Monday, 19 December 2011

Blue Mountain Cafe, Sydenham, South London, UK

You can find the Blue Mountain Cafe near the station at the top end of Sydenham high street. My old pal Graham Russell (previously a Sydenham lad now an expat in Australia) swore by their brew. I didn't always agree with Graham when it came to coffee but I was always happy to try out his recommendations. 
The Blue Mountain is a deli style cafe with a cold counter full of pies and pasties and lots of cake and a kitchen serving many things but on a cold winter day I would suggest the soup. All the food looked and smelt great, a home cooked counter of wonder. 
The walls of the cafe are groaning with produce both served and for sale, one side is a ceiling high shelving unit full of goodness and the other has a single unit full of fresh vegetables that the chef routinely pops from the back to harvest.
Aside from the produce on display the rest of the cafe was made up of strong yellow walls and wooden furniture, it was bright but still had a friendly and relaxed ambience. Some old rock tracks played on the stereo and the staff worked fast and smiled. It had a good vibe.
The coffee came suspiciously quickly and didn’t have a great aroma when it got to my table. It was also quite light brown in colour rather than the near black. I eyed it suspiciously and when it had sufficiently cooled I put my lips to work.
What I found was a mid strength coffee with a full flavour. That fullness had breadth rather than peaks but was good nether the less. It was not at all bitter or gritty but it was quite murky, not at all crisp. 
There were some lovely sweet tones coming through but sadly that murk tinge raised itself again near the end. I doubt there are many better coffee places in Sydenham and this one provides a solid drink alongside good food and atmosphere.  

  • Black Americano, drink in.
  • £1.95
  • Medium Strength
  • Broad flavour
  • Light crema
  • Size: Small
An above average coffee that confounded expectations and could be enjoyed in a pleasant well stocked environment.  - Although this seems to be for the older East Dulwich branch.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Green Cauldron Coffee House, Liverpool, UK

I was lucky enough to visit Liverpool for a one day work thing and as is de rigueur for me now I set out to find a good cup of coffee. My wanderings left me a little bit in love with the city but it was only after a good deal of walking that I found my joe. 

The two coffee houses that had been recommended to me I failed to locate but then in my moment of need I stumbled upon the Green Cauldron Coffee Shop. The building was curiously branded as Castle St. Coffee House which I can only assume  was a previous resident and I must say it looked just like the kind of place I required.

The cafe itself was modern, spacious but still inviting and comfortable. I made my order and settled down on a high table and stool. There was then a huge delay.....

.....finally the coffee appeared. They did say sorry but I was pretty miffed by this point, the problem seemed to be that they were under staffed and/or very slow. I had to put this to one side and focus on the job in hand, I didn't want to prejudice the review entirely with this.

The coffee looked good, served in a nice mug, the dark crema swirled seductively around the inside rim. It smelt good too, I gave it a large sniff and enjoyed a strong rich scent. It was robust in flavour yet brought a lovely creamy tone to the party. That gave way to some pleasant bitter sweet after notes which in turn was marred just a touch by a slightly dirty finish. It was all in all a pleasing cup of coffee, I must get some of their beans.

  • Double black Americano, drink in.
  • £1.90
  • Medium strength
  • Solid full flavour 
  • Thick crema
  • Size: Medium size
  • Beans: Green Cauldron (Australia)

This Green Cauldron Coffee cafe is the first and the plan is to open many more across the UK. If one opens near you then go check it out. Great coffee, well made.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Rabot Estate, Borough Market, South London, UK

The Rabot Estate is a cacao grower and chocolatier with a shop and cafe in Borough Market. The estate where the chocolate is grown is all the way over in the West Indies but lucky for us back in the Spring of 2010 they opened this store.

