It’s kind of what I expected…

Usually when I stop at the services on a long car journey, I venture in, see a high street chain, look at the prices and then walk out.

Well at least I managed to stretch my legs. Sometimes though I am known to order a coffee.

On my most recent visit to Membury Services, I decided I would buy a coffee, and went to Starbucks. I am actually not a great fan of the flavour of Starbucks coffee, but with no choice, I ordered a flat white.

flat white

I had quite low expectations, so in the end I quite enjoyed the coffee. It was kind of what I expected.

Though I have visited the Membury Services many times it was only last year that I realised it was next to an airfield, when I heard and then saw an airplane coming into land.

Though checking Wikipedia I realise that it was only more recently that aircraft have started flying from the airfield, as the airfield was closed in the 1960s with the construction of the M4. The services are located on the original site of the RAF Membury. The base was opened in 1942 and was used by the RAF and the USAAF.

That was a nice coffee


On my way to our office in London I was walking down Gray Inns Road. Before it meets High Holborn, and up the road on the corner with Baldwin’s Gardens, is a great little cafe called Catalyst.

I have been here before and really enjoyed the coffee I had. So having some time before my first meeting of the day, and it been a really long time since I had coffee, I decided to stop and have a flat white.

The food looks really interesting, but also seems a little pricey compared to the coffee. So not feeling hungry I had the coffee,

They certainly take care when making the coffee, and they will bring it to your table, so I took a seat and waited. They did initially confuse me with another order, but then my flat white arrived it looked perfect.

Now I am not sure if I left it too long, but I was distracted by my laptop, so it wasn’t that hot. Now I think it might have been me, rather than them. Even so it was a really nice coffee.

Nice coffee

Working in London, I popped into Fernandez & Wells on Denmark Street for a quick coffee. Though I like working in our offices, sometimes working in another place, with decent coffee, is a nice alternative. I was walking to our offices, when I decided that I wanted a coffee and though I passed a few places, I didn’t fancy going to a chain like Costa or Caffe Nero and London is full of independent and small chain coffee places.

I did at first walk pass Fernandez & Wells, but then did a double take and walked back, looked in and decided, though I didn’t want any food, but did want coffee.

Fernandez & Wells has a few branches across London. This branch is described as a trendy hangout, okay so they let me in. The wooden floors and furniture create a nice warm ambience and environment. There was a warm welcome and I quickly placed my order for a flat white. What I did like was that I didn’t need to wait at the counter for my coffee, I could take a seat, get the laptop out and get on with some work.

The coffee arrived speedily and looked great. It also tasted great.

Flat White

This is a lovely café and the food menu looks interesting too.

Nice coffee

Wanting a coffee and somewhere to sit to do some work, I wanted to try something other than the usual high street chains such as Costa and Caffe Nero. The 58 High Street branch of Taylors in Oxford, looked nice and inviting, and the sign said they had seating inside. Great I thought, time for coffee.

I asked for a flat white and a croissant, which was part of a morning offer. Alas it was only after I ordered that I realised that the so called seating was in fact some stools at the back of the shop. The coffee was going to come in a paper cup, rather than china, and the croissant in a paper bag! Not quite what I wanted or was expecting. I had to ask if they had butter for the croissant, they gave me margarine… that isn’t butter.

The service was excellent, very friendly, warm and welcoming. Not over the top, nor in your face. You were made to feel welcome and important to them as a customer and then they ensured you knew what was happening and when. This is important if you are unsure of the process of ordering, receiving and other stuff with coffee.

So I got out the laptop and got working, the coffee was actually rather good, and the croissant was fresh.

I think this is an ideal place for takeaway, but isn’t a place to sit and do stuff whilst drinking coffee.

Good flat white

I had some time to kill before a meeting in London, needing coffee and a place to catch up with some work. A few of the places I had see in the Clerkenwell area were busy, so pleased to see there was some room in a branch of Benugo. It was early afternoon, so there was no queue and I ordered a flat white. The flat white looked and tasted great. The seating wasn’t very comfortable, but even so it was adequate for catching up with stuff.

Nice coffee, but the service is a bit of a yolk

On my way into work decided to try somewhere new for coffee. I quite liked the look of Yolk, it felt stylish but not too hipster. The breakfast menu looked very interesting and tasty, but I wasn’t hungry, I just wanted coffee.

I was quickly served, which was nice, and my order of a flat white along with my name was taken.

The process then was to wait for ages for the coffee, they had three people taking orders, but only one person making the coffee, so of course the orders were backing up.

I did get my coffee in the end, but there were loads of coffees in front of me. I’m glad I didn’t order a latte as there were plenty of those, and many had no names. The slowness and randomness of the serving of the coffee did put me off slightly, but I might go again, mainly as the breakfast menu was tempting.

Having said all that the coffee was rather nice, well made and tasty.

