06 March 2013

The Caffeine Chronicles: Notes

Update (July 2016): This branch of Notes has now closed, but you can still visit the King's Cross and St Martin's Lane cafés. 

Notes is a coffee shop that has been on my to-try list for quite some time. They have two outposts in central London and one, I've just discovered, not very far north of my office in King's Cross. I've walked past the Covent Garden branch on Wellington Street several times but it always felt like it was the wrong side of Covent Garden for my Marylebone days. Now, though, it's one of the first good purveyors of coffee I pass after crossing the Thames on my way into the city centre, and I finally stopped in for coffee and a cake on Sunday afternoon.

Notes, Covent Garden

It was fairly busy inside, but not to the extent that I had to wait for a table. The décor is fairly standard indie-espresso-bar 101 (exposed pipes, low-hanging light bulbs, etc), but with a few colourful touches, like the bright stools at the perching tables near the bar. I took a moment to eye up the La Marzocco machine, ordered a double macchiato and went to sit down. I happened to be sitting next to the cakes, which meant I then got up again to order a blondie with berries as well.

Double mac attack
A little sweet treat

The blondie was great—its dense, moist sweetness contrasted nicely with the slight sharpness of the fruit. My macchiato was also good. They use Square Mile coffee and it was was rich and flavoursome. As is often the case, there was more milk than I prefer. I should get into the habit of asking the barista to just "mark" it with the milk (as the English translation of macchiato suggests) and add a tiny dollop of foam, but I figure it's a good way of gauging the truly excellent baristas. At £2.80 for a double macchiato, the coffee is verging on the pricey side, although if I'm sitting and lingering over my drink for a while, I don't mind paying a little more.

Spot Notes' famous new neighbour, Balthazar, in the background

As well as serving good coffee, Notes is also a café and a wine bar. They run a whole series of events, from a home (coffee) brewing class, to wine tastings and jazz nights. The Covent Garden branch is a airy, well-designed space and I would definitely be keen to see what Notes has to offer of an evening.

The tempting window's of Balthazar's boulangerie

The Covent Garden branch also happens to be across the street from the new London version of Balthazar. You won't be able to get a table there for a while, and even the accompanying bakery and patisserie was pretty full when I walked past. The cakes and pastries looked great though.

Notes. 36 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7BD (Tube: Covent Garden). Website. Twitter.

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