Mikki Refur

Detail from the window of Mikki Refur: Kaffi & Vin.Compared to Reykjavik Roasters, the subject of Monday’s Coffee Spot, who have been around since 2008, today’s Coffee Spot, Mikki Refur, is a comparative newcomer, having only opened in November 2020. It’s also quite different from the rest of Reykjavik’s speciality coffee scene, in that it combines wine and coffee (which, to be fair, is pretty common outside of speciality, with Reykjavik offering multiple wine/coffee bars). However, just as it offers some pretty special coffee, Mikki Refur has similar taste in wine, stocking the produce of a select group of small, organic vineyards.

Talking of coffee, the other difference is that Mikki Refur doesn’t roast its own coffee, instead serving a small range of single-origins from local roaster, Kvörn, one of which is available as espresso, with another on batch brew using the ever-reliable Moccamaster. If you’re hungry, there are compact breakfast (to 11:30) and lunch (11:30 to 15:00) menus, with bar snacks and small plates the rest of the way, along with a small selection of croissants and pain au chocolat).

In terms of atmosphere, Mikki Refur is very much a coffee shop until mid-afternoon, after which is slowly transforms into a wine bar until closing.

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Reykjavik Roasters, Brautarholt

Our coffee at Reykjavik Roasters, Brautarholt: an Eitt Sett (one-and-one with the house espresso, served as a single-shot espresso and single-shot cappuccino) in front and a Kalita Wave filter for two at the back.As Bex put it in her Reykjavik Coffee Guide (from 2016) “Reykjavik Roasters will probably be the first port of call for any speciality coffee connoisseur”. So it was for Amanda and I, the intervening five years not having changed that particular pearl of wisdom. These days there are four Reykjavik Roasters, with three in Reykjavik proper, and for once I visited them in order of seniority, although the first one I’m writing up, on Brautarholt, is the second location, which opened in 2016.

Located slightly east of the compact heart of the city, in what feels like a fairly modern part of Reykjavik, Brautarholt is only a 20-minute walk from the centre. It’s on the ground floor of an apartment building, occupying a large, L-shaped spot with plenty of seating, being easily the largest of the three Reykjavik Roasters that we visited. Like all the Reykjavik Roasters, there’s a concise espresso-based menu, daily batch brew and a choice of single-origins on pour-over, with either an AeroPress for one or Kalita Wave for two. There’s tea, hot chocolate, a small range of cakes and pastries, plus equally concise breakfast and lunch options. And bags and bags of coffee for sale!

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Garden Social Coffee House

The front of Garden Social Coffee House on the corner of Catherine and Charlotte Streets, the open door showing no favouritism to either!Today’s Coffee Spot, Garden Social Coffee House, continues the exploration of Chester’s speciality coffee scene and how it’s expanding beyond the historic (and compact) city centre, which started with Monday’s Coffee Spot, Ginger Monkey Number 31. This time we’re northwest of the centre, heading in the direction of Blacon/Sealand, where I stumbled upon Garden Social. tucked away in the dense network of residential streets, lined with tightly-packed terrace houses, between the River Dee and the canal. As the name suggests, Garden Social has an outside seating area at the back, along with some well-spaced seating in the bright and airy interior.

Occupying what was an old-fashioned corner shop, there’s nothing old-fashioned about Garden Social, sporting a brand-new Eagle One espresso machine and its twin Mythos One grinders, serving up a house-blend (Jailbreak) and a regularly-changing single-origin. There’s also a filter option, available through AeroPress, Kalita Wave or Chemex (for two), grinding provided by the ubiquitous EK43, all the coffee coming from Has Bean. This is backed up by a selection of tea, hot chocolate and various iced drinks. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes, plus a concise toast-based breakfast menu, along with a handful of toasties and sandwiches.

