Saturday, 1 September 2012

Week beginning September 3rd - Coffee as the final course

Our lead barista James, who has just left to return to Australia, went to one of the best restaurants in the UK as a leaving gift to himself and his fiancée. Now, James is one of the best baristas and in fact one of the best hospitality people I have ever met. He has very, very high standards on service and has incredible attention to detail, a lot of which he has developed over the time he spent at Kaffeine, but also that he has developed over his own lifetime. 

He also has an amazing palate and knowledge for coffee and is very proud of coffee as a product and the potentials that coffee has in producing sensory experiences. 

At Kaffeine we all believe that, while our focus can only really be on espresso, there is absolutely no reason why any other establishment is not able to put as much effort into their coffee as they do all their other products, be it food, wine, beers, bread, cheese, decor or service, especially ones of this calibre.

This is James' account of his recent experience. We highlight it in the hope that more people will start to say, 'yes we can do great coffee too, all we have to do is make the effort.' 

If this happens, then your whole sensory experience in that establishment will finally be fulfilled.

Coffee in restaurants has puzzled me for a while. There is so much attention and detail poured into the décor, service and sourcing of interesting quality ingredients to deliver a unique and memorable dining experience, but too many places are content with serving coffee that is simply not up to standard.

Coffee is nearly always the final course and the last thing that hits your taste buds before you walk out the door and reflect on what you have spent and what you have received in return. I recently had an experience that left me with a lot of questions about how restaurants approach and appreciate the value coffee can add to a dining experience.

My fiancé and I made a booking for a restaurant a few months ago and we were both really looking forward to the lunch sitting as we had heard so many good things about it.

The experience was nothing short of exceptional. The service and attentiveness of the servers and sommeliers was exactly what we expected and probably more.

Course after course of delightful, thoughtful and impeccably executed food arrived at our table and kept us smiling all the way through. The quality service continued from start to finish and all the staff we encountered had this casual professionalism that kept us relaxed and engaged for the whole four and a half hours we were sitting at our table.

After our second last course arrived we were asked if we would like any tea or coffee to go with our final desert course and given the overwhelming sensory experience of the last 12 courses I was very tempted to see what would be done with coffee and tea.

The menu featured a very impressive selection of teas by Jing Tea and detailed what farm the tea came from, the region the farm is located and how the tea was processed. The coffee selection, however, was incredibly limited.

It was described as 100% Arabica from South America. I decided to go for a double espresso, what I usually drink, and was very unimpressed, but not really that surprised, when it was delivered. I could tell just by looking at it that the experience awaiting me was going to be unpleasant and it was.

The espresso was undrinkable. The beverage lacked body, sweetness and had a long bitter finish, and after 14 practically clean plates returned to the kitchen my double espresso was left on the table with barely a sip taken from it.

What makes this experience so surprising for me is that this all happened at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant. Heston has built his reputation and career on experimentation and combining techniques and flavours in a unique way.

I wonder how long it has been since he actually tried what he is serving as the last thing a customer experiences after his chef’s, servers and sommeliers all work so hard to meet his incredibly high standards and create a truly memorable dining experience.

One of my favourite things as a barista is trying coffee from different regions of the world and exploring the flavours and nuances of each. I would love to see one or two single origin filter coffees on Fat Duck’s menu with the origin of the coffee, name of the farm, how the coffee was processed and some tasting notes all there to tempt and intrigue diners.

It is not hard to make a large filter coffee for a table and after seeing our aperitifs being poached in liquid nitrogen at our table, surely Fat Duck has the equipment and potential to train their staff to deliver good filter coffee.

Perhaps a Chemex or Siphon made at the table to share between the guests would be a good start and a more fitting way to finish the meal than a thin and over extracted cup of espresso.

There are lots of delicious options and quite a few world class roasters in this country alone that source and produce delicious, seasonal and interesting coffee every day.

Coffee has never been seen in the same light as food, wine or tea in many culinary eyes and I really believe if restaurants like Fat Duck started paying more attention to their coffee menu the effect would trickle down over time to other establishments and change people’s perceptions on what to expect of coffee in restaurants.

I understand people do not just go to Fat Duck for a quick cup of coffee, but why should I have to drink bad coffee after 14 plates of sensational food?

