Artigiano Espresso, Reading

The letter A in a circle, mounted on a exposed brick wall. The circle is wrapped in fairy lights.Artigiano is a chain that seems to be slowly colonising the west and southwest, anywhere, in fact, served by the old Great Western Railway out of Paddington. Starting with the original at St Paul’s in London (admittedly not served by any railway out of Paddington), there are now three more branches: Exeter, Cardiff and now this one in Reading, occupying a prime spot on Broad Street, right in the heart of the town.

Of all the Artigianos, this might be the most elegant, which is saying something since Artigiano prides itself on the elegance of its branches. It’s also the only one (so far) with an upstairs (although the now-defunct New Oxford Street branch in London and the equally defunct Queen Street branch in Cardiff both had a mezzanine levels) where the elegance is really taken to a new level with its sumptuous sofas and lounge area at the back.

Artigiano offers the same tried-and-trusted formula: speciality coffee by day (a bespoke house-blend and a seasonal single-origin on espresso) with craft beer and wine by night, Artigiano staying open late into the evening. A limited food offering is available throughout the day, backed up by a small range of cake.

November 2018: Artigiano Reading has now become Broad Street Bar and Kitchen. Thanks to Keith for the heads up.

November 2019: Broad Street Bar and Kitchen has now closed.

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Origin at the British Library

The words "ORigiN coffee roasters" in illuminated white on a black backgroundIn the foyer of the British Library on Euston Road, on the right of the doors, opposite the gift shop and next to the Friends of the British Library desk, you’ll find the second London outpost of Cornwall’s Origin. Although calling itself an espresso bar, it’s considerably more than this, and while not quite reaching the heights of the output of Origin’s flagship on Charlotte Road, it’s nonetheless very impressive.

From a small counter in the corner, Origin manages to deliver its seasonal Pathfinder espresso, as well as decaf, plus, (hopefully) by the time you read this, a single-origin espresso too. During the week there’s another single-origin filter on bulk-brew, while at weekends, it’s available through the Aeropress. For those not interested in coffee, there’s a wide range of Canton Tea.

And, on top of all that, well-stocked retail shelves have bags of beans and coffee kit for sale. There’s also food, both sweet and savoury. The sweet comes in the form of cookies, plus Crosstown Doughnuts, while for the savoury, Origin eschews the usual format of sandwiches in favour of a sausage roll for the meat-eaters and a Homity Pie for the vegetarians, which makes a welcome change.

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The Cow & Co Cafe

The Cow & Co Cafe logo taken from the front of the menu.The Cow & Co Cafe started life in Liverpool as a design store in 2009. Over time, an espresso machine found its way into the store and, before long, customers were coming in as much for the coffee as for the various gifts and products on the shelves. Slowly, the design shop morphed into what you see today, the Cow & Co Cafe, a speciality coffee shop, with Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters on espresso and, for somewhere so small, an impressive food and cake selection.

It still retains its roots as a design store though, with a large set of retail shelves, while there’s also a rack of art, design and lifestyle magazines. Think of a smaller version of Manchester’s Fig + Sparrow crossed with London’s Kioskafé. The coffee offering and magazines are more on a par with Kioskafé, while the food and design elements are more in keeping with Fig + Sparrow.

Although it’s only small, Cow & Co packs a lot in, including a lovely mezzanine level, which more than doubles the seating capacity. There’s also a couple of tables outside on the pavement, the dead-end Cleveland Square being a pleasant-enough environment if you want to sit outside.

February 2019: Cow & Co is now called Thoughtfully Cafe, but as far as I can tell, nothing else has changed.

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Origin, Charlotte Road

A glass Kalita Wave Filter sitting on a glass Kalita carafe which itself is on a pair of black Acaia scales. The ground coffee has been put in the filter paper, ready for brewing.Once upon a time, it was quite hard to get Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters in London, with Selfridges being your best option, along with Artigiano Espresso. These days there’s also the likes of Jika Jika on Euston Square and now, there’s Origin’s own café on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch (where else?). This is very much a flagship café, designed to showcase Origin’s considerable range of coffee, particularly the single-origins. It also doubles as Origin’s London training base, with a large training room in the basement below.

