Brew Lab is a relatively new (well new to me anyway – they opened in September 2012) coffee shop on South College Street in Edinburgh, an area already well-provided for with neighbours like Black Medicine and The Elephant House as well as the usual chains. So what if anything sets Brew Lab apart?
It was quite spacious inside, and seems to have been made by knocking together two adjoining small shops. In fact it used to be the University of Edinburgh’s disability office. The whole place had a ramshackle decor, if you could call it that. Exposed brickwork, partially-stripped back layers of paint and really old floral wallpaper. Temporary lighting hung from the ceiling.
It gave me the feeling as if they were still in the middle of the conversion, and had decided to open early. Except that’s not the plan at all, I’m sure, but rather to give it a lived-in look for some hipster chic. I’ve seen similar styles at places like Freestate, but Brew Lab pushes that look further than anywhere else.
There was a variety of seating – sofas, benches, individual tables and stools. Both my visits were at the weekend, and it wasn’t a problem getting a seat. Possibly busier during the week. Plenty of free newspapers on hand.
My first visit I had a decent ham + cheese baguette (better than my bland description – I don’t remember the details of its ingredients). The second day I went I had a really delicious soup, a Portuguese Caldo Verde – chorizo and kale.
I quickly decided this is my all-time favourite coffee shop, after just the first visit! The second visit confirmed my initial suspicions, thanks to the soup (and coffee obviously) and their playlist of the likes of Will Oldham, Lambchop and Stephen Malkmus.
The staff were friendly and professional. Their coffees were well made and delicious, and they seemed to have a good range of options for types of coffee and brew method. Indeed behind the counter they presented them as a periodic table of coffees available by each method (and ‘anti-coffee’ options!).
Much of the above you could find in many other coffee shops, but there was something else that marked it out for me. It’s hard to quantify, but a general ambience about the place. That could easily tempt you to quit your job, move to Edinburgh to work as a freelancer, and permanently station yourself here, sipping flat whites and nibbling cake!