Host Café

A lovely flat white made with the Up Hill espresso blend from Mission Coffee Works at Host Cafe in St Mary Aldermary Church, LondonNot that long after the Coffee Spot began, a speciality coffee shop, The Wren, opened inside an old church in the heart of the City of London. I was (and am) extremely fond of it and therefore am rather annoyed with myself that I’ve overlooked another coffee shop in a church, Host Café, which predates The Wren.

That I discovered it was purely by chance. Looking for the newly-opened Rosslyn Coffee last summer, I stumbled across the church, St Mary Aldermary, home to Host Café and just around the corner from Rosslyn. I vowed to return, but such has been my hectic travel schedule that I wasn’t able to keep my promise until just before Christmas.

Whereas the Wren feels like a church given over to a coffee shop, Host Café feels like a coffee shop in the back of the church. It makes for a magnificent setting, putting the church right in the heart of the community. When it comes to the coffee, there’s a blend plus decaf from Mission Coffee Works (another unsung hero of London’s speciality coffee scene), served from a standard espresso menu, along with an Aeropress option, plus sandwiches, soup and a selection of cakes.

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Stir Coffee Brixton

A lovely decaf Brazilian Cortado in a blue espresso cup at Stir Coffee BrixtonStir Coffee Brixton is a relative newcomer to the area, having only opened at the start of the year. I first became aware of it when I ran into one of the owners at Rag & Bone Coffee (he lived across the road at the time) when I was struck by his enthusiasm and dedication. Fast forward six months, and I finally found myself in Brixton for the Volcano Coffee Works/Assembly launch, so I made a point of taking the 15 minute walk south along Brixton Hill (surely the world’s flattest hill) to Stir.

Stir isn’t quite a multi-roaster, but it mixes up its coffee on a regular basis. There’s a house-blend on espresso from Mission Coffee Works, plus a second espresso from Assembly, which is joined by a decaf on the third grinder. There are also two or three choices on filter, through either the Aeropress or V60, while if you ask nicely, there’s also the Chemex, even though it’s not on the menu. All the coffee choices, except the house-blend, change regularly. There’s also loose-leaf tea, beer (bottles or cans) and various soft drinks, plus a small, but excellent range of food, including a decent selection of cake.

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Number 35 Coffee House & Kitchen

Thumbnail - No 35 Coffee House & Kitchen (DSC_6237h)Number 35 Coffee House & Kitchen, appropriately enough at No 35 on Dorchester’s West High Street, is a gem amongst coffee shops. Run by the very wonderful Toby, it is one of that rare breed where the focus is firmly on the bean, following the lead of the likes of Dublin’s 3FE or the closer Full Court Press (Bristol) and Colonna & Small’s (Bath).

However, it’s not just about the coffee, since Number 35 also lives up to the kitchen part of its name, with food at lunchtimes and, on Friday evenings, a full dinner menu. The coffee shop closes at 3 o’clock on Fridays, re-opening at four as the kitchen. There is, of course, cake throughout the day.

It helps that Number 35 is also a lovely setting. There’s a small front room, which feels in part like an old Victorian shop, with its bay window and high ceilings, plus a quiet, cosy back room. This is long, low and has the bulk of the seating, feeling more like a basement (although it is at ground level).

Last, but not least, Number 35 is dog-friendly, and, as if to prove the point, has a friendly dog.

September 2015: I’m delighted that Number 35 was short-listed for this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Coffee Experience.

December 2016: Sadly Number 35 closed at the end of the year. The good news is that Toby, the man behind Number 35, is still pulling shots, this time at Dorchester’s Seventh Seal, a Gentleman’s Barber, Apothecary, Clothier and Espresso Bar.

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