09 January 2017

The Caffeine Chronicles: Catalyst Cafe

There is no shortage of excellent speciality coffee spots on Clerkenwell's Leather Lane, but one Gray's Inn Road, one block west, which connects King's Cross with High Holborn, has been a little quieter on the coffee front. I was pleased, then, when I spotted Catalyst while running home from work one day. Located towards the southern end of Gray's Inn Road, a couple of blocks north of Chancery Lane Tube, Catalyst is a new cafe and roastery that is open all day, from your early-morning coffee to your late-night negroni. I love all-day venues like this and it's especially nice to have one on my way home from work.

Catalyst is also beautifully designed, accented with light wood and plenty of flowers and foliage. The cafe isn't huge but it's a nice space and it feels spacious thanks to the large windows that let in plenty of daylight — even in December. Most of the seats are arranged around low benches next to the windows, but there are also a few stools at the brew bar and a larger communal table if you need more space.

I've visited Catalyst twice now — their full launch is today, but the coffee was so well prepared on both occasions that you wouldn't guess they were in soft launch. I stopped by for lunch on the last week of December and tried both a pourover and a piccolo; last week, I returned for another pourover and to admire the new ceramics. They will be roasting their own coffee in the basement — visible through the glass windows in the floor — later this month, but are still waiting for a part for the roaster, so they have been using coffee roasted by Sweden-based Koppi, a favourite roaster of mine.

There are currently four hand-brewed filter coffees on offer: the first I tried (usually £5, although only £3.50 during the soft launch) was made with a Costa Rican La Lia coffee, and had lovely notes of orange and marmalade. On my return visit, the barista recommended an Ethiopian Nano Challa (also from Koppi), which had some very delicate jasmine notes. Apparently, I was the first customer to try the gorgeous ceramic cups they had got from Jars. Both V60s were very well prepared but the second was particularly delicious and well worth the self-inflicted frogmarch down Gray's Inn Road on my lunch break.

Although the menu suggested that the La Lia was also available as an espresso, they had run out during my first visit, and were using a Brazilian coffee from Notes. The piccolo was very good and probably would have paired well with the various cakes and sweet treats on offer — some more sinful than others (the menu includes various vegan and/or gluten-free options). For once, I decided to go for a healthy option and ordered one of the salads — black rice, sweet potato, kale, radish, peanuts and chilli — which was absolutely delicious and surprisingly filling (£5.50). There are plenty of tempting sounding dishes on the breakfast, lunch and all-day menus. The cocktail menu also looked fantastic, although I haven't had chance to sample it yet.

Even on a dull, cold Twixmas afternoon during its soft launch, Catalyst was pretty busy, and on Friday lunchtime, it was bustling. There's a wonderfully relaxed vibe and the staff are all friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable. Catalyst is a very welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

Catalyst Cafe. 48 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8LT (Tube: Chancery Lane). Website. Instagram.


  1. Hi Bex,

    You realise that you will have to go back there once Catalyst has started roasting so that you can do an update for us... :-)


    1. Bien sûr! Luckily, Catalyst is just about within lunch-break distance of my office -- if you walk as fast as I do, anyway! -- so many more visits are on the cards.