Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Espresso Room

Six months ago I wanted to compile a league of the best places in London for a cup of coffee. I kept postponing the task as new places were cropping up at a rate that was difficult to keep up with. There maybe sites out there with their own suggestions of the top five or ten places to go for the best caffeine fixes in the capital, unfortunately they fall short and end up incomplete. I’m a tenacious person by nature, so when I set out to do something like blogging about coffee cafes, I do it so with an eerie persistence and determination. Actually passion wouldn’t come amiss either.

When I visit one of these cafés, I don’t visit them once and declare thereupon that they are either thumbs up or down. No, if they’re bad I will always go back at least twice to confirm my suspicions. Likewise, if they’re good first time round then I’ll always endeavour to revisits, this ensures that the high standards I crave are suitably maintained. So what are my credentials for being judgmental on the anorak side of coffee tasting, well apart from having a photographic memory of everything that touches my tongue or whiffing via the nostrils (as I did with wine), very little else I expect. But trust me on this, I bloody well know my coffee.

The day I stop blogging about coffee is when London is saturated with an inordinate amount of so called bespoke coffee bars that churn out crap and inevitably blight the newfound coffee culture that I so dearly love. But I shall soldier on with my established and favourite outfits like Lantana, Taylor St and Climpsons, whatever happens. There will be a fourth one joining the other three and that’s The Espresso Room.

TER was chanced upon via one of my Flickr contacts, Jimseven. He’s also better known as James Hoffman, WBC 2007 (not boxing but barista) and Mr Square Mile; if the term ‘coffee god’ is ever coined here for the UK, he should trademark it! It’s no great secret that Square Mile supplies their beans to most of the nouveau coffee bars (nearly 50% according to my observations) in London (Milk Bar, Dose, Bea’s, and so on) and TER is the latest recruit.

In addition to sarnies made for the discerning ones who lunch, cakes and bites come from Sally Clarke.

TER is located on the same road in Bloomsbury as the most famous children’s hospital in the world. Great Ormond Street, for obvious reasons, is a quiet road and it somewhat compliments the unassuming frontage of TER. Like Dose and Taste of Bitter Love, it’s small and as clichés go, perfectly formed to boot. Faithful to the name, it’s a room (single bed size if I'm not mistaken). As soon as one walks in you’re greeted by a smiling chap that’s Ben. To come across an affable proprietor, who’s also a barista and standing proudly by the La Marz (coffee machine that’s as important as the samurai knives are to a chef), then more or less everything else is a foregone conclusion. This place is indeed superb.

What I had here-

Flat White 1

Flat White 2

Flat White 3

Re Flat Whites-
A note on Square Mile if I may. Hoffman and co are responsible for the smoothest tasting blends I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. But unlike the blends that are supplied by for instance, Monmouth, where a non-barista is still able to conjure up a half decent cup (as in the case of Canteen and its cappuccino); in my humblest, a Square Mile blend needs a fully-fledged barista to bring out its best. The peeps for the most notable Square Mile based flatties include Lee at Tina’s, James at Dose, the chap (never knew his name, shoot me!) who creates the most beautiful latte art in London at the Milk Bar, JoHanna at the Farm Collective and now we have Ben at TER.

TER has also done us all coffee fans a favour by offering guest coffees like this one.

This single espresso of the above was distinguished and very nearly chewable.

Coming back here is a must as I’ve already identified the wonderful ease of the ambience that’s coupled with good coffee, my whims are satisfied no end. Drink and enjoy, highly recommended.

You can watch Andrew Tan's excellent video of
Ben Townsend's inspirational words of wisdom and strife here.

31-35 Great Ormond Street
London WC1N 3HZ



Charmaine said...

I've been waiting for your write-up of this place! It has definitely shot up to become one of my favourites. Ben is such a lovely bloke.

Have you tried Ginger & White in Hampstead yet? It's a bit shaky right now and maybe a wee bit chichi, but looks capable of great things.

bellaphon said...