It’s not a huge space and it’s remarkably uncluttered, leaving the focus firmly on the coffee, something which is reinforced by reversing the normal order of things on the counter. A typical coffee shop puts the cake/food first so that customers will file past it on their way to order, hopefully tempting them as they go.

At Origin, the cake is tucked away at the far end of the counter and the prime spot, clearly visible through the window, is the filter bar. Here pour-over coffee is prepared in full view of anyone who wants to sit and watch, as well as anyone wandering past on the street outside. Now that’s a statement!

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Jika Jika, Euston Square

A flat white in the sun, seen from directly above, at Jika Jika on Euston Square.Jika Jika started life in Bath about five years ago. It’s recently moved premises there, downsizing to a smaller outlet by the station. About a year ago it also opened a second branch. In London. As you do.

Close enough to Euston station to be worth visiting if you’re en route to catch a train, it’s just around the corner from the northern exit of Euston Square tube station (turn right, away from Euston itself, and ignore the branch of Costa). It’s somewhere I kept going past, thinking, “Is that the same Jika Jika as in Bath?” and “I must go in there one day”. So, eventually, I did. Twice.

There’s not a lot to Jika Jika, which occupies a corner of the Euston Square hotel (which, ironically, also houses the aforementioned Costa). However, it packs a lot in, including decent breakfast and lunch offerings. There’s a solid espresso menu, based around a bespoke espresso blend (plus decaf) from Cornwall’s Origin, using a two-group La Marzocco which dominates the counter at the back of the small space. If you have time to linger, the décor is interesting, including plenty of pictures and amusing coffee-related quotations.

January 2017: Jika Jika is now closed. As far as I know, the branch in Bath has also closed.

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Society Café, The Corridor

The mural on the wall of the basement in Society Cafe, The Corridor, in Bath, showing flowers growing in a coffee cup, with a small animal peaking its head out.On Bath’s High Street, close to the Cathedral/ Baths, opposite the Guildhall and with High Street chains Caffé Nero to one side, Starbucks to the other, it’s an unlikely, but welcome, location for an independent speciality coffee shop. This prime spot, at the eastern end of The Corridor, Bath’s Georgian shopping arcade, is home to the second of Bath’s two Society Cafés. A wonderful location, it’s probably the loveliest setting of all the Coffee Spots that I’ve visited in Bath.

I visited twice, first in 2014, and again five years later in 2019. Originally, Society used locals, Round Hill Roastery, as the house coffee, with a pair of single-origins, one on espresso, the other on filter, with a guest roaster also supplying a pair of single-origins for espresso/filter. However, in 2017, Society switched to Origin, again with a guest option (often Round Hill), with one filter made using theAeropress, the other on batch brew (replacing the original second option, the Clever Dripper).

If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s always a selection of loose-leaf tea and hot chocolate from old friends Kokoa Collection, as well as Willie’s Cacao. Add to that sandwiches and a great selection of cakes and you’re spoilt for choice!

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Artigiano Espresso, St Paul’s

The Artigiano Espresso Logo, a capital A in gold on a slate-grey circle, with the words "Eat & Drink * Work & Play * Coffee & Food * Wine & Beer" written around the edge.In typical Coffee Spot fashion, I have visited the branches of Artigiano Espresso in reverse order, starting with the most recently opened in Exeter, at the start of this year, before moving onto the (now sadly closed) branch on New Oxford Street a month later. It then took me the rest of the year to get around to visiting the original Artigiano Espresso, located directly north of St Paul’s Cathedral on Paternoster Square in the heart of the City of London. And just in time too, since there’s another Artigiano opening in Reading on Wednesday!

If you’ve been to either of the other Artigiano Espressos, the original will look very familiar. It’s the smallest of the three, even taking into account that it’s split over two floors, with a lovely, cosy basement. Very much a coffee bar during the day, catering to city workers, it turns into a wine bar in the evening, and a very successful one at that if the Friday night I went past was anything to go by (it was heaving!). I turned up the following Saturday morning for breakfast: again, timing was on my side, since Artigiano has only recently started opening at weekends.

