Tag Archives: coffee

The Lounge, North St: Unimpressed

I walk into the Tobacco Factory and my companion reminds me why I prefer to go for coffee alone. Are you sure you want to go here, he asks. Well obviously I’m sure otherwise I wouldn’t have come in, but my grass-is-greener friend sounds doubtful and out we go again. This time we head to the Lounge, part of the Lounges chains round Bristol.

My friend spots an old colleague by the door so we spend some time chatting before we head to the bar to order. I order a second shot with my decaf, soy latte and there’s no green tea so my friend orders a redbush or rooibos tea. The difference in the names is attributed to your accent according to the woman serving us. Not quite a believable statement. She is also apparently the sole one in charge of coffees because when I asked whether they did decaf she replied ‘I do’ so let’s hope she doesn’t drop dead.

We hadn’t found a table yet so I went to get one and tell her the number. By the time I got back she’d moved out to collect glasses so I stood around waiting and then half told someone else but by then she was back and with an oh yeah helped out.

The coffee and tea were brought out to us quite quickly. All three rooms of the lounge were quite busy and full of young professionals brunching which probably explains why the place smelled of eggs. There was constant movement and talking which social people probably find quite friendly. There were newspapers available although only the sports and travel sections were left or there were the news of the world or the Mirror.

The well worn but polished floor boards lent a warmth to the room which suited the autumnal russet colours of the walls. Sturdy wooden tables were well placed with the comfortable armchairs, most fitted with leather cushions.

All should have made for a lovely break but somehow it didn’t quite work. The constant smell of everyone’s breakfast pointed to the fact that there too many tables all together. The coffee was bland and even with the additional shot was way too milky. The rooibos tea was the finest a tea bag could provide and didn’t quite live up to the standards of the freshly made Lahloo tea we’d encountered around the city centre and Clifton. Most of the service wasn’t great and I was glad to leave most of my beverage to go elsewhere.

I can imagine that it would be a great place to run into friends or acquaintances if you lived in the area. There’s a communal feel to it and greeting friends with quick chats seemed normal but I’d rather go somewhere where I know no one rather than suffer through bad coffee

227 North St, Bedminster, Bristol, Avon BS3 1JJ, 0117 963 7340


Tobacco Factory: Tapas and Coffee

The Tobacco Factory for lunch on a Sunday did not offer a roast. Instead, there were some warm brasserie style lunches, baguettes, English muffins and a selection of tapas dishes.

Luckily they also had decaf coffee so along with the bread and humous (£3.20), olives and humous (£3.20) and patatas bravas (£3.80), I was able to enjoy a vanilla soy latte (£2.10 + 0.20p) and my friend had a green tea.

The bread was lovely, from Mark’s Bread across the road, and was firm of texture with a harder crust but not too tough. The selection was made up of white and brown bread drizzled with olive oil and supplemented with two triangles of butter. The first basket had five mediocre sized pieces while the second had a better amount.

The patatas bravas were roasted new potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper and parsley. I say seasoned but most were barely flavoured while the rest were nice but the pepper was not entirely appropriate. The tomato sauce / salsa accompaniment had no seasoning at all and I didn’t bother with it after a couple of tastes. The humous was chunky but not too rough although again there was no seasoning apart from parsley and cumin. Salt was not a big factor in the meal at all (the butter was unsalted as well). The best dish was made up of the green and brown olives which were nice and the portion was a good size.

The vanilla soy latte was pleasant and tasty and the green tea was pretty standard and drinkable, apparently.

The meal was nice although it wasn’t meant to be more than a snack. It wasn’t amazing and could have done with more seasoning but it was worth the money. The environment was the most enjoyable aspect to the midday break. The room was large and most of the tables were full, families with little children, men on their own with newspapers and books, gatherings of young women and random urban professionals passing by. The space was large enough to make the conversations a slight noise in the background which allowed for comfortable talk and some semblance of privacy.

I suspect I’ll try a different dish next time and English muffins sounded very good. £5 for one of four selections including mushroom and cheese and smoked salmon with cream cheese. For an additional 50p each you can add a poached egg as well. Sounds ideal for brunch.

The Tobacco Factory, Raleigh Rd, Bristol, Avon BS31TF, 0117 902 0060

Swinky’s Sexy Cupcakes

I took Bristol Bites’ suggestion yesterday, and on the way up Park St, stopped off at Swinky’s for a special treat of a cupcake. Swinky’s is a sweet lovers delight of a shop. The home made candy motif has now spread to imported American goods such as Reece’s Pieces, Junior Mints (£1) and Lucky Charm cereal boxes (£7.95). Adventurous flavours such as Moroccan Mint and Deep Dark Chocolate Orange and Chilli have been joined by Cosmopolitan, Dirty Martini, Chocolate Three Ways and one more which I will leave for you to discover.

