Obscure had only been open for two weeks at that point. While the basic set-up is the same, there have been plenty of changes since my first visit a year ago, some of which pre-date COVID-19. The seating has been upgraded in the front section, while Obscure no longer serves pour-overs, instead concentrating on its concise espresso menu, backed up by batch brew through the Moccamaster. The coffee is still from Climpson and Sons, while the warm, friendly welcome is as warm and friendly as ever.
Sometimes I plan my accommodation with great care, picking places on their proximity to outstanding coffee. On other occasions, I just get lucky, which was the case when I stayed in Canary Wharf for work. I selected the Novotel (technically on the Isle of Dogs, not Canary Wharf) because it was under 10 minutes’ walk from the office and conveniently placed for the likes of Taylor Street Baristas and Notes, which I already knew about and planned on visiting en route to/from the office.
What I hadn’t realised was that Canary Coffee, a speciality coffee shop serving Climpson and Sons, was an integral part of the hotel. This meant I could start my day with some excellent coffee before leaving for the office (and didn’t have to get up 20 minutes early to make it myself) while also rounding my day off with top-notch coffee, particularly since it’s open until 10pm every evening.
However, Canary Coffee isn’t just for hotel guests. Rather, it’s a fully-fledged coffee shop, accessible from the street. A cosy spot, complete with outside terrace, it morphs into a wine bar in the evening (still serving coffee). There’s a selection of cakes, toasted sandwiches and some excellent pizza.
The Beehive, like yesterday’s Saturday Short, Second Shot, is a social enterprise, albeit of a slightly different character. Part of the Bethnal Green Mission Church, it opened in July 2018, occupying part of the ground floor of the same building as the church, at the northern end of Paradise Gardens on the busy Cambridge Heath Road. There’s some outdoor seating in the garden, while inside you have the choice of the busy upstairs or the clean lines of the basement, where you’ll also find The Beehive’s book exchange.
The coffee offering is fairly simple, with The Baron from Climpson and Sons, plus Climpson’s seasonal decaf on espresso, all served from a fairly standard menu. This is joined by a single-origin on batch brew (currently a Rwandan), chosen from Climpson’s seasonal range and changed every few months when Climpson and Sons release its new coffees. There’s also a small selection of tea, plus concise breakfast (until 11:30), lunch (11:30 to 16:00) and toast (until 16:00) menus, each with three or four choices. This is backed up by a wide selection of cake, much of it homemade. For example, one of the cakes I had was made by the pastor’s wife!
Obscure Coffee by name, and, some might say, obscure by nature, although in reality, Obscure Coffee is only a few minutes’ walk from the heart of Chester, near the bottom of Lower Bridge Street, close to the city walls and the River Dee. It’s not even obscure by name, since, as owner Nick recounted, he’d wanted to call it Obscura Coffee, “obscura” being Spanish for “dark”. However, someone misheard him, thought he said “obscure” and the name stuck.
It’s a pretty small spot, with space inside for a handful of tables, while there’s a really cosy back room with four more tables and a pair of armchairs. All the coffee comes from Climpson and Sons, with Climpson’s signature Estate on espresso, joined by regularly-changing single-origins on batch brew through the Moccamaster. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries, plus sausage rolls, but that’s it.
Craving Coffee celebrates its fourth birthday this year, a pioneering outpost of speciality coffee in northeast London, which is not somewhere I venture very often. While Craving Coffee has been on my list for a while, I am indebted (again!) to my friend, Daniel Stevens, who gave me the excuse to visit. A café, bar, community hub and evening social, Craving Coffee is also an art gallery, where different artists exhibit each month. And this month (August), exhibiting for the first time, is Daniel, who held his launch party on Friday, the excuse I finally needed to drag myself out to Tottenham and visit Craving Coffee.
When it comes to coffee, Craving Coffee uses Climpson and Sons, with the Baron blend on espresso, plus decaf and (usually) a single-origin on pour-over through the V60. During the day, there’s an extensive menu, including breakfast, lunch and cake, with all the meals cooked in the open kitchen behind the counter. This closes at 4pm, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, it re-opens in the evening as Craving Coffee hosts a different pop-up each week as the Tottenham Social. Finally, Craving Coffee is fully licenced, with a three-page menu feature beer, cider, wine and spirits.
Lever & Bloom is a coffee cart on the corner of Byng Place in Bloomsbury, London, with the magnificent Church of Christ the King as its backdrop. Come rain or shine, Lever & Bloom is open throughout the year from eight to five, five days a week, serving top-quality espresso, the shots pulled on a lovely lever machine.
