Duncan's blog

January 5, 2015

Bristol coffee shops

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , ,

After a recent trip to Bristol, in keeping with previous articles on coffee shops in Dublin, New York, Zagreb and  New Zealand and Australia, I thought I’d do a write-up for some cafés we went to.

Playground Coffee House

45 St. Nicholas Street

The first place we called at was the Playground Coffee House.  It hadn’t opened for the morning, we were slightly too early, but we were still able to get some very nice coffees.  It looked like a fun place to go; from the usual like board games, to the unusual like, er, swings for seats.  Which come with their own warning, they maybe don’t mix too well with hot drinks!

The barista was very friendly, and recommended to us a few of the other best coffee shops in town.

P1010287 P1010288 P1010289 P1010291 P1010293

Facebook / Twitter


Bear Pit Social

St. James Barton Underpass

This place is housed in a converted shipping container, in the, er, interesting location of the Bearpit, aka the St. James Barton Roundabout underpass… not as bad as it sounds.  In fact they had quite a nice little seating area in one corner, and they were doing food in addition to the coffees.


Facebook / Twitter


Spicer and Cole

1 Queen Square Avenue

Spicer and Cole was listed on our map, out in Clifton.  We didn’t go there, but they also had a branch in the centre, on Welsh Back, very close to Queen Square.  I overheard someone in the street raving about it to a couple who were looking for somewhere to eat.  I went there a couple of times; the coffee was ok; we had some nice Sunday breakfast.

P1010463 P1010465 P1010466

Website / Facebook / Twitter


Full Court Press – Speciality Coffee

59 Broad Street

Full Court Press I visited a couple of times.  The name’s apparently a basketball reference.  They seemed to take their coffee pretty seriously (as their sub-title would imply), and both times the baristas gave me good descriptions of the choice of beans available.

P1010434 P1010435 P1010585 P1010586

WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Pinterest


I intended to visit some of these too, but unfortunately they were all closed on the Sunday:

  • Didn’t You Do Well
  • Workhouse Cafe
  • Small Street Espresso

The coffee map I bought in Playground was very useful; I’d recommend it if you were on a trip to Bristol and wanted to visit a few different cafés.  It listed 24 different places to go, with lots of information and an attractively-designed map.

Website / Twitter

(when I first checked the website was fine; but it seems be offline right now).


November 8, 2014

New Zealand and Australian coffee shops

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 11:16 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I had a brilliant 3-week holiday in New Zealand and Australia with my girlfriend recently. I thought I’d list some of the decent coffee shops we visited, similarly to how I’ve done it before with New York and Zagreb. This is far from comprehensive; we only went to a few cities, and didn’t try specifically to seek out the best cafés, they were more just those we came across in our wanderings. In summary I was very impressed with the quality of coffee shops in both New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand

We were briefly in Auckland, then the rest of the time in the South Island, including a couple of visits to Christchurch.



1 Wellesley Street West, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010 (map)

A quirky little place with lots of things to keep you distracted in the cafe, like books, board games and an arcade machine, making it a fun place to hang out. But the important thing is the coffee, which was good.

Good One

42 Douglas Street, Ponsonby, Auckland 1011 (map)

Slightly off the main Ponsonby Road, down what is otherwise mostly a residential street, tucked away in a small light industrial unit. It’s worth discovering though; it’s a decent size inside with plenty of seating areas. A huge collection of National Geographics provides some colour in keeping with their yellow theme.


Coffee Lovers

25 New Regent Street, Christchurch (map)

One of several cafes on the funky little pastel-coloured New Regent Street, right outside where the historic tram currently stops. A small seating area upstairs, reasonable coffee.

Crafted Coffee Company

Re:Start Container Mall, Cashel Street, Christchurch (map)

In the centre of Christchurch, following the devastating earthquake of 2011, they’ve constructed a pop-up space of shops and cafes made from shipping containers, ‘Re:Start‘, very similar to the Boxpark in Shoreditch, London.  In one of those units is Crafted Coffee, in a two-storey affair (although the upper area was closed when we were there).  It’s a decent little cafe, and I thought they displayed good customer service.

There were a couple other coffee shops in Re:Start, and given enough time I’d have tried them all.

Robert Harris, Christchurch

YMCA Building, 12 Hereford Street, Christchurch 8013 (map)

In the ground floor of the YMCA youth hostel is a decent sized Robert Harris cafe, doing reasonable coffees and teas and food.  Not quite pure artisan coffee, but a step up from global chains like Starbucks.