I warn you that the chocolate is pricey but also totally awesome, you can and should treat yourself. The cafe prepare various items including the coffee which we will come to but the number one choice for eating must be the chocolate crepes. I've not yet eaten one but I've seen and smelt these beasts and even writing this is making me salivate. Rabot also prepare little chocolate mousse pots which complement a coffee perfectly if you want something small and sweet.

Their hot chocolate is 70% coco and I think the Mocha comes close to that so be ready for the buzz. The coffee took time to come, they took care over making it but when it arrived it looked the part. It was an oily brew and was giving off a good aroma as I approached with my snout. It had a good full flavour and was smooth throughout. That flavour perhaps crossed the line and was a little overly cheewy at points. Make no mistake it gave you something to taste and to contemplate as you got through it. 

  • Black Americano, double shot, take away
  • £2.00
  • Medium strength
  • Good aroma, powerful 
  • No crema, oily and swirly
  • Size: small (6 ounce)
  • Beans: Monmouth

A very good full coffee and a great option if you are not game for queuing at Monmouth.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Elliot's Cafe, Borough Market, South East London London, UK

I love Elliot's, I could eat here every day till the end of time. This is by far my new favourite place in Borough Market if not all of London. A market "cafe" which really is a full on fancy pants restaurant but completely unpretentious, friendly and very relaxed. They change the menu based on what is available and in season at the Market so every visit is a journey. The food is excellent.

Mismatched and sometimes shared seating gives it a vibey intimacy, enhanced by the bare brick walls and low lighting. The distractingly attractive, knowledgeable staff will pop down next to you to go through the menu in detail so don't be afraid to ask what things are.

I wish I was writing a restaurant review as I could write for a long time and it would be gushing with praise. I've had rare melt in the mouth burgers, slow and perfectly cooked beef, char-grilled squid with a bite, the raw simplicity of oysters, endless mussels with comforting corn and bacon broth, breaded pig cheeks with an emulsified joy waiting inside, a sharp and filling beetroot salad, pate, cheese with fine oatbreads, flavoursome olives and even the complimentary bread and butter is what you would expect to eat on a fine farm house kitchen table. 

All great, every time and the wine has been top notch too however this review is all about one thing and that is the coffee.

The espresso arrived with a good frothy crema layer, underneath it was as dark and oily as the sea near an exploded BP rig. I was highly anticipating this coffee but after taking my first sip I was rocked by the tartness of the coffee, tugging my tongue to the roof of my mouth. I cleansed my mouth and went again, I watered it down but try as I might I could not get along with this shot. 

It was an incredibly sharp and sour coffee. My partner in dine however liked it very much which is why I am being rather more gentle than if I was drinking alone. It looked the part and considering everything else it should have been excellent but alas it was not for me.

  • Double espresso, drink in
  • £2.00
  • Medium strength
  • Sour
  • Good crema
  • Size: Short in a big cup

On another visit the Americano had similar high quality trappings and was less sour but that taste was still there.

A coffee that I didn't get on with. Not awful but too sharp for my tastes. I will go again and again for the food but will skip the joe.

Blog and menu:

Even the bread tastes like heaven.

Climpson and Sons, Hackney, East London, UK

The 2nd trip to East London with Rex was to visit Climpson and Sons. The plan on this warm but turbulent day was to buy some take away and then go sit in London Fields, a bit obvious of course but sometimes obvious is nice. 

Broadway market was on and the store was packed. I stayed outside with the little one whilst Rex ventured in and bought the coffee's. The staff didn't know what a babychinno or a bambinochinno was which created some confusion but we got there in the end. She needs her frothed milk or there is hell to pay so Rex did have to go back, twice. He is a great friend.

Sitting on one of the shops benches and watching the chaos of the market go by and ocassioanly nipping to a stall to grab a taster was an enjoyable experience. Poor Rex spent an age inside securring the drinks, it took a long time. Popular as this place is the queue times led me to think they could be a tad more efficient but quality takes time so I can forgive that.

