13 April 2022

The Caffeine Chronicles: LIFT

Since I got back from Uganda, work and life have both been keeping me busy, with few opportunities for coffee-shop-hopping. But on Sunday, with the sun shining, a brunch reservation on my phone and a spring in my step, I headed over to Notting Hill. I brunched at Sunday in Brooklyn — my first visit to the London outpost of the Brooklyn original, which I went to on my penultimate visit to New York. After a spot of hanami — the cherry blossoms were particularly lovely alongside the colourful houses of Notting Hill — it was coffee time.

Luckily, I had just the coffee shop in mind, thanks to another great recommendation from Laith from Saint Nine. And as it turned out, LIFT, on Kensington Church Street, had another Brooklyn connection in store for me.

LIFT opened in late 2019 — ah, the beforetimes! — and it was great to see such a constant stream of customers stopping by on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, passing by the A-board that declares that "coffee is a fruit." The bright cafe is set across several floors of a former townhouse and the d├ęcor is minimalist but with some very cool architectural features, like the geometric open staircase that ascends to the first floor just inside the front door. The coffee bar takes up most of the narrow ground floor, and then you can either head downstairs or up to the mezzanine if you want to have your coffee to drink in.

The mezzanine also hosts the pourover bar, as well as offering views over the small garden at the rear. It is no surprise, then, that the menu includes hand-brewed filter coffee, with coffees from Peru and Brazil on offer on the day I visited. But I was in the mood for an espresso-based drink and ordered a cortado, upgrading to the featured single-origin espresso — a washed Colombian coffee produced by Maria Lunid Ascencio and roasted by Brooklyn-based Sey Coffee. I still haven't visited Sey's cafe in Brooklyn (I'm hoping to do so in the near future, however) but I did enjoy their coffee at St Kilda the last time I was in New York and I was excited to sample another of their coffees.

There are raised tables along both sides of the mezzanine and I perched there on one of the stools while waiting for my coffee. When it arrived, it came in a cortado glass. I mention this following the discussion Izzy, Brian and others were having on Twitter recently about the differences between coffee in the US and the UK. I still remember going into a Maine coffee shop a few years ago and telling the barista how much I liked the glass my cortado was served in; they gave me a funny look and said, "yes, that's a cortado glass" (I think the 'duh' was silent). Even if cortado glasses are not quite so ubiquitous in the UK — and never mind the lack of agreement about what the precise definition of a cortado is and how it relates to a piccolo and a macchiato — I do still rather like them. 

As for this cortado, it was particularly well brewed, with sweet blackcurrant notes coming through, and latte art that lasted all the way down.

If you're feeling peckish, there is also a small selection of cakes and focaccia sandwiches, and they sell retail bags of coffee beans (from Sey and Square Mile) and coffee-making kit too.

After I'd finished my coffee, I continued my stroll around Notting Hill, searching for my dream house. Wishes? Meet horses...

LIFT. 133 Kensington Church Street, London, W8 7LP (Tube: Notting Hill Gate). Website. Instagram.

For 140+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, you can also check out my London speciality coffee guide.

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