Monday, April 15, 2013

Monmouth Coffee Company in Borough Market

The name doesn't lie: Monmouth Coffee Company is all about the coffee. There may be a wait to get your single-origin roast, but you know what they say about all good things. Regularly touted as the best coffee shop in London, there’s only one way to find out, one must sample. Easier said than done, Monmouth has a queue outside all the time. Nestled in an old converted warehouse on the corner of Park and Stoney Streets in Borough Market, this coffee haven is worth a visit. On the weekend that I visited Monmouth's Borough Market coffee emporium, the queue was out the door. If good coffee in London draws a crowd, the crowd at Monmouth is some testament of its quality. So we joined the line to find out what all the fuss was about.

Monmouth's Borough Market Park Street location 

The space is small but cosy and cool, and the coffee is definitely worth the wait. Monmouth Coffee Company sells single origin coffee, available either as whole beans or ground to suit your desired method of brewing, from cone-filtered coffees, lattes, cappuccinos or espressos, from beans that are sourced from single farms, estates and cooperatives around the coffee-growing world. They take pride in the fact that they travel extensively throughout the year, visiting the producers and cooperatives to foster what they believe is sustainable, fair and equal trade, and, should you want it, there’s a detailed print out on every table explaining where each particular roast comes from, how it’s made, and what’s special about it. Founded 30 years ago by Anita Le Roy, Monmouth sets itself daunting standards for quality and ethical trading, and meets them consistently.

Bins full of aromatic beans, 
with their lush scent spilling invitingly over the top

Monmouth is one of those places that doesn’t diversify away from its specialty. It’s all about the coffee, and the small range of pastries and baked goods displayed the counter are there to compliment, not compete with their core offering. In keeping with the simplicity of their philosophy, the menu is elegantly simple too, featuring a small range of top-notch baked goods, with pastries from Little Bread Pedlar, fresh cream truffles from Sally Clarke and, in the colder months, single-origin chocolate is brought in from Marou and Tobago, plus bread, jam and butter is for self-service at the one large communal table; most seating is at small tables or stools with counters. In warm weather the crowds overflow on to the pavement.

The beans are sourced from single farms, 
estates and cooperatives around the coffee-growing world

One fellow just makes single cone filter coffee - when I asked how 
he keeps them all straight, he said, "I guess" and smiled 
(the cups are actually all labeled)

Monmouth's velvety lattes and cuppuccini are made with organic Jersey milk from Jeff Bowles in Somerset, making it one of the few coffee shops anywhere that takes its milk as seriously as its coffee. The organic whole cane sugar is from Assukkar, Costa Rica. The best and maybe also the worst that can be said about London’s long-running, highest-quality roaster is that it hasn’t been influenced much by recent trends. Snug tables hidden in the rear must often be shared, when two knees can already seem two too many. The larger Monmouth outside Borough Market, with its pour-through cone filter bar, communal table and improvisational street theatre — otherwise known as the queue — is a must stop before, after and midway through visits to Borough Market. 

The lattes and cuppuccinos are all made with organic Jersey milk from Jeff Bowles in Somerset, making it one of the few coffee shops anywhere that takes its milk as seriously as its coffee

My first Monmouth Cappuccino, and it was worth the wait

The space is small but cosy and cool with snug tables tucked away on the side,
that must often be shared, but that's half the fun

Pastries are from Little Bread Pedlar, fresh cream truffles from Sally Clarke and, 
in the colder months, single-origin chocolate are brought in from Marou and Tobago

A small range of top-notch baked goods, with pastries from Little Bread Pedlar, 
fresh cream truffles from Sally Clarke

Monmouth's Shortbread Biscuits

Monmouth's Pain au Raisin is made by 'The Little Bread Pedlar'

Buttery, flakey and sinfully delicious

The Little Bread Pedlar uses only the best ingredients to make their 
pain au raisin: organic Shipton Mill flour, Lescure butter and organic raisins

All of their deliveries are made by bike!

Just look at her breads!

Nichola Gensler of Cherry Pippin Puddings & Pastries

Since 2011, the Little Bread Pedlar has been making and delivering artisan croissants, breads and other treats to Monmouth Coffee and other shops across central London by bicycle. Having worked as a chef and pastry chef at St John Bread and Wine for many years, Nichola Gensler began her quest to perfect and sell croissants, cakes and bread and opened Cherry Pippin at her Tatchbrook Street market stall in Pimlico. Since then, the business has grown into the Little Bread Pedlar, moving to Bermondsey to join other artisan producers at Spa Terminus — which I have to explore the next time I'm in London. 

A wood bowl full of fresh baguette from Borough Market, along with jams, honey 
and a plate of butter sit on the long communal table to tempt the morning coffee crowd

The bustling interior of Borough shoppers

Chez Michele, a delightful and charming florist in the heart of Borough Market

Black truffles, chanterelles and even pink oyster mushrooms

Crates of glorious fresh figs

Duck and goose eggs

The smell of fresh baked bread and focaccia was intoxicating

The beloved Melton Mowbray Pie

A flotilla of fresh langoustine were calling my name

Lovely local oysters being kept cool on a bed of ice

Murgu is a rather ugly, or grumpy looking artisanal Swiss cheese,
but it's supposed to be quite soft and creamy inside

Luscious cheese and organic honey

Saucissons des Alpes: Bull, wild boar, stag, duck and donkey!

