Four Corners (COVID-19 Update)

A flat white, made with Ozone's Empire Blend, in my HuskeeCup at Four Corners.Four Corners, tucked away on Lower Marsh behind Waterloo Station, is one of the stalwarts of London’s speciality coffee scene, opening in July 2013, with my first visit coming a month later. Like many others (Canopy Coffee and Party on Pavilion, for example), COVID-19 has forced Four Corners to convert itself from a bustling, lively, sit-in coffee shop to a takeout operation. The area has also seen a significant drop-off in foot traffic, so much so that Four Corners only reopened two weeks ago, although hopefully the part-pedestrianisation of Lower Marsh will help bring people back to the area. It’s certainly changed the character of the street for the better.

For now, Four Corners is only offering a takeaway service, which means disposable cups, although the staff happily accept customers’ reusable cups. The full coffee menu is available, with Ozone’s Empire Blend on espresso, along with pour-over via the V60 and Chemex. There’s also tea from T2, while Four Corners has a limited food menu. Best of all, if you want to sit outside once you’ve got your coffee, Four Corners has taken advantage of the pedestrianisation of Lower Marsh by putting some benches and two tables out front.

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Iris & June (COVID-19 Update)

A black circle with the words "Iris&June" written in white inside itFor a long time, Iris & June, on Howick Place, between Victoria and Westminster, was a lonely beacon of coffee excellence in the local area. Yes, there was the venerable Flat Cap Coffee stall, but if you wanted somewhere to sit down, for many years after it opened in early 2014, Iris & June was the only game in town. All that has changed in the last couple of years, but just because there are plenty of other options in the area these days, this doesn’t mean you should overlook Iris & June, which reopened in July after the COVID-19 closedown and is just as good as ever, which I discovered when I visited last week.

Like many coffee shops operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, Iris & June has had to make compromises, reducing its opening hours and stripping out some of the seating to maintain social distancing. However, when it comes to what matters, don’t be fooled: this is the same old Iris & June, with excellent Ozone coffee on espresso and filter, along with its innovative daily lunches. And, of course, the same high standards of service which makes Iris & June stand out from the crowd.

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Bean & Cole (COVID-19 Update)

The new logo from the wall of Bean & Cole, featuring a pair of cartoon dogs, one holding an espresso cup and the other with a portafilter.Bean & Cole is another of Chester’s growing band of speciality coffee shops that has successfully reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic, initially just for takeaway, before including the seating area, albeit with fewer tables. The obvious changes aside (along with fewer tables, there are Perspex screens on the counter and stickers on the floor showing where to queue), Bean & Cole looks (and feels) much as it did before the COVID-19 pandemic, something I found in all of the coffee shops I visited in Chester.

The opening hours have been slightly reduced, as has the food menu, while Bean & Cole wasn’t serving filter coffee when I visited. That said, by the time you read this, it may well be back on the menu, with Round Hill lined up as the first of a rotating cast of guest roasters. Talking of coffee, the only other change pre-dates COVID-19, with Bean & Cole switching from Has Bean to Assembly on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest roaster, which was Ozone when I was there last week.

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Ozone Coffee Roasters

A lovely Kenyan Githaka AB Estate V60, roasted and served at Ozone in Shoreditch, the coffee presented on a tray, with a short mug next to the carafe.Ozone Coffee Roasters first opened its doors on Leonard Street in 2012, making it (in the UK at least), as old as the Coffee Spot. That said, Ozone, which started in New Zealand, where it has a roastery and two coffee shops, is approaching its 21st birthday. Back in the UK, Ozone bought fellow roasters, Has Bean, this time last year (although the two still operate as separate brands) and a second coffee shop, this time in Bethnal Green, is opening shortly.

Meanwhile, the original on Leonard Street, a stone’s throw from Old Street roundabout in the heart of Shoreditch, is still going strong, serving excellent coffee and food all day, from breakfast all the way through to dinner. It’s also still roasting in the basement on a 22kg vintage Probat, where there’s additional seating, available from morning to mid-afternoon.

When it comes to the coffee, there are two seasonal espresso blends, Brothers (which goes in milk-based drinks) and Empire (for espressos, long blacks and Americanos) and several single-origins which change on a monthly basis. These can be had on espresso, V60, Aeropress, Syphon and cold brew, with a different one on each. There’s also a daily batch brew.

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Fade To Black

The Fade to Black logo from the front of the store on Uxbridge Road in Hanwell.A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip to southwest London, taking in the likes of Beanberry Coffee, Woof Coffee and The Press Room in Twickenham. At the end of my trip, I found myself in Ealing and, since I was there, I decided that I would carry on going west. Really west. All the way out to (wait for it…) Hanwell! Well, maybe not that far west, but, as London goes, quite far, and not exactly known as a hot-bed of speciality coffee.

What had dragged me onto the No 427 bus and out along the Uxbridge Road was the prospect of breakfast (and coffee) at the interestingly-named Fade-to-Black, which, since February, has been serving espresso using Ozone’s Empire Blend to the fine folks of Hanwell, with tentative plans to add a single-origin batch-brew. This is backed up with a decent breakfast/lunch menu, complete with sandwiches and a good range of cake.

Fade to Black has a simple, welcoming interior with windows on two sides and a range of seating, including window-bars, should you want to get some people-watching done. There’s also a spacious basement which, while normally off-limits, is used for functions and events such as yoga.

