Friday, 31 July 2009

Naked coffee - Nude Espresso, Shoreditch

If there's one type of person that I find more generally annoying then an Australian it's a New Zealander. Self centred, self satisfied and generally selfish; and that's just their strengths. There's only so many conversations you can have about rugby, Crowded House, Hobbits and ahh....rugby before you realise that that old theory about island's isolating the mind may have some substance. Admittedly I'm being a little unfair. Many of my good friends are of the Kiwi bretheren. And of course, I'm one of the indigenous ones. However one thing I will give my compatriots is that the few things that they do well, they do very well. Fantastic in fact. NZ butter is in my humble opinion the best in the world despite the protestations of Johnny Rotten. The lamb of course is world renowned. And only Kiwis could focus on two wine grapes - Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir as it happens - and develop an internationally recognised and acclaimed brand.
But something else that had certainly crept under my radar has been the emergence of NZ as a force in coffee, or more particularly coffee bars. This is weirder then it sounds. We don't grow coffee beans in New Zealand, and unless my university history degree is letting me down, I don't recall us ever showing any 'form' in the coffee culture stakes. Australia with their large Greek and Italian communities, definitely. But New Zealand - full of farmers and failed rugby players? Give me a break. Now NZ readers of this blog will no doubt complain that its always had a vibrant coffee scene. But the fact is that what amounted to Kiwi cafe culture was originally one street in Auckland and one in Wellington. Not exactly little Italy.
But in London town, NZ run coffee bars are celebrated as among the cause célèbre of the genre, with Flat White, the Milk Bar and the Sacred Cafe all making their mark in the West End. Meanwhile out East there is the glorious Nude Espresso which I popped into last week whilst my company was preparing for a fire. As you do.
Nude Espresso, just across the road from the Truman Brewery on Hanbury Street, is in the heart of London's hipsville and the clientele are your creative industry favourites of graphic and fashion designers, interspersed with shop owners, craftspeople and funky Japanese tourists. The 'converted Victorian terrace is spacious and funky without feeling over-designed or trend conscious and the staff are all warmth and charm. But of course people come here for the coffee and you won't be disappointed. The Flat Whites - a double espresso with 'flat white' milk overlaid was apparently 'invented' in the Antipodes. Whether that's actually true, they certainly have been adopted as their own by the ANZAC countries, and are the benchmark for any kiwi coffee bar. Nude Espresso's are superb. Beautifully flavoured with just the right mix of coffee to milk. Easier said then done as any Starbuckers will tell you. The food is simple but organic with the feta cheese scones and toasted foccaccia sandwiches (chicken in my case) being pretty tasty. I didn't try the cakes or cookies (damned diet) but they certainly looked the part.
The place is owned by Kiwis and staffed by Australians who seem intent on overturning my prejudices by being charming, gracious and very, very friendly. All of which combine to make it a great little coffee bar. One to check out if you're ever out East.

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