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Archive for the category “Central London”

Espresso Joe and the Carnaby St getaway

Carnaby Street Coffee

Speakeasy from Carnaby Street

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 AffairsSpeakeasy 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

Opening Hours

  • 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.


Espresso Joe dives into the Ozone

Soft brew at Ozone

Environmental scientists will tell you that ozone is a diminishing resource. A trip to Shoreditch in the near future may not undo the work of all those greenhouse gases but it will certainly restore your equilibrium.

Dropping into Ozone, near Old Street tube station, is like reacquainting yourself with an old friend – or perhaps your local pub back in New Zealand. Think of a good Monteith’s bar and you’ll get the idea.

But while a pint is on the menu, as well as a good selection of New Zealand wines, Ozone really is about the coffee.

New Zealanders from the Taranaki may very well feel a sense of déjà vu hanging around Ozone. Home base is in New Plymouth – King St for those who know it. Look around the new London project and there are a few tell-tale signs for the discerning eye.

The biggest giveaway is the resident roasting guru, James Gurr. The Englishman learned his craft in Wellington before heading north to the ‘Naki. James is also the UK General Manager while Elizabeth Bain is the Operations Manager. Both are business partners in the café/roastery along with Karla Gichard and Craig McFalane back in NZ.

Enough for now about the business. We’re here for the coffee and the food.

Foodwise, I can only speak for the Orange & Cardamom French Toast. The honey, mascarpone and berries were perfect complements but alas, disappeared from the plate in very quick time.

The menu is fit for Hobbits, having breakfast, brunch and lunch options. Kiwi chef Jonathon Marinovich has created a menu to delight the grumbliest of tummies. I’d be inclined to come back for lunch to sample the Szechwan Pepper Squid or even kick things off with Eggs Benedict for brunch, make use of the free wi-fi for an hour or two (while keeping up the caffeine consumption) and then delve into the Harissa-rubbed chicken over a glass of… scratch that. Maybe I could start with the baked eggs with haloumi and… you’ll get the idea when you make the pilgrimage. The food is seriously good.

One of the biggest surprises about Ozone is the size of the place. Granted, they do roast coffee beans on site so the need for space is prime, yet there is still ample space for patrons on both the ground and basement floors. The kitchen and coffee bar are in full view of patrons, ensuring high standards of hygiene and quality are maintained at all times while the basement also has a large coffee education section, complete with a dedicated microroaster plus the primary roaster, where patrons can watch James work his magic. It’s an impressive coffee house and yet very welcoming. It feels like home.

Which just leaves the coffee to comment on. Espresso, flat whites and their ilk are very good but do branch out to the pour-overs and french press to fully appreciate the skill of roaster James Gurr and the Ozone baristas. Coffee is so much more than espresso.

And being a roastery, coffee beans can be purchased to take home.

Ozone is an excellent addition to London’s thriving independent coffee scene and its location in London’s Silicon Valley, a stone’s throw from Old St, makes it an easy location to get to. Late night Fridays plus good weekend hours make this café a smart choice for both the rushed weekday espresso drinker and the laid back weekend bruncher. See you there soon.

  • What: Ozone Coffee Roasters
  • Where: 11 Leonard St, London. EC2A 4AQ

This post first appeared in NZ News UK on 10 Apr, 2012.

Espresso Joe and the new nude

This article first appeared in on 16 May 2011

There are few things that I like better than freshly ground and brewed coffee: my family, a Roy Buchanan solo, Gibson guitars and… Kiwi success stories.

This week nude espresso have opened their third establishment in London and it looks great. Situated in London’s Soho Square, the café is a major move away from Shoreditch, the site of nude’s other café and roastery. If Shoreditch seemed too far for you to travel, make sure you get to the Soho site soon – it’s brand new and therefore still something of a secret – but it won’t remain a secret for long.

Richard Reed told me that the fitting took just three weeks – the 18 to 20 hours days were a small price to pay for getting the site developed as and when they wanted it.

Step outside and Soho Square is 30 paces away with lawn to lay upon while leafing through a novel and sipping on a long black. Stay inside and there are plenty of seats to choose from, including a discreet mezzanine floor. At the time of writing, nude were still awaiting the arrival of even more seating.

And how good is the coffee? If you’ve tried their first café you’ll know that nude take espresso very seriously – so seriously that they roast the beans themselves. If you haven’t tried them before, then you’re in for a treat. The espresso blend consists of three single origin beans and the guys are constantly tinkering with it to allow for seasonal and roasting variations. This is really good coffee prepared by well trained baristi and can be bought in whole-bean form instore or online.

Food is sandwiches plus yummy sweet treats, the standard café fair. And there are chocolate lamingtons.

The downsides? Do bring cash as there is as yet no electronic payment available. There are also no toilets.

What: nude espresso.

When: open 8-5 weekdays and 10-5 weekends.

Where: the north east corner of Soho Square, one block south of Oxford St and 150m away from Tottenham Court Underground station.

Verdict: get there soon.

Happy espresso

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