Vespa Bar

225 High Street, Christchurch (map)

The original Vespa Bar got destroyed in the earthquake, but has been able to re-open in a new building nearby to their original location.  It was more of a bar than a coffee shop, but the food and coffee we had was perfectly fine.




Vudu Cafe

23 Beach Street, Queenstown 9197 (map)

In Queenstown there are two Vudu’s, presumably reasonably similar… don’t confuse this Vudu Cafe with Vudu Cafe & Larder round the corner!  We only went to this one, twice.  The coffees were good, and the food was beautifully presented yumminess.  It was quite popular and busy, although there was a semi-covered side-area which didn’t seem to get so crowded.

Post Office Cafe

19 Ballarat Street, Queenstown 9348 (map)

aka The Exchange, a large coffee shop just round the corner from, er, the post office.


Relishes cafe, Wanaka

1/99 Ardmore Street, Wanaka 9305 (map)

There seemed to be several decent looking places along the lakeside in Wanaka; we just chanced on this one.  I had a delicious ‘free range pulled pork shoulder in a Turkish bun with apple slaw‘.  Never heard of Turkish bun before, but it just turned out to be a big soft roll, I think with some herbs and spices.

Cafe Mondo, Arrowtown

4/14 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown 9196 (map)

Arrowtown is an interesting little place near Queenstown where the town centre looks like something from the Wild West, having been an old gold mining settlement.  Not sure how much of that is genuinely old and how much is retro-fitted.  Cafe Mondo looked like about the best spot for coffee.  Friendly service.


We were in Melbourne for a few days, but less than 48 hours in Sydney.


Cheeky Monkey

89A Swan Street, Richmond VIC 3121 (map)

Melbourne as a whole is full of good coffee shops, although there didn’t seem to be that many around this area; I recall walking down Swan Street looking for anywhere decent, then finding Cheeky Monkey and opposite it was Book Talk Cafe (a ‘cafebreria‘) which also looked good.

Sacred Alley espresso bar

12 Equitable Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000 (map)

This little alleyway in the Melbourne CBD laneways is full of cafes and restaurants, many of which looked like they’d be good for coffee, and we just opted for this one, which was perfectly good.

Jasper Coffee

Stall 105, 163 Commercial Road, Prahran, Victoria 3181 (map)

Prahran has a large indoor market full of fresh meat, fish, fruit + veg stalls.  Towards the back is this little coffee stand, with an impressive selection of beans available for purchase.  Quite busy, at least at the weekend, but good coffee.

Market Lane is another coffee shop in the Prahran Market that looks very good.

Huckleberry Finn

538 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, Victoria (map)

Came across this little place by luck, as we had a few minutes while changing trams and got some takeaway coffees here.  Lovely teal La Marzocco machine.


157 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065 (map)

This was in the Fitzroy area, towards the southern end of Brunswick Street.  They had an open fire in the back, a sort of long narrow affair with different seating areas.  I had some ‘baked eggs in spicy napoli sauce with chorizo & feta’ which was quite nice, and the coffees were very good.  It was indeed nice inside.

Miss Frank cafe

200 Through Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124 (map)

This coffee shop was out in Camberwell, luckily quite close to where we were staying.  It’s a good size inside, with friendly service.  Nice food, good coffees, much better than I would expect to typically find out in the suburbs.

Sensory Lab

297 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 (map)

Based in the ground floor of department store David Jones.  They seemed to know what they were doing.



Ground Control cafe

Alfred Street, Sydney, NSW 2000 (map)

A small coffee shop conveniently located in the ground floor under the Circular Quay train station.  Small seating area, reminded me of Dose in London.

Social Brew cafe, Sydney

Harris Street, Pyrmont, NSW 2009 (map)

This coffee shop is near the Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont (which is worth a visit).  We went there on a Saturday lunch time, and it was very busy with people enjoying brunch, but we were only having coffees, which were good.

AquaBar, Bondi

4/266 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026 (map)

On a wet and windy day we took refuge here at the far end of Bondi Beach.  There were about three cafes here all grouped together.  The coffee was ok, and I had a delicious ‘Mediterranean Eggs‘ (poached eggs, lime-infused zatar, feta, pine nuts, Israeli salad with sourdough).

June 25, 2014

25 funny coffee shop signs

Filed under: Coffee,Funny — duncan @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , ,

A day without coffee is like something without something

1. Fleet Street Press mastering the art of a good simile.


life is a beautiful and endless journey in search of the perfect cup!

2. Knockbox Coffee getting all zen.


free coffee for anyone doing the umbrella dance!

3. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs wondering if you feel like dancing.


Coffee - a warm, delicious alternative to hating everybody every morning forever!!!