The coffee had cooled a little by the time we sat on the grass, there was no trace of crema but the coffee was rich with oil, shimmering under the sun and wispish clouds above. As the wind picked up and the clouds came in I had an enjoyable coffee experience, although not very strong it was packing plenty of flavour in those 6 ounces. It was smooth, it ended on some sweet notes and without any hint of bitterness. 

I'm sorry to say it went down so well I became slightly absent minded and didn't drill into the flavour as I'm sure there is more to be said.

  • Long Black, double shot, take away
  • Regular size is £2.20 and large is £2.40
  • Medium strength
  • Smooth and flaversome
  • No crema (but late) 
  • size: small (6 ounce)
  • Machine:  La Marzocco
  • Beans: Climpsons and Sons espresso blend

A lovely smooth coffee, I want to go again to give it another taste.

Twitter: @cplimpsonandsons

Flat Cap Coffee Co, stall, Borough Market, South East London, UK

A  couple of coffee stalls have appeared in Borough market, right under the nose of my sacred Monmouth coffee. For such audacity they must be braved and the first one I visited was the Flat Cap Coffee Co stall. Their stall seems to visit a few places and should not be confused with Flat Caps Coffee of Newcastle. The guys who run the company are Brazilian barista champion, Favio Ferreria and his business partner Robert Robinson.

The stall has a nice wooden caravan vibe (like the one in Wind in the Willows) about it and is dominated by a polished La Marzocco. They were selling Square Mile Coffee Beans on the counter and serving the Red brick seasonal espresso. A nice touch were the recommended serving instructions on a little stand that you can take down and follow. 

It was a rainy and pretty grim day; I had already purchased some fine Portuguese custard tarts so this coffee was going to be the finishing touch. I took a small long black (always a double no matter the size, clearly noted on the coffee board). It had a dark thick crema and layer of oil floating on top. 

The initial reaction was that it was overly tart but that sharp citrus tang relaxed and then grew on me and was quite reminiscent of Prufrock (is it the Square Mile beans?) Coffee. A little watery on the front of the palette the coffee packed in plenty of flavour further back and did a good job of filling out my mouth. Those full on flavours eventually resided to leave a sweat after taste. 

  • Long black, double shot to take away
  • £1.80
  • Medium strength
  • Sharp citrus taste, full of flavour
  • Thick dark crema
  • Size: small (6 ounce) 
  • Machine: La Marzocco
  • Beans: Square Miles Red Brick Seasonal Espresso

  • Flatwhite
  • £2.00 - double

A proper stand up coffee served with politeness and a bow, packing plenty of flavour that takes you on a journey.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Hackney City Farm, Hackney, London, UK

A random visit to Hackney City Farm occurred whilst out hunting for other coffee's with the now Blog regular Rex. As I had the little one and we were getting hungry the City Farm seemed a perfect place to visit.

Here you are promised the delight of being able to see the animals and then eat their relatives. A lovely concept that I was more than happy to get on board with it. On the animal front alongside your normal farm yard fair there were some fantastic gigantic pigs, very impressive specimens. 

Do note that the farm is a charity and it is free to enter so please donate to support this great enterprise. 

The cafe is large and has quite a relaxed lowfi vibe about it. The menu looked pretty yummy all round. It was £7.50 for a big old farm house breakfast made with quality ingredients. The girlie had scrambled eggs. All was excellent although she ate by Bacon but then I ate Rex's so it balanced out.

It would have been rude to not sample the coffee so we did. It was a pretty good cup of joe all in all. It tasted nice, was very smooth and with no unwanted bitterness. It was wanting for a little more strength so I would ask for it to be a little shorter next time. 

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • £1.50
  • Weak - Medium strength
  • Very smooth
  • No crema
  • Size: Medium

A good coffee, don't avoid it. Go see some animals, have a slap up meal and enjoy the black stuff.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Riverside Coffee Shop, Windsor & Eton Riverside Station, Windsor, UK

I went to Windsor to meet my friends at Nintendo. After the 40 minute video conference with Japan it was time to head back to London.  On the way back I bought a quick coffee from the station cafe.

