Somewhere everyone had been telling me to go in York was Stanley & Ramona, slightly off the beaten track on Bishopthorpe Road, outside the city walls and a whole 15-minute walk from the city centre. Stanley & Ramona’s run by a lovely couple, disappointingly called Lee and Lucy, although they do redeem themselves by having alliterative names, which always gets bonus points.
Stanley & Ramona is a small spot, where the outside seating (four two-person tables) outnumbers the inside seating (benches along the window and by the counter). This makes for a very cosy atmosphere where you are somewhat obliged to talk with Lee & Lucy. Fortunately they are excellent company, although they did spend most of my visit insulting the other customers.
Somewhere along the line there is coffee, from Cornwall’s Origin on espresso and from various guests on filter through the Chemex. There’s also a decent breakfast/lunch menu.
Kiosk: Project Space is an interesting little spot on York’s Fossgate. A little way down from old hands Spring Espresso, it’s right next to the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, so much so that when I first visited, I did a double-take, fearing that I had come to the wrong place before spotting it, tucked in to the right. Run by the wonderful Russ and Rebecca, who get bonus points for name alliteration, it is a hybrid: part gallery, part coffee shop and part kitchen, but 100% amazing.
The art/gallery comes in the shape of ceramics, textiles, fine art, jewellery and a whole lot more, all of which adorns the walls and shelves on both sides of Kiosk. While everything is for sale, it also acts as decoration, turning Kiosk into a wonderfully eclectic spot. The food appears from a tiny kitchen at the back, where impressive all-day breakfast and lunch options are turned out using a seasonal menu. The coffee, meanwhile, is from the wizards at Dark Woods, with a single-origin on espresso and another on filter through V60, Aeropress or Chemex (for two). The coffee is bought in 8 kg amounts and when it’s gone, another takes its place.
Brew & Brownie, on York’s Museum Street, is just over the river from the original Perky Peacock. It had just celebrated its first birthday when I visited York last summer. Unfortunately, I was there on a Monday, and Monday is the one day that it’s closed, so I missed out. This year, I made sure I went back on Sunday, partly because the coffee comes from Cumbria’s Carvetii, one of my favourite roasters, and partly because several people had independently raved about the American-style pancakes, and regular readers know what I think about pancakes!
As well as pancakes, Brew & Brownie offers comprehensive breakfast and lunch menus, plus sandwiches. Breakfast is served until 11.30, at which point lunch takes over until the end of the day. I arrived at 11.50, but fortunately, the aforementioned pancakes are available as a brunch option throughout the day. There’s also an extensive range of cakes, which, unsurprisingly, features a wide variety of brownies. Throughout, though, the emphasis is on locally-sourced, high-quality, seasonal produce.
As well as Carvetii’s house-blend espresso, Brew & Brownie offers an Aeropress option, with loose-leaf tea from Merseyside’s Brew Tea Co, plus hot chocolate and a range of soft drinks.
Coffee Culture in York is an independent coffee shop, not to be confused with any other coffee shops called Coffee Culture anywhere else in the UK (or the world for that matter). In city full of great coffee shops (Spring Espresso; Perky Peacock, Gillygate; Harlequin) in some fantastic settings (The Attic; Perky Peacock, Lendal) you need to be something special in order to stand out. Fortunately, Coffee Culture occupies perhaps the most unique space I’ve seen for a coffee shop. Split over three floors of (what feels like) a very old building on York’s Goodramgate, connected by a narrow, windy and rather wonky set of staircases, Coffee Culture is a delight. Unless you sit downstairs, be prepared for lots of steep stairs to climb!
Coffee Culture gets its coffee from local roaster, York Coffee Emporium with a house-blend and two guests. During my visit they were a Peru Tinku (Fairtrade and Organic) & Australian Skybury Limited Edition. All three are available as espresso drinks or as a cafetiere for one or two. There is a limited range of cake, but an impressive food menu for somewhere so small, all of which is cooked in the tiny kitchen behind the counter.
There’s a first time for everything. The Attic, or to give it its full name, the Attic Gallery Coffee Bar, occupies the floor above Monday’s Coffee Spot, Harlequin Coffee and Tea House, making this the first time that I’ve done two Coffee Spots in the same building. The churlish might argue that since they’re owned by the same person, the lovely Gordon (who doubles as head barista), and even share a website, they’re actually one Coffee Spot, spread over two floors.
I beg to differ: Harlequin and The Attic are very different places and cater to very different customers. Both serve Has Bean coffee, but that’s where the similarity ends. While Harlequin is a speciality coffee shop masquerading as a traditional tearoom, The Attic employs no such subterfuge. In fact, I’d go as far as to describe it as coffee-geek paradise. Serving excellent food. And craft beer (and now gin & tonic too).
