Not long after I left Boston on my previous trip in 2016, Render Coffee opened its second branch, continuing a recent theme of speciality coffee moving into the heart of downtown Boston. Just around the corner from downtown pioneers, Ogawa Coffee, you’ll find Render Coffee 121, appropriately enough, on 121 Devonshire Street.
The first thing to say is that this is a totally different space from the original Render on Columbus Avenue. It’s inside the CIC office building, serving as an in-house café as well as being open to the public. The space, in comparison to Columbus Avenue, is huge, with high ceilings and a broad frontage onto Devonshire Street. However, both are long and thin, although 121 is probably four to five times as wide as the Columbus Avenue branch, but goes just as far back.
Despite these differences, the coffee is just as good at 121. With offerings from Portland’s Tandem Coffee Roasters and the local Gracenote Coffee, you’ll often find the same coffee at both branches, but each manager has discretion to order what they like, so there may be differences. Unlike Columbus Avenue, there’s no breakfast/lunch menus, but you’ll find a similarly excellent selection of cake.
In the summer of 2016, Joe of Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee, launched a Kickstarter to fund a second coffee shop alongside the legendary basement on Ridley Place. Five months (and one successful Kickstarter) later and Flat Caps found that it had not one, but two new coffee shops. Funny how these things work out…
Initially, Flat Caps took over the old Bunker Coffee & Kitchen which became, after a complete makeover, the second Flat Caps, Flat Caps Carliol Square. Not long after that, Joe was approached by Campus North, the co-working space next door, to see if he would run a coffee operation in Campus North’s public space. Thus the third Flat Caps, Flat Caps Campus North, was born.
Campus North is a very different beast from both the original Flat Caps (Ridley Place) and the new Carliol Square. The coffee offering has been cut right back, with just a single option offered on espresso (no filter here). Added to that is a small selection of cake, while there’s a limited food offering, based on the menu next door. Taking advantage of the kitchen in Carliol Square, the food is prepared there and bought over.
June 2018: Flat Caps no longer provides a coffee service in Campus North, but is still going strong next door at Carliol Square.
When I started working in Sheldon Square, around the back of Paddington Station, in the summer of 2013, there was no decent coffee to be had. Anywhere. Then came Beany Green in 2014, followed by KuPP and Kioskafé in 2015. Then, in the very week my job came to an end, the works canteen was taken over by Baxter Storey, using coffee from Modern Standard. Talk about bad timing!
Since then Can Do Coffee has moved in, but all of these have been east of Sheldon Square. Until, that is, Store Street Espresso moved into the lobby of the office block on 2 Kingdom Street, literally around the corner from my old office. I made one attempt to visit a few weeks ago, but managed to pick the one day Store Street was closed for the installation of a new concrete counter-top. What was it I was saying about timing?
However, last week I was back, ironically in a new job, but working for four days in the basement of my old office. Fortunately we were occasionally let out for good behaviour, so I made the most of my opportunities to pay daily visits to the new Store Street Espresso…
June 2018: Sadly, Store Street Espresso has had to close its Paddington branch.
Roasted Brown is a relatively established player in Dublin’s speciality coffee scene, roasting its own coffee and serving it from a bright, spacious spot on the first floor of the Filmbase building in the heart of Dublin. It’s fairly easy to find once you know it’s there, although, being on the first floor, there’s no street-level presence other than the name on the door.
The space itself is amazing, effectively a light well in the centre of the building, reaching all the way to the top of the third floor, where a glass ceiling thankfully keeps the rain off. There’s plenty of seating, although Roasted Brown has sensibly not tried to pack too much in, retaining the sense of space afforded by the high ceiling and aided by one of the walls being almost entirely glass!
Roasted Brown only roasts single-origins, with one option on espresso and three on filter. These are changed every week or so and are all available through the Kalita Wave filter. There are also cold coffee options. This backed up with an interesting selection of sandwiches and cakes, while if you fancy something else, there’s loose leaf tea or, for the sweet(ish) tooth, hot chocolate.
December 2016: Roasted Brown left the Filmbase Building to concentrate on roasting, where it’s still going strong (I briefly called into the roastery in Delgany on my return to Ireland in 2019). The cafe carried on, taken over by First Draft Coffee & Wine, which subsequently moved to Lennox Road in Portobello, south of the centre, when the Filmbase Building closed in 2018.
The original Mother’s Milk was on Little Portland Street, one of a growing number of speciality coffee shops in Fitzrovia, an area once the sole preserve of Aussie legends, Kaffeine. Mother’s Milk joined the likes of Attendant and since opening, Workshop, Curators Coffee Gallery and several others have moved in. But now Mother’s Milk has moved… all the way to Little Portland Street! That’s right, Mother’s Milk has upped sticks and headed east, all the way across Great Portland Street, shifting from No 12 to the far more excitingly-named No 22-23.
Many of the Mother’s Milk hallmarks remain from the original: Will and James are still behind the counter, while the delightful Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine is still on it, the coffee’s still from Munich’s JB Kaffee and it’s still frustratingly hard to find unless you know where it is!
The original Mother’s Milk at least had windows onto the street, but was confusingly called Rosalind’s Kitchen (which is why I walked past three times one my first visit). The new premises are a great improvement, but are in the back of a communications agency called Exposure, the only real clue to Mother’s Milk being the A-board outside.
January 2016: Bad news. Mother’s Milk has announced its closure with immediate effect.
When I go to Manchester for Cup North, it’s traditional that I start at least one of my days by visiting Grindsmith. Last year it was the original, the Pod on Greengate Square, which I help fund through Grindsmith’s successful Kickstarter campaign. Back then, the staff were talking excitedly about Deansgate, then the home of the Grindsmith Trike and soon to be the second permanent Grindsmith. Disappointingly (for me) it opened shortly after Cup North, so no prizes for guessing where I went on my return this year…
My initial reaction to the Deansgate Grindsmith is its size. A more traditional coffee shop setting than the pod, what it loses in intimacy, it more than makes up for in space, seating, an expanded food offering and gorgeous, brick arches. I know that might not appeal to everyone, but really, brick arches! How cool is that?
The same Grindsmith dedication to quality coffee is still there, though, with a single-origin from Heart & Graft as the house-espresso, plus decaf and a regularly-rotating guest espresso. There’s also a dedicated brew-bar, with Kalita Wave and Syphons on offer, plus bulk-brew filter for those in a hurry, and, of course, loose-leaf tea.
January 2020: Grindsmith has closed its Deansgate location, but there’s a new Grindsmith just up the street and around the corner on Bridge Street.