Medicine was a chance discovery that I made in July when I stumbled on its New Street bakery/café in the heart of Birmingham. In contrast, the original Medicine Kitchen and Bakery is tucked away in Codsall, a small village west of Wolverhampton. A more modest affair than the massive New Street site, it sits in a small parade of shops on Station Road, a five-minute walk from the railway station. If you don’t mind narrow country lanes, it’s also a useful alternative to the motorway services if you are travelling along the M54, a typical diversion adding about 25 minutes to your journey.
The basic offering is the same as New Street, with a bewildering array of cakes, pastries and savouries, all freshly baked on-site, to tempt you. The full breakfast, brunch and lunch menus mix old favourites with more innovative dishes, along with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, while the coffee, served from an espresso-based menu, is from nearby Iron & Fire. Naturally, a wide range of freshly-baked loaves are available. You can either sit at one of three outside tables or inside, where tables and booths line the windows at the front, extending down the left-hand side.
Following Monday’s Coffee Spot, Prestatyn’s Caffeina Coffi, here’s a second North Wales speciality coffee shop which opened in June this year, albeit a little further along the coast at Conwy. The Jester’s Tower Coffee House has several claims to fame, including being run by Conwy’s Town Jester and being housed in a 13th century postern tower, part of Conwy’s town walls. It’s this latter fact that puts it in the select band of speciality coffee shops in medieval postern towers, where it joins York’s Perky Peacock.
The Jester’s Tower Coffee House has the Landmark blend from Llandudno’s Heartland Coffee Roasters on espresso, offering the usual range of drinks, while there’s a seasonal single-origin on filter, currently Heartland’s Brazil Caparao Lot #11. However, there’s a lot more than just coffee, with The Jester’s Tower offering tea, soft drinks, a range of seasonal (summer) drinks, an all-day breakfast menu, sandwiches and bagels at lunchtime (11:30 – 15:00) and plenty of cake.
You can enjoy all of this in the tower itself, either upstairs (with some gorgeous views) or in the basement-like lower floor. There’s also outdoor seating at the tower’s base, tucked away under a flat roof to the left of the stairs.
If you are used to travelling to/through North Wales on the A55 expressway, Prestatyn is one of many places you’ll bypass, probably without even noticing. Despite growing up nearby, it’s not somewhere I have visited very often, even though it’s just one stop further on along the North Wales line from my regular station. However, with the opening of Caffeina Coffi in June this year, I sense that this is going to change. Located on the High Street, a short stroll from both bus and train stations, and with plentiful free parking nearby, there really is no reason not to visit. You can sit outside in the shade of nearby trees, or inside in the minimalist interior.
When it comes to coffee, Caffeina Coffi serves a Peruvian single-origin from Easy José, with a guest espresso from Heartland Coffee Roasters, all the shots pulled on a brand new Victoria Arduino Eagle One (the first, I believe, in North Wales). There are also plans for pour-over in due course, while Caffeina Coffi offers a range of loose leaf tea and a series of iced special drinks. If you’re hungry, there’s a concise brunch menu, backed up by a small selection of (excellent) cakes.
Walsall’s first and (for now) only speciality coffee shop, The Table opened at the start of April. I visited a few weeks later, when COVID-19 precautions were in full swing, restricting The Table to outside seating only. However, like The Old Roastery Coffee Shop in my hometown of Guildford, which I visited around the same time, you had to go inside to order, providing a glimpse of the lovely interior. And, like The Old Roastery, I vowed to return once the indoor seating was open to see what I was missing out on.
Since The Old Roastery is on my doorstep, I didn’t have long to wait, popping in four weeks later for a catch up. However, The Table had to wait a bit longer. My opportunity came on Saturday while driving up to North Wales with Amanda after her early morning arrival at Heathrow. Eschewing the usual crawl on the M6 around Birmingham, we took a detour to Walsall and The Table.
Other than the newly-opened interior, The Table has changed its house espresso (still from Odd Kin Coffee Roasters), added a pour-over option and expanded its food offering, with a simple breakfast menu and a range of sandwiches.
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.
Let me tell you a story. A story about coffee, in fact. Story Coffee started life in 2014 on St John’s Hill, between Clapham Junction and Wandsworth, although very much at the Clapham Junction end. Story Coffee made its name serving awesome brunches and excellent coffee in a fairly small, sunny spot before adding the even smaller, more grab-and-go orientated Story Works to the family in 2018. Then, in early 2020, along came Story Coffee in the Ram Quarter, Wandsworth.
The latest Story Coffee is huge. You could easily fit the first two inside and have plenty of space left over. There’s a neat coffee bar area at the front, a dedicated dining area towards the back, and a large, outdoor seating area out front. The same staples that originally made Story Coffee its name remain: excellent coffee and awesome brunches, but now with wine added to the mix.
There’s the familiar Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine on the counter, with a bespoke house-blend roasted by Modern Standard gracing the hopper of the Mahlkönig grinder. There’s also decaf, plus a single-origin on batch brew (both Modern Standard/Story Coffee), while various guests are available on pour-over via the SP9/Kalita Wave.
The original Java Roastery occupies a pair of units on the west side of Alcester Road, set back from the traffic. There’s plenty of room on the pavement for a large, outdoor seating area, while inside, even accounting for COVID-19 precautions, there’s plenty of seating. Even better is the cosy basement, about half the size of the upstairs, full of tables and sofas. The coffee is all roasted in-house with two seasonal blends and decaf on a standard espresso-based menu, plus there’s batch brew filter. If you’re hungry, Java Roastery has a simple, all-day breakfast menu, grab-and-go sandwiches and plenty of cake.
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.
When contemplating my recent trip to Coventry, the one place that everyone recommended was Bean & Leaf, located in the heart of the city’s pedestrianised shopping centre on Hertford Street. A fairly small spot in an interestingly-shaped space with high ceilings and a quiet, cosy basement (which more than doubles the available seating), Bean & Leaf has plenty of charm. You can also sit outside, where there are a couple of tables and a pair of benches.
Since it opened in 2017, Bean & Leaf has established quite a reputation, serving some excellent coffee from roasters from around the country. There’s a house espresso (currently from Manchester newcomer, Blossom Coffee Roasters) and a guest roaster (currently Bath’s Colonna Coffee), which changes every month, supplying a second option on espresso/batch brew and a single-origin on pour-over.
Although it sees itself as primarily a coffee shop, Bean & Leaf (as the name might suggest) takes its tea just as seriously, with a wide range of loose-leaf tea from Bath’s Teahouse Emporium, served in pots with coloured egg-timers so that you know when your particular brew is done. All of this is backed up by a range of sandwiches and tempting cakes.
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.