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Ginger Monkey Number 31

A lovely flat white, made with the Trio blend from Crosby Coffee and served in a glass on a geometrically patterned saucer at Ginger Monkey in Chester.To its credit, Chester’s rapidly expanding speciality coffee scene isn’t confined to the compact, historic city centre. For example, the pioneering Little Yellow Pig has been out in Hoole since 2014, joined by Short + Stout in 2018. Staying to the east of the centre, we now have Ginger Monkey Number 31, conveniently located at 31 Christleton Road in Boughton, a 20-minute stroll out from the city centre.

Ginger Monkey is a relatively new addition to the area, having relocated from its original home in Saltney (a little further out to the west of the city) in December 2020. It occupies a compact spot on the north side of the road, which means that it catches the sun for most of the day. There are a pair of benches outside on the pavement, along with a window-bar and a handful of tables inside.

The coffee is from Crosby Coffee Roasters, with its Trio blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a rotating guest roaster on batch brew. There’s a selection of tea and hot chocolate, along with various iced versions, but the other big draw is the food, concise breakfast and lunch menus being joined by an all-day brunch menu.

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Gloria and Lil’s

Gloria and Lil's, written in an elaborate cursive script, taken from the sign above the café.Gloria and Lil’s is a (relatively) recent addition to Coventry’s speciality coffee scene, opening in November 2019, which has meant that, for most of the time, it’s been under COVID-19 restrictions. However, this hasn’t stopped it from carving out a loyal, local customer base. Occupying a spacious, modern unit located just south of the ring road and close to the university, there’s a limited amount of indoor seating (thanks to the COVID-19 social distancing requirements) with plenty more tables outside on the quiet street.

Gloria and Lil’s was recommended to me by my local source, Jenny Watts, who praised the food in particular. Since it was a mere two minutes’ walk from my hotel, it became a no-brainer when I was looking for breakfast on my recent visit. Talking of which, there’s a unique, bagel/flatbread-based brunch menu, with everything made to order. This includes the flatbreads which are literally baked as the rest of the meal is being prepared. The bagels are also baked fresh every morning, as are the cakes. The coffee, meanwhile, is from St. Martin’s Coffee Roasters in nearby Leicester, with the Intrepid blend and decaf on espresso and a single-origin on batch brew.

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Espresso Quarter

The sunlit front of Espresso Quarter in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham.Last week, I went on a quick tour of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, starting with Hatch @ Hazel & Haydn. From there, it was on to Espresso Quarter, the latest addition to the Espresso Station family, which includes two station coffee shops (Dorridge and Moor Street), plus Espresso Barn and Espresso Farm.

In a display of impressively bad timing, Espresso Quarter opened in March 2020, just six days before the first round of COVID-19 restrictions came into force. Despite this rocky start, Espresso Quarter has made it through the pandemic thus far, and is now welcoming customers back, with its combination of a simple, tasty food offering and a bespoke seasonal espresso blend from local roasters, Monsoon Estates Coffee Company.

Espresso Quarter is on the northern side of Warstone Lane, between the Brookfields Cemetery and the iconic Chamberlain Clock. Fittingly, it occupies an old jeweller’s shop, complete with the safe still built into the wall, where the stock was kept overnight. It’s a pretty small spot, with a couple of tables outside on the pavement and limited interior seating. The simple all-day brunch menu goes well with the concise espresso-based menu, while there’s also hot chocolate and a range of tea.

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Medicine New Street

A classic decaf flat white served in a classic white cup at Medicine New Street in BirminghamToday’s Coffee Spot was a chance discovery at the end of my visit to Birmingham last week. I was on my way along New Street when an A-board caught my eye. It didn’t even say “speciality coffee”, but there was something about it that piqued my interest, so in I went, ascending a flight of stairs to find a real gem (in more ways than one) hidden in the very centre of Birmingham.

Medicine Bakery is an artisan bakery, café and gallery which grew out of Medicine Bar in Digbeth. After that closed in 2011, the team behind Medicine turned to baking, opening a bakery, deli and café in the village of Codsall in Wolverhampton. This is turn led to the opening of a second Medicine in 2018, which is the one I stumbled upon on New Street, along with a more recent addition not far away in the massive Mailbox shopping centre.

