07 June 2012

The Caffeine Chronicles: Monmouth Review

Monmouth Coffee's original Covent Garden branch was one of the first independent coffee bars I discovered in London and for a long time, it remained my favourite. I love the tiny, wooden seated area at the back, particularly the mini "cabin" just big enough for one man and his macchiato (and his Mac), but the place tends to be rammed on Saturdays and a number of newer, cooler espresso bars have since sprung up, many of which use Monmouth's own roasts.

Come prepared to queue!

As for the Borough Market branch, I've only been a few times and the queue is always as intense as the espresso. It always strikes me as odd that Monmouth is about the only good coffee shop in "London's most renowned food market," but the coffee is worth the wait, in my opinion. And if it's a Saturday, you will wait. I queued for about 15 minutes just to get a take-out macchiato (the Borough branch is more spacious and airy than its Covent Garden predecessor, but it's still a bit of a scrum and really requires at least one partner in caffeine). I realised later that as I was buying some coffee to brew at home in my Aeropress, I probably could have ordered the macchiato at the separate counter for buying beans and ground coffee. In fact, I could probably have got my macchiato for free to "test out" a new blend before buying.

Oops: I started to drink before taking a photo but my macchiato came with nice latte art.

As it was, my macchiato was good--rich and smooth, with just the right dash of foam--although not outstanding. The ground coffee was pretty good too--I chose a Brazilian coffee I've tried before, which claims to have chocolatey and nutty notes. Aeropress coffee probably isn't subtle enough for these flavour notes and I think the coffee was ground a little too finely for my liking, but it has still produced a good home brew. If you manage to score a table, you can also enjoy a pastry or a cake, but it always feels a bit of a waste to eat in when the delights of Borough Market are only steps away; I was lured by the cheesecake brownies being sold next door and Konditor & Cook.

The cakes get more space than the customers!

I'm in the process of hunting for a flat in the general vicinity of Borough, so I'm sure I'll find a few more interesting and obscure macchiato options in the area before too long but in the meantime, for a good coffee in SE1, you could do a lot worse than Monmouth.

Monmouth Coffee. 2 Park Street, London, SE1 9AB (Tube: London Bridge) and 27 Monmouth Street, London, WC2H 9EU (Tube: Covent Garden). Website.

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