Today’s Coffee Spot sees us staying in Shrewsbury with what is simultaneously a new name and a familiar face. The Condor is the new name, spiritual successor to English Bridge Coffee, occupying the same space at the end/start of Wyle Cop, next to the English Bridge. The familiar face is Raúl, who has taken the strengths of what went before (excellent, multi-roaster single-origin coffee and a warm welcome) while adding South American street food to the mix (with more than a nod to his Chilean heritage).
There have been other changes since my first visit almost exactly a year ago. Although the basic layout remains the same, the interior has had a make-over, the counter now forming an L-shape in the back, right-hand corner. This has simultaneously added a new seating area on the left-hand side while also seeming to give Raúl more space behind the counter, which is a neat trick. There have been changes on the coffee side as well. While remaining true to the ideal of being a multi-roaster, serving the best single-origin coffee from around the country, Raúl has added batch-brew filter and V60 pour-overs to the espresso-only menu that I remember from my original visit.
Much has changed in Shrewsbury’s speciality coffee scene since my previous visit almost exactly a year ago, including the closure of The Colonel’s Son and the evolution of The Condor/English Bridge Coffee. Into this mix comes the latest addition, Pont, on Wyle Cop, a lovely little bakery, which opened two months ago, specialising in patisserie.
Pont’s owner, Lauren, can be found in the bakery behind the counter from the small hours of the morning onwards, where she and her team turn out an array of pastries, cakes and a limited selection of loaves and sandwiches. There’s also coffee, from old friends Hundred House Coffee, whose Bon Bon blend and Colombian decaf are available via a concise, espresso-based menu. Although primarily serving the to-go market (so don’t forget to bring your own cup), Pont has an outside table for two in front of the window to the left of the door.
Bean & Cole occupies a simple counter towards the back of the new market, although you’re welcome to take your coffee to any of the market’s extensive seating areas, inside or out. Even better, the friendly baristas will bring your coffee to you and, what’s more, it will be served in a proper cup! Best of all, though, is the choice of beans, with Assembly on espresso, along with a guest roaster in the second hopper, while for filter, there’s a choice of pour-over or batch-brew (both from Square Mile during my visit). Finally, if you’re hungry, Bean & Cole has its usual range of cakes/pastries.
Now that London is no longer on my doorstep, I don’t visit as often as I once did, so when I was passing through two weeks ago, I took the opportunity to head to Spitalfields in East London to catch up with a familiar name in a new setting. Potter & Reid occupies two rooms on the west side of Toynbee Street. You’ll find the counter and a limited amount of seating on the right-hand side, while the bulk of the seating is to the left, along with a bench and tables on the pavement outside.
Although the coffee shop is new, having opened at the start of last year, the names Potter & Reid are familiar to the London coffee scene, the pair having met in the Allpress café around the corner on Redchurch Street in 2010. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find the ubiquitous Allpress blend at the heart of the espresso menu, backed up by a guest roaster on batch-brew filter. There’s a strong retail offering, featuring a pair of guest roasters, and, unusually, there’s also wine/beer on the menu. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there are separate breakfast/lunch menus from chef Eleni Thoma, along with a range of cakes and pastries.
Although no longer a resident, I’m still very interested in Guildford’s speciality coffee scene. I was therefore sad to learn in March that an old favourite, Koja Coffee, had closed after a tumultuous year which saw it move from its original home on Jeffries Passage to New House, a recently-opened space for artists and creatives. However, every cloud has a silver lining and in May I was delighted to learn from Ben Barker that Frida’s Coffee House had opened in Koja’s place. Naturally, I visited the next time I was in Guildford.
If you were familiar with Koja, the set up is very similar, Frida’s occupying a counter inside the lobby to New House. There’s a similar offering too, with the Nom Nom blend from Hundred House along with Perky Blenders’ decaf on espresso, while Hundred House also supplies two single-origins, available as pour-overs through the V60. One change is that Frida’s offers a small range of toasted panini and savoury croissants, plus vegan sausage rolls and the usual selection of cakes/pastries.
