Le Cafe Alain Ducasse, Coal Drops Yard

The signature espresso at Le Cafe Alain Ducasse in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, served in a double-walled glass cup and a small square of chocolate.Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is part of the new Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, a few minutes’ walk north of the station. Alain Ducasse, a French chef who, over the years, has had 21 Michelin stars to his name, hit the headlines earlier this year with a £15 cup of Yemeni coffee, which had the likes of The Guardian and the Financial Times weighing in on the subject. High time, I thought, that I popped along to see what all the fuss is about.

Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is a rarity in London, a coffee shop which just sells coffee, whether it be by the cup or by the bag (all the coffee is available for sale in retail bags). It is also, by London standards, expensive, although, £15 cups of coffee notwithstanding, not outrageously so. My espresso, for example, cost £2.50. What you get for your money, other than some very fine coffee, is the whole experience. While you can just order a coffee to go, you would, in my opinion, be missing out if you did. Rather, you should linger, enjoying both the coffee and the company, either of your fellow customers or of the staff.

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Long & Short Coffee, Walthamstow

Part of the amazing mural on the wall of Long & Short Coffee in Walthamstow, showing a bird's head.Long & Short Coffee was a chance discovery during my Saturday afternoon spent revisiting Walthamstow at the end of last month. A coffee shop/roaster, I knew the name from the original on Brick Lane, but unaware of the second branch in Walthamstow until the staff at Wood St Coffee mentioned it. Even then, I had no idea where it was since, at three weeks old, it wasn’t even on Google Maps (now, thankfully, resolved). However, when I saw it as I passed by on the No. 158 bus, I seized my opportunity.

Long & Short is part of Crate, Saint James Street’s answer to the Box Park, occupying an end unit which is, appropriately, long and thin. There are three two-person tables inside, with Long & Short having access to the communal seating on the terrace at the front of Crate. The offering is pretty simple too, with a house and guest espresso, plus filter options on batch-brew and pour-over, backed up by a selection of tea and a small range of cakes and pastries.

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Espresso Station, Moor Street Station

A classic espresso, made with the Monsoon Estates' seasonal blend, and served in a classic cup at the Espresso Station in Moor Street Station, Birmingham.The Espresso Station has been around for a while, since I can remember it from the early days of the Coffee Spot. These days it’s grown to a sizeable operation, providing coffee around the West Midlands. There are to two outlets in stations (Dorridge and Moor Street), two in sports clubs (Aston Villa FC and Worcester Warriors Rugby) and two coffee shops (the Espresso Barn and Espresso Farm). Maybe one day we’ll see the Espresso Station at Edgbaston (hint, hint).

Today’s Coffee Spot is a two-for-the-price-of-one, with the Espresso Station at Birmingham’s Moor Street, where there’s a lovely station café on the main concourse and a smaller, mainly takeaway operation behind the ticket barriers by the platforms. Both serve a standard espresso-based menu using a seasonal espresso blend from nearby Monsoon Estates Coffee Company, along with limited breakfast and lunch menus, plus a selection of cakes, pastries and sandwiches.

Obviously, the café, with a small amount of indoor seating, plus some “outdoor” tables, sheltered under the soaring glass roof of the station concourse, is the more accessible of the two, since you don’t need to buy a train ticket to visit it, so that’s the focus of today’s Coffee Spot.

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Dudley’s

Dudley's in Walthamstow, with its door on the corner, open and welcoming you in.It really is a small world. Three weeks ago, I finally returned to Walthamstow to visit Wood St Coffee. Along the way, I popped in to see Froth & Rind, which, it turns out, is on Orford Road, next door to Wood St’s previous location. And then there’s the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Dudley’s, who I visited at the recommendation of Wood St’s baristas. And where is Dudley’s? On Wood Street, of course, just a little way down from Wood Street Market, the original home of Wood St Coffee. A small world indeed.

Dudley’s only opened in March, but has already established itself as a firm neighbourhood favourite and it’s easy to see why. There’s a friendly welcome from the staff, plus plenty of seating, including a cosy second room. The coffee is from old friends, Assembly, with its seasonal espresso joined by a single-origin on batch brew through the Moccamaster, all served from a concise coffee menu. Dudley’s also has an interesting brunch menu, which is served until 3pm, with everything prepared in the open kitchen behind the counter. Finally, if you want something sweet, a selection of pastries, muffins and banana bread is available all day long.

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Coffee Addict

Coffee Addict on Vauxhall Bridge Road, occupying the site of the original Costa Coffee, which opened in 1978 (Coffee Addict, in contrast, opened in 2019)Once upon a time, there wasn’t much good coffee around Victoria station, particularly in the stretch between it and Westminster, where the Flat Cap Coffee Barrow stood alone for many years. Then came the likes of Iris & June and Rag & Bone Coffee and things started looking up. More recently, the Nova development brought Timmy Green, Crosstown Doughnuts and Notes. And now, if that wasn’t enough, there’s another crop of newcomers right next to the station itself, including Press Coffee, Hermanos and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Coffee Addict.

There’s not a great deal to Coffee Addict, with just enough room for a couple of tables outside and not much more inside. The main draw is the coffee, from old friends The Roasting Party, the Drake blend on espresso, backed up by batch brew and a small but tempting breakfast/sandwich menu, plus copious amounts of cakes and pastries.

