27 Monmouth St, Covent Garden, WC2H 9EU
Nearest tube: Covent Garden
Monday to Saturday, 8am to 6.30pm
Flat white £2.35, Latte £2.90, Espresso £1.35
Brownie £2.40, Bakewell £2.05
Machine: La Marzocco
Why are antipodeans so good at coffee? For me, the recent massive leaps in the quality of coffee in the UK has been mainly driven by Kiwis and Aussies (the prime examples being Federation Coffee in Brixton and Artisan Roast in Edinburgh, both owned by New Zealanders). However, one of the first British cafes to take coffee seriously – from sourcing and roasting to preparation – was Monmouth. It opened in 1978 with coffee being roasted in the basement using an old fashioned “direct flame” machine. Great care was taken to find good quality coffee from smaller farms and co-operatives. The original branch was on Monmouth Street and they now have another in Borough Market. The Monmouth branch is very small, with only 16 seats spread over 3 booths. If you come here on a weekend expect to have to queue to sit inside. We had to wait 15 minutes for a table at around 1pm on a Saturday and I imagine that is about as long as it gets. The tables are all communal and you will probably end up having a chat with the people you are sharing with. They have a selection of 15 types of beans to buy (ranging from £25 to £50 per kg) and you can have all of these as a filter coffee. The atmosphere is very relaxed despite how busy it is and the staff do a great job of managing the queue.
My flat white was larger than the London standard; the milk was extremely creamy and had fantastic texture, however the coffee was slightly weak for my taste. There were also a few stray coffee grains at the bottom of my cup (something I have never seen at Federation). I tried a pan au chocolat which was very fresh although the pastry was slightly heavier than I would have preferred.
Monmouth is the original and almost the best London coffee shop – only a handful (Tapped and Packed, Federation and Look Mum No Hands!) can better it.
Coffee score – 4/5
Atmosphere – 3.5/5
Also see: ILTEAETL and a Melbourne blog.