Espresso Joe and the Carnaby St getaway
Carnaby Street: the place to run yourself ragged and flat line your credit card.
Grabbing a pick-me-up in London’s notorious shopping district couldn’t be simpler, now that Speakeasy Espresso and Coffee Bar is in the neighbourhood.
Speakeasies are a Prohibition era concept: a secret place for illegal booze consumption and fraternisation. While this Speakeasy may come up short on the alcohol front (there is a bar next door), fraternization and outstanding coffee are in full supply.
The ground floor is an espresso bar with salads, sandwiches, sweet slices and to-die-for Portuguese tarts. Like sister shop Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Speakeasy treat espresso with much respect. Their Coffeesmiths blend is well balanced and the baristi know how to get the best out of it for a very pleasurable sensory experience.
The coffee house also offers feature espresso, changing on a weekly basis. Wondered how a particular coffee estate compares with another? This is a great way to find out.
As a curiosity, there’s a staircase in one corner of the floor, leading downwards. There are no signs above it and it’s not uncommon to see staff rushing down and back up. Kitchen? W.C.? Storage? Take the stairs down and explore.
Weave your way past book cases and enter the brew bar.
This is where coffee becomes art, science and religion and where the concept of a speakeasy is borne out. Single origin beans are gently guided through filters, siphons and presses rather than the sheer grunt of an espresso machine. This is the place to relax and contemplate the brew you’re committing to your body. Caffeinated, yes but so much more.
The subterranean brew bar is a place to appreciate the nuances of coffee, much like good wine but without the hauteur. It is also a retreat from the hustle of Carnaby Street.
Speakeasy is a terrific coffee house. Deservedly named one of London’s thirty best coffee places in the 2012 edition of London Coffee Guide (Allegra Strategies), it’s well worth making a special pilgrimage here. Manager John Kyle and the rest of the staff are friendly, engaging and very knowledgeable about their coffees and it’s worth mentioning that Speakeasy also pour a great cup of tea.
NZ owners Chris McKie and Tim Ridley have created a coffee house with a different aesthetic to their original offering: The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Leather Lane (and newly opened third cafe Liberty of Norton Folgate is different again). Speakeasy has a sense of mystery about it, of being somewhere more than just a place where good coffee is served, so duck in for a quick espresso or linger in the brew bar. Either way, Speakeasy is a treat.
An espresso will set you back £2 while a Flat White is £2.40. They do have soya milk, coffee beans can be purchased and they have a good range of home coffee making equipment – in short: coffee heaven.
- Speakeasy Espresso and Brew Bar
- 3 Lowndes Court
- Carnaby, London.
- W1F 7HD
- Monday – Thursday 08.00 – 18.00
- Friday 08.00 – 20.00
- Saturday 11.00 – 20.00
- Sunday 11.00 – 18.00
This article first appeared in NZ News UK on 17 March, 2012.