So some of you may know that 3 lucky Urban souls travelled to Londinium last week to stay abreast with the latest trends in independent coffee land.
Our first stop was Bar Italia in Soho. When talking about Coffee nowadays it is very easy to get swept up in brew ratios, light roasts, farmers, microlots and other coffee related jargon but Bar Italia helps you remember that the essence of a coffee shop, aside from the product, is the atmosphere and ambience. The coffee won’t blow you away but it is great to be greeted in that bold emphatic Italian manner and the whole experience is a real throwback to retro Italian espresso bars. I personally wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but I certainly understand it’s place in coffee history!
Onwards to Fernandez and Wells in Lexington St. Its ultra-sleek low branding raised the level of ‘cool’ and when you walk in it is quite obvious that the star of the show is the food. Built up on wood and slate you will find ciabbata after ciabbata with some utterly stunning combinations. I had a ciabbata with mortadella, rocket, olive oil and a slightly tangy mayo (though it genuinely didn’t touch the sides). Jamie had a farmer’s sausage and mustard sandwich which, whilst amazing, didn’t quite match the mortadella. A stumpy and a flat white later (why is it that coffee drinks sound like they should be characters in Reservoir Dogs?) and we didn’t want to leave. If you’ve never been before, it feels like you’re in a secret garden shed with a plethora of ingredients that have just been gently kissed onto their relevant breads. Incredible….
Next came Princi bakery that had been highly recommended by our Hannah. Thankfully it managed to live up to expectations.
Good ingredients prepared simply with great service. We had a couple of fantastic salads including a generous pumpkin and ricotta one. It was again quite elegant but simple and filled pillar to pillar with beautiful focaccias, tarts and every loaf of bread imaginable! Very enjoyable food, in an almost VIP cafeteria atmosphere.
Notable mentions go to St Ali whose flat white was filled with glorious caramel notes and a chocolaty body that made a bold statement against the normal sweet acidic taste of London espresso. Look Mum No Hands and Taylor St Baristas are also noted for their great coffee and it’s always good to see Union Hand Roasted at Taylor St. They use the rogue blend (which is notoriously tricky to master) to great effect.
Coffee of the day did indeed belong to St Ali as it struck a chord with all 3 of us. They proved that bucking the trend of acidity doesn’t mean that you lose out on anything (everyone at Urban is a huge fan of the Costa Rica San Jeronimo and the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe for its bold acidity). Make sure that you keep your eyes peeled at your Urban Coffee emporiums to see what we have been influenced by…