4. Fleet Street Press


I'd rather take coffee than compliments just now!

5. Knockbox Coffee


Coffee is the foundation of my food pyramid

6. Fleet Street Press


But first, coffee

7.  Vittles Coffee, Edinburgh


trams: £1079.48 per Edinburgh resident, espresso: £2

8. Artisan Roast‘s coffee offering value for money for Edinburgh residents compared to the trams.


Coffee solves everything

9. Artisan Coffee, Stamford Brook


Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation

10. Fleet Street Press


Free coffee!

11.  Fork Deli


Coffee, one meal to rule them all!

12. Beany Green


your name

13. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs


coffee makes the afternoon better & quicker

14. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs


secret ingredient to the Egyptian revolution?

15. Notes providing the solution to the Egyptian revolution.


spring is here! - but we still need coffee!

16. Fleet River Bakery


wake up sleeping beauty

17. Fleet River Bakery



18. Artisan Roast


probably the best coffee in Tollcross and definitely the best tea

19. Modesty isn’t the best policy for Pekoe Tea.


coffee for passion

20.  The Borough Barista


creative fuel

21. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs


tube strikes suck!!!  our coffee doesn't!!!

22. Fleet River Bakery


coffee never goes on strike

23. Fleet Street Press



24. Quiet understatement from Brick Lane Coffee.


you've gotta fight for your right to latte

25. Four Corners Cafe

May 5, 2014

Yet more funny A-boards

Filed under: Coffee,Funny — duncan @ 8:00 am
Tags: ,

More A-boards, all from coffee shops this time.  I love these things!

P1090980P1090978-001P1100355P1090895-001P1090801   P1090901   P1100119   P1100367 P1100651P1100504P1090802-001 P1100337

Coffee shops:

April 20, 2014

Funny A-boards

Filed under: Coffee,Funny — duncan @ 6:44 pm
Tags: , ,

Following up from my previous posts, Funny coffee shop A-boards and Funny pub signs, here’s some more of my photos of funny A-boards from a variety of places (but mostly coffee shops).

Happy Monday!! How 'bout some caffeine?Coffee! If you're not shaking you need another cup!!!Coffee - the antidote to childrenMathsHow is Fix Coffee made?Guns and CoffeeI've started drinking my coffee out of a clear mug so people know where my tolerance level isLids - get one free with every coffee you buy here!We got alllll the pastriesChang chang Leather Lane let us see you shake your thangThe older you get, the more you realise, nobody knows anything. Everybody's winging it!I have no idea what to write on this side :(

Thanks to:

February 11, 2014

Funny coffee shop A-boards

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 6:35 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Caffeine magazine published a selection of funny coffee shop A-boards in their latest issue, including a few of mine. I thought I’d do a collage of all my own favourite ones here, enjoy!

_  BrooklynToby's Estate Coffee, BrooklynKahailaBowery Coffee (NY) 1ArtigianoBorough Barista 1Borough Barista 2Borough Barista 3Bowery Coffee (NY) 2Brick Lane CoffeeDepartment of Coffee 1Department of Coffee 2Department of Coffee 3Department of Coffee 4Department of Coffee 5Department of Coffee 6DoseFleet River Bakery 1Fleet River Bakery 2Fleet River Bakery 3-001Fleet River Bakery 4.Fleet Street Press 1Fleet Street Press 2Fleet Street Press 3Fleet Street Press 4Fleet Street Press 5Fleet Street Press 6Fork 1Fork 2Goswell Road CoffeeKaffeine 1Kaffeine 2SlateBea's of BloomsburyLa GourmandinaP1090580P1090579P1090342P1090341P1090294P1090287P1090222P1090155P1080847

Many thanks to all these coffee shops for their wit and wisdom:

  • Artigiano
  • Bea’s of Bloomsbury
  • Borough Barista
  • Bowery Coffee
  • Brick Lane Coffee
  • Continental Stores
  • Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
  • Dose Espresso
  • Fix 126
  • Fleet River Bakery
  • Fleet Street Press
  • Fork
  • Freestate
  • Goswell Road Coffee
  • Kaffeine
  • Kahaila
  • La Gourmandia
  • Slate
  • Toby’s Estate Coffee

November 25, 2013

New York coffee shops

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I was in New York for my first time last week, and went to a lot of different coffee shops,  mostly good ones!  Rather than try and write lots of individual reviews, I just wanted to give brief details of each, as much for my own future reference as anything else.

So in no particular order:

El Rey Coffee Bar

100 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002

A cute little coffee bar in the Lower East Side near the Bowery, an area full of similar great coffee shops.



