sight, so much so that I was double-checking Google Maps before I found it.

139 Coffee is at the front on the left, with seating followed by the counter, while the rest of the space is occupied by the cycle store. Outside, a broad, paved space to the left holds a pair of tables. 139 Coffee has a traditional espresso-based menu using the Caveman blend from Ground Coffee Society, plus beer and wine, all backed up by a small, but tasty-looking brunch menu and plenty of cakes. Impressively, all the food is made in the open kitchen behind the counter.

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Coffee and Riot

A washed Colombian espresso from Rebel Bean, served in a classic white cup at Coffee and Riot in Prague.I’m still missing the warm, winter sun of Arizona, so today’s Coffee Spot takes us back to last summer and Prague, when Amanda and I visited Coffee and Riot, a lovely little place in the backstreets of the Nové Město (New Town). Occupying two small rooms on the ground floor of a tall, old building, it’s combines the traditional Central European café/bar with speciality coffee.

That means that was well as serving coffee from Rebel Bean (on espresso) and guests (on filter), there’s a wide range of alcohol, including beer, cider, wine, cocktails and gin, served late into the evening (10 o’clock each night except Sundays). There’s also a selection of food, including toast, cakes, quiche and a range of sandwiches.

Coffee and Riot uses Rebel Bean as its house roaster, with a single option on espresso, which changes every few weeks. This is joined by a guest roaster on filter, which can come from anywhere in Europe, although when we were there, it was The Naughty Dog from nearby Jilove u Prahy. There’s a choice of V60 or Aeropress, with the beans all available in retail bags, the roaster changing when Coffee and Riots gets through its current stock.

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Press Coffee, The Roastery

My cortado, made with the La Esperanza Colombian single-origin, roasted on-site and served in a glass, on a wooden tray, with a glass of water at the side.My first speciality coffee experience in Phoenix was the chance discovery of Press Coffee in the Scottsdale Quarter on my very first visit in 2016. Since then, I’ve had a soft spot for Press, visiting its locations on the Waterfront in Old Scottsdale and in the Skywater Apartments in Tempe. The number of Press locations has varied over the years, but currently stands at eight, which includes the new roastery. This opened in July last year in north Phoenix, just off SR51, one on the main routes north out of Phoenix.

Although I have a soft spot for Press, I would be hard-pressed to describe its locations as anything other than utilitarian. Not The Roastery, however, which is magnificent, occupying a standalone building with a large outdoor seating area, a mezzanine level above the counter/kitchen and the roastery at the back.

The coffee offering is very familiar: the Twitch blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, two options on batch brew and up to six single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. Add to that a selection of tea, beer, wine and spirits, plus a concise all-day food menu and a range of cakes, and you have something for (almost) everyone.

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Pauseteria

A lovely flat white from Pauseteria, served in a glass on a small, metal tray, and made with an Ethiopian single-origin roasted by Candy Cane.Even in a city like Prague, with its excellent speciality coffee scene, it’s rare to find top quality coffee in the tourist-centric heart of the city. Fortunately, Pauseteria is an exception to this rule, located right in the heart of Prague’s old city, making it a near-essential stop for any coffee lover doing the usual tourist sights. Opening in April 2018, Pauseteria occupies a large, vaulted central room, with a smaller room off to each side.

In keeping with a typical Czech café, there’s full table service (and very attentive it is too), along with an interesting, all-day breakfast/brunch menu, backed up with a wide range of cakes, baked fresh every day. Naturally, there’s a small selection of beer and wine, along with soft drinks and tea. And then, of course, there’s the coffee, drawn from a regularly-rotating group of Czech roasters, with two options on espresso and another on filter, available as either batch brew or through the V60.

Amanda and I liked Pauseteria so much that we visited twice, once for breakfast on a busy Sunday morning, Amanda’s first full day in Prague, and again for coffee and cake on Friday afternoon, our final day in the city.

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Head Shot Coffee, Palackého

A V60 of a Kenyan single-origin served by Head Shot Coffee in a carafe on a wooden tray, with the cup of the side, along with a glass of water.Head Shot Coffee is a chain of precisely two coffee shops, both of which are in within spitting distance of each other in Prague’s Nové Mĕsto. I escaped to both locations for afternoon coffee during the week I spent working in Prague earlier this year. Of the two, Palackého, which opened in 2017, a year after the original, was the one I favoured. A bright, open space bordering onto the delightful Františkánská Zahrada (Franciscan Gardens), there’s a sheltered courtyard with four outdoor tables, while the L-shaped, window-lined interior has another six tables.

Head Shot uses Prague-based Respekt, supplemented by various guest roasters. During my visit, there was a single-origin Colombian on espresso, served from a standard menu (including iced options), plus pour-over through the V60 and batch brew. Both filter options used the same Kenyan single-origin while I was there, again from Respekt.

If coffee’s not your thing, then in keeping with many Czech coffee shops, there’s a small selection of soft drinks and wine. Meanwhile, if you are hungry, there’s a range of cakes and pastries, which are more aligned to the offerings of a Central European cake shop than a traditional western coffee shop (think cheesecake over brownies).

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Fuglen Asakusa

A Norwegian waffle, which I had for breakfast at Fuglen Asakusa, topped with a poached egg, spinach, salsa and avocado.Japan’s speciality coffee scene is an interesting blend of homegrown roasters/coffee shops, plus a generous sprinkling of overseas names. Perhaps the most intriguing of these (for me, at least) is Fuglen, the Norwegian design company, which first opened its doors in Oslo in 1963. These days, Fuglen blends vintage design with coffee (daytime) and cocktails (evening) from its Oslo café/bar, a recipe which, since 2012, it has successfully copied in Tokyo, with a small and perpetually busy café/bar in Shibuya.

This was followed, in 2014, by a roastery/coffee shop (since relocated to larger premises) and, in September last year, by a much larger café/bar in Asakusa. Spread over two floors, it opens from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, offering breakfast, lunch, cakes, coffee and cocktails, all within a setting heavily influenced by vintage Norwegian design.

All the coffee’s roasted in-house, with a seasonal single-origin espresso, plus multiple filter options, available as pour-over (through the V60), Aeropress or batch-brew. There’s also a tasting flight, with an espresso, batch-brew and your choice of beans through the Aeropress. I visited twice, once in October 2018, a month after it opened, and a year later in November this year.

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