Sam’s Coffee

A flat white, with some lovely latte art, served in a classic white cup at Sam's Coffee in Llangollen.Llangollen, nestling on the banks of the River Dee in North Wales, is a beautiful town and one which I’ve visited many, many times over the years. However, until last summer, it had never registered on the Coffee Spot radar. Then, I visited Bold Street Coffee in Liverpool, where one of the baristas told me that Bold Street’s founder, the legendary Sam Towil, was now living in Llangollen, where he runs Sam’s Coffee. And, just like that, I started planning my visit.

Sam’s Coffee is inside Gales of Llangollen, a family-run wine bar, restaurant and 15-room hotel, all housed in a Georgian townhouse which feels, to me, like an old coaching inn. Sam’s Coffee is officially open from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon, offering a contemporary brunch menu, plus coffee from Has Bean, after which Gales takes over until late in the evening with a lunch/dinner (dunch? linner?) menu, plus beer, cider, spirits and, of course, wine. However, that doesn’t mean the coffee stops at two: as long as Sam is there, he’ll make you coffee. Although the menu is espresso-based, I spotted a kettle, Chemex and Kalita Wave, so I’m sure if you ask nicely…

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Elephant Lounge

A classic espresso in a classic cup at Elephant Lounge in Parkgate.Last week’s (very short) Coffee Spot Tour of the Wirral started at Wylde Coffee in Heswall and ended not long after in Parkgate with Elephant Lounge. Having previously said that I could see the Wirral from my parents’ house across the River Dee in Holywell, I am fairly sure that (with a large enough telescope) I could see Elephant Lounge itself!

Elephant Lounge has occupied its waterfront spot on the main road through Parkgate since 2016. It’s part of a small chain that includes Elephant Coffee, a coffee shop in nearby Neston, and its latest addition, Elephant Bank, a smokehouse and bar, which recently opened across the road from Elephant Coffee.

Coffee shop by day, and bar by night, Elephant Lounge bases its coffee menu around a bespoke seasonal espresso blend. During the day, porridge and various toast options are available for breakfast, with bagels and soup for lunch, backed up by a range of cakes. Then at four o’clock, Elephant Lounge switches over to pizzas for the evening, along with a range of draught and bottled beer, cocktails, gin, rum and wine. All this can be enjoyed in the spacious interior or in the large, shady garden at the back.

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Caravan Exmouth Market (COVID-19 Update)

The Caravan logo from the sign outside the original Exmouth Market branch.I’d originally planned today’s Coffee Spot for Saturday. Then the latest COVID-19 restrictions happened and, for a while, I wondered if I should postpone my write up until December at the earliest. However, since Caravan is still open for collection/delivery, I decided to go ahead, so welcome to Monday’s Coffee Spot, an update on Caravan Exmouth Market. Until the England-wide shutdown on Thursday, Caravan was going strong, serving its filling breakfasts, weekend brunches and innovative small plates and dinners, all backed up with some excellent Caravan coffee on espresso and filter.

Caravan is one of those legendary names in London coffee circles. Now with five restaurants/cafes/bars, plus a coffee bar in Harrods and a dedicated roastery, Exmouth Market was where it all began, back in 2010. As well as being the original Caravan coffee shop, it was also the original roastery (located in the basement), before that moved out to King’s Cross and then to the new facility at the Lamb Works. The smallest of the five, Exmouth Market is still my favourite, so when I found myself staying around the corner, I decided to call in for dinner. And then I came back for breakfast the following morning…

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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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Brother Hubbard North

A latte art heart in my cortado, made with the Farmhand house-blend, at Brother Hubbard North in Dublin.I visited Brother Hubbard on my first trip to Dublin in 2014. Back then, it was a relatively small place, with a reputation for excellent food as well as really good coffee. So good, in fact, that after going there for breakfast, I returned for coffee later in the trip. 5½ years on, Brother Hubbard has added a second branch (Brother Hubbard South) while the original, reborn as Brother Hubbard North, has changed beyond (almost) all recognition. It’s now a takeaway joint, coffee shop, retailer and restaurant, with an on-site roastery, Farmhand, thrown in for good measure.

Normally, this would be a Coffee Spot Update, but with all the changes, I’ve gone for a complete re-write, leaving the original as is. These days Brother Hubbard serves a bespoke house-blend from in-house roaster, Farmhand, along with a single-origin on batch brew. There are grab-and-go goodies from the takeaway counter to the left, or you can sit in and enjoy breakfast, brunch or cake with your coffee. Finally, in the evenings, there’s a small but innovative dinner menu five nights a week. The space, by the way, is huge, with a long, thin indoor seating area, outdoor terrace and magnificent dining room.

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Ozone Coffee Roasters

A lovely Kenyan Githaka AB Estate V60, roasted and served at Ozone in Shoreditch, the coffee presented on a tray, with a short mug next to the carafe.Ozone Coffee Roasters first opened its doors on Leonard Street in 2012, making it (in the UK at least), as old as the Coffee Spot. That said, Ozone, which started in New Zealand, where it has a roastery and two coffee shops, is approaching its 21st birthday. Back in the UK, Ozone bought fellow roasters, Has Bean, this time last year (although the two still operate as separate brands) and a second coffee shop, this time in Bethnal Green, is opening shortly.