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The Watch House, Bermondsey Street

A batch-brew of a beautiful Ethiopian Ardi naturally-processed coffee, served at The Watch House on Bermondsey Street, London.The Watch House, on London’s Bermondsey Street, south of the river, is one of those “new” coffee shops (like Lundenwic and The Black Penny) which I’m embarrassed to say has been open for several years. In the case of The Watch House, it will be four this September (and has also opened two further branches!). In my defence, while I come into London via Waterloo, I rarely spend any time south of the river, which, if it has more gems like this, is entirely my loss.

The Watch House is housed in a small, octagonal building dating from the 19th century, which was built to house the watchmen looking after the neighbouring church (hence the name, The Watch House). It’s a gorgeous physical space, if, like me, you like old buildings, reminding me a little of York’s Perky Peacock, another coffee shop housed in an old tower.

The coffee is as gorgeous as the surroundings, with the Empire blend from Ozone on espresso, where it’s joined by three single-origins on batch-brew, which change on a weekly basis. If you’re hungry, there’s breakfast, lunch and plenty of cake, with bread from two local bakeries, The Watch House supporting various local suppliers.

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Tab x Tab

A flat white served in a handmade pottery cup, made with a single-origin Brazilian roasted by Bocca and served in Tab x Tab in London, pulled on a Mavam espresso machine, made in Seattle.Tab x Tab is the latest (and much needed) addition to west London’s speciality coffee scene, opening at the end of July on Westbourne Grove, not far from Paddington Station. The brainchild of husband and wife team Mathew and Charmaine, it brings top quality coffee to an area of London that has, up until now, been sorely lacking it. It’s also got a Mavam espresso machine, which, I believe, is just the second one in the UK.

The shop’s set back from the busy street, so you can walk past it if you’re not paying attention. Long and thin, with the long side running along Westbourne Grove, it’s a bright, open space with plenty of outside seating, features it shares with Treves & Hyde, the home of the UK’s other Mavam.

When it comes to coffee, Tab x Tab has teamed up with local roaster, Ozone and Amsterdam roaster, Bocca, which I’d not come across before. There’s a seasonal house-blend on espresso, plus a single-origin guest, joined by another single-origin on bulk-brew. Currently a selection of pastries and light bites are available, but as the kitchen behind the counter gets up to speed, expect a full brunch menu to appear.

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Iris & June

A black circle with the words "Iris&June" written in white inside itI’ve been meaning to get to Iris & June for a long time. It had already been on my list for ages when I ran into the owner, Jodie, at the True Artisan Café at last year’s London Coffee Festival. I was so embarrassed, I rashly promised to pay Iris & June a visit. With this year’s London Coffee Festival rapidly approaching, I thought I’d better pull my finger out! The problem is, the area around Victoria Station, where Iris & June calls home, just isn’t somewhere I go very often. So, when some friends suggested meeting up in Pimlico on Monday evening, I seized my chance with both hands!

Iris & June is one of those coffee shops where the focus is just as much on the food as it is on the coffee. However, whereas a lot of coffee shops would be happy with a decent espresso and maybe some batch-brew filter, Iris & June puts as much effort into its coffee as many a dedicated speciality coffee shop. Ozone’s Empire Blend is on espresso, but it’s the pour-over where Iris & June really shines, with three single-origins from Ozone & guests, available as V60, Aeropress or bulk-brew.

July 2020: Iris & June has reopened with pretty much its full service offering. You can see what I made of it when I visited in August.

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Four Corners Update/1st Birthday

Four Corners Award Plaque from the 2014 London Coffee Stop Awards. Four Corners won the award for London's Coolest Coffee Shop on Social Media.So, last Wednesday (a week ago today), I popped along to Four Corners on London’s Lower Marsh, ostensibly to celebrate its first birthday, which, naturally enough, was the day before. Let’s face it, celebrating first birthdays is commonplace, but who celebrates first and one day birthdays, eh? No-one, that’s who, and it’s about time that changed!

Being serious for a moment, while it was in my mind that Four Corners was one and one day old, the real reason for my visit was to catch up with my friend and fellow coffee-blogger, Kate (aka A Southern Belle in London) before she disappeared to the Americas for the summer. Four Corners was a convenient place to meet and I was keen to see what had changed since my first visit there last summer.

As it turned out, the answer was not a lot, Four Corners being much as I remember it from August last year. So much for this being an update! In fact, the major change I noticed was the absence of the roadworks directly out front, which plagued For Corners for the first few months of its life. Other than that, it was the same wonderful place!

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Four Corners Cafe

An espresso from Four Corners Cafe in a white cup with Four Corners Cafe Limited written on the inside of the rimLondon’s Lower Marsh is not the most appealing part of the capital. Even the name doesn’t conjure up particularly positive images. Lying behind Waterloo and not particularly on the way to anywhere, I’ve only recently become aware of it, despite Waterloo being my gateway to London for the past 15+ years. However, there it is and, in recent years, it has started to shed its poor image, becoming home to the likes of the Scooter Cafe and now, just across the road, to Four Corners Cafe.

Four Corners is, if you’ll excuse the pun, going places. Taking inspiration from the phrase “four corners of the world”, it’s a travel-themed Cafe, decorated with maps of the world and dotted with globes. Continuing the travel theme, its neat loyalty card is in the form of a miniature passport.

Not that this counts for much if the coffee is poor, but thankfully it’s not. As well as a decent coffee menu, powered by London Roasters, Ozone, Four Corners offers loose-leaf tea from Yumchaa and a small range of toasted sandwiches and pastries to die for (according to fellow coffee-blogger, Kate, aka A Southern Belle in London) from a bakers just around the corner.

April 2014: Four Corners won “Best Use of Social Media” the inaugural London Coffee Stops Awards!

August 2020: Four Corners has reopened, offering takeaway service only, although there is limited outside seating. You can see what I made of it when I visited later that month.

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