09 January 2019

The Caffeine Chronicles: Le Café Alain Ducasse, Coal Drops Yard

Update (January 2022): Unfortunately, Le Café Alain Ducasse is now permanently closed.

When I first started working in King's Cross, nine years ago, I used to have to walk 20 minutes at lunchtime for a good cup of speciality coffee (The Espresso Room was my usual port of call). I've often written about the rise and rise of the neighbourhood as a speciality coffee hub, and the latest coffee spot to open up in the area is really quite special.

Le Café Alain Ducasse — and the neighbouring chocolate shop Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse — has hopped over from Paris, a short ride on the Eurostar, whose terminus is nearby. The coffee is roasted in the Bastille area of Paris, in the 11th arrondissement, but the Gallic influences don't end there.

Most of the slender shop is occupied by the sleek counter reminiscent of many of the ubiquitous comptoirs en zinc you'll find in France. The espresso machine sits at the end closest to the French windows that look out onto the shiny Coal Drops Yard development. At the other end is the brew bar, where pourovers are very much the order of the day. In front of the counter, there is a row of leather-seated stools — these are the best spots for maximum interactions with your barista, but there are a few more seats against the other wall, and a couple of tables outside too.

An impressive range of single-origin coffees is on offer, including a coffee from France — yes, you read that right: from the island of La Réunion, in case you were wondering — and a beautiful coffee from Yemen, which goes for £15 as a filter coffee. On my first visit, that's exactly what I try, encouraged by the charming baristas, whose passion for coffee is as evident as their attention to detail and customer service. The tasting notes describe the coffee as delicate and sophisticated, and indeed, it is a subtle drink, whose flavours come out beautifully as it cools. Just as important as the taste, however, is the experience. The baristas explain the reasons for the high price for a single cup of the coffee, including the challenges of producing and exporting high-quality coffee in Yemen. They convey the value by talking through the coffee farming and production process, and all of the people involved from bean to cup, all taking great care at every stage. 

And when you've finished your cup of coffee, you have a great story that you can share with others about the many people who worked so hard to create it.

I return twice more in the first week of the year, sampling a super-smooth Ethiopian espresso with strawberry and white chocolate notes and a noisette (the French for macchiato or piccolo, depending on your point of view) with their signature coffee, a Kenyan that tastes lovely with a little milk. Each time, the service and presentation are excellent and the coffee tastes great. And the baristas are always just as keen to welcome and to share their caffeinated delights with speciality coffee novices as with those, like me, who have long since fallen down the rabbit hole. I'm so pleased to have a coffee bar like Le Café so close to my office. On y arrive, King's Cross.

Le Café Alain Ducasse. Unit 16, Bagley Walk Arches, Coal Drops Yard, London, N1C 4DH (Tube: King's Cross).WebsiteInstagram.

For 100+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, please check out my speciality coffee guide.

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