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Coffee Kabin

The counter at the Coffee Kabin, cakes to the left, coffee straight ahead.Just to the south of Huddersfield’s bustling town centre and directly opposite Huddersfield University campus, is the Coffee Kabin, perched on the busy Queensgate, which serves as part of Huddersfield’s ring road. The name Coffee Kabin is, on the one hand, a bit of a misnomer, “cabin” conjuring in my mind a small spot akin to Manchester’s Caffeine & Co or, even more appropriately, Grindsmith.

Instead it’s a surprisingly big place, with a spacious upstairs seating area and a cosy downstairs, where seating shares space with the counter. On the other hand, “cabin” fits perfectly, bringing to mind an image of wooden floors and bare, stone walls, a look which the Coffee Kabin pulls off so well. And, to be fair, who said cabins have to be small?

On espresso, the house-blend is from local roasters Grumpy Mule, just down the road in Holmfirth, while there are guests on espresso and filter. To counter-balance Grumpy Mule’s proximity, the guests rotate regularly between London’s Workshop, Cornwall’s Origin and Berlin’s The Barn. There’s also a decent selection of loose-leaf tea, an array of cakes and (all-day) breakfast and lunch menus, plus award-winning hot chocolate from Kokoa Collection.

November 2017: these days, the Coffee Kabin goes by the name “Epicure Bar and Kitchen”. Simon is still at the helm, and still turning out superb coffee, but the focus is (even more) on the excellent food. Expect a full update as soon as I can get back to Huddersfield!

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Artigiano Espresso, New Oxford Street

Artigiano Espresso on New Oxford Street, LondonIronically I seem to be visiting the various Artigiano Espresso branches in reverse order of opening. First I went to the Exeter branch (opened just before Christmas). Then, three weeks later, I was in London’s New Oxford Street, where Artigiano opened about a month before it did in Exeter. All that’s left for me now is to visit the original branch at St Paul’s. Which has been open a year or more…

Regular readers will know that I really liked the Exeter branch and I have to say that I like the New Oxford Road branch even better! It’s very similar to Exeter, only more so, with the added bonus of a really lovely mezzanine level. Overall it’s about half the size, which, coupled with the layout, gives it a more intimate feel.

It has the same Artigiano offerings of food, cake, coffee (from Cornwall’s Origin), beer/wine/cocktails, friendly staff and late evening opening which make the chain as a whole such a winner. Add to that the wonderful surroundings and the only thing that puzzles me is why it’s not packed out every day. So, do yourself a favour and get down to New Oxford Street right now!

December 2014: Sadly, too few of us made it down to New Oxford Street (myself included) and Artigiano Espresso has now closed. However, there’s a new Artigiano in Reading if you’re interested.

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The Press Room, Surbiton

An excellent double-shot Cortado from The Press RoomSurbiton’s The Press Room is the sort of place every town should have. Serving Has Bean coffee (we’ll get to that later) as part of an extremely comprehensive range of espresso-based drinks (I counted 12, not including Chai Latte and Hot Chocolate, both of which were on the menu under “Coffee”) and boasting 21 Terrific Teas (the menu neglects to say how many mediocre teas are served, but I suspect that the number is zero), the Press Room has something for everyone. If coffee and tea aren’t your thing then there are almost as many cold drinks, as well as wine, champagne and speciality beer. And cake. And toasted sandwiches.

Add to that, the Press Room is a lovely space to sit and consume these things. It’s a friendly, lively place, bright and spacious, with some very accommodating, happy staff. There’s a bar by the fully-retractable front windows, tables outside (on an admittedly busy/noisy street) and a generous provision of tables inside. The background music is unobtrusive and, in keeping with the name, there’s a supply of magazines that you can sit and read.

Oh yes, and The Press Room is one year old today (11th July 2013). Happy Birthday!

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