If you’re not really a coffee geek and are just looking for superb coffee in relaxing surroundings, then The Attic, with its comfortable sofas and lovely atmosphere, ticks those boxes too. However, just make sure you come on the right days: it’s only open Thursday to Saturday!
York is a city very close to my heart. I went to university there and have always had a soft spot for its tea rooms and coffee houses. Gentle, delicate and refined, they are wonderful places in many ways. In fact, some of my favourite spots are tea rooms. They’re just not necessarily places where you’d expect find top-notch coffee. Enter Harlequin, to challenge all your (my?) preconceptions and to bring speciality coffee to the good folks of York by stealth.
At first sight, everything about Harlequin is reassuring to the average tea room visitor (and slightly off-putting to the dedicated hunter of speciality coffee). The carefully arranged tables, the neat, white tablecloths, the net curtains at the windows and the gentle chink of tea pots. Even the coffee comes in cafetieres (although there is an espresso machine).
However, having lulled them into a false sense of security, Harlequin goes for the kill. All the coffee is from Has Bean, not exactly the choice of the average, run-of-the-mill coffee house. There’s also hot chocolate from those purveyors of fine, chocolaty goodness, Kokoa Collection.
And yet is still looks just like your typical tea room. Genius, I tell you, pure genius.
Back in June 2014, I made a long overdue visit to York, and, true to Coffee Spot fashion, I started with the second of the two Perky Peacocks (the one on Gillygate). It therefore struck me that I really shouldn’t leave York without visiting the original on Lendal Bridge. So, on Monday morning, on my way to the station, I called in.
Set in a medieval postern tower on the railway side of the bridge, it is perhaps the best setting for a coffee shop that I have come across in a long while. In fairness to York, though, there is another, Gatehouse Coffee, which I’ve yet to visit. This one’s set in Walmgate Bar, one of the many gates in the city walls.
Like London’s Attendant (the coffee shop inside a Victorian gents toilet), there’s always a danger that the location ends up doing the talking, in which case it becomes a gimmick. In this instance a coffee shop inside a 14th century tower is pretty cool in anyone’s book. Fortunately for those of us who like our coffee, just as with Attendant, the coffee at the Perky Peacock is every bit as outstanding as the location!
York is part of the not-very-well-known Yorkshire Coffee Triangle, along with Harrogate (home of the inestimable Bean & Bud) and Leeds (which featured in my latest article for Caffeine Magazine). This lack of recognition is a shame, since the area contains one of the greatest concentrations of high-quality coffee shops outside of London. Spring Espresso, on York’s Fossgate, is right up there with the best of them.
Like the other mainstays of York’s independent coffee scene, The Perky Peacock and Harlequin/The Attic, Spring Espresso is very much a home-grown talent. Opening in the autumn of 2011 (although with roots going back to 2006), Spring Espresso is the creation of the lovely Steve and Tracey, both of whom I was fortune enough to meet when I visited one Sunday morning.
There are two main reasons for visiting Spring Espresso: the excellent coffee from London’s Square Mile and the warm welcome you get from Tracey and Steve. The food’s not bad either (okay, so that’s three). And the cakes are excellent (four). And I’ve been told the tea’s very good too (five). I think I’ll stop now…
You get the picture…
December 2016: There are now two Spring Espressos, with the second opening on Lendal. Expect a write-up in 2017, just as soon as I get back to York!
It seems unfair to call The Perky Peacock a chain, but by strict Coffee Spot definitions, two counts as a chain, so a (local) chain it is, both branches being found in the fine city of York. The first Perky Peacock is located in a medieval tower by Lendal Bridge, while the second, which opened in October 2012, is just outside the city walls on Gillygate. In typical Coffee Spot tradition, I visited the two Perky Peacocks in reverse order of opening, calling first on the second Perky Peacock one sunny Saturday afternoon in June.
Although bearing the same name, the two Perky Peacocks (named after owner Nicola Peacock) are very much their own places. Gillygate focuses more on food, with an impressive brunch offering, which is served until 3 o’clock each afternoon. Naturally, I arrived at 3.15. Silly me. Although the coffee offering is more extensive at the original Perky Peacock (Lendal), Gillygate’s none too shabby on that front, with Essex’s Modern Standard providing the beans, which change on an as-and-when basis and frequently differ from those on offer at Lendal.
This being Yorkshire, there’s Yorkshire Tea, plus loose-leaf tea from Joe’s Tea, along with sandwiches, melts and cake.
September 2016: The Perky Peacock on Gillygate is no more, but never fear, there’s still good coffee to be found at No. 74, the operation being taken over by Rae & Webb, serving Origin coffee. Expect an update as soon as I get back to York.