Sunday 17 January 2021

Modern Standard

49 Barclay Pl
EH10 4HW 
Open everyday
Espresso, batch brew
Coffee: Modern Standard
Also: Baking goods
Coolness: Enjoy the classy decor and comings and goings of Bruntsfield Links

Review and photo by Charlie Ellis & Eva Vaporidi

Boasting a superb corner site in Bruntsfield, Modern Standard Coffee is a fantastic addition to the Edinburgh coffee scene. 

Long renowned as a coffee roaster, this is Modern Standard’s first cafe. The brainchild of one of the pioneers of speciality coffee in the UK, Lynsey Harley, Modern Standard Coffee’s cafe at 49 Barclay Place began trading in early December 2020. We visited on its fourth day and were immediately impressed by the classy and airy interior, the warmth of the welcome from baristas Joanne (the manager) and George, and by the superb coffee. 

We had piccolos which were flavoursome with lingering butterscotch notes. The beans used were a blend of 70 % Brazil Santa Lucia and 30% Colombia Aromas Del Sur. As Lynsey outlines the Brazilian is a great basis for an espresso but you need something such as the Colombian to add a layer of complexity and interest to the blend. For their batch brew they are using a Guatemala Finca La Providencia. 

The shop was, for several decades, William Watt the electrician (a classic case of nominative determinism) and when Lynsey saw that was available to let in February 2020, she jumped at the chance; ‘I used to joke to my flatmate that this would make a great cafe...11 years later she called and said that - you'll never believe it but there's a to let sign outside...I said - that's fate’. After a pause in the spring and summer, she finally began work on the place in September. Its taken a fair bit of work to get the place ready (including lots of work on the flooring) but its been worth the effort. 

The cafe has wisely retained the original wooden wall panelling which gives the interior real character. There is seating space for roughly 30 customers. Seating is available on the ground floor with a further attractive section on the first floor with views on to Bruntsfield Links. These seats will undoubtedly be in particular demand. 

Native of Glenrothes, Lynsey studied, worked and lived in Edinburgh before moving down south and getting involved in the cutting edge coffee scene in London. This included a spell with highly regarded Fernandez & Wells. She's also spent time in Denmark – there is definitely a Scandinavian element to the look of the interior. She relates that ‘when I left Edinburgh there was virtually no coffee scene and even in London it was only about 50 people involved who all knew each other’. She now has 17 years experience in speciality coffee and is delighted to see how things have developed in Edinburgh in the last decade. 

Since returning to Scotland she's been been looking to set up a cafe to act as a showcase for Modern Standard Coffee's excellent beans, which are now roasted in Glenrothes. Modern Standard import their own beans and supply a number of hotels and cafes across the UK. Though steeped in the speciality coffee scene she is keen to see Modern Standard Coffee attract a wide variety of customers, from coffee geeks discussing the minutiae of roasts and brewing methods to those who simply want a cracking cup of coffee in a welcoming and attractive environment. 

Lynsey hopes that their coffee will be ‘tasty and approachable’ as ‘there's nothing worse than being overly pretentious and overcomplicate things and alienating people’. She feels that too many in the speciality coffee scene have a slightly snobbish attitude and can therefore be off-putting to many. 'Great coffee for everyone' is the slogan emblazoned on the side of the cafe (and on its mugs) and the philosophy she wants the cafe to embody. She was therefore delighted to have managed to recruit baristas who combine coffee making skills with great customer service. 

For Lynsey, the feel and atmosphere of the place is just as important as the quality of the coffee which oozes out from the sleek Dalla Corte machine. In addition to espresso, Modern Standard Coffee also serve some batch brews, leaf teas and Colombian hot chocolate - with a high cocoa content (52 %). T

They also be serving baking, including scones baked in-house (a new oven ideal for scones had just arrived when we visited). But coffee is very much the focus and Modern Standard Coffee won't be entering the brunch market as Lynsey wants customers served quickly, not waiting around for their orders to arrive. Lynsey also hints that she is on the lookout for other venues. 

With Castello a few doors along and Artisan Roast and Machina Espresso also very close, the area near Bruntsfield Links is becoming a leading destination for coffee lovers. Charlie Ellis & Eva Vaporidi. Date of visit: 8.12.20 

Saturday 8 August 2020

Bits Bake Shop

38 Dalkeith Rd
EH16 5BS
Open Monday-Saturday
Coffee: Williams & Johnson
Also: a wide selection of bakery, savoury options
Coolness: Stunning views of Salisbury Crags

Review and photo by Charlie Ellis & Eva Vaporidi

Opened in August 2018 on the South side of Edinburgh, this attractive nook is lovely spot for coffee and cake.

It's cosy but airy due to the high ceilings and big front window - with great views - that brings in loads of light. The warm decor (including a vintage desk ideal for those inspired to do a spot of scribbling whilst there) and stained glass matches the warm welcome you receive.

In addition to their smooth espressos Bits Bake Shop serve a range of Rosevear teas (the Blue Flower Earl Grey is a lovely afternoon drink), hot chocolate (from Portobello based Coco Chocolatier) and Bon Accord sodas.

