After finally managed to visit Durham’s Flat White after many years of trying, I found myself in the City of London last week, walking past another stalwart of Britain’s speciality coffee scene, Alchemy. A roastery (based in Wimbledon) with a single coffee shop in the narrow lanes south and west of St Paul’s Cathedral, Alchemy just pre-dates the Coffee Spot. It’s another of those places that I’ve been aware of for as long as I’ve been doing the Coffee Spot, having wandered past on several occasions, thinking that I must go in. Sadly, the timing has never been right. So when I wandered past last Thursday, in I went.
The Alchemy Café occupies a bright, square space on the corner of Ludgate Broadway and Carter Lane. It’s an area that is now well-served by speciality coffee shops, but Alchemy’s one of the stalwarts, having first opened its doors in 2013. As nice as the space is, the real draw is the coffee, with two options on espresso, plus a single-origin on pour-over and another on batch-brew. There’s also cold brew, various teas plus a selection of cake and savouries, while Alchemy’s complete range of beans is available in retail bags.
The Speciality Coffee Shop is one of a new crop of Nottingham coffee shops which sprang up this summer, having opened a mere two months before my visit in August. Occupying a corner spot at the western end of Friar Lane in the heart of the city, the Speciality Coffee Shop does what it says on the tin, except it doesn’t actually say it on the tin, the name appearing nowhere on the shop’s considerable façade.
Inside, the layout’s a masterpiece of simplicity, with the sun-drenched front home to some very comfortable-looking armchairs and a sofa. The counter is on the right, a row of tables mirroring it to the left, while at the back, two comfy chairs round things off. The whole place breathes an atmosphere of relaxed, uncluttered calm.
The brainchild of Italian couple, Michelangelo and Lucy, The Speciality Coffee Shop serves espresso-based drinks and a variety of filter options, with coffee from London’s Alchemy joined by occasional guests from around the country. There’s food in the shape of breakfast and lunch menus, with everything prepared in the kitchen in the basement, all of which is joined by a small but select range of cakes, all made by Lucy’s Grandmother.
CRAFT London is a new project by chef Stevie Parle and designer Tom Dixon. As the name suggests, it’s focused on the craft of making things. Located on the Greenwich Peninsular, a stone’s throw from both the O2 and North Greenwich tube station, it will ultimately be a café, restaurant and bar.
I visited it on Friday, five days after the café, occupying the ground floor, had opened, having been alerted to it by Robbie Calvert, who is café manager, head barista and (ultimately) roaster, all rolled into one. I had previously run into Robbie at Edinburgh’s Artisan Roast, where he’d impressed me with his passion (and his coffee).
I’d heard that he’d come down to London, so I was keen to find out what he was up to. As luck would have it, I was already going to the O2 that evening for a Caro Emerald concert, so snuck in just before closing time to catch up with Robbie and his new venture.
I have to say that I was impressed. Although CRAFT London had only been open for five days, it seemed to me to be a pretty decent operation with lots of exciting things in the pipeline!