Brooklyn Roasting Company

25 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

This is the largest coffee shop I think I’ve been in.  Also the first I’ve seen that sell their own t-shirts, mugs, beanie hats and, er, swimming caps!

P1060056 P1060057 P1060058 P1060059 P1060060


Bowery Coffee

89 East Houston Street, New York, NY 10012

Another cute little coffee shop near the Bowery with old-school decor.

P1060410P1060409P1060408   P1060586 P1060587P1060589




10-93 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101

Just a few minutes down the road from the now-defunct 5Pointz graffiti hall-of-fame (which was the only reason I was out here).  A quirky and nice little café.

P1050764 P1050765



Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

88 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Orchard Street seemed to be full of interesting little bars, shops and cafés.  Indeed many of the coffee shops (including this one) seemed to double-up as bars in the evening, something that we don’t seem to really do in London.



Little Fox Cafe

62 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012

Didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting for some reason, another small café that also served as a bar later in the day.  Apparently famous for its latte art, my latte was distinctly average.  Also the barista who served us didn’t know what a flat white was (most of the artisan coffee shops seemed aware of it, as you’d expect).

P1050939P1060581 P1060580P1060579



Oro Bakery & Bar

375 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013

Yet another café/bar, doing some nice breakfasts.  I had toast with a thick layer of salted grapefruit marmalade, yum!



Blue Bottle Coffee

160 Berry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249

This was in quite a cool area in Williamsburg with lots of nice shops, cafés and restaurants.  The barista threw away her first attempt at my latte, for no obvious reason (seemed acceptable to me), before letting her colleague make me another one.

P1060324 P1060325


The Butcher’s Daughter

19 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012

This brilliantly-titled juice bar and café caught my eye (apart from the name) because they had a Faema espresso machine on their counter.  The coffee was good; the sandwich I had (a Reuben I think) was delicious!

P1060516 P1060517 P1060518



Laughing Man Coffee & Tea

1 North End Avenue, New York, NY 10282

This place was founded by Hugh Jackman!  This branch is in the ground floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange building, very close to the Irish Hunger Memorial.  Surprisingly good coffee.

P1060618 P1060619 P1060620

October 25, 2013

Chancery Coffee

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , , , ,

P1040065Chancery Coffee is, as the name suggests, on Chancery Lane. It’s part of the Coffeesmiths Collective, which also includes Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar and Tonic Coffee Bar.

It’s quite a cosy affair, having four small tables, so probably does most business take-away. Indeed I usually end up getting my coffees in a take-away cup even when sitting in.  I know some people prefer their coffee not to be served in paper cups, but I’m not too bothered either way.

The service is out-going and friendly, as it always is at the Department of Coffee too.  And the coffee is of a consistently high standard, as I expect it is at all of the Coffeesmiths shops.

Despite its size, it’s been nicely designed, with the rich red and blue colours inspired by the Great Hall of the nearby Lincoln’s Inn.  They have an interesting article on their website about their design choices.  Their red La Marzocco espresso machine fits in nicely with the colour scheme.

Their logo contains the emblems from each of the four Inns of Court:

Their loyalty cards are available in four different versions, each one with a different one of these emblems (and I believe you can use them across all the Coffeesmiths shops).  I like to think that the barristers who frequent Chancery Coffee probably favour getting a loyalty card with the logo for their own Inn.

The whole approach has obviously been to take close account of their surroundings, unlike the usual chain coffee shops which try to make each branch appear identical and bland.

Because it’s small I tend to think this is a good place to grab a take-away cup, then head out to the nearby park at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to enjoy it, at least on a dry day.  But equally nice to enjoy inside if there’s seats.

P1010645 P1010647-001 P1010651 P1020363  P1040066

Some other reviews:

October 15, 2013

Prufrock Coffee

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 7:25 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Prufrock Coffee latte artFor I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

The above bit of poetry is from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot; presumably where Prufrock Coffee take their name. But possibly it’s not those lines that inspired it, but this bit from another T.S. Eliot poem, Preludes, published in the same book as the above, Prufrock and Other Observations

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

After all, Prufrock started out as a coffee cart before moving to its current location. Regardless which (or maybe it’s from some other source), it seems somewhat more highbrow than the usual coffee shop name!  With the exception of, er, Starbucks of course, being a character from literary classic Moby Dick.

Prufrock is on Leather Lane, just up the road from the previously-reviewed Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. These are the two coffee shops I go to the most often, so it was about time I also reviewed Prufrock.