The four new flavours have been created to celebrate the second Sex and the City movie by representing each of the female lead characters. The two that I bought to taste were the following:

Blitzed cranberries infuse vanilla sponge cake with a hint of lime zest to stand up to the sweetness. Topped with a Cranberry, Orange and Lime Frosting, the only thing missing is the Vodka! An ode to Ms Bradshaw.

Dirty Martini (Salted Chocolate Caramel)
Light chocolate cake is wrapped in salted martini-chocolate frosting and drizzled in caramel. Elegance with a feisty kick and a potential classic. Samantha perhaps?

I saved the sweet treats to enjoy with my Indian Monsoon Malamar coffee from Extract Coffee. I preferred the Cosmopolitan cupcake and didn’t like the idea that the dirty martini was made up of cake, not dense enough. The coffee was great.

I must mention that I don’t intend to watch either of the Sex in the City movies. I find the concept of them sexist and stereotypically cliched – so it’s not the movie that caused my excitement. I just love variety and new flavours.

Swinky Sweets Ltd, 20 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5JA

Boston Tea Party, time to linger

Two poached eggs on a buttered white bagel. Saturday morning. The coffee is a large sized vanilla soy latte. Not the Boston blend, I find it too mellow, but rather the normal dark blend.

On my own this would be my favourite way to start the day. Ideally it would follow a run but that doesn’t always happen. I would have picked up a newspaper from somewhere close by and dedicated the next hour to getting through some part of it. With company I would have to negotiate the time spent reading and talking until my company either got bored or fed up.

Recently the poached eggs have been on brown toast. I’ve had a waffle when craving something sweet. At the cafe on Whiteladies Rd they don’t serve the large size coffee, or poached eggs, so it’s the scrambled choice or a sizeable portion of porridge with soy milk and jam.

That’s breakfast. Slow mornings and time to linger.

Midday and afternoon allow for an additional menu of proper meals. There is the vegetarian burger which is soft and tasty, coloured slightly red from the beetroot, and not dry at all. Served with potato wedges the dish is substantial. There are salads and wraps, other burgers, falafels etc.

In true South West spirit, the Boston Tea Party sells Weston’s organic cider and Bath Ales. Fresh juice and summery iced teas are located next to the cake display at the Park St cafe. The shelves are stacked with home made cakes such as lemon drizzle and coffee and walnut. There are decadent and deliciously extravagant iced cup cakes which are dense, sweet and amazing.

I left the sandwiches until last because, while they generally have a great selection of flavours, they are made with such thick bread that I’m usually a little put off by them. Nevertheless the food is not just any ordinary food, it is ethically sourced, local and organic where possible. See the website for more details.

The Boston Tea Party is a small chain of seven family run cafés based in the West Country which pride themselves on serving outstanding coffee tea and creating delicious, original affordable meals. That’s what they say and I tend to agree.

My favourite cafe is in Bristol on Park Street. The other six can be found at Barnstaple, Bath, Bristol – Clifton, Bristol – Whiteladies, Exeter, Honiton and Worcester.


Bath coffee festival, South West

In a surprising touch, my experience of the first UK coffee festival was mostly ginger. The refreshing and aromatic King Ginger liqueur, and the black coffee from Martin Cawardine’s coffee roasters with added ginger syrup. The ginger syrup was supplied by the Cotswold based Taylerson’s Malmesbury syrups and the liqueur by the London based drinks company. The Bath coffee festival was not a huge affair, they shared the Recreation field with some local rugby players and picnicking families, but they did have quite a range of local exhibitors and others from further afield.

The coffee roasters Martin Carwardines & Co are based in the South West and while they are not linked directly to the Cawardine’s cafes in Bristol, they do share familial roots going back five generations. Stephen Carwardine runs the cafes and one of his sons runs the coffee roasters. They also supply the coffee for the cafes.

After a brief discussion about the merits of Australia versus Bristol, I moved on to explore another local exhibition manned by people who shared my Southern Hemisphere origins. Extract Coffee is run by two New Zealanders who set up shop just three years ago and run a stall on College Green. They are looking to create a more permanent fixture somewhere in Bristol but for now have to think of a location for the shop. While there is some cost attached to exhibiting in a festival such as this, there is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the products on display to people who may not have seen them before. Extract Coffee roasters not only sell coffee to passing customers on the College Green but also sell coffee beans from their online shop.

