Monday, 31 October 2011

Store Street Espresso: Go for great coffee and hope the service improves

Hip, Happening Store Street
I have been through one revolution and now I am living through another. Twenty years ago I worked as a barrista in cafes and restaurants in Melbourne, just as the independent cafe culture hit town. (Prior to then were the Dark Ages where cafes were unheard of outside of Little Italy and coffee meant Nescafe). Way back then, we were trying to provide excellent coffee and food in simple environs whilst giving friendly and enthusiastic service. It was a revelation for a small-town boy who didn't know his ristrettos from his flat whites. I Loved it - the coffee, the food and most of all the customers.

For the past couple of years we have been seeing a similar revolution in London with the opening of independent Aussie/NZ-style cafes: think Flat White and Providores, Tapped & Packed, Lantana, Nude Espresso, St Ali and the rest. Most of them are following the same common themes that I saw in Australia all those years ago: cool environment, great coffee, simple food and friendly service. Get it right and you'll have the punters flocking at your door (have you seen the crowds at Lantana on a Saturday morning).

The coffee is the main draw
 Store Street Espresso is very much in the Aussie/NZ-style cafe groove. Located near Oxford Street and off Tottenham Court Road, in some ways, it offers more than its competitors. It has a spacious interior that evokes the feeling of being back in an architecture student lab: natural light, ever-changing art work, deconstructed tables and chair and great tunes. It offers a comfortable environment where you don't feel that you are being crushed by a throng of others. It has hit the jackpot in this sense.

Great cakes

It gets a very big tick for its extremely well made flat whites and cappuccinos, for which its barristas should be applauded. This place shows how far London's coffee culture has come in the past couple of years. Food-wise, it offers simple, but well made fare such as delicious homemade cakes, muffins, pastries and good sandwiches. This is not stuff that blows you away, but in comparison to London's well-known coffee chains, it's a great offering.

Unfortunately, whilst SSE is winning the battle owing to its coffee, food and environment, it may be losing the revolution on some fronts as service can be patchy with some staff appearing to be disinterested in their customers (at both busy and quiet times).

Go for the coffee and the art student vibe. Applaud them for the courage to start a business and hope that they clear-up problems with service.

Store Street Espresso on Urbanspoon

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