We hope you enjoy the sensory experience at Kaffeine this week, our menu is below for your perusal.

Traditional bircher muesli with rhubarb and raspberry compote 3.30
Granola muesli with pomegranate molasses and rhubarb and raspberry compote 3.30
Fruit salad (pineapple, mango, strawberries, grapes, passionfruit, peach) 3.50
(add 30 p for granola or yogurt)
Ciabatta roll with omelette, pancetta, rocket and tomato salsa 4.70
Ciabatta roll with courgette omelette, rocket and tomato salsa 4.70
Croissant with Italian roast ham, talleggio cheese, spinach & plum tomatoes 4.70
Croissant with gruyere cheese and plum tomatoes 3.90
Seven seed bakery bloomer toast with homemade preserves 1.70
Pumpkin seed toast 2.30
Banana bread 2.20

Pastries by Seven Seed bakery
French butter croissants 1.70
Pain au chocolat 2.30
Almond croissants 2.70

Baked Treats
Turkish apricots, pumpkin seeds and yoghurt sweet muffins 2.00
Tomato, sweet cicely and goats cheese savoury muffins 2.00
Damson friands 2.00
Super moist chocolate brownies 2.30
White chocolate blondies 2.30
Portuguese tarts 1.90
ANZAC cookies 1.70
Melting moment biscuits 1.70


French retro baguettes 4.70
Plum tomatoes, chimichurri sauce, bufala mozzarella, rocket
Ham, Dijon, red onion, gruyere, gherkin, spinach

Foccacias with sea salt and rosemary crust 4.90
Mushrooms with Welsh rarebit and spinach
Smoked salmon with red onion, aioli, spinach, dill and capers

Salads 4.90/5.90
Clove and orange roasted chicken with blood peaches, mozzarella balls, sea purslane and wild marjoram dressing
Chickweed with manchego, roasted celery, red chilli and damson plum jam
Grilled Padron peppers with sea blite

Tart 4.00 or 6.90 with salad
Puff pastry parcels with pancetta, lychees and basil sauce


  1. Before I read the 1st half of this James' account I had a strong hunch you might be talking about Fat Duck.

    I had exactly the same feeling after leaving Fat Duck a couple of years ago. Such a shame that it is still yet to be improved.
    I could be, and hope I am wrong, but I heard that they use a nespresso machine. They are definitely not alone.

    When myself and a friend went to The Ledbury for lunch a while back we had an amazing experience with the food, service and even got to go down to see the kitchen and speak to Brett Graham. The 1st thing I saw when we descended the stairs was a nespresso machine sitting on the side. Now they had a very small and hot kitchen but I think they could easily have accommodated proper coffee all the same.
    I made a point of asking the chef why and his response was that they didn't have the space and resources to dedicate to coffee brewing.

    It's a huge shame that so many high end restaurants seem to have the same attitude to coffee. But it will probably stay the same until general pubic perception of coffee changes. while critics do not mention coffee in reviews, while new Starbucks are popping up 3 doors away from the last one and while we see instant coffee from Nestle marketed as 'barista style' its going to be hard to change many restaurant's stance on the product.

    This is not to say everywhere is the same, I also visited Frantzen & Lindeberg in Stockholm recently and they produced a large woodneck filter and prepared coffee at our table for us at the end of the meal. So it can be done, it just isn't.

    1. * that shouldn't say 'this James' obviously. That's what you get for composing and editing a comment on your phone.

  2. I found James to be consistently excellent as a barista and quite lovely to talk to as well, we wish him the best. I quite agree with his comments regarding restaurant coffee, I have given up ordering coffee in restaurants many years ago. It is bizarre that restaurants that pride themselves in creating a sensory experience for their customers would take no care in the coffee they serve.
    I think sometimes it is because there is a tie-in with beans supplied by the company that loans the machine but they wouldn't dream of taking this approach with wine. I do think that serving filter coffee could help as staff could be trained fairly quickly to make it.
    The only place I can think of that is countering this problem (apart from restaurants specialising in coffee such as Workshop and Salvation Jane)is at the Counter at the Delaunay where Will has done a great job integrating Squaremile coffee into part of the Wolseley/Delaunay. I can only hope he then has an influence in the coffee at the Wolseley and the Delaunay