Fortitude (Original)

The Fortitude Logo proudly proclaiming its status as Espresso & Brew Bar combined with Coffee Merchant.New kids on the block, Edinburgh’s Fortitude had been open all of four weeks when I visited at the end of April. A self-titled espresso & brew bar as well as coffee merchant, Fortitude lives up to the billing. As well as great coffee to drink in from London’s Workshop and regularly-rotating guests (such as Edinburgh’s New Town Coffee), there’s a wide selection of beans for sale, including the likes of London legends Monmouth and Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a wide range of coffee-making kit that you can buy.

Fortitude’s a lovely spot to drink your coffee, with its high ceilings and uncluttered layout. There’s not a huge amount of seating, but it’s well laid-out and very laptop friendly, with free Wifi and power outlets at every table. You’re also assured of a warm welcome from husband and wife team, Matt and Helen.

Initially, I struggled to find Fortitude, since Google Maps had it at the other end of York Place, leading me to walk past it twice, before I paid attention to my surroundings rather than blindly following Google Maps. Fortunately, it’s now in the right place, so you shouldn’t have any problems!

March 2019: I’ve updated my piece on Fortitude. This is the original write-up, published in May 2014. For an up-to-date description, please see the updated post, while you can see what’s changed in my Coffee Spot Update.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Fortitude, up a flight of steps at the WESTERN end of York Place.
  • Various chalk boards proclaim Fortitude's coffee credentials...
  • ... while the A-board makes it clear what Fortitude is all about.
  • Useful information...
  • Stepping inside, Matt, behind his little counter, greets everyone with a cheery hello!
  • A slighty different perspective.
  • Looking the other way towards the front of the store. I loved the high ceilings.
  • The wider perspective...
  • This table by the window is the only place with chairs.
  • Nice display of books on the windowsill.
  • The other seating options are two of these small tables...
  • ... here seen in close up with three surprisingly comfortable stools...
  • ... or the bar on the left-hand wall, with some high stools of its own.
  • The other end of the counter is taken up with the cakes and pastries.
  • Fortitude has an interesting self-service policy: help yourself to jam & butter for the scones.
  • Look what I found!
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot. I did like the bare bulbs in Fortitude
  • More bare bulbs, this time illuminating the massed ranks of coffee beans for sale.
  • More of which are above the counter.
  • Look, Dear Green Coffee followed me all the way from Glasgow!
  • You can take the beans home with you and buy some of this kit to use them with.
  • Or, of course, you can drink in as the menu helpfully explains.
  • All the drinks are made here behind the counter. There's not much space though!
  • So, what to have? I immediately zeroed-in on the guest from Edinburgh's New Town.
  • After discussion with Matt, it was decided to have it with milk, here in a piccolo.
  • I also had this lovely looking Pain au Raisin.
  • While I tucked into that, my piccolo watched Matt, hard at work behind the counter!
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The trick to finding Fortitude is that it’s at the western end of York place, next to the Stand Comedy Club. Once you get there, you’ll find it’s a lovely little spot. Up a flight of stairs from the street, it’s long and thin. The door is on the left-hand side, the store stretching away from you towards to the counter, recessed behind a square opening in the back wall. Immediately to your right, in front of the window, is a round four-person table with chairs. Two small tables project from the right-hand wall, supported by brackets, each with three small stools that are far more comfortable than they look. Completing the seating is a bar on the left-hand wall with four tall plastic stools. You could fit more stools along the bar, except that the far end is taken up with the cakes and pastries, from local bakery/café Lovecrumbs.

The herringbone-patterned wooden parquet floor goes well with the wooden shelving and whitewashed walls and ceiling. The large window at the front provides plenty of light, supplemented by neat, bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

The coffee merchant aspect of Fortitude is in the form of a row of Ikea-like bookshelves on the right-hand wall, holding bags of coffee from London’s Workshop and Monmouth, Scotland represented by Edinburgh’s New Town and Glasgow’s Dear Green. There’s more coffee on the shelving above the counter, with pour-over kit (V60s, Aeropresses, kettles) on the right.

Given its small size, Fortitude packs a lot in. There was a good selection of cakes/pastries plus soup and savoury breads if you want something more substantial. There’s a decent espresso menu (the house-blend is Workshop’s Cult of Done), as well as a filter option through the Kolita wave filter. This was Workshop’s Finca el Agrado, while the guest espresso was an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Peaberry from Edinburgh’s very own roasters, New Town.

Regardless of what I think of Cult of Done, I can easily track it down in London. However, this was the first time I’d seen New Town outside the pages of Caffeine Magazine, so my choice was made. After a chat with Matt, who recommended that I try it with milk, describing it as “very interesting” on its own, I asked for a piccolo (which Matt made despite it not being on the menu). The result was a very interesting and very fine drink; it’s a sweet coffee, the more interesting, fruity notes combining well with the milk to make for an excellent cup. I think without the milk to take the edge off, it would be very far out there indeed (and not to my taste!).

Matt told me that coffee merchant side of Fortitude was slowly taking off. He is starting to get people coming just to buy beans, while customers are also drinking the coffee, then buying the beans to take home. Other than Artisan Roast (which sells its own beans) there doesn’t seem to be anywhere in Edinburgh where there is such a range of beans for sale, although Machina Espresso at the other end of town is a fairly reasonable alternative.

3C YORK PLACE • EDINBURGH • EH1 3EB +44 (0) 131 557 3063
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Fortitude (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Seating Table (with chairs), Table (stools), Bar
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 11:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 28th April 2014
Update: 10th December 2018

Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of Edinburgh’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Edinburgh.

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