Lever & Bloom has been on my radar for a couple of years now, ever since it moved onto its new pitch in fact, but it wasn’t until yesterday, on my way to Euston Station, that I was able to actually stop by and say hello to Mounir, the owner. Serving Climpson and Sons’ Baron on espresso, there’s also decaf, a range of Birchall teas and a small selection of cakes, all made by Mounir’s wife. Needless to say, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
The sister branch to Fix Coffee, a long-standing Shoreditch coffee shop which first opened its doors in 2009, Fix 126 arrived not long after on Curtain Road. Serving a bespoke espresso blend plus a single-origin V60 pour-over (both from Climpson and Sons), Fix 126, like its roaster, flies a little bit under the radar, quietly doing its own thing, while, over the years, more illustrious names have popped up on neighbouring streets.
A bright, airy space, with exposed-brick pillars between the numerous windows and a lovely, wooden floor, it has the “hipster coffee shop look” nailed, except Fix was doing it several years before it was trendy. The layout is simple and uncluttered, with communal tables in the centre, window-bars around two of the four walls and a cosy little nook at the back.
That I made it to Fix 126 at all is down to fellow blogger, Jess, of EastingEast, who invited me to a pre-London Coffee Festival breakfast, a proposition I agreed to with unnecessary haste, before regretting as I dragged myself out of bed on Saturday morning an hour earlier than was strictly necessary. However, all was forgiven when I discovered what a gem Fix 126 is.
Located between Cambridge Heath and London Fields stations on the suburban line out of Liverpool Street, and just a stone’s through from the Climpson and Sons roastery (at Climpson’s Arch), the Climpson and Sons Café on Broadway Market is a lovely little spot. The most sensible approach is from London Fields Station, from where you can head directly across the open, green space that is London Fields, heading south until you hit Broadway Market, a delightful street of local shops, cafes and restaurants, several of which spill out onto the pavements. Trust me, this is a much more picturesque approach than wandering the streets from Cambridge Heath…
Coming from London Fields, you’ll find Climpson and Sons a few doors down on the right. It’s not a huge spot, roughly square in layout, with the counter taking up the back third of the store, the front two-thirds given over to seating. Unsurprisingly serving Climpson and Sons beans on espresso and filter, there’s also a comprehensive range of beans for sale. A decent cake selection is joined by breakfast and lunch menus until three o’clock. Impressively, given how busy it is, Climpson and Sons still manages to serve food at the weekends.
The first and perhaps most difficult task I had was finding Wood Street Coffee. Tucked away in Walthamstow, in north-east London, this little gem of a place is well worth finding, and, thanks to Google Maps pulling its finger out, it’s now a relatively easy task.
As the name suggests, Wood Street Coffee has its origins in Wood Street. Google Maps used to helpfully place it right there in Wood Street Market, just off Wood Street. All was well and good until I actually got there, when I discovered that the market is closed. A boarded-up-don’t-come-in-here kind of closed. That’s when I realised that Google Maps, bless it, had Wood Street Coffee in its original location, although cunningly, with the correct address (39 Orford Road) listed, which is why I didn’t discover the error until I got there. Fortunately Google Maps now has it in the correct location!
A brisk, 20 minute walk later and I found Wood Street Coffee, tucked inside a shared shop on a lovely stretch of Orford Road. With coffee from Climpson and Sons and some splendid home-made cakes, Wood Street Coffee more than made up for the difficulty I had in finding it. Add to that a friendly welcome and quirky interior and you’ve got a winner on your hands!
December 2014: Whatever you do, don’t go to Orford Road! Wood Street Coffee has moved again, this time to a permanent home! It’s still in Walthamstow, but now at Blackhorse Workshop, 1–2 Sutherland Road Path, E17 6BX. You can see what I made of it when I visited in July 2019.
Birdhouse is one of those semi-legendary coffee houses of south London, a part of the capital which is still a bit of a closed book to me, despite my whizzing through it often enough on the train. However, when I knew I was going to be in the area with a few hours to kill, I took the trouble to find out where Birdhouse actually was.
I was surprised to learn how close to Clapham Junction it is; a mere five-minute walk from the southern entrance of the station, heading away from Clapham High Street and up Saint John’s Hill. Then again, I very rarely leave the station, not even changing trains there very often (the last time was to go to Coffee Affair), so perhaps my ignorance shouldn’t be that surprising!
What I’ve been missing is a delightful little place, all decked out in yellow and grey with coffee from Climpson and Sons and tea from Cardiff maestros, Waterloo Tea. There are also bocaditos (no, I didn’t know what one was either; as I discovered, it is Cuban for sandwich) and cake, so ideal for popping out to if you have a long wait for your train.