The Espresso Room, Great Ormond Street

The front of The Espresso Room, its striking green façade comprising of a single glass-paned door, with a window to the left.A legendary name in London speciality coffee circles, The Espresso Room had already achieved this lofty status when I started the Coffee Spot 10 years ago. 2016 brought a change of ownership and expansion, first by bringing the likes of New Row Coffee under The Espresso Room brand, followed by opening new locations. This, however, is the Great Ormond Street original, opposite the famous Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

The Espresso Room is well-named, since there’s not much to it, just a room with enough space to make espresso (and batch brew filter). There’s a bespoke espresso blend from old friends The Roasting Party, with a single-origin on filter, while if you’re hungry, The Espresso Room has a selection of cakes and pastries. If you’re staying, there are three benches outside, but be aware, The Espresso Room only serves in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Dark Woods Coffee x Ruffians

A lovely espresso made with Dark Woods’ Driftwood and served in my Kaffeeform cup at Ruffians on Maiden Lane in London,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 bat 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.

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The Penny Drop, London

A beautiful cortado, served in a glass on a blue saucer, at The Penny Drop.It feels harsh to call The Penny Drop an international chain, but that’s what you get for having two coffee shops, one in Melbourne and the other in London. Melbourne came first, opening as a pop-up in 2015, before finding a permanent home in 2016. A year later, the penny dropped in London, with the opening in June 2017 of a coffee shop on Tottenham Street, just off Tottenham Court Road. Technically this puts The Penny Drop in Fitzrovia, enhancing the area’s already excellent reputation for speciality coffee.

The two Penny Drops are very different, with Melbourne offering a 100-seat restaurant/coffee shop, while The Penny Drop in London occupies a small space which seats 20 at most, and that includes the benches outside. What’s more, it’s a throw-back to the sort of coffee shop that I remember in the capital 10 years ago, but which now seem increasingly rare. With coffee from a rotating cast of roasters, offering two options on espresso, another on batch brew and more on pour-over through the V60, all of which change every week or so, The Penny Drop is a genuine coffee shop, its food offering limited to a small selection of cakes and pastries.

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Tintico, Greek Street

An espresso, made with the guest coffee, the Los Ancestros, a washed coffee with an extended fermentation stage from Guatemala and roasted by 39 Steps Coffee, served in a classic black cup at Tintico on Greek Street.I’ve been meaning to visit Tintico ever since it opened in Finchley in November 2014. Sadly, my trips to London’s northern suburbs are rare, so when Tintico opened a second shop in Soho in May 2019, my chances improved dramatically. However, it wasn’t until last week, when walking to Euston from Waterloo on my way to my Dad’s, that I finally made it.

On Greek Street, in the Soho’s northeastern corner, Tintico’s in an area which used to be a hotbed of London’s speciality coffee scene when I started the Coffee Spot almost 10 years ago. Sadly, many of those pioneers are gone, with Milk Bar the latest casualty. In that respect, Tintico is a fine addition to the neighbourhood, reminding me of those early coffee shops in style and spirit.

A small spot, with a single table outside and a handful more in the compact interior, Tintico offers a seasonal single-origin house espresso from Campbell & Syme (currently the Sonsón Reserve, a washed coffee from Colombia), along with a guest espresso, which doubles as the pour-over option via the Hario Switch. There’s also a tapas-style food menu, plenty of cake, plus beer, wine and a selection of brunch cocktails.

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Knead a Little Love

A flat white, made with the Rocket Espresso blend from Extract, served at Knead a Little Love.I’m concluding my short series on Tooting Bec/South Balham with a chance discovery that I made enroute to Dee Light Bakery. An iconic sign above a coffee shop on Ritherdon Road caught my eye: Foxcroft & Ginger. Readers with long memories may recall the original Foxcroft & Ginger in Soho (now long since gone), one of my early Coffee Spot favourites. Naturally, I hurried to investigate, only to discover that it wasn’t Foxcroft & Ginger after all, Knead a Little Love having sublet the premises almost exactly one year ago in November 2020. So, in a sense, it was a double chance discovery.

Knead a Little Love is a vegan doughnut bakery, run by two sisters, but vegan doughnuts is only the start of it. As well as six different ring doughnuts and 12 filled doughnuts, Knead a Little Love has cookies, tarts and pastries, plus an all day brunch menu, along with a couple of snacks and two lunch options. And that’s before I get started on the coffee, where Extract Coffee Roasters makes a rare London appearance with its Rocket Espresso blend. There’s also a range of tea, plus a selection of fresh smoothies to round things out.

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Communion Coffee

The façade of Communion Coffee, with a large window on the right, the left-hand side split between the door (right) and a much smaller window (left). The yellow branding at the top stands out against the grey paintwork.My tour of Tooting Bec continues with Communion Coffee, on the other side of Tooting Bec station from Green Monkey London. Unlike Green Monkey and Dee Light Bakery, Communion Coffee is a relative newcomer, having opened just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It has a simple offering of quality coffee and baked goods in an equally simple space, with the counter at the back, a window-bar at the front and a large, communal table in the middle.

