Friday, 3 February 2012

West End Coffee Round Up

Brief one really, but I thought I'd highlight some of the new cafés and coffee joints which have been springing up recently - three of which are in W1. Curiously recession-defying, especially with West End rents, the London coffee movement does seem to be defiantly marching on against the ubiquity of the chains.

Parisian goodies at Cafe Gourmand
Two of the three are actually second ventures by established coffee heavies, but with different names, vibes and directions. This isn't empire building - Nude, Foxcroft, Tapped & Packed - much as I love you all, take heed.

Sensory Lab is a new place on Wigmore Street by the St Ali team. It's not a huge, brooding undertaking such as theirs resplendent with vertical garden and roastery, but more of a clean, fresh, small outlet with similar coffee provenance. Think Tapped & Packed, but a little smaller. It's at the bottom of Marylebone High St, which actually doesn't have any great coffee beyond Providores, so could clean up.

Speakeasy is sneakily located on one of the alleyways between Carnaby and Newburgh Streets, but the discreet location is belied by what at first appears quite a clinical set up - tall counters, a lot of concrete and white, with very bright lighting. The staff are however extremely sociable and fun, which makes it a more relaxing place. Great food selection as well.

This is from Leather Lane's Department of Coffee and Social Affairs but is a wholly different concept. The basement is a little cosier, but this is more of a take away venue than a wi-fi doss-house.

Café Gourmand is a rather grand looking place - also new and contemporary, but with a classical approach to cakes and fantastic vintage signage, it looks as if it could have been there for years. They specialise in teas also, and this is definitely more of a place to lounge than the other two. It has more of a continental feel to it, with quirky touches inside.

So three new venues all in the same postcode. Tapped & Packed's newish second place up near Warren Street makes four. Big postcode mind.

London's coffee offerings are going from strength to strength, and it's great that people are confident enough to expand and establish new venues - that the desire for meaningful, informed or just plain stylish coffee places has not yet been saturated. The scene is now long past aping and imitating a few Antipodean venues as imports, and only attracting said Antipodeans as customers, and is now proliferating into a London-wide discernment for better.

The girls in my office clutching their Square Mile flat whites have probably never been close to Melbourne or a food blog, and are not what one might call hipsters, but regular people who recognise that the 'coffee-flavoured milk drinks' from the high street are just not cutting it anymore.

Speakeasy on Urbanspoon
Cafe Gourmand on Urbanspoon
Sensory Lab on Urbanspoon

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