For the Good of the People is part of the Real Food Market on Euston Station forecourt, directly opposite the station’s main entrance, an excellent spot for a pre-/post-train coffee (except for Mondays, when it’s closed). The set up is pretty simple, just a stall at the left-hand end of the Real Food Market stalls, serving espresso-based drinks along with a selection of retail bags of coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
For the Good of the People uses its bespoke Canopy blend, its standard espresso-based menu having a commendably simple pricing policy (one price for with milk, another for black). There’s also tea, a range of iced coffees (all at one price) and, for a small supplement, alternative milks. Although there’s no seating at the stall, you can take a seat at any of the approximately 20 picnic-style tables on the forecourt.
CSONS has been a fixture of Shrewsbury’s coffee scene since 2015, when it opened as a coffee shop, serving primarily coffee and cakes. Since then, it’s evolved into a full-service restaurant and has opened a second location down the A49 in Ludlow. CSONS came to my attention through Hundred House Coffee, which provides CSONS’ bespoke house blend, available through a standard, espresso-based menu along with Hundred House’s regular decaf. There’s also tea from Hereford’s Trumpers Tea and a fully-stocked bar with local beers, cider and cocktails.
When it comes to food, CSONS has separate menus for breakfast (to 11:30), lunch (12:00 – 15:00) and dinner (15:00 onwards on Friday/Saturday only). The food is innovative, ranging from breakfast standards through to small plates for lunch/dinner so that you can mix-and-match your way through the menu (large plates are also available if you just want a regular meal!). You’re also welcome to pop in for coffee and cake (available all day).
All of this is served in a lovely space which occupies the ground floor of an old building on Milk Street. The seating is spread across multiple rooms, including a large, sheltered courtyard at the back if you want to sit outside.
Although the setting is very different, Koja occupying a counter inside the entry lobby to New House, there’s the same basic offering, with a house blend on espresso (roasted for Koja by friends in Suffolk) plus single-origins from NewGround on batch brew and pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, Koja has the usual array and cakes and pastries, while fans of the Scandi market which was such a favourite on Jeffries Passage will not be disappointed, since it’s survived the move. The main difference (for now) is that Koja is only serving in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Today’s Coffee Spot is part Saturday Supplement and part Coffee Spot Update. Earlier this year, James Hoffmann went to Milan where he met Enrico Maltoni, who restores vintage espresso machines. One thing led to another, with James buying a 1958 Faema President lever espresso machine, which Enrico restored. Fast forward a few months and the Faema was delivered, in full working order, to London, where James had decided to install it, on a temporary basis, in the legendary Prufrock Coffee, Square Mile’s coffee shop on Leather Lane in Shoreditch.
However, James being James, there was more to it than that. Rather than use a modern blend, like Square Mile’s ubiquitous Red Brick, James and the team at Square Mile developed a limited-edition blend, Il Grifone, specifically designed for the lever espresso machine, with the option of trying it side-by-side with a shot of Red Brick, pulled on the modern Black Eagle espresso machine. All of this was explained in a video that James posted on his YouTube channel two weeks ago. As luck would have it, I was passing through London the following week, so naturally I made my way to Prufrock, my first visit there in many a year.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of retrenchment or consolidation. Not so in Shrewsbury, where its small but vibrant speciality coffee scene has flourished with the opening of both The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters and today’s Coffee Spot, Nomad Coffee Co. Both were on my list before I made my daytrip a week ago today, but in fairness to Nomad, everyone I asked said that I must pay Raúl (the co-owner and head barista) a visit.
Located at the start of Wyle Cop on the western end of the English Bridge, Nomad is small, but around twice the size of The Colonel’s Son (which isn’t saying much!). The counter is at the back, leaving space for a bench/table down the right-hand wall and a five-person window-bar along the front. Nomad is a multi-roaster, serving single-origins on espresso, with two different roasters featuring each fortnight. Although the coffee’s the star turn, I was also entertained by conversations between Raúl and a succession of regulars who’d come as much for a chat as coffee.