Nice flat white

flat white

Killing some time before my train I went to Caffè Nero at Central St Giles. Nice warm welcome from the staff and I ordered my usual favourite, a flat white. I didn’t order anything to eat (as I wasn’t very hungry). I found a place to sit and drink the coffee. It was a really nice coffee, and a nice place as well.

Nice flat white

I was walking past Exmouth Market one evening and decided I wanted a coffee. Most of the usual coffee places were closed, but Caffé Nero was still open. I went in and ordered a flat white.

Despite the fact it was late and I was the only person in the place, the coffee was excellent. Well made and great coffee.

I had been there before on the way to a meeting at City, University of London a few years ago (pre pandemic) and it was nice coffee back then. I had also visited when staying at a nearby hotel.

Exmouth Market is quite a place for restaurants and cafes and after finishing my coffee I walked down the road, getting tempted by the different establishments. I was a little saddened to see that Paesan had closed down. Well not so much closed down, but turned into a pizza and craft beer place. I had had some excellent pasta there two years ago.

I enjoyed my coffee and carried on with my walk.

Lots of choice

coffee

Back in 2010 I wrote a blog post about when I went out for coffee in Weston-super-Mare I went to Druckers, as it wasn’t just about the coffee, but about the whole coffee drinking experience.

Then there was very little choice in the town for drinking coffee, quite a few tearooms who did some nice tea, but no real coffee places.

Today the landscape is very different. There are the major chains of Costa, Coffee #1, Caffe Nero as well as a plethora of independent coffee places too. We have a much greater choice. There are now four branches of Costa in the town for example. We still don’t have a Starbucks, but as I don’t like the coffee there, I am okay with that.

Since I last wrote Druckers has shrunk considerably. The owners of the Sovereign Centre wanted to create a new eating experience, with multiple food outlets and a shared eating space. Alas the reality is that all there is, is Druckers. So what was an okay place for a coffee and cake, is now more like the inside of a fish and chip shop, but with stools and benches. Not a place for coffee.

My first choice is Coffee #1, though I prefer the coffee in Caffe Nero, the service always appears rushed and it’s popular, so not always a lot of space available.

From an independent perspective, I do like the new(ish) coffee place in the Waterstones in the Sovereign Centre.

Frenetic Coffee

Caffe Nero

I have written before on this blog about how much I enjoy drinking coffee at Caffe Nero. There are a few reasons for this, for example, the coffee is nice and consistent. I have found that when you buy an Americano in Birmingham it is a similar almost identical experience to an Americano in London.

However recently I realised that there was another reason why if given the choice I will choose Caffe Nero over any other major coffee chain.

I was pleased to find out that Caffe Nero had opened a branch in Weston-super-Mare, we had only just got a Costa on the High Street and it was nice to have a choice, especially after my favourite local independent coffee shop had closed and had been converted into a kebab shop!

Recently I was in Weston for a while, as one of my children attended a party on the pier and needed to kill some time. So I thought to myself, aha, grab a coffee at Caffe Nero, use their free wifi and get some stuff done.

I walked on over to Caffe Nero and joined the queue, well there was one person in front of me, so hardly a queue. As I waited, I looked over the cakes and biscuits, convincing myself that, yes they did look very nice, but no you didn’t need any of them. I was then served and the staff acted as though they had drunk eight espresso coffees. They were acting “busy”, jumping around each other, almost running, which when you consider the average size of a coffee counter takes some doing. They were shouting at each other about what to do and what my order was… a short Americano with cold skimmed milk on the side.

My first reaction was they were acting like this as there must be a huge queue behind me, one that must have crept up as I waited. I turned around and saw, that, there was no one. I was the only person at the counter, but here was three staff frenetically, frantically, hyperactively making me my coffee, shouting out as they did, as though they needed to do it really quickly as there was a huge number to make and to reduce the waiting time… checked again, no there was only me.

