Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My Favourite Coffee Shops ……

There was a time when I didn’t drink coffee. It is so long ago that I cannot remember those dark, non-caffeine fuelled days. I also cannot remember the moment when this neo addiction started. Maybe it was sometime around 1992, that I am pretty sure, but when or where, who knows. As the years go by, the memory fails you see.
Like most people with a dependency I am willing to travel far and wide to get my shot. Thankfully I am very happy that I’ve not discovered any places outside of London where I feel a need to go for a double espresso. Phew.
Well apart from half a dozen places in New York city, one in Alexandria in Egypt, and at least 20 places in Vietnam, and also not forgetting that cafe in Kuching. Ohh and that small but oh so fine place up in the mountains in Filandia in Colombia. But apart from them, everywhere else is in London. So far.
I’ve been thinking for a while now which is my favourite coffee shop, but it is so difficult as they all mean something very personal to me.
So I thought I would just write about them all, so in no particular order here goes.

Monmouth Coffee Shop in Covent Garden
Their double espressos in ceramic are heaven on earth. I’ve only ever sat inside once and never really enjoyed it. I much prefer to stand outside come rain or shine and watch the world go by. Great for people watching.
I used to come here a lot when I was doing my stint as a chef at Café Boheme.  On my 4pm break, I was always fucked and needed a quick fix to try and revive and relax me a tad. It never failed. Nowadays I can fully appreciate the bitter sweetness of their coffees a lot more, plus the staff are great and know so much about each and every coffee that it makes choosing which one to buy so much easier. My coffee of choice is their espresso mix.
Monmouth Coffee Company (Covent Garden) on Urbanspoon

Fernandez and Wells on Beak Street
Out of the 3 closely knit Fernandez and Wells this is my favourite by far. Not that the others do not have their virtues, but Beak Street has a lot of what I love. People and odd ones at that.
But it’s those double espressos that keep me coming back, and either the low tables by the window or the high stools opposite the counter. It’s also their orange and lemon flavoured waters that give life back into these old weary bones.
The sandwiches and rolls that are toasted are pure heaven on earth. My current favourite is the black pudding and egg breakfast roll. Damn it is good.
We always go to share, but hey when a roll is this good you have to have one for yourself. They also do a particularly good egg custard tart, which I try and keep down to once in a while. Even writing that seems a lie.
The coffee is sweet and nutty and gives me that oh so good boost at any time of the day. Highly recommended.
Fernandez & Wells on Urbanspoon

Federation Coffee in Brixton Village
I’ve unfortunately only been here a few times, but I was a fan from day one. They have moved premises now. Well is diagonally opposite and into a larger shop, which means there is more space to sit back and watch the now hordes of people who are discovering how good Brixton is.
A part of me wishes the press hadn’t discovered this place, as I felt it was my little secret just for me, and a few other people only. But now I have to share it with everyone else. Damn.
The staff in Federation are well knowledgeable on all things coffee related, and sadly now a little harried on a Saturday afternoon. Poor souls. I saw a woman who was in front of me in the queue, and sat outside waiting for her coffee and came inside to demand where her coffee was after a few minutes.
So rude, people like that do not deserve to be able to drink good coffee.
Federation Coffee on Urbanspoon

Allpress Espresso
I wish I lived nearer to here. Damn their coffee is good, roasted on site as well. The paninis are amazing as well with such great fillings.
It really depends on which way I’m heading to Brick Lane or Colombia Road as whether I drink here or at Nude Espresso. But if I’m gonna move east next time this is where I want to live.
They also do coffee sessions, where you can learn to make the perfect cup of coffee at home for yourself. I’m still waiting for this as an early birthday or late Xmas pressie. Still waiting.
Allpress Espresso on Urbanspoon

Monmouth Coffee Shop in Borough Market
I am really beginning to hate Borough Market. The hordes of tourists who come here to look around and not buy anything more than a few olives and bread. Grrrrrr …
The queues outside this outlet of Monmouth coffee are outrageous. But a fix is a fix and sometimes if I’m desperate I have to queue. I hate it though but I have to, but it is great people watching standing outside listening to people brag about what they have just brought and going to cook.
Monmouth Coffee Company (London Bridge) on Urbanspoon