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Ngopi

A Kopi Tubruk, a traditional Indonesian coffee, where hot water is poured directly on ground coffee, stirred and then left to stand, made with a naturally-processed Kerinci Kayu Aro from Ngopi in Birmingham.I came across Ngopi, which opened on 9th July last year, at this year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival. Birmingham is already blessed with some outstanding coffee shops and roasters, but what makes Ngopi stand out from the crowd is that it deals exclusively in coffee from Indonesia. What’s more, all the coffee is roasted on-site in a small 1 kg roaster that sits proudly in the window. The shop itself is lovely, a simple, bright, uncluttered space which is the perfect place to showcase the coffee.

Talking of which, Ngopi, which only roasts single-origins, typically has six different beans in stock at any one time, all of which are available to buy in retail bags. One of these is on espresso, the specific bean changing roughly once a week, plus Ngopi has three different options on pour-over through the V60. This is all backed up by a range of traditional Indonesian coffee drinks, most of which involved condensed milk or ice (and often both) and use their own specific bean.

If you are hungry, there’s an all-day menu, featuring breakfast, lunch and sweet items from Indonesia. If you want something more western, there’s a selection of cakes from old friends, Cakesmiths.

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Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Paddington Central

What’s The Story?, a washed Ethiopian single-origin espresso from Wegida in Yirgacheffe, served in a glass at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs Paddington Central branch.I feel that today’s Coffee Spot should be marked by fireworks or something. The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs has a long, distinguished history, opening its first branch on London’s Leather Lane in 2010. Since then it’s gone on to start roasting its own coffee and now has multiple branches in London (14 and counting), Manchester and Bristol, plus several in Chicago. It’s also acquired other operators such as TAP and Tradewind Espresso.

But here’s the thing. While I’ve always loved the coffee, I’ve never loved any of the actual coffee shops (and, believe me, I’ve tried many of them!). Until last week that is, when I walked into the new branch on Kingdom Street in Paddington Central. Quite why this one clicked with me when so many haven’t, I can’t say, but I knew as soon as I walked in the door. It helped that it was across the road from the office I was working in all last week, making me a daily visitor, but it’s that good, I’d go out of my way to visit.

There’s a blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, with two single-origins on batch brew, plus a wide range of cakes and savouries.

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Upstairs at The Pilgrm

Some lovely latte art in my flat white upstairs at the Pilgrm, made with Workshop's Los Naranjos single-origin Colombian espresso.The Pilgrm is a small, boutique hotel almost directly opposite the front of Paddington station which just happens to have a speciality coffee counter in the lobby downstairs, run by Workshop. If that’s all there was to it, it would be pretty awesome, but there’s more. The Pilgrm also has an upstairs lounge and terrace, which, while catering primarily to hotel guests, is also open to the public, serving breakfast, lunch and, in the afternoon/evening, a range of small plates and drinks. And then there’s the coffee…

While the coffee counter works as a standalone operation, you can take your coffee and sit upstairs, or, alternative, sit upstairs, where there’s full table service, and order your coffee there, the barista bringing it up to you. Having spent most of my week in the Paddington area popping into Workshop for either an espresso or a flat white, usually on my way to the office, I decided I had to try the lounge, popping by on Friday afternoon for coffee and returning on Saturday morning for breakfast.

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Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm

The Workshop Coffee logo from the front of the counter at The Pilgrm.The Pilgrm is a small, boutique hotel in an old townhouse on London Street, almost directly opposite the front of Paddington station. In itself, it makes for quite an attractive hotel, but the icing on the cake is that in August last year, Workshop took over the coffee operation, installing itself behind the counter in the simple, well-appointed lobby, which is effectively a small (and beautiful) coffee shop. The coffee offering is equally simple, well-appointed and beautiful, with a concise espresso menu (with decaf getting equal billing with a single-origin option) backed up with another single-origin on batch-brew, both changing roughly once a week.

If coffee’s not your thing, there’s a small selection of tea and Pump Street hot chocolate, while if you’re hungry, Workshop has a small selection of cake, but nothing else. That said, The Pilgrm has a first-floor public lounge and terrace which serves a full brunch menu until 3pm each day, with snacks served thereafter. You can take your coffee up upstairs if you like, although it’s not very clear if you just wander in off the street. Alternatively, just take a seat upstairs and order your coffee there, which is just what I did at the weekend.

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Toki

My pour-over at Toki, a Kenya Mwendia AA from Bonanza, served in a carafe with a cup on the side, all presented on a small tray.Toki, which opened in August 2015, is just a 10-minute walk northwest of Amsterdam’s Central Station. Despite being close to the centre, it felt to me more like a residential area and definitely not a tourist destination. A large, bright, open coffee shop, Toki’s made up of several smaller, interconnected rooms, the layout reminding me of Edinburgh’s Brew Lab (subject of yesterday’s Coffee Spot Update).

The coffee’s from Bonanza in Berlin, with a seasonal blend and single-origin on espresso and, typically, three single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. These change every month or so, depending on what Bonanza sends through (during my visit the choices were from Kenya, Indonesia and Ethiopia). The single-origin espresso changes more frequently, typically once a week, sometimes twice.

If coffee doesn’t take your fancy, there’s a wide range of loose-leaf teas, plus cold drinks and a fridge full of beer. Meanwhile, if you are hungry, there’s cake every day, while the kitchen, serving brunch, is open from 08:00 – 16:00, Wednesday to Friday, and from 09:00 – 16:00 at the weekends. Note that Toki is cashless, so don’t forget to bring a card!

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