Owner Ashley explained that she chose Edinburgh roaster Williams & Johnston (their seasonal blend) because it was her personal favourite - and it has proved popular with her customers. Ashley said that she'd originally planned rotate through different coffees, but has stuck with Williams & Johnson because the baking changes on a daily basis and her customers like some consistency as well as high quality.

The tasty baking - check their Instagram for a constant stream of mouth-watering cakes - is made in store and Bits Bake Shop also serve a daily selection of savouries such as frittatas and cheese toasties (vegan cheese toasties are also available as well as vegan zines for sale).

The customers include a lot of regulars: "we get a good mix here: office workers, students and those coming from the gym opposite at the Commonwealth Pool" adds Ashley.

With the foot of Arthur Seat (and the Innocent Railway path) a few minutes away, it also makes a nice place to visit before or after a walk.

More: Bits Bake Shop website

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Gooseneck Cafe

22 Grindlay Street
Open Tuesday to Saturday
Coffee: Sacred Grounds
Also: Eteaket teas, baking, savoury dishes
Coolness: Instagrammable view up to the Castle

Review by Charlie Ellis & Eva Vaporidis, Photo from Gooseneck Cafe Facebook

Enjoying a superb location with stunning views up to the Castle, Gooseneck Cafe has been part of Edinburgh's specialist coffee scene since early 2019.

Run by husband and wife Lucy and Matthew this airy and elegant coffee house has contributed to the revitalisation of this often overlooked part of the city. Indeed being slightly off the beaten track was one reason they chose the site: "it's busy but manageable for the two of us". The pair have experience of running cafes, having spent time at Patisserie Florentin in Stockbridge,  so felt ready to open their own place.

After trying a range of Edinburgh based roasters, they finally settled on on Sacred Grounds, an Arbroath based company. As Matthew explains, "we tried a lot of local places, many were good but Sacred Grounds coffee really stood out". In addition, "Sacred Grounds have been really supportive in terms of offering advice and training…we're really happy with the choice we made". The Ethiopian we tried (in Gooseneck's stylish takeaway cups) produced a really rich and smooth flat white. We'll definitely be back for another soon.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put many cafes under threat. With much of Gooseneck's custom coming from the staff and visitors to the Lyceum Theatre across the road, the loss of these customers for the foreseeable future is a big blow. So far, thanks to a combination of government grants and an understanding landlord, Gooseneck has survived the storm. Matthew and Lucy have been heartened by the support they've received from other local businesses. "lots of people have popped in giving us their support- there's a nice communal feel around here". Though custom hasn't matched normal levels, they've had a regular flow. Indeed they were nicely busy on the Saturday lunchtime we visited. They have been running as a takeaway only since June. They are hoping that they might reopen fully in September 2020.

In addition to coffee (and Eteaket teas), they also offer a range of baking and savoury dishes (quiches, soups etc), all prepared in-house. The walls are currently adorned with fine pen & ink artworks by illustrator Hannah Kelly (the art is for sale). Gooseneck is another highly welcome addition to the coffee scene in this part of Edinburgh.

More: Gooseneck Cafe website

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Brew'd Speciality Coffee Bar

4 Spittal Street
Open everyday
Espresso, drip filter, batch brew
Coffee: The Source Coffee
Also: Shubui teas and baking
Coolness: Authentic antipodean coffee know how in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle

Review and photo by Charlie Ellis & Eva Vaporidis

Opening a new coffee shop during a global pandemic is a sign of optimism. Brew'd is an excellent new arrival in Edinburgh's speciality coffee scene and will hopefully thrive despite the circumstances of its birth.

Enthusiastic owner/ manager Andrew Cohen brings his experience of running a cafe in his native Sydney to Edinburgh. 'I always wanted to get back into coffee..and after 6 years here in Edinburgh I thought that now was the right time...not knowing a pandemic was about to arrive!'. But 'we've been ticking over quite nicely which is all we could hope for in the circumstances...most importantly it's been really good fun'.

After securing the lease in February (it was a  small newsagent beforehand), Brew'd  opened on the 18th June. They have been attracting a steady flow of customers to the shop since then and selling beans online and to their wholesale clients.

As the Source Coffee Company they roast on site (at least three times a week) as well as sourcing beans from other roasters. Source Coffee also offer training for beginner and intermediate baristas.

When we visited they were offering two fine  espresso options on their Kees van der Westen machine; a citrusy Colombia Las Mercedes and and a Ugandan Kisinga from Omwani Coffee. The Ugandan was satisfyingly smooth and chocolatey and beautifully made.

Running as a takeaway during this period, they are installing stool seating for when sitting in is possible. Along with vinyl specialists Assai Records over the road, Gooseneck Coffee and the secondhand bookshops of West Port, Brew'd is a welcome addition to an increasingly interesting quarter of the city.

More: The Source Coffee

Sunday 1 March 2020

Hideout Cafe - Old Town

5 Upper Bow
Open everyday
Coffee: Clifton
Also: brunch, sandwiches, soups, baking
Coolness: Retro audio cassettes 'slaying' centre stage decor and soundscape

Review and photo by Charlie Ellis & Eva Vaporidis

Nestled just around the corner from the Castle and the Grassmarket on Upper Bow is this lovely cosy nook that opened in late 2019.

