Open Grounds Café Update

An espresso in a classic blue cup at Open Grounds CafeOpen Grounds Café was one of the surprising number of speciality coffee shops which sprung up in Guildford during the COVID-19 pandemic. I visited not long after it first opened in December last year, during that brief period when sit-in customers were allowed in the run-up to Christmas. Then came further COVID-19 restrictions and Open Grounds switched to a takeaway operation.

I returned in April after the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions allowed coffee shops to serve customers at outdoor seating, something that Open Grounds, with its large terrace, was ideally placed to take advantage of. You still had to go inside to order, taking you through the equally large interior, which was off-limits until the COVID-19 restrictions were further relaxed in mid-May, allowing indoor service to restart. Giving Open Grounds a couple of weeks to settle in, I returned at the start of June to reacquaint myself with the wonderfully spacious interior.

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Bruin Café (COVID-19)

James, a barista at Bruin Café in Wheatley, making a V60 of the Trés Barras from Origin.Today’s Saturday Short will do little to dispel Thinking Bean’s suspicion that all I do is drive along the M40, looking for coffee shops, since it is another gem that I discovered on my drive to North Wales exactly one week ago today. The place in question, Bruin Café, is in Wheatley, less than 10 minutes’ drive from Junctions 8/8A on the M40.

Physically, there’s not a lot to Bruin Café. It’s small enough to make it impractical for the owner, Louis, to reopen the indoor seating while social distancing restrictions remain in place. Instead, Louis and his colleagues serve from a converted hatch in the door. However, being small is no limit to Bruin Café’s ambition and it has an output that would put many larger coffee shops to shame.

The coffee is from Cornwall’s Origin and, at the other end of the scale, the Cotswolds’ Quintessential Coffee Roasters. I counted at least 10 single-origins across the two roasters during my visit, and while Louis will happily suggest something for you, all the coffees are available as pour-overs (plus espresso and that day’s batch brew). There’s also tea, a full hot food menu and plenty of cakes, all baked onsite.

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FLTR Coffee (COVID-19)

The FLTR Coffee logo at the back of FLTR Coffee in Bicester.In my on-going search for alternatives to the motorway services, my eyes alighted on FLTR Coffee during my drive to North Wales last Saturday. Located in Langford Village, on the southeastern outskirts of Bicester, it’s conveniently less than 10 minutes’ drive from J9 of the M40 to the south, under 15 minutes from J10 to the north and, if you’re coming by public transport, a short (15 minutes) walk from Bicester Village Station. Part of a small parade of shops in an outdoor shopping centre, there’s ample free parking.

FLTR Coffee, which is owned by a church called Journey Communities, was made possible by donations from various charitable organisations, churches, neighbours and friends. When it comes to coffee, the house roaster is Dark Woods Coffee, so you know that you’re in excellent hands. During my visit, Dark Woods was on the concise espresso menu, while both options on pour-over (V60) were from Dark Woods too. Meanwhile, local roaster, Oxford’s NewGround, is on decaf, with FLTR Coffee offering a selection of tea and hot chocolate as well. If you are hungry, there are toast and toasted teacakes for breakfast, plus a range of toasties and cakes to tempt you.

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Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar (COVID-19)

My flat white, made with the Jabbajaws blend at Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar, served in a classic blue cup and enjoyed inside for the first time in 2021!Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar has been on my radar for many years, but it’s one of those places that’s not too easy for me to get to without a car. However, last weekend I found myself with a car and in need of somewhere to stop for breakfast on my drive along the M40. Suddenly, Coopers became a very attractive option.

Occupying an old garage in a small industrial area at the eastern end of Marlow, Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar is exactly what the name suggests, with the coffee roasters sitting at the back of a large, open space, while the coffee bar is on the left. However, it’s also a lot more than that, since you can add kitchen (in a separate room at the back), lounge (plenty of seating) and dog-friendly to the list.

Turning to coffee, Coopers offers its house blend, Jabbajaws, decaf and a featured coffee (currently a Brazilian single-origin) on espresso or filter as V60, AeroPress or Chemex (for two). There’s also Tregothnan Tea from Cornwall and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate, plus a concise brunch menu, backed up by a selection of cakes, all of which can be enjoyed sitting inside or out.

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Coffee Station (COVID-19)

A classic flat white, made with Ozone's Empire Blend and served in a classic cup at Coffee Station in Hammersmith.Today’s Coffee Spot was a chance discovery during last week’s Coffee Spot of tour Chiswick. Having been lured over the border into Hammersmith by my friend Adele’s recommendation of Coffee Notes, I was actually on my way there when I walked past Coffee Station and thought “that looks interesting”. So in I went and the rest, as they say, is history.

Coffee Station occupies a modest spot on the south side of King Street in Hammersmith, with a small outside seating area, but the true delight is inside, where the look and feel reminded me of Curio Espresso and Vintage Design in Kanazawa. I visited while Coffee Station was restricted to outside seating only, so was denied the best part of the shop, the large, bright seating area at the back, where the furniture (handmade by the owner) sits under a large skylight with a living wall as a backdrop.

The coffee is from Ozone, the Empire Blend being served from a standard espresso menu, along with a selection of Suki Tea. There are also various smoothies and freshly squeezed juice, while if you’re hungry, there’s a small but classic brunch menu, various salads and a range of cakes.

