Kaffeine (COVID-19 Update)

My espresso, made with Square Mile's Red Brick blend, and served in a classic black cup at Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street.One of the legends of London’s speciality coffee scene, this is the original Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street, in the heart of Fitzrovia. It reopened in June, initially just serving takeaway, and has been slowly expanding its offering ever since. First, the internal seating reopened, then, in mid-August, following traffic restrictions put in place by the council, the outside seating was expanded.

Wherever you sit, you’ll get the trademark Kaffeine hospitality and some exemplary service. You’re greeted at the door by a staff member who takes your order. If it’s to go, you’ll need to wait there until your coffee is brought to you. Alternatively, if you’re staying, once you’ve ordered, you’ll be shown to a table (or allowed to select one if sitting outside), thus ensuring separation between sit-in and takeaway customers.

As usual, Square Mile’s Red Brick is on espresso, joined by a single-origin guest, which can be had instead of the Red Brick, or there’s a tasting flight where you can try them both. There’s a selection of cold/iced coffee options, plus tea from the Rare Tea Company. Finally, if you’re hungry, Kaffeine has the usual cake and pastry options, plus small breakfast and lunch menus.

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Canopy Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

A sight for sore eyes: the A-board proclaiming that Canopy Coffee is now open after almost three months of enforced closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.On March 15th, I was in Chicago, visiting Fairgrounds, Purple Llama and Intelligentsia in Wicker Park. The following day, I flew home. Little did I know that they would be the last coffee shops I’d visit with my Coffee Spot hat on for more than three months. On my return to the UK, I did my best to support my three local speciality coffee shops, but within a week, last of them, Surrey Hills Coffee, had joined the other two in temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

March turned into April and April turned into May and, while I wasn’t short of good coffee at home, I missed my local coffee shops, missed my flat whites (while I make good home pour-over and espresso, I’m still rubbish at milk) and missed my friends who worked there. Then, on Saturday, 16th May, exactly three months after leaving Chicago, I was in Guildford, shopping, and what did I see? Canopy Coffee. And it was open! Naturally, I forgot everything else and made a beeline for it!

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Panna Chester

A Chemex of a Los Suspiros from Guatemala, roasted by Square Mile of London and served in Panna, Chester.I first came across Panna in Liverpool at the end of 2015, where owners Ivana and Peter, a friendly, welcoming Slovak couple, had turned a potentially unpromising basement in Silkhouse Court into a lovely, warm, welcoming café. There was some excellent food, along with coffee from Has Bean and local roasters Neighbourhood Coffee.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Silkhouse Court was sold and Ivana and Peter decided to relocate to Chester, opening five weeks ago on 15th August 2019, not long after my previous visit to Chester! In so doing, they’ve moved up in the world, quite literally in fact, swapping a basement for a ground floor space on Chester’s famous Rows on Watergate Street.

The good news is that they’ve brought the same warm, friendly atmosphere with them. For example, although it’s been four years since we last met, I was greeted like a long-lost friend! They’ve also brought the excellent food along in the shape of an all-day brunch menu with plenty of cakes and pastries. And then there’s the coffee, with two Has Bean blends on espresso and multiple guests on filter using a variety of brew methods, including Chemex, V60 and Aeropress.

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Second Shot, Marylebone

A lovely decaf cortado, roasted by Square Mile, and served at the new Second Shot in Marylebone.Second Shot made its name as a coffee shop and social enterprise, tackling homelessness one espresso at a time. Plenty of coffee shops offer help with pay it forward schemes, but Second Shot’s founder, Julius Ibrahim, went one step further, employing people affected by homelessness, giving them jobs in the short-term and careers in the longer-term.

Second Shot opened its first branch in Bethnal Green in 2016, but I didn’t manage to visit until two months ago. Then, just over a month later, Second Shot opened its second location, this time in Marylebone, between the station and Edgeware road. This time I didn’t want to leave it as long, so when the England vs Ireland Test Match at the nearby Lords’ Cricket Ground finished early, I saw my opportunity and went along.

Like the original in Bethnal Green, Second Shot stands on its own two feet as a speciality, multi-roaster coffee shop, up there with some of the best in London. It offers a different roaster on espresso and filter, along with a small brunch menu and a selection of cake. While the shop’s quite small, it’s larger than the original, plus there’s a specious basement/training room.

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Speciality Coffee at Lord’s, 2019

Watching espresso extract for a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine in the Browns of Brockley mobile coffee van at Lord's cricket ground.Over the seven years I’ve been writing the Coffee Spot, I’ve seen speciality coffee spread from a handful of city centres to all sorts of interesting places. One of the most exciting is seeing speciality coffee appearing at major sporting events, in particular, at Lord’s, the home of cricket, where I’ve been going each summer for over 20 years.

It all started in 2011 when Kaffeine were asked to make coffee in the Harris Gardens behind the pavilion. It’s been slow going since that promising start, but last year, I noticed a change. Suddenly there were numerous speciality coffee outlets around the ground, with the likes of  Browns of Brockley and the Ground Coffee Society leading the way. There was even an in-house coffee shop, Portman’s Café, serving Union Hand-roasted!

This year I managed to get tickets for the first ever England vs Ireland Test Match, which took place two weeks ago (although sadly I’ve missed out on tickets for the Ashes Test next weekend, unless anyone has got any spares…). So I popped along to watch some cricket (England won, rather famously) and also brought my HuskeeCup, Therma Cup and Kaffeeform cup, to see what coffee I could find.

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Story Coffee

A flat white from Story Coffee, made with Square Mile's Red Brick espresso and served in my Therma Cup.Occupying a bright, sunny corner just a few doors down from Birdhouse, Story Coffee has been part of the furniture in this part of London, which is just west of Clapham Junction station, for close to four years. Give how often I go up to London, this shows just how little I get out of the station rather than zipping through it on the train. The loss, frankly, is all mine.