Medicine New Street occupies a glorious, open space (a former art gallery), serving classic breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes, plus masses of cakes and pastries. There’s a standard espresso-based menu with coffee from Iron & Fire, plus a small selection of tea, soft drinks, smoothies, cocktails, craft beers and wine.

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Gray

An espresso, made with Workshop's Snap single-origin espresso, served in a glass at Gray in Leytonstone.Gray is one of those chance discoveries that I delight in. I was on my way from Stratford to Sarah’s Leytonstone and very nearly took the bus. However, at the last minute I decided to walk, and while strolling along the High Road through Leytonstone, I passed a coffee shop that caused me to do a double-take (the A-board actually caught my eye). So I backed up, took a closer look, and then decided to go in.

Gray describes itself as a family-run coffee shop, selling food, furniture and homewares. It instantly reminded me of Curio Espresso and Vintage Design in Kanazawa, although on a smaller scale. There’s a neat front section, where you share the space with the vintage furniture, while at the back is a cosy room with more conventional seating. You can also sit outside where there’s a pair of tables.

Gray serves a concise espresso-based menu using Workshop’s single-origin Snap espresso, plus tea and hot chocolate. If you’re hungry, there is a range of tempting cakes, along with dedicated breakfast and lunch menus, with slightly expanded options at the weekend, including brunch, all cooked in the kitchen behind the counter.

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Lantern Coffee

Lantern Coffee, as seen from the interior courtyard of Little London.On my way through London a couple of weeks ago, I caught up with Bermondsey’s resident coffee blogger, Bex, when we had lunch at WatchHouse’s new Roastery & Café, after which I sought out one of Bex’s more recent finds, Lantern Coffee. Located a five-minute stroll away on the other side of the train tracks, Lantern Coffee is a recent addition to Bermondsey’s growing speciality coffee scene, having opened in April 2021. It’s the in-house coffee shop of Little London, a combination, in equal measure, of offices, artists’ studios and flats, arranged around a triangular courtyard. As well as serving the residents, Lantern Coffee is open to the public, with seating in the spacious interior or outside in the sheltered courtyard.

Lantern Coffee offers a concise espresso-based menu from Workshop, with Square Mile on batch-brew, plus plans for a pour-over option in the near future. There’s also tea, soft drinks and hot chocolate from old friends, Kokoa Collection. If you’re hungry, Lantern Coffee offers a small, savoury lunchtime menu with filled croissants, sausage rolls and three bespoke sandwiches, although there are plans to expand the range. There’s also a selection of pastries from The Bread Station, along with various snacks.

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WatchHouse Roastery & Café

The WatchHouse Roastery & Cafe, in a railway arch just outside London Bridge station.WatchHouse, the Bermondsey coffee powerhouse, has come a long way since it opened its doors in the eponymous WatchHouse on Bermondsey Street back in 2014. These days there are seven WatchHouses, two in close proximity to Bermondsey original, south of the Thames, and another four over the river, including the one-time Brooklyn Coffee (now WatchHouse Spitalfields) and Somerset House (once occupied by Fernandez & Wells).

For many years, WatchHouse used Ozone, but along with its expansion came the decision to roast its own coffee, WatchHouse opening a dedicated roastery and café (the subject of today’s Coffee Spot) in a railway arch on Maltby Street in August 2020. Now all the coffee is roasted here on a re-built 1959 Probat UG22, which you can admire through the glass wall at the back of the café.

WatchHouse’s offering is fairly simple, with a concise espresso-based menu plus batch-brew and pour-over. The latter offers a choice of a single-origin from WatchHouse or a guest roaster, which, during my visit, was from Monogram in Calgary, the options changing every month. This is backed up with a selection of Good & Proper Tea, hot chocolate and, if you’re hungry, a range of cakes and savoury options.

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