Monmouth, Covent Garden

With my submission to Bridges 2014 in the can, I have some time to proceed with the next stop in the Rocket Cup World Tour (of London).

As I’ve spent more time commuting in London, I’ve gradually decreased my reliance on the Tube. I used to ride the Southeastern train in to Charing Cross and then take the Northern Line up to Goodge Street. These days, I’m much more likely to walk from Charing Cross up to UCL. First, the Tube is usually more crowded and less pleasant than the train. Second, it doesn’t actually save that much time relative to walking over short distances. Third, I find that I miss the pace and relaxation of walking—and this walk is an especially pleasant one through Covent Garden, past Seven Dials. And naturally, fourth, when I walk I have more opportunities to stop at interesting places along the way.

I leave Seven Dials heading north on Monmouth Street, eventually walking up Bloomsbury Street to Torrington Place. On the way, I pass one of London’s most venerable coffee institutions, Monmouth Coffee Company.

Monmouth, Covent Garden

Watching the genius baristas ply their trade at Monmouth.

Monmouth is mobbed all morning by a throng of fix-seekers; a lucky few who aren’t rushed settle down in the communal booths in the back or the benches out front. What’s most impressive about the teams who take orders and make drinks is their physical separation. The take-away customers line up and place their orders at the long counter in front. All drink orders are then shouted up to the baristas in the back. It amazes me that this system doesn’t go off the rails; I have a hard enough time hearing something when it’s spoken directly at me in a quiet room, never mind over the heads of surly, undercaffeinated customers.

But they get their orders straight every time, and produce a damn fine shot of espresso to boot. I believe I ordered a single on this visit. It’s something of a sad experience to watch its preparation: they use a two-spout portafilter, and simply run one of the spouts into the drain. I wish I could capture that wasted espresso and put it to good use. Maybe I can have one shot in and take one away? Can I request that it be added to the drink of a tired-looking patron?

Monmouth, Covent Garden

A study in wood tones: table, floor and crema.

Monmouth is another of my London favourites, whether it’s at this location or the larger (and equally busy) location by Borough Market. Plus, at £1.50 for both a single and a double shot, it’s one of the best espresso deals in town.

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