As I sat down at a table, got the laptop out and started to drink my coffee, I started to reflect. One of the reasons I realised why I really liked Caffe Nero was because of the calm ambience and atmosphere. As I drank my coffee the staff behind the counter continued to be hyperactive, shouting at each other orders, even though they were standing next to each other. It was noisy and distracting.

Yes I can see how such “behaviour” may be necessary in a fast moving establishment, such as at a railway station, where people want to grab a quick coffee and run to catch their train. However this was a high street coffee shop, a place where people want to catch their breath from the hustle and bustle of shopping, a moment of calmness and tranquillity as they drink their coffee and eat their sandwich or cake.

Well as I sat there in Caffe Nero in Weston-super-Mare that wasn’t what was happening. The frenetic, frantic and loud staff ruined the ambience and made the place feel like a fast food burger joint on a Friday night. Slight disclaimer, I don’t recall (if ever) I have been in a fast food burger joint on a Friday night so this comparison might be slightly unfair. As far as I know on a Friday night these burger joints might be calm tranquil places with violins playing. So just to rephrase, “and made the place feel like what I imagine a fast food burger joint on a Friday night feels like!”

As I tried to enjoy the coffee and relax, I found the frenetic activity and loud voices of the staff to be totally distracting and annoying. As a result I left early and certainly did not buy a second cup of coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the coffee, but I don’t go to places like Caffe Nero just for the coffee, it’s also the ambience the atmosphere. This branch had great coffee, the decor and furniture was nice, what let the place down were the hyerpactive staff. Training needs to be so much more than just about how to make coffee.

Americano please…

Caffe Nero in Birmingham

Last week, having managed to catch an earlier train and arriving in Birmingham a little earlier than I needed to, I decided to venture to Caffé Nero for a coffee. (and they have free wifi so that’s useful too).

I ordered my usual for Caffé Nero, an americano with cold skimmed milk on the side.

As I have written before, I have found that the coffee at Caffé Nero is pretty consistent, and this one was no exception. A really nice strong, well flavoured coffee.

If can’t find a decent independent, then out of all the chains if I can find one, then I will go to Caffé Nero.

Consistent Coffee

Despite the fact that it shouldn’t be the case I am still surprised by how varied coffee can be from different branches of the same chain. In some ways that could be argued to be a good thing, as coffee is an art and maybe shouldn’t be the same everywhere. However though I do expect a level of difference between the coffees made by different baristas, the differences between the coffees should be marginal. However as I said often I find a flat white in one branch is totally different to one from another. Even the simple Americano can be made badly.

What I would say though is my experience of Caffé Nero has been unusually consistent across the different branches I have been to in various cities. It’s also great coffee as well as consistent.

Coffee at the Nero

Coffee Reflections

My current favourite place for coffee these days is Caffé Nero, in the main as I really enjoy the coffee. The environment is nice too., tables and chairs or comfy sofas depending on what you want or need to do. Good service too, making sure you get what you want and provided efficiently and quickly. I have had consistently good service from the different branches of Caffé Nero I have been to across the country. The coffee is great, but is quite strong, much stronger than a similar coffee at Starbucks or Costa. However you can ask for a weaker coffee if that is your preference.

Alas there are not as many Nero branches as they are of the other two, but I have managed to find them in most major cities.

This is how you do it…

Why is it that so many coffee places can not get making a simple Americano right?

This Americano from Caffe Nero is a perfect example of how it should be done.

What an Americano should look like...

Great espresso coffee topped off with hot water. A great coffee.

At quite a few coffee places I go to, they just get it plain wrong. The key is that the crema (that’s the froth on the top) adds so much to the coffee drinking experience and flavour. Lose that and the coffee is nowhere as near as good as it could be.

I quite like my Americano strong, now I could do that by asking for an extra shot, however as a cheapskate I ask for less water. You would be surprised by how many baristas have no idea what I mean by “not too much water please”.

I really enjoyed my Americano from Caffe Nero and would go there again.

Caffe Nero

Had a nice coffee at Caffe Nero, an espresso.

Out of the many chains you can buy coffee from, I do quite like Caffe Nero.