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 bar 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.
Sometimes I physically stumble across places, such as Monday’s Coffee Spot, Medicine New Street. More often, the stumbling is virtual, as it was when I spotted Hatch a few weeks ago on Instagram. A relatively new addition to Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene, Hatch is part of Hazel & Haydn, a hairdressers in the Jewellery Quarter. It’s strictly takeaway though, with seating limited to two benches outside on the pavement.
Hatch is well-named since it’s effectively just that, a hatch (or, for the more pedantic, a window) at the far end of Hazel & Haydn. This opens onto the street, allowing Bianca, Hatch’s barista, to serve customers from her single-group La Marzocco G3. Using the Dark Horse blend from nearby Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters, Hatch has an extremely concise espresso-based menu, plus hot chocolate, tea and a very limited range of cakes. Since it’s takeaway only, don’t forget to bring your own cup.
Sharps Coffee Bar, on Windmill Street, is something of a fixture in the London speciality coffee scene, having been around almost as long as the Coffee Spot. For those who don’t know, Sharps is a two-for-one, with a barber shop at the back and a lovely coffee bar at the front. It started life with London coffee legends Dunne & Frankowski, but it was taken in-house in 2014, with some equally famous names, such as Michael Cleland (Assembly) and David Robson (ex-Association Coffee) taking over behind the counter.
Fast forward five years and things have, in some ways, come full circle, with Harry and Alfie of Rag & Bone Coffee taking over the coffee operation at the start of February. Superficially, little has changed, with the layout still essentially the same. This includes the iconic Kees van der Western Spirit espresso machine, clearly visible through the window. However, there are subtle changes, including a new menu board, while the coffee has changed, Rag & Bone bringing in its house-blend from Old Spike Roastery on espresso, with various guests on filter, both batch-brew and pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, there’s a small range of pastries and several toast-based options.
November 2019: I’ve learn, via Phil Wain, that Rag & Bone is no longer at Sharps, the coffee operation having been taken over by Good as Gold.
FUTURO is a relatively new name in speciality coffee, right in the heart of Phoenix. It’s been going for two years, so I’m rather annoyed that while visiting in January last year, I managed to get within half a block of FUTURO, as I strolled along Roosevelt Street searching for (and failing to find) good coffee. FUTURO is housed within PALABRA, a sort of mothership which contains FUTURO (the coffee bar), a gallery, a hairdressers and PASADO, which is a new venture, serving small plates from the kitchen at the back (but not on Sunday, which, of course, is when I visited).
FUTURO is not quite like any coffee shop I’ve visited before, which is a refreshing change from some of the common design elements I see time and time again. There’s minimal seating off to the left and right, as well as sheltered backyard behind the building by the parking lot. The coffee is also very atypical for Phoenix, with a wide selection of single-origins being provided by Heart Coffee Roasters in Portland. There’s a different one on each day, with one option on espresso and another on bulk-brew from a Fetco brewer discreetly tucked away under the counter.
While the history of speciality coffee shops in barbershops is surprisingly short, it has a strong pedigree. Sharps Coffee Bar in London and Brooklyn’s Parlor Coffee (sadly now closed) spring to mind. Now you can add Madison’s Ritual Barbers, serving coffee from local roasters, Kin-Kin, to the list.
A barbershop on one side, coffee bar on the other, Ritual occupies an almost symmetrical space, with a central, recessed door, flanked by massive picture windows. Barbershop and coffee bar get a window each: Ritual (right), coffee bar (left). Inside, the split continues: a row of five barber’s chairs, each with its own mirror, on the right, while a handsome, wooden counter on the left is the aforementioned coffee bar.
The symmetry’s broken at the back. While the barber’s chairs continue, before giving way to sinks, beyond the counter on the left a pair of large windows flank another door. These overlook an enclosed, old-fashioned mall-like area. You can sit at the counter, at a window-bar beyond that, or in one of two comfy chairs in the far corner. Alternatively, a long, back-to-back padded couch runs lengthways down the room’s centre, while there’s even a fitted wooden bench in the front window.
June 2018: I’ve learnt that Ritual Barbers has permanently closed.
Walking along Brooklyn’s Havemeyer Street, on my way from Northerly Coffee to Gimme! Coffee, something caught my eye at the street’s northern end. It looked like an old-fashioned barbershop, but a sign in the window, plus an A-board outside, proclaimed it to be the home of Parlor Coffee. A little bell rang in the back of my mind. Hadn’t my friend, Greg, of CoffeeGuru App fame, told me about somewhere in the back of a barbershop? Intrigued, I headed inside.
Persons of Interest is the name of the barbershop in question and Parlor Coffee is indeed a lovely little coffee shop, tucked away at the back in what may have been an old storeroom. There’s room enough for a one-group Kees van der Westen Speedster espresso machine (plus a single grinder), serving single-origin coffee roasted in-house by Parlor. An unexpected bonus is that your coffee comes in a proper cup!
Sharps Coffee Bar, on London’s Windmill Street, is one of a new breed of coffee shops sharing premises with other businesses. Historically it was bookshops, then bike shops, along with the odd record store and laundrette. And now barbers.
I first visited towards the end of last year but, having heard news of change on the grapevine that is twitter, I popped back a couple of weeks ago. However, for the second Wednesday running, I find myself writing a Coffee Spot Update where the answer to the question, “so what’s changed?” is “not much”.
At least, not yet, and not to the casual visitor. The seating is laid out a little differently from my previous visits, and the coffee menu (although not what’s on offer) has changed. Other than that, the sublime lines of the Kees van der Westen Spirit Triplette are still there, as is the Mahlkönig EK43 grinder. The same variety of coffee is on offer: espresso, batch-brew filter and Aeropress, all with regularly-rotating roasters.
The main change is behind the counter, where David Robson, ex-Association Coffee barista and reigning Scottish Aeropress Champion, has taken over. Or, to use the modern jargon, the coffee will be curated by David.
Sitting on Windmill Street and occupying the front half of a barbers shop, Dunne Frankowski at Sharps represents the latest venture for London coffee legends Rob Dunne and Victor Frankowski, perhaps best known for their London coffee shop, Protein. From the street, the shop’s branding is that of upmarket barbers, Sharps, although the A-board proclaiming “Dunne Frankowski Coffee Bar” is a bit of a giveaway. That, and the extremely good-looking Spirit Triplette from Dutch espresso-machine wizards Kees van der Westen which is plainly visible through the window!
Stepping inside, the focus is very clearly on the coffee, with Dunne Frankowski offering various options, including espresso from the aforementioned Spirit and filter coffee through an Aeropress or a more conventional filter machine. As is the fashion in quite a few speciality coffee shops these days, the beans are regularly rotated, with no particular house blend to fall back on.
As well as coffee, Dunne Frankowski has a limited food and cake menu, again on a guest basis, although in this case the suppliers change less frequently. Since opening a few months ago, food has been from F•A•T, with cakes from Violet, although I’ve been told that these are changing fairly soon.