16 September 2016

The Caffeine Chronicles: Workshop Revisited

It's hard to ignore the presence of Workshop Coffee in the London speciality coffee scene. There are three coffee bars and a café in their small chain, but more than that, you will see their house-roasted coffees in many of the coffee shops around the city. I often visit the Marylebone coffee bar, now located on Barrett Street although in its former life, it was known as The Sensory Lab and was based just around the corner on Wigmore Street. I've tended to frequent the Clerkenwell Road café less frequently and in fact, the last time it featured on this blog, it was still called St Ali, although about to be rebranded as Workshop, along with its sister coffee shop.

This is a long way of introducing my recent return to Workshop's Clerkenwell Road café. Suffice to say, I had forgotten how much I loved the place and I had a very enjoyable brunch. Figuring that the café was likely to be busy at Saturday brunchtime, even on a rainy September day, I arrived just before noon. Most of the tables were already occupied but I managed to nab a seat at the central coffee bar (not dissimilar to that in Portland's Case Study), which is a great place to sit, especially with baristas as friendly and charming as at Workshop. The non-bar seating is around a series of high, wooden sharing tables; there is also more space upstairs, although I didn't go up to take a look.

It is one of London's most beautifully designed cafés — I love the central coffee bar, but the fancy pendant light bulbs add a cosy glow to what might otherwise be a slightly dark space, and the living wall, back near the poster boards that provide information about Workshop's roasting process, makes a welcome addition. The various Workshop coffee spots use different types of espresso machine, but they are all unified by their gold 'Workshop Coffee Co' customisation on the front (the powder-blue Synesso in the Marylebone branch is still my favourite).

I ordered a filter coffee while I made up my mind about what to eat. I went for a Kagumoini coffee from Kenya, brewed through the Aeropress (£4), which was sweet and citrusy, with the flavour notes growing more intense as the coffee cooled.

The brunch menu included a lot of classic brunch dishes and, intriguingly, a burger. It's rare to get the opportunity to have a really good burger alongside a great cup of coffee, but unfortunately, I wasn't quite hungry enough this time — the barista told me that it was a real beast of a burger. I'll have to go hungrier next time. Instead, I went for the eggs Benedict with smoked ham (£9.50). The eggs were done just right and the ham really tasty; the Hollandaise sauce was quite tart, but I like it that way.

Finally, for 'pudding', I had a piccolo, brewed with Hunkute coffee from Ethiopia, which was brewed perfectly, with a rich, smooth taste and characteristically lovely latte art. If you have more of an appetite than me and have room for pudding, they also have St John doughnuts, but I always think that coffee is the best way to round off a meal.

Afterwards, I browsed the selection of coffees available for purchase and picked up a bag of Loma Linda pulped natural beans (£9.50), which I've been enjoying at home in my Aeropress all week. Aren't their new ceramic cups lovely too?

This visit really cemented Workshop's position in my list of top London coffee bars, and the Clerkenwell café is also one of my favourite places in the city for brunch. Although I've been to their Holborn branch a few times, their Fitzrovia location has still eluded me; another one to add to the list.

Workshop Coffee. 27 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1M 5RN (Tube: Farringdon). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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