Barista Diaries: The View From The Hoppers – pt 2

In pt. 1 of his barista diaries, Paul explored first impressions, aeropress and damn fine espresso from Noble.

Caravan King’s Cross

As previously mentioned we had been told to expect great things from Caravan, both in terms of coffee and food. Judging by the wall of sound that hit us as we entered; it seemed as though most of the population of Central London had also been made similarly aware.

After brunch it was down to business for the final time on day one. My Guatemalan Single Origin Espresso was right on the money with a delightful combination of citrus notes and a smooth caramel finish. Furthermore, these wonderful flavours were accentuated by the fact that everything I had been told should be in a good shot of espresso was there. Technically and artistically this scored ‘6.0’ from this particular judge; and was a suitable end to the day-one research.

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The Flat Whites

Sunday dawned bright and early and our first port of call took us to ‘Flat White’ in Soho. What struck us upon arrival was that this was our first destination that actually reminded us of a typical coffee shop.  However, once my drink arrived, all comparisons to previous establishments were blown clean out of the water, because they served me the standout coffee of the weekend.

baristaAs you can see from the photo, the presentation was first-rate and the shine on the milk was excellent. Furthermore, my attention was grabbed on the first sip by the sweetness, the oh-so-glorious sweetness of that very same milk. It was utterly luxurious, like drinking liquid velvet. This combined with an exclusive Costa Rican Espresso, with notes of pepper and a mild spiciness, had my taste buds dancing in the aisles. Moral of the story – If you go to ‘Flat White’; order a Flat White!

 Any drink that had to follow that was likely going to struggle by comparison. However, the last destination that we had chosen was one with arguably the best coffee-making reputation of all. Therefore, we made the short walk to ‘Kaffeine’ with expectations suitably high; and we were not let down.

baristaOnce there, I was slightly disappointed that there was nothing on the menu that I hadn’t had before. However, that is no indictment of the quality of the shop. The Flat White they made using Square Mile coffee beans (the roastery set up by 2007 World Barista Champion James Hoffmann) was made to an extremely high standard.

Two Eateries

Thirty seconds walk from Kaffeine is ‘Scandinavian Kitchen’; an establishment that I have heard several Baltzersen’s customers refer to. This seemed too good a dining opportunity to miss; and so we headed on over for a delightful Smørbrød lunch.

10454138_10154375624980223_3824216193185502534_o“you can take the boy out of Baltzersen’s, but…!”

 I am already a fully signed up member of the Smørbrød fan club, but this was Yue’s first experience; and she found it an extremely positive one. She enjoyed the greater variety of ingredients, superior presentation and attention to detail, compared to traditional British sandwiches. Furthermore, this establishment also doubles up as a shop selling traditional Scandinavian fare. However, it does not place any particular emphasis on its coffee. Therefore, if you wish to re-create the Baltzersen’s experience down south; we recommend you combine lunch here with coffee and cake at Kaffeine.

Back in the world of British cuisine; perhaps we expected a little bit too much of our brunches at Caravan. We had been told by numerous sources to expect great things of the food there. What we got was very good, but somehow didn’t seem quite up to the standards that our informants had described. Yue had a Breakfast Fry-Up and I had the Pork Belly Pancake, which was suitably pleasant, but for both us it lacked anything to get us jumping out of our seats and shouting for an encore. Furthermore, whereas all the other venues had presented us with a relaxed and informal atmosphere; Caravan confronted us with the sound of Cosmopolitan London in stereo – again, nothing objectively wrong with that, but simply not to our taste.

Overall, the weekend left a very pleasant taste in our mouths, both literally and metaphorically. From a personal point of view the coffee I drank, the discussions I had and the inspiration I drew from the experience meant that I returned to work the following day feeling suitably invigorated with new ideas; and a fresh determination to continue making progress in my still fledgling days as a Barista.

As for you dear readers, we simply recommend that you adhere to the slogan that Baltzersen’s staff have emblazoned across their chests – “It is better to support an independent than to curse a chain”. We don’t just want to serve you great coffee; we want you to experience the world of independent coffee shops beyond our four walls. For us, it is a wonderful world indeed, with experiences as rich and varied as the flavours of the coffee beans that you will find in these establishments. There is something to suit every taste and if you have anywhere near as enjoyable a time as we had in London; then Yue and I are sure that it will be an experience that you will treasure.

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