Nude Espresso near to Brick Lane
If I’m heading into Brick Lane from Spitalfields then this is my coffee shop of choice. The place has a great vibe and serves a great flat white, actually one of the best in London in my view.
I’ve not eaten in here, but I should really, as I’m sure the food here beats a lot of the rubbish that is sold in and around Brick Lane and the indoor markets.
Nude Espresso on Urbanspoon

Noridc Bakery
What can be beaten than to sit down with a book, drink great coffee in a relaxing shop with a pickled herring and egg roll. Heaven.
Nordic Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tinder Box in Angel
This is the best shop in north London that I have found. I actually preferred their old shop on Upper Street. It was just a mishmash of seats that never should have worked but it did. Thankfully in the newer shop with its clean wooden seats they still brought along two of the old airline seats and plonked them by the window. They really don’t go, but it’s a blast from the past.
There is also a branch inside Westfield out in Strattford if you are ever shattered and need of a sit down before venturing out to do some more shopping.
Tinder Box on Urbanspoon
Tinder Box on Urbanspoon

Foyles Café on the 3rd floor
I love this place, it is bursting at the seams on most days I’ve been. But even with the noise, the hustle and bustle, the constant chattering form the tables around, I can still sit here with a book, read, drink a cup of coffee and relax, and I mean really relax. Shame you cannot take the books from the shelves in here.
Borders Cafe on Urbanspoon

Photographer’s Gallery Cafe
Another great place to sit and ponder on life’s great mysteries over a mug of coffee. Plus you get to look at some great photography. I’m getting impatient and cannot wait for the gallery to reopen. It’s been far too long.
Photographers' Gallery Café on Urbanspoon

I am still searching out more great places to drink a cup. If you know of anymore or want to share your favourites please let me know, as you will make an old addict very happy. Thanks.


TimB said...

Great post! And lots of great places to try.

I know what you mean about Vietnam. One of the best we found was in a very posh hotel in Hue - La Residence, where a kindly barman gave us a lesson in making outstanding coffee, Hue style.

Wholesale Coffee said...

Nice post!!

Quality coffee is unique brands and taste..This one very nice..

All That I'm Eating said...

What an interesting post. It's nice to hear about coffee from coffee shops for a change! A selection of places I'll need to bear in mind when I'm next there.

Grumbling Gourmet said...

Good, no, great list! Nailed Fernandez and Wells perfectly and I agree with you utterly on Federation. You won't believe it, but I've heard talk that there are North Londoners in Brixton Market these days... disgraceful behaviour. I was in there today and couldn't agree more, though I try not to go at weekends for the reasons described.

Worth a go if you get a chance is Prufrock on Leather Lane... The team in there are nerds to the n'th degree, almost too far, but they do make one of the finest Flat White's I've ever had and will chat for hours if you have the time... I'd also recommend Flat White on Berwick Street Market and Kaffeine on Great Tichfield Street (both Kiwi owned I think). If the queue for Monmouth at Borough Market gets you down, it's also worth popping next door to Elliot's as their coffee is almost as good...


Mzungu said...

Tim - There is something about they way they roast the beans in Vietnam that makes it go so well with condensed milk. Heaven.

Wholesale - Yes.

All That - Yes, lot's for you to try next time.

GG - Will def give Prufrock and Kaffeine a try. It's amazing that coffee shops attracts so many nerds (ie. me).
I like the coffee in Flat White, but I just never felt the love.

Nava.K said...

Both of us at home are big coffee drinkers but now we have back so much, maybe its like twice a day.

When we were in Italy, we ventured a bit and tried the many different types of coffee here and I was high over heels with espresso, thick and bitter but was heaven with some cream and sugar mixed in.

Mzungu said...

Nava K - Espresso in Italy cannot be beaten. This is where my addiction goes into overdrive. Espressos are what keep me going during those long sightseeing days.

Alexander said...

If you don't mind the walk, Monmouth's Maltby street outpost is open on Saturdays. I usually go there to avoid the queues at Borough, and also pop along to St. John's bakery for a doughnut (much to the dismay of my expanding waistline).

Great article, by the way.

Mzungu said...

Alexander - Thanks. I'd forgotten about that one ... Actually gonna be there on Saturday ....