The passing festive crowds were also given the opportunity to try some tea from another Bristol based company, Lahloo tea. Their elegant and distinctive produce can be savoured in places such as the Bristol Lido and provide a wonderfully fragrant experience.

I didn’t get a chance to speak to the Lahloo people because it was a struggle getting through the crowds in front of their stand. Instead I had a nice chat with the man at Orchard Pig.

This stand seemed to be more local than caffeinated for there were no hot beverages in sight. I visited Bath as a coffee enthusiast but I also managed to enjoy the local aspect to it as well. The South West theme was offset slightly by the big companies such as Whittard’s of Chelsea and Royal Taylors of Harrogate but the enthusiasm was at the grassroots level with the smaller producers. The bigger companies have already established their positions in the big stores and shops. The smaller companies have still got a little while to go in order to make their presence as well known as the others.

I chatted to Orchard Pig about their sparkling 4.2% cider which has yet to be bottled and sold because it still needs a design for its appearance. The local company’s products can be found in places like the Watershed and they were in fine form at the Cheese Taste Off a couple of days ago. I didn’t try any cider that morning but I usually have the sparkling apple and ginger juice when given the option. The apple juice is local too with a 75cl bottle containing over a kilo of hand picked, hand graded and farm pressed at West Bradley Fruit Farm in the heart of Somerset.

The only thing left is to figure out the origins of the ginger which seemed to follow me everywhere. Perhaps another local festival will do the trick and luckily there’s one even closer to me but held in September. The Bristol Organic Food Festival is held annually and was most enjoyable last year. I hope the UK Coffee Festival gets a chance at a repeat performance as well.

Update: Extract Coffee Roasters also provide implements and utensils for achieving coffee perfection. Coffee machines and shot glasses were also advertised at the festival. I skipped by them in my pursuit of coffee but am happy to browse through what’s available now that I have the time.

Tomtom coffee, London

The coffee beans were so fresh that they still glistened as they were scooped up from the choice of the day selection to be ground for my filter coffee.

The barista nodded his approval as I declined the offer of sugar and milk. I don’t think he would have been as impressed with my selection of yesterday’s iced caramel machiato from Starbucks.

The two beverages couldn’t have been more different with the sticky caramel syrup providing a sweetness to the stronger flavoured espresso based soy milk drink. I am unsure of the blend of beans used in the Starbucks selection but the Tomtom choice of the day was the Indian Monsoon Malabar.

These coffee beans, unique to the Malabar coast of Karnataka and Kerala, are exposed to the monsoon winds for three to four months of the year. This removes much of the acridity, apparently, and the result is a much sweeter, full bodied blend that leaves a pleasantly warm flavour. The quality of the coffee is exemplified by the care taken in all the daily choices.

The coffee, however, is not the only selling point of this surprising little cafe. The cakes were very tempting, as were the pasties at £6.50. The last time I was here I had soft-boiled eggs on toast and a dense little fairy cake which was sweet and ideal.

I had almost forgotten about the existence of the cafe Tomtom but I had a 40 minute wait at Victoria Coach Station on my way back to Bristol. As I wondered what to do with myself, I remembered my friend Martin’s recommendation for a place to enjoy some quality coffee and while away the time. Its existence feels like a delightful discovery in the commercially-dense location near the Victoria coach and rail stations. I can’t claim the discovery for myself but I can certainly enjoy what’s on offer and pass on the recommendation. If this is the first place you hear about it then I hope you’ll visit and appreciate Martin’s beautifully discerning taste as well.

Tomtom Coffee House, 114 Ebury Street, Belgravia, London, SW1W 9QD, United Kingdom

Bath, coffee festival

A two day outdoor festival will be held in the City of Bath this weekend to celebrate coffee and to help charity. This will be the UK’s first coffee festival which is surprising as it is such a great idea. Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th May 2010 will find a whole host of exhibitors showcasing their wares at the Recreation Ground just near the train station.

On Saturday the festival will be on between 10am and 5pm and on Sunday it starts and finishes an hour earlier at 11am to 4pm. Unlike the Affordable Art Fair there is no entry fee. What will be there, according to the organisers, is a great variety of activities from celebrity chef, Martin Blunos, demonstrating how to flavour foods with coffee to Samba classes on Sunday.

My favourite event so far is the Turkish coffee event which takes place between 1:15pm and 1:45pm. A close second is Jean Pierre Auge’s session from 12pm to 12:30pm which mentions coffee martinis. Maybe they’ll even have carajillos somewhere? I can only hope.