17 Berwick St, W1F 0PT
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Rd
Flat White opened in 2005 and led the wave of antipodean immigrants into the London coffee scene. I was expecting great things given its provenance and the score of 5/5 in the Picky Glutton’s flat white round-up, but I was disappointed with my coffee. They only had Square Mile’s red brick espresso on offer when we visited (they don’t do guest espressos) and the resulting flat white was a tad weak, with fruity undertones and hints of milk chocolate. The milk was slightly separated and I think it had been over foamed.
Verdict: the original but certainly not the best 5/10
Notes have three locations in London, including one near Trafalgar Square and they opened their own roastery in the summer of 2013. The Covent Garden shop is a few minutes’ walk from the market square and is an oasis of calm away from the chaos of the surrounding shopping streets. They offer a small range of cooked breakfast options and have a handful of post-breakfast dishes including braised pork shoulder (£8) and salmon fishcakes (£7.5). I chose the La Esperanza espresso for my flat white which is a washed coffee from Huehuetenango in the Guatemalan highlands. The milk treatment was good – the microfoam had a velvety finish and a near perfect texture. The espresso was a light roast and worked gently through the milk, with honeycomb and milk chocolate coming to the fore.
Verdict: a subtle but very executed flat white 8/10
Dose is a little espresso bar a couple of minutes’ walk from Barbican tube. It is a kiwi-run relative veteran of the London coffee scene, having opened in 2009. The space is small, with a couple of tables and lots of hard surfaces, so not recommended for lingering but they do a roaring take away trade. They use Square Mile coffee but have recently moved away from Red Brick and have been getting special single origin roasts – on my visit they were using espresso from the Salaca estate in Costa Rica. The microfoam in my flat white was piping hot, thick and creamy; the espresso was light, with hints of apricot and a buttery finish.
Verdict: well-sourced espresso and careful milk treatment – a thoroughly good flat white 9/10
Allpress is an antipodean mini-chain which is very serious about coffee – they started in New Zealand and quickly expanded to Australia before making the bold move to London in 2010. Some of the Auckland and Sydney staff moved over to set up the roastery and Allpress has been at the top of London’s coffee tree ever since. Their roaster shares the same space as the cafe and you can see/smell it in action three times a week. We went along on a Sunday morning and the cafe was very busy but because a large chunk of customers were having take away coffee and we only had to wait a few minutes for a free table. They have a range of beans which can be bought for home use but the cafe only uses one espresso at a time – we had the Redchurch blend, which is made up of a mix of Brazilian, Colombian, Guatemalan and Sumatran beans. Apparently the espresso was a medium roast, but it tasted very light to me – the coffee lacked character and did not speak through the milk in my flat white, I think they should be using a darker roast for their milk based coffees.
Verdict: slightly disappointing given the roasting pedigree 6/10