I have to confess to feeling slightly intimidated the first time I went in here. On their drinks menu board they don’t have the usual selection of americano, latte, cappuccino, flat white, and so on. Instead they have just the following:

  • espresso £2.20,
  • + milk
    • 4oz £2.60
    • 6oz £2.80
    • 8oz £3.00

I wasn’t sure which I needed, so gingerly asked if I could get a latte… which I could, obviously! It should go without saying that these guys can probably make pretty much any kind of coffee I might have wanted, as I’ve since learnt.
It was also the first coffee shop I’d been in that had a separate brew bar, and they also have a lot of technical coffee-making equipment around the place. Including a Has Garanti roaster in one corner.
Prufrock Coffee espresso machineBut one thing that I found comforting was their Nuova Simonelli Aurelia espresso machine, which had a great cartoon illustration all over it, including a coffee bean flying over the sky in the style of Halley’s Comet as seen on the Bayeux Tapestry, among other things. The illustration was by Martin Kingdom, who has more photos of it here. Unfortunately that espresso machine has been retired and can currently be seen in the coffee shop window.  It’s been replaced by a newer model, which is all lovely and shiny, but not so entertaining to look at!

So chances are if you’re reading this you’re already very familiar with Prufrock – they are regularly featured as one of London’s best coffee shops. They were set up by Gwilym Davies (how many baristas do you know with their own Wikipedia page?) in 2011, who previously ran coffee stands in Columbia Road and Whitecross Street. Gwilym was crowned World Barista Champion 2009, so he knows his stuff. These days I believe he’s based in Prague, so usually during the lunch time service it seems to be director Jeremy Challender running the show.

The café can get a bit busy at lunch time, being popular for obvious reasons (as well as its prime spot on the brilliant foodie destination Leather Lane). But it’s not a problem getting a seat, as it has a lot of square tables with wooden seats and stools, and a long bench that runs along a couple of the walls. The seats always remind me of primary school for some reason…

They do a small selection of soups and sandwiches, as well as cakes, although I’m usually just having the coffee. If anything I’d have to say I think their food slightly over-priced, which is probably my only criticism of this place.

Prufrock run a coffee training centre in their basement. They also sell a large range of supplies for brewing up your own perfect cuppa at home. In summary they’re pretty much one of the best and most knowledgeable places for coffee in London that I’m aware of.  And they do a consistently good job at latte art, as you’ll see from my photos below!

Prufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artP1030316-001Prufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock Coffee latte artPrufrock CoffeePrufrock Coffee

Some other reviews:

Prufrock Coffee on Urbanspoon

July 17, 2013

Café Le Cordon Bleu

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 6:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

P1000213This is a nice place I discovered by chance one day.  I was wanting to find some new coffee shops to go for, and noticed this on Google Maps… I figured anything with the Cordon Bleu name on it would  probably be quite good, and I wasn’t wrong!  And just in case you’re not familiar with the name, Le Cordon Bleu is probably the most famous cookery school, founded in Paris in 1895.

The café is on the ground floor of the Cordon Bleu building at Bloomsbury Square.  I’ve not noticed it mentioned in any of the usual coffee shop guides, and it seems to be a bit overlooked.  Possibly because it’s tucked away in a courtyard and doesn’t get as much passing footfall as it otherwise would elsewhere.  To find it you can either come in through the main entrance to the school on Bloomsbury Square, or directly into the café via Pied Bull Yard.

Most of the customers seem to be staff and students at the cookery school and it’s usually quite interesting overhearing their conversations, which always revolve around food obviously, as well as the usual stress of exams!

All the food is made in-house, although I don’t think any of it is done by the students.  There’s always a very good-looking display of cakes and pastries, some reasonably priced artisan breads, filled ciabatta sandwiches and soup.  They also do these quite cheap ‘savoureux‘, which are just warm little bread rolls filled with a mixture of sweet and savoury ingredients, e.g. feta cheese with fig and honey, or beetroot and roquefort.

They always take care over the coffees they prepare, and usually this is where I see the best latte art of all the coffee shops I go to.

Inside the cafe they have a long wooden table, a few stools and several small tables (plus some computer terminals for the students).  There’s also plenty of seats in the square outside, a space shared with a couple of other venues.

I’m always happy with the coffee and the service here, and if the much busier and smaller Freestate hasn’t got enough seats, it’s only a short walk to here.


P1000214-001 IMG_9896 IMG_0129 P1000367 IMG_0418 IMG_1078-001 IMG_8639 IMG_1554 IMG_1595 IMG_1768 IMG_1487-001 IMG_9100 P1000365 duncan_2013-06-28 P1000366 P1000216 IMG_9911-001 IMG_9101

Café Le Cordon Bleu on Urbanspoon

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.