There’s not much to Story Coffee, just a single, unfussy rectangular space, with plenty for room on the broad pavement for a cluster of tables. Meanwhile, inside is a mix of tables and bars. Since it started, Story Coffee has used London’s Square Mile, but that’s slowly changing, Story having recently started roasting its own coffee. For now it’s Square Mile’s Red Brick on espresso, with a different single-origin on batch-brew and another on pour-over. These change every day or two and represent your best chance of sampling Story’s own coffee, which occasionally makes an appearance.

For somewhere so small, there’s also an impressive brunch menu, prepared in the kitchen downstairs, and served until three o’clock each afternoon (four o’clock at weekends). Naturally, there’s a good selection of cake.

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It All Started Here

A lovely Sweetshop espresso from Square Mile in a gorgeous Claire Henry Ceramics cup, served at Glasgow's It All Started Here.I first met Will, owner of It All Started Here, back in 2015 in Cardiff. We met up again at the Glasgow Coffee Festival later that year and have stayed in touch (on and off) ever since. Back then, Will combined a day job with running stalls markets/pop-ups over the weekends, serving coffee from Sheffield’s Foundry Coffee Roasters to the good people of Glasgow.

Last year he extended that principle when he opened his first coffee shop on Glasgow’s south side, It All Started Here opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, when I came up for last year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival, I came up on the weekend and left myself Monday for exploring, so missed out. Therefore, for this year’s festival, I made a point of going up on Thursday night on the Caledonian Sleeper and heading over to It All Started Here on Friday.

It All Started Here is a multi-roaster, with a different roaster from around the UK on espresso and batch-brew every week. There’s also a brunch menu and a lovely selection of cakes. Even better, starting this week, It All Started here is now open six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday.

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Lundenwic

The lovely latte art in my decaf flat white at Lundenwic, made with Square Mile's seasonal decaf espresso.Lundenwic is one of those places that I’ve been meaning to visit ever since it opened. Back in 2015… In my defence, I’ve been a couple of times, but each time it’s been so busy that it’s been impossible to photograph, so I quietly left, telling myself I’d be back another day. That day eventually came one rainy Saturday evening in May when all the sensible people had gone home…

Located in the heart of the London’s theatre-land, right on Aldwych, at the foot Drury Lane, Lundenwic brings speciality coffee to a very mainstream setting. The shop itself is narrow and weirdly-shaped, with not one, but two (sort of) basements, exactly the sort of place I revel in. I must admonish my previous self for not going back sooner.

When it comes to coffee, Lundenwic keeps things simple but classy. Assembly’s seasonal espresso (currently a washed Colombian) is joined by Square Mile’s seasonal decaf (currently a blend of 80% Colombian and 20% Kenyan), while Assembly and Square Mile take it in turns on the batch-brew filter, the coffee changing roughly every week. A similar approach is taken with the food, a concise all-day brunch menu joined by soup at lunchtime.

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Store Street Espresso, Paddington

A lovely shot of Red Brick espresso in a classic white cup, pulled by Aurelien at Store Street Espresso in 2 Kingdom StreetWhen I started working in Sheldon Square, around the back of Paddington Station, in the summer of 2013, there was no decent coffee to be had. Anywhere. Then came Beany Green in 2014, followed by KuPP and Kioskafé in 2015. Then, in the very week my job came to an end, the works canteen was taken over by Baxter Storey, using coffee from Modern Standard. Talk about bad timing!

Since then Can Do Coffee has moved in, but all of these have been east of Sheldon Square. Until, that is, Store Street Espresso moved into the lobby of the office block on 2 Kingdom Street, literally around the corner from my old office. I made one attempt to visit a few weeks ago, but managed to pick the one day Store Street was closed for the installation of a new concrete counter-top. What was it I was saying about timing?

However, last week I was back, ironically in a new job, but working for four days in the basement of my old office. Fortunately we were occasionally let out for good behaviour, so I made the most of my opportunities to pay daily visits to the new Store Street Espresso…

June 2018: Sadly, Store Street Espresso has had to close its Paddington branch.

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Look Mum No Hands! South Bank Pop-up 2016

"Look mum no hands!", written on the side of the south-bank pop-up.It’s that time of year again: summer’s on the way (although as I write this, I’ve had the heating on and it poured with rain all day) and the Look Mum No Hands! pop-up has once again appeared under Hungerford Bridge on London’s South Bank. A fixture since 2013, the Look Mum No Hand’s pop-up joins the (sort of) all-year-round options of the Beany Green container and Bean About Town at the Real Food Market. When I last visited, in 2014, Look Mum No Hands! had already expanded considerably since its first year. Unexpectedly finding myself in London last Saturday, I naturally made a bee-line for Queen’s Walk to see what had changed this time around.

I’m pleased to say that this year, Look Mum No Hands! is bigger than ever before, with an expanded seating area under the cover of the bridge and even more food/drink options. There’s the ubiquitous Red Brick on espresso from Square Mile, plus an impressive range of craft beers and cider on tap, backed up with Pimms, prosecco, gin & tonic, vodka & tonic and wine by the glass. There’s cake and pastries, plus, if you’re really hungry, hot dogs, including a vegetarian version.

October 2016: Look Mum No Hands! has gone for another year and sadly it looks like that might be it for now…

May 2017: I checked under Hungerford Bridge and there’s no sign of Looks Mum No Hands! this year. There is a bar down there in the spot which Looks Mum No Hands! normally occupies, which suggests, sadly, that it won’t be coming back this year…

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