First published April 2010
The London coffee scene has changed dramatically in the last few years. The emergence of Kiwi and Aussie run/staffed establishments has completely changed the picture – at least in Central and East London. There are pockets of coffee excellence in other parts of London now – the pinnacle being in Exchange Coffee’s excellent cart in Lewisham. Living in Central London and blogging about coffee has meant that I have tended to visit the Central London establishments such as Dose Espresso, Espresso Room, Kaffeine, Monmouth, Fernandez and Wells, Tapped and Packet Flat White, Milk Bar etc. There is a great scene established in East London and not having much reason to head over there has meant it has taken a while for me to get to places I should have got to.
Gwilym Davies, 2009 UK and World Barista champion is at the forefront of the East London scene with his ‘disloyalty card’ his carts in Columbia Road Flower Market and his Prufrock Coffee Company which serves coffee at Present in Shoreditch High Street. Gwilym was inspired by his time spent in New Zealand and knows more about coffee than most people know about themselves.
Gwilym’s disloyalty card concept: http://www.jimseven.com/2009/12/17/gwilyms-disloyalty-card/# is a genius idea. Buy a drink at several other independent local coffee shops and get a free drink at his place. Stunningly good idea!
OK, the tour, leaving at 2:30ish on a Tuesday didn’t leave me much time but I headed out East expectantly.
First I checked out Taste of Bitter Love – a very friendly little cafe on Hackney Road towards Bethnal Green.
The baking is excellent and the coffee made with love and attention using Square Mile beans which are becoming ubiquitous in East London (but they are excellent). The coffee was quite subtle in my cappuccino but the flavours were complex. I also enjoyed a peach crumble marscapone creation. I left without paying (can you believe it) accidentally but returned later to make amends.
Enjoyed the walk through Hackney City Farm where the spring lambs were gambolling and over the canal bridge to Broadway Market, which is such a happening little scene at the moment. Here was the location of my next stop.
Climpsons and Sons named after the butchers shop previously on the location whose sign remains is very popular with locals. A sunny day was an ideal time to visit although the place was packed in the middle of a weekday afternoon.
The flat white I had was very good. This is a place that doesn’t rush, but takes its time to get things right. If I lived locally I’d be a regular.
On leaving, I returned to Taste of Bitter Love to pay them for my accidental illegal download of coffee and cake then took a bus back down Hackney Road a short distance to the junction of Hackney Road and Shoreditch High Street: the location of Present.
Present is a trendy men’s clothing store with no sign. Look for the Goldern Horn Cigarette Company. Inside, Gwilym has the beautiful Nuova Simonelli piston espresso machine he won at the World Barista Championships. Gwilym recognised me and named me from my photo on the Internet – impressive stuff! He is a very friendly guy and we talked coffee for a long, long time. I had an incredibly rich and delicious macchiato made by Mattias Bjorklund, the 2009 Swedish Barista champion. Possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had. Gwillym and I talked like old friends and I’ve heard similar experiences from other people.
Leaving Present, I headed off towards Spitalfields Market. Nude Espresso is found between Spitalfields and Brick Lane. they roast their own coffee and it does have it’s own distinct taste. I had a macchiato which couldn’t have been more different from Mattias’ but was very, very good in it’s own way. Splendid place – quite roomy too. I perused a copy of Espresso Quest, the book, as I drank my fourth coffee in two hours and planned my journey home from my own espresso quest.
Where I didn’t go
I didn’t quite make it in time to Taylor St Baristas in New Street opposite Liverpool Street station, arriving as they closed and I left Tina, We Salute You for another trip being slightly further North but very highly recommended. I also need to get to Pitch 42, Whitecross Market near the Barbican.
My coffee map