Hi Charmaine, lovely to hear from you. Been to G&W once, disappointing; but as ever I need to go back again.

James Hoffmann said...

I'd probably agree with your comments about the demands of the blend. I don't want to shoot off on a tangent about creating blends and roasting to retain the natural character of a coffee, versus generating generic roast flavours (roasting is a difficult balance). We create espresso we love, but are well aware we are responsible for it even after it has passed from our possession. It is hard work indeed, and we are very lucky to have customers like Ben and TER to do a great job with it. Plus Ben is not just a great barista but a lovely chap as you say.

Very glad you've enjoyed it, shame about the visits to G&W. The passion is there and we'll keep doing everything we can to support them as they grow and develop.

kerstin said...

You haven't mentioned Caffe Vergnano? Or is this just a flat white post?

Ben said...

If you saw the coffee we have at work - that I'm currently drinking - it'd make you weep. Horrific.

I sat outside Bea's on sunday with a read, good coffee, fag and slice of white choc Brownie. Was well worth the 5 mile walk from home.

bellaphon said...

James- Thank you for commenting as ever and the insight with regards to Square Mile. I intend to give G&W another go anyway, this time ‘in’ instead of a rather rushed takeaway.

MML- The espresso at CV is absolutely stonking but they're clueless on all things to do with flat whites, so the answer to your question is basically yes.

Ben- I wished Bea's would install an awning to shade us smokers from the vicious sun, otherwise I gather that we're in agreement that it's a brilliant place. Do try out TER as well, pity they're shut on Sundays though!

The Shed said...

It's a bit out of the way (Hackney Wick), but you should check out The Counter...run and staffed almost entirely by New Zealanders, also use square mile coffee, awwwwesome espresso, and damn fine latte. Have yet to try a flat white, though.

TER sounds great, will have to check it out.

bellaphon said...

The Shed- Thank you for recommending The Counter. I've been trying to get there but to no avail, the built-in satnav in my head simply turns to shreds whenever I'm in E8! Best strive again.

The Shed said...

I work almost next door so know the way very well!! Public trasnport or own steam/car?
It's worth it. Their bacon baguettes with homemade relish are also worth a pop.

Unknown said...

I am going to try the place today. Looks very cosy but a bit small... the espresso looks good.

I always look for new cafes _ I don't like to go to the same place everyday.

bellaphon said...

Massimo- thank you for stopping. Assuming that you're Italian, I've always been intrigued by what you guys think of the Aussies, Kiwis and now the Brits, have done to your beloved cappuccini.

Unknown said...

I went to Espresso today -- very cosy and friendly.
I had a good small sandwich, and... espresso.
The place is nice, but I wish it had one table (?)

Since I am a bit concerned about swine-flu,
I was concerned about all those hospitals (5) in the vicinity...

I like Aussies / Kiwis and British coffee.
Is not the same as an espresso in Italy, but it shouldn't be. Each coffee has their own style.

The problem is that some places have no clue about espresso !

Cafes with eastern-Europeans baristas, have the worst espresso -- I don't know why.

Sometimes, there is an after taste, which can happen often, if the machine is not checked daily.
If the filter gets clogged, it will distort the taste.

I always complain, if the espresso is not up to scratch and is amusing to see the reactions...

Talking about Kiwi cafe -- I love Nude Espresso

bellaphon said...

Massimo- An enlightening view, thank you. Ouch with the New EU baristi though, Michal at Taylor St is more than deft when making capps or flatties and the infernally miserable girls at Vergnano redeem themselves by churning out excellent shots of espresso. But you're correct in stating that all the baristi need a degree of passion in order to produce that perfect cup.

Speak to you again.

Unknown said...

I have been to Tylor St - is nice but very small -- and every time I pass by, the sandwiches are all gone...

Anonymous said...

What is the coffee machine which using in The Espresso Room?


Espresso Pods said...

Sounds like a great place! Definitely goes to my to visit list for 2014!