Time for an Arnolfini coffee


It’s been a while since I’ve had something to eat or drink at the Arnolfini in Bristol. With the wealth of new places popping up, it’s been tempting to go to new places rather than old ones. It’s also a little bit of a trek from the office for a quick lunch, so usually it’s off the cards then too.

Having a walk around the Bristol Harbourside on an unusually sunny day we decided to stop for a coffee and as it happens we were close to the Arnolfini, so without too much indecision decided to go there. Well that’s not exactly how it happened. We actually wanted to go to Mokoko Coffee & Bakery on Wapping Wharf, however one of our “little” ones didn’t fancy any of their cakes so we went to buy ice cream instead. After getting ice cream from the van outside the bottom of the MShed we decided we could go have a coffee. Having crossed Princestreet Bridge and having now finished the ice creams, were close to the Arnolfini, so without too much indecision decided to go there!

As can be expected on a sunny day at the weekend on the Harbourside the tables and chairs outside the Arnolfini were very busy, we were happy to sit inside, but as it was busy there was a bit of a queue. It moved faster than I thought it would and I ordered my coffee, a flat white, a tea and a Diet Coke.

As we were sitting inside, we were told they would bring the drinks over and we could go and sit down. I really like it when places do that, it feels so much more civilised than moving down to the other end of the counter and waiting around for your drink, or for your name to be called. Too many times for my liking when that happens I seem to lose my drink to someone and I need to complain and wait again. I have stopped calling myself “James” now when ordering coffee, as there appears to be too many Jameses out there.

The inside of the Arnolfini hasn’t changed much over the years, it felt like a hipster place before hipsters became hip. The shared long tables and benches are still there and the atmosphere is warm and inviting.

While we were waiting we looked at the menu on the blackboard and we agreed that we liked all of the items and it would have been difficult to choose one. Made me think that I might come back another day for lunch.

Coffee at the Arnolfini

The flat white came and I was impressed. It was smooth and velvety with a lovely strong coffee taste. In other words done right.

Servicing my coffee addiction

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the coffee drinking experience at motorway services leaves a lot to be desired. More often then not, I will avoid buying coffee at service stations. Sometimes they get it just wrong. Even with the big chains the quality of the coffee and service can be very different to that of the high street. The environment is often busy and messy, usually I need to clear the table myself!

Having said all that I did have a really nice coffee drinking experience at the independent Gloucester services. I think part of the reason was the fact it was sunny.

Servicing my coffee addiction

For those that don’t know about the new(ish) Gloucester services between junctions 11a and 12 on the M5. Unlike any other motorway service area, they don’t have franchises. They use local produce and have a huge farm shop selling a range of delicious looking food and drink (and crafts). They also have a eatery, called the “Kitchen” where food and drink can be purchased.

I ordered a flat white and enjoyed drinking it outside on the terrace by the lake in the sun.

Now that was a nice coffee drinking experience.

It was supposed to be a macchiato…

espresso macchiato

So what do you think that was?

That is a small espresso cup by the way.

It was supposed to be an espresso macchiato.

From my understanding, an espresso macchiato, is simply a shot of espresso with some foamed milk. This was a single shot of espresso with a dollup of hot milk!

I have had a decent espresso macchiato from the Pumpkin Cafe chain at railway stations before, so was unimpressed with this effort. I was going to complain, but ran out of time as I was heading for a train.

Now checking the wikipedia, I can see that globally there is a fair amount of varation in how people interpret the macchiato, in some cases it appears to be more like a flat white than a small espresso based coffee.

Next time, I will be more explicit about what I want when I order.

The Cortado

Back in 2009 I was in New Zealand for a conference and was introduced to the Flat White.

According to Wikipedia:

Originating from Australia and New Zealand, a Flat White is a coffee beverage prepared by pouring steamed milk from the bottom of steaming pitcher over a single shot or double shot of espresso. As with many other espresso-based drinks the Flat White is interpreted in a number of ways. In Australia it is commonly served as a single shot of espresso, whereas in New Zealand it is more commonly served using a double shot.

Back in 2010 I started to notice that many coffee places, including the major chains were now selling the Flat White. I said back then

I have had it a few times now in the UK, from Costas and Starbucks and though nice, it’s not quite the same as a Flat White from New Zealand.

Having been a while since I was in New Zealand I have lost track of the true flat white experience.

Meeting up with Thom from New Zealand at a recent conference he confirmed that the Costa version of the Flat White was lacking, it was too big and wasn’t strong enough. When he tried to order a “proper” flat white, smaller cup, another shot, the barista couldn’t quite understand what he wanted, but did recommend the Cortado.

Cortado #altc #coffee #photo365

The Cortado originates from Spanish speaking countries and the word cortado is the past participle of the Spanish verb cortar (to cut).

The Costa version of the Cortado is not quite what a classic Cortado should be, but as a result is more like a Flat White from New Zealand.

Not sure if putting the drink in a glass adds anything, I would much prefer a cup, but despite that I did enjoy the coffee and would certainly order it again.