A legendary name in London speciality coffee circles, The Espresso Room had already achieved this lofty status when I started the Coffee Spot 10 years ago. 2016 brought a change of ownership and expansion, first by bringing the likes of New Row Coffee under The Espresso Room brand, followed by opening new locations. This, however, is the Great Ormond Street original, opposite the famous Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
The Espresso Room is well-named, since there’s not much to it, just a room with enough space to make espresso (and batch brew filter). There’s a bespoke espresso blend from old friends The Roasting Party, with a single-origin on filter, while if you’re hungry, The Espresso Room has a selection of cakes and pastries. If you’re staying, there are three benches outside, but be aware, The Espresso Room only serves in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
I’m always surprised that there aren’t more speciality coffee shops in barbershops/hairdressers since they seem a natural fit to me. That said, London’s been at the forefront of this particular niche, ever since the first incarnation of Sharps Coffee Bar on Windmill Street. The latest entrant is Dark Woods Coffee x Ruffians on Maiden Lane, just south of Covent Garden.
Ruffians is a small barbershop chain, originating in Edinburgh, with this, it’s first London outpost, opening eight years ago. The coffee, in that respect, is a recent innovation, starting with a small pour-over bar before really taking off last spring with the addition of the Sanremo espresso machine, which coincided with the move to Dark Woods Coffee.
The result is a lovely little coffee bat at the front of the barbershop, with a concise espresso-based menu, pour-over and a small retail selection. Everything is served in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own, although you’re welcome to one of the four yellow stools at the windows at the front, or the bench outside.
There seems to be something about Chester, speciality coffee and bakeries, which, you could argue, all started with the Jaunty Goat bakery. The third Jaunty Goat, it joins the original on Bridge Street and the vegan Jaunty Goat on Northgate Street. Opening in July last year, the same month as Kookaburra Bakehouse, the pair were then joined by newcomer Fika⁺ in December that year.
The bakery has an interesting location, almost directly across Bridge Street from the original, although it’s completely different, a small spot with a simple counter offering takeout coffee and pastries, with the ovens at the back. You can also buy bread and coffee beans (either loose or in packets). While the bakery only uses disposable cups (so don’t forget to bring your own), there are pair of tables outside on the broad pavement, where you can watch the world go by as you enjoy your coffee.
When Amanda and I arrived in Boston last weekend, getting coffee was top of our list, and where better than George Howell in the Boston Public Market? It helped that it was on the way to our hotel, plus the New England winter had taken the weekend off, resulting in a glorious spring day, so we were able to take our coffee (it’s takeaway only thanks to COVID-19) across the road to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, where we enjoyed it while sitting in the sun.
I originally visited the coffee bar almost exactly six years ago, in February 2016, not long after it had opened. These days, it (and the Boston Public Market) is still going strong, do so well, in fact, that it’s now open seven days a week and has moved across the aisle to a much bigger counter, at least doubling in size. The basic offering remains the same though: top-notch coffee (espresso, batch brew and pour-over through the Chemex) along with a large range of retail bags of coffee for sale.
If you’ve been paying attention for the last two weeks, you’ll know that I’m back in Portland, Maine, where, weather permitting, I’m catching up with the local coffee shops. Top of my list was Speckled Ax’s new roastery/coffee bar on Walton Street, which opened last year. It’s out beyond Back Cove, north of Portland’s compact city centre, just over the train tracks from Forest Avenue, the main north/south drag.
Home to Speckled Ax’s new roastery (which has its own Meet the Roaster feature), there’s a small takeout coffee bar attached. Unlike the other Speckled Ax locations (Congress and Thames), with their multiple options on espresso and filter, here it’s just the daily batch brew or espresso, although, of course, plenty of retail bags of coffee are available to buy. There’s no seating, although when COVID-19 allows, there will be a small standing bar at the front. For now, it’s takeaway only, so don’t forget to bring your own cup.
Although I’ve been through Washington DC a few times on the train, I rarely visit the city itself. So, when I took the sleeper down from Boston during last month’s USA trip, I was determined to make the most of the opportunity. I didn’t have long, so made a beeline for Peregrine Espresso’s Eastern Market location on Pennsylvania Avenue, a half-an-hour stroll from Washington Union Station past the US Capitol.