Meanwhile, the original on Leonard Street, a stone’s throw from Old Street roundabout in the heart of Shoreditch, is still going strong, serving excellent coffee and food all day, from breakfast all the way through to dinner. It’s also still roasting in the basement on a 22kg vintage Probat, where there’s additional seating, available from morning to mid-afternoon.

When it comes to the coffee, there are two seasonal espresso blends, Brothers (which goes in milk-based drinks) and Empire (for espressos, long blacks and Americanos) and several single-origins which change on a monthly basis. These can be had on espresso, V60, Aeropress, Syphon and cold brew, with a different one on each. There’s also a daily batch brew.

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Upstairs at The Pilgrm

Some lovely latte art in my flat white upstairs at the Pilgrm, made with Workshop's Los Naranjos single-origin Colombian espresso.The Pilgrm is a small, boutique hotel almost directly opposite the front of Paddington station which just happens to have a speciality coffee counter in the lobby downstairs, run by Workshop. If that’s all there was to it, it would be pretty awesome, but there’s more. The Pilgrm also has an upstairs lounge and terrace, which, while catering primarily to hotel guests, is also open to the public, serving breakfast, lunch and, in the afternoon/evening, a range of small plates and drinks. And then there’s the coffee…

While the coffee counter works as a standalone operation, you can take your coffee and sit upstairs, or, alternative, sit upstairs, where there’s full table service, and order your coffee there, the barista bringing it up to you. Having spent most of my week in the Paddington area popping into Workshop for either an espresso or a flat white, usually on my way to the office, I decided I had to try the lounge, popping by on Friday afternoon for coffee and returning on Saturday morning for breakfast.

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Willa Jean

The Willa Jean logo, taken from the coffee menu.Willa Jean, in New Orleans’ Central Business District, is many things to many people. It was recommended to me as a brunch place, although I ended up going there for dinner, where there’s a choice of full table service, or, if you’re dining solo, a spot at the counter or window-bar, where you can order anything from snacks to full meals. It’s also a lunch spot and a bakery with a fantastic range of cakes. And some awesome pies, all baked in-house.

Oh, and then there’s the coffee, which I discovered on my first visit. Willa Jean uses Chicago’s very own Intelligentsia, with options on espresso and batch-brew, plus a pair of single-origin pour-overs through the V60. Good restaurants, even those with more of a café style such as Willa Jean, rarely have really good coffee, so I felt obliged to pop back two days later to try it out.

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Dinner at Kavárna Místo

The coffee tasting flight at Kavárna Místo in Prague: three different single-origin filters. But can you guess which is which?One of the (many) things that impressed me during my time in Prague was the number of coffee shops that stayed open really late. For example, both Pražírna Kavárna and Coffee and Riot are open until 10pm. Then there’s those that mix late opening with great coffee and great food. A prime example is Eska, which is a restaurant upstairs and a coffee bar downstairs (it reminded me of Caravan King’s Cross, with the obvious difference that Caravan’s only on a single level).

Another example is the subject of today’s Saturday Supplement, Kavárna Místo, one of three Prague coffee shops of renowned Czech roasters, Doubleshot. This is more like a traditional coffee shop that serves an all-day dining menu. Add that to the fact that it doesn’t close until 10pm each night (apart from Sunday) and you have the perfect casual dining location.

Indeed, Amanda and I first visited Místo for dinner, returning the following morning for coffee. You can read all about Místo the coffee shop in its own Coffee Spot. Meanwhile, this Saturday Supplement focuses on the food, cake and also the coffee tasting flight, which offers 150ml samples of all three single-origins on pour-over.

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Kavárna Místo

The Ethiopian Uraga single-origin espresso from Doubleshot at its cafe, Kavárna Místo, in Prague.Kavárna Místo is one of three Prague coffee shops of renowned Czech roasters, Doubleshot. Although off the beaten (tourist) track in a residential area north of the castle, it came highly recommended by Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato. A lovely, L-shaped spot, there’s a range of seating, the space cleverly divided into multiple smaller spaces by walls with large openings. You can also sit outside at one of a handful of tables down the left-hand side.

Amanda and I visited twice, first for dinner (which is the subject of its own Saturday Supplement) then returning for coffee the following morning. As I’ve come to discover in Prague, service is of the highest standard, Místo offering full table service. There’s an innovative all-day dining menu (served until 10pm) with dishes suitable for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all backed up with a range of excellent cakes and desserts.

The real draw, though, is the coffee. There’s a seasonal espresso plus a single-origin, all the shots pulled on a lovely Kees van der Westen Spirit, along with a choice of three single-origins available through the V60, one of which is also on daily batch-brew. Finally, if you really can’t decide, the coffee tasting flight offers 150ml samples of all three.

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