Espresso Joe and the shopping mall grind   19 Dec 2011

Joseph Hoye

Grinding coffee is somewhere between an art and a science: too fine and the coffee becomes mud; too coarse and the coffee has no flavor.

Congratulations to the kiwi coffee house in the new Westfield Stratford City for getting it just right. The grind and the service is spot-on for London’s newest shopping experience.

It would be too easy to create another Pretbucks styled café in the Westfield mall, churning out milky flat whites and ginger-chai lattes with a twist of pumpkin foam for a faux Christmas retail pick-me up; the kind of place where the coffee cups begin to pile up on the tables and customers discover the noble art of Jenga with dirty crockery.

Instead, Grind seems intent on focusing on customer needs.

  • Grind’s staff notice when you’re a chair short for your foursome and do their utmost to rectify the situation.
  • It seems there’s always someone in Grind prowling the aisles to ensure the tables are clear and clean.
  • Grind bring your coffee to you instead of whispering or bellowing your name from the service counter.
  • Grind make good coffee.

And Grind is clearly a New Zealand house of coffee, from the moko-like artwork on the walls to the coffee-table books showcasing the best scenery Aotearoa has to offer – something that most other NZ styled cafes don’t allude to. While I sat sipping my Flat White and nibbling an Afghan, a young English couple walked by and said, “Look, another Kiwi place… they’re everywhere. We’ve got to try it.”

There is a New Zealand coffee house style in London and people search for good examples of them. As Jane Austen* so succinctly put it: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that New Zealanders make great coffee. Why not use the free PR?

Grind at Westfield Stratford City is the sibling of the Putney Grind, now approaching its second birthday. The espresso blend is fair trade with a South and Central American base and it’s run through a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. Micro-batches of beans are roasted three times a week by Grind’s supplier and hit the machines two days after roasting. Some coffee drinkers may be a bit wary of the quick time between roasting and the cup but the results here are difficult to argue with.

Café staples are Afghans and Anzacs, brownies and muffins, ciabatta sandwiches and a generous serving of home-made bacon and egg pie.

If there is one let down at Grind’s Westfield Mall branch, it would be the décor –just a touch too bare for a London cafe, brought on by a very high ceiling. I’d appreciate a little more colour and warmth to gently entice me into that second or third coffee and persuade friends to meet up here. Perhaps the phrase I’m looking is Kiwi-utilitarian – it does the job.

For a self-confessed mall rat, finding a decent espresso at Westfield was an unexpected delight. When the snows start falling on London and the streets become a little too icy to navigate, I’ll be able to jump off the DLR, Jubilee or Central line trains straight into the heated warmth at Stratford to keep up the espresso intake – and indulge in a little winter retail therapy.

  • Grind Coffee Bar
  • Northwest corner of the Lower Ground Floor – near Waitrose
  • Westfield Stratford City, London
  • Open 10am-9pm Mon-Sat. 11am-5pm Sun.

*Ms Austen may also have been referring to men and marriage when she wrote this.

Previous cup of Joe.

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