Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying from Iceland

My British Airways A320 on the stand at Heathrow T5 having brought me back from Iceland.Welcome to the second instalment of this Travel Spot covering my trip to Iceland in July 2021, my first outside the UK since March 2020. I’d flown to Iceland with British Airways on Thursday, July 22nd, arriving early in the morning and returned on the corresponding flight on Saturday morning, nine days later. This Travel Spot is all about that return flight, along with all the added complications caused by the COVID-1 9 pandemic. For more details about what Amanda and I got up to in Iceland, and the Coffee Spots we visited, check out the dedicated Travel Spot page for the trip (which will be along in due course!).

Flying to/from Iceland takes just under three hours, one of British Airways’ longer short haul flights. Being short haul, the plane flies out from Heathrow, lands, restocks, then turns around for the flight back to Heathrow. When I flew out, I arrived in Iceland at 09:45, the corresponding flight leaving an hour later at 10:45. Sadly, the Saturday flight is 40 minutes earlier, the outbound flight landing at 09:10, with the return flight leaving at 10:10, which meant an even earlier start! However, before I could even get to the airport, I had various pre-flight activities to complete.

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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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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to Iceland

My British Airways Airbus A321neo on the stand at Reykjavik's Keflavik airport on a grey, rainy day in July.Welcome to the first Travel Spot since March 2020 where I’m writing about a trip I’ve just taken rather than something from my (extensive) backlog. I’m currently in Reykjavik in Iceland, having flown from Heathrow with British Airways. If you’re wondering why Iceland, the explanation is fairly simple: Amanda lives in America, while I live in the UK. With the odd exception, Americans can’t come to the UK and British people can’t fly to America. However, we can both go to Iceland, and, having not seen each other since I left Atlanta during that March 2020 trip, it was too good of an opportunity to miss! Plus, we have both always wanted to visit Iceland, which really made it a no-brainer.

Although I flew in Euro Traveller (economy to you and me), I am aware that I am in a very privileged position when it comes to flying. I still have all my status with British Airways, carefully built up over the three years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, when I flew around the world for work. In my case, this means that I have access to the First Class lounge at Heathrow, which makes the whole airport experience immeasurably better.

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The Miners Coffee and Characters, Slavíkova

The sign from outside The Miners Coffee & Characters in Prague.Today’s Coffee Spot takes us back to last summer and Prague, when I visited The Miners Coffee and Characters (to give it its full name) in Vinohrady. The first of a planned series of coffee shops, it was very new when I visited in June last year, having only been open for three months. In contrast to everywhere else I’d visited that weekend, Miners had an ultra-modern, Scandinavian feel to it, with clean, open lines, pale woods and white walls.

It also had the latest equipment, its brand-new Mark II Slayer espresso machine matched with a pair of Victoria Arduino Mythos 1 grinders. For all the high-tech espresso equipment, pour-over is still done by hand (albeit with an uber boiler, backed up with a couple of temperature-controlled kettles). The coffee is from the UK’s Colonna Coffee, although Miners has plans to roast its own, to be used in conjunction with Colonna. There are three options on espresso, including decaf, and three more on pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes, a choice of three toasted sandwiches (one vegan) and three standard weekend brunch options (two vegetarian: French toast and scrambled eggs; and one vegan: avocado toast).

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Reference Coffee

My espresso, a Colombian single-origin from Carlos Alberto Ulchur, roasted by Colonna Coffee and served in a classic white cup at Reference Coffee in Dublin.Today’s Saturday Short, Reference Coffee, is the second half of my Dublin double-header, which began with Monday’s Coffee Spot, Meet Me in the Morning. The two share common ownership, occupying adjacent terrace houses on Dublin’s southside. Although physically linked, Reference Coffee operates as a standalone coffee bar, as well as making all the coffee for Meet Me in the Morning. Aside from three small tables on the pavement outside, it’s standing-room, so if you want a seat, you’re better off heading next door.

Reference Coffee is a multi-roaster with a pair of single-origins (one for black drinks, one for milk-based) and decaf on espresso, all from Colonna Coffee. The filter coffee comes from a guest roaster, with different options on batch brew and pour-over. There’s a selection of cake and a small range of savouries to go with your coffee, but if you want something more substantial, head next door.

