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.
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.
The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters opened just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, temporarily closed in September last year, then re-opened following a makeover in May 2022, since when it’s been going from strength to strength. On Meadow Place, a very short walk from Shrewsbury Station, there’s not a lot to The Colonel’s Son, just a small shop with a window-bar at the front, the counter in the middle and the roaster at the back. Oh, and a bench outside, in case the four seats inside are taken.
The Colonel’s Son is run by Patch, who is indeed the son of a Colonel, his father having served with the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. It’s very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of place, with a standard espresso-based menu (served in proper cups, I’m pleased to say) and a choice of a medium or dark roast blend. There’s a wider selection of coffee for sale in retail bags, including some lighter roasted single-origins, roasted fresh each Monday, along with a small range of cakes.
Medicine was a chance discovery that I made in July when I stumbled on its New Street bakery/café in the heart of Birmingham. In contrast, the original Medicine Kitchen and Bakery is tucked away in Codsall, a small village west of Wolverhampton. A more modest affair than the massive New Street site, it sits in a small parade of shops on Station Road, a five-minute walk from the railway station. If you don’t mind narrow country lanes, it’s also a useful alternative to the motorway services if you are travelling along the M54, a typical diversion adding about 25 minutes to your journey.
The basic offering is the same as New Street, with a bewildering array of cakes, pastries and savouries, all freshly baked on-site, to tempt you. The full breakfast, brunch and lunch menus mix old favourites with more innovative dishes, along with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, while the coffee, served from an espresso-based menu, is from nearby Iron & Fire. Naturally, a wide range of freshly-baked loaves are available. You can either sit at one of three outside tables or inside, where tables and booths line the windows at the front, extending down the left-hand side.
Walsall’s first and (for now) only speciality coffee shop, The Table opened at the start of April. I visited a few weeks later, when COVID-19 precautions were in full swing, restricting The Table to outside seating only. However, like The Old Roastery Coffee Shop in my hometown of Guildford, which I visited around the same time, you had to go inside to order, providing a glimpse of the lovely interior. And, like The Old Roastery, I vowed to return once the indoor seating was open to see what I was missing out on.
Since The Old Roastery is on my doorstep, I didn’t have long to wait, popping in four weeks later for a catch up. However, The Table had to wait a bit longer. My opportunity came on Saturday while driving up to North Wales with Amanda after her early morning arrival at Heathrow. Eschewing the usual crawl on the M6 around Birmingham, we took a detour to Walsall and The Table.
Other than the newly-opened interior, The Table has changed its house espresso (still from Odd Kin Coffee Roasters), added a pour-over option and expanded its food offering, with a simple breakfast menu and a range of sandwiches.
The original Java Roastery occupies a pair of units on the west side of Alcester Road, set back from the traffic. There’s plenty of room on the pavement for a large, outdoor seating area, while inside, even accounting for COVID-19 precautions, there’s plenty of seating. Even better is the cosy basement, about half the size of the upstairs, full of tables and sofas. The coffee is all roasted in-house with two seasonal blends and decaf on a standard espresso-based menu, plus there’s batch brew filter. If you’re hungry, Java Roastery has a simple, all-day breakfast menu, grab-and-go sandwiches and plenty of cake.
Saint Kitchen, on the south-eastern edge of St Paul’s Square in the Jewellery Quarter, has long been a part of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene, starting life as Saint Caffé. I first visited in 2014, not long after it had undergone the transformation to Saint Kitchen, with the new owner, Will, a chef, combining Saint Caffé’s already excellent coffee with equally great food. Since then, I’ve visited on several occasions, the latest of which was at the start of July when I popped in to catch up on the latest chapter in Saint Kitchen’s adventures.
After more than five years in charge, Will decided to sell up and move on to pastures new. In November 2019, he passed the reins to the owners of Warwick Street Kitchen in Leamington Spa. In many ways, the new owners operated on the principle that if things weren’t broken, then why fix them? They kept the name and the essential offering of great coffee and great food, although the process of winning over Saint Kitchen’s faithful customer base was somewhat disrupted by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. However, as the COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the customers have come flooding back.
Something rather special is happening at Tilt, Birmingham’s speciality coffee, craft beer and pinball joint. Tilt has been serious about its coffee ever since it opened, but recently Tilt’s owner, Kirk, has taken things to a whole new level. For example, there is a continuous rotation of guest roasters on espresso, with Tilt using coffee from around the world. Right now, Tilt is serving a single-origin from Manhattan Coffee Roasters (from Rotterdam in the Netherlands), which replaced one from Onyx Coffee Lab (from Arkansas in the US). However, the really exciting thing, exciting enough to have this whole Saturday Supplement dedicated to it, is the Frozen Solid Coffee Project.
I was completely unaware of the Frozen Solid Coffee Project when I visited Tilt two weeks ago, only realising that it was there when Kirk pointed it out to me on the menu. Indeed, it’s the sort of thing that you can easily miss if you don’t already know about it. For the uninitiated, the Frozen Solid Coffee Project enables Tilt to offer an extremely wide range of single-origin pour-overs (29 at the time of writing!) from farms/roasters around the world, some of which are extremely rare micro- and nano-lots.
Gloria and Lil’s is a (relatively) recent addition to Coventry’s speciality coffee scene, opening in November 2019, which has meant that, for most of the time, it’s been under COVID-19 restrictions. However, this hasn’t stopped it from carving out a loyal, local customer base. Occupying a spacious, modern unit located just south of the ring road and close to the university, there’s a limited amount of indoor seating (thanks to the COVID-19 social distancing requirements) with plenty more tables outside on the quiet street.
Gloria and Lil’s was recommended to me by my local source, Jenny Watts, who praised the food in particular. Since it was a mere two minutes’ walk from my hotel, it became a no-brainer when I was looking for breakfast on my recent visit. Talking of which, there’s a unique, bagel/flatbread-based brunch menu, with everything made to order. This includes the flatbreads which are literally baked as the rest of the meal is being prepared. The bagels are also baked fresh every morning, as are the cakes. The coffee, meanwhile, is from St. Martin’s Coffee Roasters in nearby Leicester, with the Intrepid blend and decaf on espresso and a single-origin on batch brew.
When contemplating my recent trip to Coventry, the one place that everyone recommended was Bean & Leaf, located in the heart of the city’s pedestrianised shopping centre on Hertford Street. A fairly small spot in an interestingly-shaped space with high ceilings and a quiet, cosy basement (which more than doubles the available seating), Bean & Leaf has plenty of charm. You can also sit outside, where there are a couple of tables and a pair of benches.
Since it opened in 2017, Bean & Leaf has established quite a reputation, serving some excellent coffee from roasters from around the country. There’s a house espresso (currently from Manchester newcomer, Blossom Coffee Roasters) and a guest roaster (currently Bath’s Colonna Coffee), which changes every month, supplying a second option on espresso/batch brew and a single-origin on pour-over.
Although it sees itself as primarily a coffee shop, Bean & Leaf (as the name might suggest) takes its tea just as seriously, with a wide range of loose-leaf tea from Bath’s Teahouse Emporium, served in pots with coloured egg-timers so that you know when your particular brew is done. All of this is backed up by a range of sandwiches and tempting cakes.