Owned by chef-patissier Sebastien Wind, Comptoir Gourmand sells cakes and pastries, with an emphasis on traditional French techniques. All of their sweet treats are freshly baked in the company’s kitchens on Whitecross Street in London. Specialities include fruit tarts, huge colourful meringues in a variety of flavours, French éclairs filled with chocolate,  almond, pecan and raisin shortbreads and rich, custardy canelé de Bordeaux.

Homemade meringues by Comptoir Gourmand in Borough Market

Chocolate Fondant, Citron Meringue, Lemon & Almond Polenta Cake and more

Hobb's Roast Meat

Michael and Julie Hobbs know how to get a queue started. Located just inside the main entrance to the Market, you can smell the fragrant fare of Hobbs Roast Meat before you even see it. They serve hot meat baguettes chocked full of roast loin of pork with stuffing and apple sauce, turkey breast with stuffing and cranberry sauce and salt beef with dill pickle and mustard. There was a long queue when we arrived in the morning, and an even longer one when we left after lunch. Londoners know what they like, and they love Hobbs.

Thai green chicken & curry take-away - a popular stop for many

Caribbean Fish Soup to warm up on a chilly afternoon

Neal's Yard Dairy buys cheese from about seventy cheesemakers 
on farms around Britain and Ireland 

Founded in Covent Garden in 1979 by Randolph Hodgson, Neal's Yard offers an incredible array of cheeses sourced from over 70 specialist cheesemakers on farms all over the UK and Ireland. Many of the cheeses are aged in Neal’s Yard Dairy’s maturing rooms under the brick railway arches of Bermondsey. A team of five takes care of the cheeses, carefully turning them and sometimes brushing or washing them until they ripen. The morning we were there, we were offered a taste of two Neal's Yard cheeses which were so ripe, runny and delicious, I was tempted to buy a whole wheel and to smuggle it home. 

Neals' Yard is very generous with handing out free samples of their luscious ripe cheeses

Southwark Cathedral in the Borough Market

Out through Borough Market's main gates to catch the tube to Sloane Square
and home to the Draycott to get changed for dinner tonight...but that's the next blog!

Photo © Sophie Gerrard

Apricot and Strawberry Puff Pastry Galette
Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of Sally Clarke

10 oz all-butter puff pastry
2 lb apricots, ripe
3 tbsp Demerara sugar
6 strawberries
Icing sugar, for garnish

Roll the pastry into an approximate round no more than 12-inches across and about 1/8-inch thick. Crimp the edges, little by little, folding the pastry over on top of itself in a fluted fashion, until the edges are all folded in a ridge approximately 3/4-inch wide.

Place on to a baking sheet lined with parchment and chill in the fridge for at least one hour. Meanwhile, wash and cut the apricots into quarters. Place the fruit in a bowl, add the sugar, jumble together gently and leave on one side. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the pastry from the fridge and pierce the base with a fork in a few places to prevent the pastry puffing up too much during cooking. Bake for up to 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp, golden and baked through to the base.

Drain the fruit a little, retaining the juices for later, and place the pieces decoratively in the centre of the pastry. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit has softened and started to colour at the edges. Slice the strawberries in half and toss with the apricot juices and scatter over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a dusting of icing sugar.

Sally Clarke

Borough Market Seafood & Bacon Cawl
Serves 4-6

A good glug of olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, cut in to 1/8-inch dice
2 potatoes, peeled and cut in to a 1/4-inch dice
1 large leek, cut in to a 1/4-inch dice 
8 oz bacon, cut in to 1/4-inch dice 
4 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
2 cups chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb live cockles, cleaned, steamed and shucked
6 king scallops 
1/2 lb bass fillet, skinned 
1/2 cup double cream 
3 tbsp chopped curly parsley

Pour the olive oil into a large pan, something like a sauté pan is good. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the carrot, potato, leek and bacon and cook over a medium to high heat until the bacon is starting to colour a little. Add the herbs and the stock, a touch of salt and a generous grind of pepper then simmer for 20 minutes.

Scallops, cockles and sea bass with carrots, leeks and potato - yum!

Sauté the onion, carrot, leek and bacon

In the meantime, slice the scallops through the middle and slice the bass fillets lengthways to achieve 3 or 4 long strips from each fillet. Slide the all fish and shellfish into the pan and pour in the cream too. Cook momentarily until the bass is just white then stir in the parsley.

Add the herbs and stock then simmer for 20 minutes

Ladle into deep bowls, serve with a spoon and just a hunk of crusty bread and perhaps a wedge of lemon. If you feel you need an accompaniment some steamed cabbage will do the trick! Here is the link to lots of other fabulous Borough Market recipes - enjoy!

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