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Meet Me in the Morning

Meet Me in the Morning, written in capitals on the whitewashed upstairs wall next to the window.Since I’m really late in posting today’s Coffee Spot, Meet Me in the Morning will form the first part of a Dublin double-header. It’s a coffee shop which, like many in the Irish capital, has made its reputation combining excellent food with speciality coffee. The second part of the double-header, Reference Coffee, has the same ownership as Meet Me in the Morning and makes all its coffee, but is a standalone coffee bar in its own right.

Together, Meet Me in the Morning (middle) and Reference Coffee (right) occupy two of three houses in a short terrace on the north side of Pleasants Street in Dublin’s southside. Meet Me in the Morning is spread over two compact floors, with a short row of tables outside in front of the solitary window. It offers full table service, with separate breakfast and lunch menus during the week and a combined brunch menu at the weekends, all cooked on-site using a range of Irish suppliers.

The coffee, meanwhile, is made next door in Reference Coffee, but delivered to your table, with a choice of espresso-based drinks or several filter options. For more on the coffee, please see Reference Coffee, which has its own Coffee Spot post.

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Dos Mundos Coffee Roastery

A flat white, made with a San Rafael from Honduras, one of two daily single-origins on espresso at Dos Mundos in Prague. Served in a glass, it's presented on a wooden tray with a glass of water on the side.Monday’s Coffee Spot takes us back to last summer in Prague, when I found so many great coffee shops that I’m still writing about them! Today is the turn of Dos Mondus, another well-established player, which has had a coffee shop/roastery in Vinohrady, east of the centre, since 2013, with a second café opening across the river in Holešovice in 2017.

Typically, I visit places in reverse order, but this time I got it the right way around, trying the original coffee shop/roastery on Korunní first. Occupying a pair of adjoining rooms, the seating is all on the right, while the left-hand side holds both the counter and the roastery, with the roaster, a lovely-looking 6kg Giesen, taking pride of place in the window.

All the coffee is roasted on-site on Mondays and Thursdays, with two options on espresso and one on batch brew. The specific options change daily, drawn from a seasonal selection of up to 10 single-origins from around the world (Dos Mundos had seven single-origins on offer during my visit), all of which are available through V60, Aeropress or Chemex. Naturally, all the beans are available to buy as well, along with a selection of coffee-making kit.

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Brother Hubbard South

An excellent flat white, made with the Farmhand house-blend, and served in a classic blue cup at Brother Hubbard South.My first trip to Dublin, back in 2014, saw me visit Brother Hubbard, a comparatively small spot with a reputation for excellent food as well as really good coffee, located just to the north of the River Liffey. Now, six years on, it’s expanded out of all recognition, maybe quadrupling in size, adding, amongst other things, a restaurant and an on-site roastery, Farmhand. Along the way, it rebranded itself Brother Hubbard North to distinguish itself from the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Brother Hubbard South, which, appropriately enough, is (some way) south of the Liffey.

Brother Hubbard South is spread over two rooms, with a large, covered outside seating terrace. The first room contains the counter, which is only of interest if you are ordering takeaway, while the second room has more seating. Brother Hubbard South follows in the footsteps of the original Brother Hubbard, combining excellent food and really good coffee, which it serves from a breakfast menu (until 11am), an all-day brunch menu and a lunch menu (from 12pm). There’s also an expanded weekend brunch menu, while the Farmhand house-blend is on espresso, with a single-origin on batch brew, joined by a range of other drinks, including prosecco.

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Coffee and Riot

A washed Colombian espresso from Rebel Bean, served in a classic white cup at Coffee and Riot in Prague.I’m still missing the warm, winter sun of Arizona, so today’s Coffee Spot takes us back to last summer and Prague, when Amanda and I visited Coffee and Riot, a lovely little place in the backstreets of the Nové Město (New Town). Occupying two small rooms on the ground floor of a tall, old building, it’s combines the traditional Central European café/bar with speciality coffee.

That means that was well as serving coffee from Rebel Bean (on espresso) and guests (on filter), there’s a wide range of alcohol, including beer, cider, wine, cocktails and gin, served late into the evening (10 o’clock each night except Sundays). There’s also a selection of food, including toast, cakes, quiche and a range of sandwiches.

Coffee and Riot uses Rebel Bean as its house roaster, with a single option on espresso, which changes every few weeks. This is joined by a guest roaster on filter, which can come from anywhere in Europe, although when we were there, it was The Naughty Dog from nearby Jilove u Prahy. There’s a choice of V60 or Aeropress, with the beans all available in retail bags, the roaster changing when Coffee and Riots gets through its current stock.

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