At Hideout Old Town you can enjoy coffee from Bristol speciality coffee roaster Clifton, pulled on a super slick Slayer machine. When we visited, they were using Clifton's seasonal espresso blend EQ V.18 and producing lovely espresso-based coffees.

The Old Town branch of Hideout is an ideal spot in which to dodge the tourist hoardes (at least 5 tour groups passed by during our hour there) whilst also sipping speciality coffee.

The Hideout team have made great use of the small and charming space with a selection of snug corners in which to relax.  In some ways this place lives up even more to the Hideout name than their original cafe in Leith, which is at a fairly busy junction.

We visited on what apparently had been a 'crazy day’ (a combination of wet weather and school holidays) according to Hideout's barista - meaning that by 2.30pm they had pretty much sold out of their nice selection of sandwiches, filled croissants etc; but they did have their tasty soup which was ideal on what was a particularly dreich day in the capital. We also had their fantastic honey cake, which is a bit of a signature dish of the café.  Hideout also serve Teapig teas and a range of sodas.

As with their well-established sister cafe in Leith this place has a distinct vintage feel with a range of intriguing old coffee makers and music coming from cassettes. Anyone who grew up in the 80s or 90s will feel a wave of nostalgia as they browse the wall of tapes.  Lou Reed and Bowie tunes were wafting around the cafe on our visit.

It’s great to be able to find speciality coffee in such a touristy area. Don’t miss it if you find yourself near the Castle.

More: Hideout Old Town Facebook

Saturday 29 February 2020

Fortitude Coffee Stockbridge

66 Hamilton Pl
Open everyday
Espresso, pour over, batch brew
Coffee: Fortitude
Also: breakfasts, savoury food and baking
Coolness: Coffee heaven a stone's throw from St Stephen's Street boutique shops 

Fortitude's Stockbridge cafe opened in February 2020 and we ventured along in the lashing rain to see how they could build on the great reputation of their well-established York Place café and coffee roasting business.

As soon as we entered we felt it was very promising! They have kept the lovely tiled walls but have opened out the interior, creating an airy and warm space showcasing a chic long wooden bench filled with gleaming built-in coffee making equipment. This positioning of the coffee equipment at counter top level helps maintain the feeling of spaciousness and the Scandinavian influenced furniture gives the shop a lovely feel. Coffee geeks will quickly clock the Modbar under counter espresso machine - cutting edge tech that's currently a rare find in Scotland. The time and thought spent developing the interior (previously occupied by Ronde Cafe/Cycles) has absolutely paid off.

Opening a cafe in an area already well populated with cafes might seem risky. Niall the manager pointed out that while Stockbridge may be full of cafes, only a few (such as Artisan Roast) are coffee specialists so there's room to address the unmet demand for high quality coffee. While Stockbridge already has a strong base including the Sunday Markets, he sees it's "on the up in terms of high quality food and drink".

What their second, larger shop offers Fortitude is the opportunity to expand the food and coffee offering. As well as a range of breakfast options, a tasty range of sandwiches are on offer, Union of Genius soups and baking supplied by artisan French bakery Au Gourmand. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices are also featured on the menu. Our grilled cheese sandwich with pickle was ideal fare for such inclement weather.

At time of visiting the main espresso coffee was El Sauce-Peruvian - towards the fruitier end - and our meticulously made cortados were a treat. The other espresso on offer was a National Colombian and there were three pour over options and one batch brew.

While coffee lovers are spoilt for choice, tea drinkers will enjoy the Good & Proper leaf teas. The shop also sells coffee making paraphernalia and Fortitude branded products (reusable cups etc).

Niall and his team enjoyed a "good first day despite the horrendous weather". We have no doubt that Fortitude will make a success of their venture Northwards.

Review and photo by Charlie Ellis & Eva Vaporidis

More: Fortitude Coffee Instagram

Friday 21 February 2020

Spider on a bicycle

Station Square
AB34 5HX
Open every day except Monday
Coffee: Papercup
Also: Meals, cakes, alcohol
Coolness: Stately interior, out of the cold with tasty coffee, or sit outside on sunny days

Spider on a bicycle was recommended by one of our coffee lovers, and is high on our list for a visit soon.

They've not stinted on the gear - with their La Marzocco pride of place - and use Glasgow-based Papercup Coffee which we rate highly.

The shop is on Station Square in a stone building that was once part of the railway and has an airy, elegant feel with the curved ceiling and windows, enhanced by a cheery, classy colour scheme. The decor of recycled timbers and eclectic home-away-from-home furnishings adds to the relaxed ambience.

The wholesome food is generally made on site using ingredients sourced as locally as possible. You'll enjoy a varying menu of creative cakes, salads, soups, mezze style platters, brunches, toasties and more. Vegetarians as well as meat eaters will find joy here!

Dogs are welcome. This is definitely a coffee highlight in the region!

(Photos from Spider on a bicycle's instagram stream)