It’s January 1st. You’re probably regretting last night’s tuneless Auld Lang Syne at midnight, followed by that “one last bottle” of Moët Chandon at 3am, never mind the impromptu Gay Gordons at 5am. And oh woe, oh woe … you’ve forgotten New Year’s Day lunchtime drinks at Aunt Rosamund’s. The vicar of Lower Miffleton on the Wold will be present. Neither he nor Rosamund believe in hangovers and both hold only the most withering of contempt for frivolities such as a reel or ten of the Gay Gordon.
It’s time for a quick fix, a cup of vim and vigour in liquid form. Heretical as this may seem …
…there are moments, few and far between, when tea doesn’t. Quite. Cut. It.
You need a coffee. Now. There’s no need to resort to an instant coffee, the dry-cleaned and joyless granules that bring so much torment to boiled water.
* shudder *
Pure misery in a mug, ladies and gentlemen, pure misery in a mug…
Fortunately for you our fair capital is enjoying a coffee renaissance at the moment. Let’s start in Soho. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in London Perfect’s Savoy apartment, then it’s a 20-minute walk to Frith Street. Opposite the world famous jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s, you can find Bar Italia.
This establishment was one of the brave vanguards of Italian style coffee, with cappuccinos, espressos and machiattos proving creamy and exciting punctuations to a grey 1950s London. Today snappily dressed Italian baristas still ply coffee to the tourists, residents and party animals of Soho 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Yet the Italians have found some stiff competition of late, from an unexpected part of the world. The Australians and New Zealanders have brought their own spin on coffee to the streets of Soho. On Berwick Street amongst the specialist fabric and textile shops is Flat White, a café established by an Kiwi backpacker. Here you can try the aforesaid flat white (aka a flattie – the intense progeny of a macchiato and cappuccino), long black (an Americano) or short black (espresso).
It’s sister café, Milk Bar, on Bateman Street is another Antipodean purveyor of caffeine delight, accompanying their glasses of latte with a divine range of cakes and biscuit delights.
These two establishments have set the trend for small chains of excellent coffee shops to bravely sprout up around London, bringing decent hot hits of delight to fans well beyond the traditional boundaries of Soho. Taylor St Baristas has outposts as far afield as the City, Mayfair and Richmond. Meanwhile Silvio’s Coffee House in Shoreditch, with its award winning flat whites, is the cool hip baby sibling in an established fleet of cafés.
These superlative independents have been nipping at the heels of the ubiquitous Caffé Neros, Costa Coffees and Starbucks that litter the British high street. Their quality of coffee and barista skills have since risen, although it seems their tea-brewing standards have slipped as a result.
It’s clear you can’t have it all.
If you’re one who prefers to make coffee within the comfort of home then do consider independent coffee roasters springing up around town. Climpson and Sons of Broadway Market, St Ali in Clerkenwell and Marylebone as well as Monmouth Coffee all curate a distinctive and moorish ranges of coffee beans. Whatever your fancy – from a chocolatey Brazilian blend to a fruity number from Kenya – there will be a roaster out there happy to provide.
Right, so three espressos and two flat whites later how’s your head? Improving? Excellent news. You look better. Now get thee to Lower Miffleton on the Wold. I’m sure Auntie Rosamund and the vicar would never guess about last night’s excesses…
Zoë F. Willis is a London Perfect reservationist, writer and Londoner. Visit her blog Things Wot I Have Made to find out more about Zoë’s many creative talents!
Photo Credits: Caffe Latte by Alpha, Ceilidh Dancing by Derek E-Jay, Instant coffee by Daniel Panev, Bar Italia by SomeDriftwood, Flat White by Russell James Smith, Lamingtons by jamieanne, Coffee beans by Umer Shabib