Turning to the coffee, old friends Assembly are on espresso, while there’s a regularly-changing guest on filter (batch brew or V60/Aeropress/Chemex), plus Good & Proper tea. Communion also stocks a wide range of retail bags. Unusually, the default is for non-dairy milks, although there is a dairy option from Brades Farm (20p extra). If you’re drinking in, Communion uses HuskeeCups, while for takeaway, there’s a 20p discount for bringing your own cup. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a small toast and sandwich menu, plus a range of cakes and pastries, with bread for sale.

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Dee Light Bakery

Looking down the length of the cafe area of Dee Light Bakery towards the bakery at the back.Last week I visited Tooting Bec to explore its speciality coffee scene, so it’s slightly annoying that today’s Coffee Spot, the delightful Dee Light Bakery, is actually in Balham, even though it’s closer to Tooting Bec station than it is to Balham station. Located in a parade of shops with flats above, it’s on the northern side of Ritherdon Road, just off the A24 which links Balham station (north) with Tooting Bec station (south).

Geography woes aside, Dee Light Bakery is very much a part of the neighbourhood and will be celebrating its 10th birthday in November. First and foremost, it’s a bakery, with everything (except the bread) baked by hand on site. There’s a wide range of goodies on offer, from breakfast through to lunch and afternoon tea, plus lots of cakes and pastries on the side. This is all backed up by an espresso-based menu using the Allpress espresso blend, along with a wide range of teas from Canton Tea Co in Bristol. You can sit inside at a short row of tables opposite the counter, or outside, where you’ll find a spacious, sunny terrace in front of the bakery, which is well set back from the road.

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Green Monkey London

The Green Monkey London logo from the menu, showing the silhouette of a green monkey in a tree.Continuing my exploration of those bits of South West London which historically I’ve sped through/past on the train brings us to Tooting Bec, which I visited last week. And where better to start than around the corner from Tooting Bec tube station, where you’ll find today’s Coffee Spot, Green Monkey London? Green Monkey is something of local institution, having opened in 2015, occupying the last in a row of five single-storey units east of the station on the south side of Tooting Bec Road. There are a couple of tables outside on the pavement, with much more seating inside, although if you’re ordering takeaway, there’s a handy to-go window to the right of the door.

Styling itself “coffee and brunch”, Green Monkey lives up to both these tags, serving Nude Coffee Roasters’ East Blend from a standard espresso-based menu, along with a range of loose-leaf tea (served by the pot), various fresh juices and a selection of smoothies. When it comes to food, there’s an extensive breakfast and brunch menu with various vegetarian and vegan options alongside meat-filled classics such as the bacon, sausage and fried egg brioche bun, all backed up with a selection of cakes and pastries.

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The Eclectic Collection

A classic flat white with some lovely latte art, served in a classic black cup at The Eclectic Collection.Earlsfield is blessed when it comes to speciality coffee shops. Last week I wrote about Bean & Hop and, while some places would be satisfied with that, it’s not enough for Earlsfield which has today’s Coffee Spot, The Eclectic Collection, literally across the road. Opening in March 2018 with the aim of providing something different from the typical speciality coffee shop, The Eclectic Collection was initially just a café. However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 saw the front part of The Eclectic Collection morph into a high quality delicatessen, something which has proved so popular that it’s here to stay.

These days, The Eclectic Collection is a delicatessen, a coffee shop serving an all-day brunch menu and, for two nights a week (Thursday, Friday), a restaurant with a blind menu. Serving coffee from Berlin’s The Barn certainly helps it stand out from the crowd, but perhaps the most notable thing about The Eclectic Collection are the multiple seating areas at the back, decorated in perhaps the most eclectic fashion that I’ve ever seen in a coffee shop, with colourful wallpaper, various statues, chairs which stubbornly refuse to match each other and a whole lot more besides!

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Saucer & Cup

A double shot of espresso in a classic, oversized blue cup, served at Saucer & Cup.Saucer & Cup is one of those places which has been on my radar since it opened in 2014. However, I’ve never quite been in the right place at the right time for a visit (or, possibly, never made the time/place…). Until last week, that is, when I was in Earlsfield, a mere 20-minute walk away. It was too good an opportunity to miss!

Saucer & Cup is on the other side of Wimbledon Park from the famous All England Law Tennis and Croquet Club, located on Arthur Road, just down the hill from Wimbledon Park tube station on the District Line. From the street, it’s a fairly modest space, but inside, it goes quite a way back, plus there’s a spacious basement.

The focus is on the coffee, which Saucer & Cup backs up with a concise and innovative brunch menu, all the food being prepared in the kitchen, which shares downstairs with the basement seating. Saucer & Cup only offers single-origins, with a seasonal house espresso from Workshop, plus a regularly changing guest espresso (currently Tim Wendelboe). There’s also batch brew filter and, depending on the time of day/how busy things are, you can always ask (nicely) about pour-over.

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