I foolishly ate part of a cookie whilst drinking this coffee and so my review may be totally void. Add sugar and most coffees can taste ok, combined with milk you can really hide the horror. That is why my reviews are always based on a black unsweetened coffee. If I like the espresso you will probably love the latte (unless they burn the milk). 

I had very low expectation and although they were mainly met this coffee was not the most terrible I have imbibed. It was indeed too bitter but not the most bitter. It was also too weak, the classic over dilution of station cafes but not the weakest. To be fair to it, the taste was not unbearable but I would not add it to any must taste lists soon.

  • Americano, take away
  • £1.80
  • Medium strength
  • Quite bitter flavour
  • No crema
  • Large size

Not very good coffee but it won't kill you in a pinch.


Friday, 14 October 2011

Marwood Coffee Shop, Brighton, UK

On giving up my Brighton residence and becoming just another tourist to this fine town there was one coffee shop that had alluded me. Marwood coffee.

The first attempt to find it resulted in walking up and down Ship street early in the morning and in the rain but to no avail. My first sighting at another time whilst not realising what the place was came in the form of their sign boasting about the quality of their coffee.

I arrogantly snorted in derision thinking I knew best. But then later on it hit me and my stomach sunk as I understood who's sign that was. Realising my mistake I have now come to plead forgiveness and give Marwood the review it deserves.

Named after I from Withnail fame it would be lazy of me to state the coffee house is quirky, it is however very cool. Random images, furniture and graffiti line the two storey coffee house. Check out their site for more pictures of the eclectic and entertaining decor.

They also offer up some serious cake which I didn't try but did tempt me.  But if you get rid of the cake and you get rid of the style and attitude that this place has what are you left with? Does the coffee make a mark?

Arriving in a small attractive red cup and saucer the wisps of crema were starting to fade away in their death spiral. First sip gave me plenty of flavour, not too strong but above all a good smoothness. 

It was also slightly sweet all the way through which seems to be the hardest trick to pull off. It left a creamy tone as the main flavour faded away and I can't say I was disappointed.  A little more strength would not have gone amiss but that could have just as easily disrupted the well balanced drink

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • Medium strength
  • Smooth, a little sweet and flavoursome
  • Light Crema
  • Size: Small
  • £1.80
  • Beans: Mozzo Coffee

They say they serve kick arse coffee and they do. A good taste, smooth and sweet.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Prufrock Coffee @ Present, Shoreditch, London, UK

The second part of my first East London jaunt with Rex was to the Prufrock coffee counter at Present. The little counter looked quite at home in the large breezy store, we didn't look round we got straight on with the drinking. I enjoyed choosing a 6oz. cup (is that an issue with E.U. regulations?) rather than small, large etc. perhaps the geek in me hyped on the specifics.

The lovely barista supplied us promptly as we made a little banter and then we went outside to enjoy our drinks. As we sat on the distressed yellow benches their was enough time to savour our drinks before the rains came. We had to finish under some scaffold and then a grim side exit to a club further down the road as the rain beat down in a torrent but I'm happy to say these changes in environment didn't mar the coffee experience. 

It had a fine amount of crema that dissipated to leave an oil slick, black as pitch. The square mile beans were rich in flavour, almost creamy. As I sunk it I started to feel a little bit of a tang coming through which I thought would become unpleasant but instead grew on me. Chewing is the best way I can describe the experience, the more I drank the more I discovered of its full, broad flavour. It was excellent. 

  • Long Black, take out
  • Strong
  • Chewy, full and deep
  • Slight Crema
  • Size: short - 6oz.
  • £2.20
  • Beans: Square Mile

Great strength, high quality beans, a flavour with much depth to explore and all balanced so well together. A coffee to have me questioning my loyalty.