Peregrine Espresso occupies a small unit with a wide, glass front and a generous outdoor seating area which is actually on 7th Street, just around the corner from Pennsylvania Avenue. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s currently takeaway service only (so don’t forget to bring your own cup), although you’re welcome to sit outside with your coffee. In more normal times, there’s more seating inside, but this has been cleared away to provide plenty of space for customers who are queuing to order/waiting to collect their coffee.
Talking of which, Peregrine Espresso serves a concise espresso-based menu with a batch brew option, all the coffee roasted by Small Planes Coffee, owned by founders, Ryan and Jill Jensen. There’s also a selection of tea, plus a range of cakes and pastries.
I’ve been a fan of Little Woodfords in Portland, Maine, ever since I first visited in the summer of 2019. I was therefore rather worried when I heard, in July 2020, that it was forced to move from its original location in Woodfords Corner to a much smaller spot on Congress Street in downtown Portland. Fortunately, while this has meant an inevitable change of character, the friendly, inclusive welcome of the original, plus the awesome coffee from Vermont’s Vivid Coffee Roasters, remains as Amanda and I discovered on our visit last month.
The offering is much as it was as before, with a single option on espresso, batch brew and flash brew (a pour-over over ice, akin to a Japanese iced coffee). The coffee changes on a seasonal basis, and there’s also tea, hot cocoa and several latte-based specials. If you’re hungry, there’s a small, vegetarian/vegan breakfast menu, with various toppings on bagels/biscuits. While Little Woodfords has a small indoor seating (standing?) area at the front, it’s currently takeout-only due to COVID-19, although you’re welcome to sit outside, where you’ll find a bench out front, with a couple of picnic tables down the side, which catch the afternoon sun.
Exactly three weeks ago today, Amanda and I set off to drive from Atlanta, Georgia to Portland, Maine, a three-day journey that would take us through some lovely scenery along sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, before we got there, we stopped at Alma Coffee Roastery, a chance discovery which we made while planning the route. It’s on Holly Springs Parkway, which runs parallel to I-575, connecting Woodstock in the south and Canton to the north.
The roastery, which doubles as a coffee shop, is just off the parkway on the left as you drive north, with clear signage and plenty of parking, although there’s no public transport access. A generous outdoor seating area stands in front of the roastery, while inside, a neat coffee shop with a handful of tables occupies the right-hand side of the large roastery building.
Alma Coffee specialises in Honduran coffee, much of it from the owners’ family farms. You can buy any of the roastery’s output in retail bags, while Soulmate, a medium-roast washed coffee, is available through a concise espresso-based menu, along with various iced versions. Alma Coffee only serves in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Rumdoodles was recommended by the staff at Caffi Caban, which Amanda and I visited two weekends ago. Located on Llanberis High Street in the heart of Snowdonia, Rumdoodles is a 10-minute drive from Caffi Caban, so we thought we’d check it out.
Rumdoodles, which opened in 2018, is an outdoor shop with an espresso bar inside. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had two cosy (and tiny) seating areas in the front and back, but these are currently off-limits. Until they’re back in action, Rumdoodles is serving in takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Rumdoodles uses the ubiquitous Landmark seasonal blend from Heartland Coffee Roasters, serving a standard espresso-based menu, backed up by a range of cakes. You can sit outside on the solitary bench to drink your coffee or, as Amanda and I did, take the short stroll down to the shores of Llyn Padarn.
Over Under Coffee, the coffee shop, brunch and cocktails chain specialising in tiny coffee shops, branched out south of the Thames when it took over the old CWTCH site at Wandsworth Town Station in 2019. Currently there are five Over Unders, all associated with stations: the original at Earls Court, its near neighbour at West Brompton and the flagship Over Under at Ladbroke Grove, while Wandsworth Town has since been joined south of the river by Clapham Old Town.
Occupying a large kiosk right outside the station on the quiet Old York Road, you might think that the outdoor setting would cramp Over Under’s style. However, neither this nor the lack of space is a problem for Over Under, which manages to fit in a full kitchen, the only compromise being cocktails, which isn’t that surprising since Over Under closes at one o’clock in the afternoon (two at weekends)!
There’s the usual concise espresso-based menu, along with batch brew filter, the coffee, as ever, coming from Assembly. This is backed up with tea and hot chocolate, while the brunch menu offers a range of fillings in either a sourdough or brioche roll, plus banana bread and a selection of pastries.