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Electric Coffee Co., Goldhawk Road (COVID-19)

A flat white in my HuskeeCup at Electric Coffee Co. on Goldhawk RoadBack in the day, before I’d started the Coffee Spot, Ealing’s Electric Coffee Co. was one of a handful of speciality coffee shops in London. Fast forward 10+ years, and it’s fair to say that it’s now one of a handful of speciality coffee shops in Ealing, such has been the growth of the London scene. And that’s not the only thing that’s been growing. Since opening in 2008, Electric Coffee Co. has expanded its original coffee shop, started its own roasting operation, opened a second location (in St John’s Wood) and now there’s a third, on Goldhawk Road.

When I visited last week, seating was limited to the four outside tables, but as of this morning, the interior seating should be open, including the multi-roomed basement and the sunny room at the back. There are also plans for a small, outdoor terrace accessed through the basement. The coffee offering is fairly simple, with a concise espresso-based menu featuring the Rocket 88 blend. This is backed up by a range of toasted sandwiches and other savouries, plus cakes. Retail bags of coffee are for sale, where they’re joined, unusually, by a small range of Italian groceries.

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The Coffee Traveller (COVID-19)

A classic espresso in a classic black cup, served at The Coffee Traveller in Chiswick.Having started my coffee tour of Chiswick at Chief Coffee, I then inadvertently spent the rest of it in Hammersmith, so I thought it best that my final stop should be The Coffee Traveller, a lovely spot by the Thames and very much in Chiswick. Located on Thames Road, a quiet street in a residential area, it’s in a row of eight terrace houses with shops on the ground floor and has a lovely, quirky interior which, come Monday, you’ll be able to sit in again. Until then, you have to sit outside, where you’ll find a pair of old school desks on the pavement, under the shade of an awning. Best of all, however, is the secret garden at the back, a wonderfully relaxing spot, the perfect place to end a long day spent visiting coffee shops.

The coffee is from old friends, Caravan, the Daily Blend served from a standard espresso menu, along with tea, hot chocolate and smoothies, plus craft beer and wine by the glass or bottle. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, the kitchen at the back offers the like of pancakes and omelettes to go with filled croissants, bagels, rolls and sandwiches, plus lots of cake.

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Chief Coffee (COVID-19)

The front window of Chief Coffee celebrating the opening of the Japanese games arcade on the top floor. These days there’s plenty of good coffee to be had in the neighbourhood, but when Chief Coffee opened in Chiswick back in 2015, it was something of a pioneer, joining the nearby Artisan in bringing speciality coffee to this part of West London. As well as the coffee, however, Chief Coffee also made its name with its pinball lounge, something which makes it stand out from the crowd to this day (the only other speciality coffee and pinball place I am aware of is Birmingham’s Tilt).

As I write, Chief Coffee is restricted to just its outdoor seating, which, in the sheltered Turnham Green Terrace Mews, is a delight. However, as of Monday next week (17th May) it will be re-opening both the first-floor seating area and the ground floor pinball lounge. And, even better, there’s a new Japanese arcade games room on the top floor that will be opening for the very first time!

The coffee is unchanged throughout, with Allpress’s signature blend on espresso, plus a regularly changing pair of contrasting single-origins from Workshop on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. This is backed up by a small selection of tea, plus sandwiches, savouries and cakes if you’re hungry.

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Open Grounds Café (COVID-19)

My brie and cranberry sandwich, along with my flat white, sitting in the sun on the patio at Open Grounds Café.I first heard of Open Grounds Café, another new addition to Guildford’s speciality coffee scene, in November last year, when Jonathon of Canopy Coffee tipped me off about a new coffee shop opening in the Baptist Church on Millmead, down by the river. I duly popped down in December, during that brief period when sit-in customers were allowed in the run-up to Christmas, but I didn’t have time to write it up. Then came further COVID-19 restrictions and Open Grounds switched to a takeaway operation.

However, at the start of April, the COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, allowing coffee shops to serve customers at outdoor seating. This was something that Open Grounds, with a large terrace in front of the church, was ideally placed to take advantage of. I made a brief visit (on my way to a wedding) and then returned last week for a more in-depth look.

Open Grounds is very much a lunchtime coffee shop, opening from 10:00 to 14:00, with a standard espresso-based menu built around a single-origin Brazilian from Ethicaladdictions, plus decaf and batch brew filter. There’s tea, soft drinks, soup, a small selection of sandwiches and curry puffs, plus a range of cakes, scones and pastries.

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The Green Wood Café (COVID-19)

The front of The Green Wood Café, with a large sign saying "Please Wait Here".The Green Wood Café is in Coalbrookedale, a narrow, steep-sided valley which leads south into the famous Ironbridge Gorge a few hundred metres west of the famous bridge. Located in the Green Wood Centre, it’s nestled between the road and the disused railway line. The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on The Green Wood Café, which has only recently reopened, having been shut over the winter. Like many places, it has had to reinvent itself, but the good news is that it’s done a fantastic job, with excellent, well thought out systems and lots of lovely outdoor seating, including tables in the adjacent orchard.

For now, everything is served in compostable, single use containers, with a full, all-day brunch menu, including street food and toasted sandwiches, backed up by the range of cakes. Everything is vegetarian, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. When it comes to the coffee, which uses the café’s own bespoke blend, oat milk is offered as standard, with dairy and soya milk as options. There’s also a wide range of tea and alternative drinks such as chai, beetroot, matcha and turmeric lattes (all of which have iced versions), backed up with smoothies and soft drinks.

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