Coffee in Clerkenwell. Coffee in Farringdon. Workshop Coffee Clerkenwell.
There are a hell of a lot of places to buy good coffee in and around London’s Clerkenwell. If the coffee-loving hipster types live in Hackney, you’ll find many of them working in this part of town which is good news for me as I also work nearby and am always searching for London’s best coffee.
Workshop Coffee must be a contender. Founded by James Dickson in 2011, Workshop have four sites across London (Clerkenwell, Fitzrovia, Marylebone and Holborn) but the branch on Clerkenwell Road was their first and this is the one I’m reviewing today. Set in a former textile factory, you’re greeted on arrival by white wall tiles, a wooden floor and exposed brickwork. The lighting is a deliciously tasteful low-level giving the place a feel more associated with the luxury design studios that surround it rather than a coffee shop… and a long way from a workshop.
As you enter you’ll see a porthole on the door on your right-hand side which I always feel brings an element of mystery. What’s happening through there? It feels like there should be a laboratory full of top coffee experts performing ground-breaking research to develop the world’s best flat white. I really hope that’s the case.
Walking up to the very solid wooden counter, you’ll notice immediately that the coffee machine is sat at centre stage, the star of the show which is precisely what it should be. To the right of it you’ll see a range of the usual tasty treats, pastries, muffins and cakes each of which is a couple of notches above the standard levels of coffee shop nosh. Beyond the bar is a large seating area, stretching into the depth of the former factory. It’s a very relaxed place to stop for a coffee and some conversation, I’ve held a number of business meetings in there.
Back onto the food and it’s worth mentioning their extensive brunch and lunch offering. Again, the food is of the highest quality. I can vouch for this as on one visit, I bumped into TV chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who was delivering produce en route to a meeting with a House of Commons Select Committee. I have the embarrassing selfie to prove it!!
The coffee is excellent. A real contender for the best coffee in London award. My latest cappuccino was a real dark, rich, intense hit of espresso wrapped around a creamy, indulgent froth. There’s lots of complexity in the taste with a rich almond aftertaste that oozed provenance and quality. I love this place.
I love their ethos too. In an interview with The Telegraph in 2014, Dickson compares coffee tasting with wine tasting, arguing the former is more complex with a wider range of flavour profiles. I’m all for that and salute Workshop for bringing this level of complexity to my caffeine fix.
As with Small Batch Coffee in Brighton, Workshop work closely with their producers and travel the world to source the best coffee travelling to countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Guatemala and Brazil. They roast the beans themselves and since 2015 have been doing so in their roastery in Bethnal Green, East London a location which further underlines their hipster credentials.
They also offer coffee master classes and the chance to purchase coffee and hardware online. There is a subscription offering as well which in my opinion, as with a sock subscription is brilliant gift option combining a level of luxury and indulgence with a reasonable price tag.
There’s not much I don’t like about this place. It’s not in a location I get to walk through on a daily basis so I don’t get to visit as much as I’d like it’s always well-worth a detour though so I’d urge you to visit and see for yourself.
Read my review of Notes Coffee.