After meticulous preparation, and a considerable build-up of interest via a drip-feed of information via Twitter, Brew Lab opened its doors last month, and has been doing a roaring trade, since then. We were lucky enough to be invited to their launch event, a couple of weeks ago, so got to chat with the chaps, and get a good insight in to what they’re aiming to achieve.
If the hype hasn’t yet hooked you in, Brew Lab boasts a panoply of approaches to producing coffee perfections. They have a focus on brewed coffee, and machines called intimidating things like “the Slayer”. Negotiating the menu of coffee delights on offer can be a trifle tricky, but the counter staff are clearly well-versed in stepping people through things, towards their experimental destination of choice.
They’ve taken the very sensible approach of sourcing their comestibles from local favourites Union of Genius (soups and salads) and Lovecrumbs (cakes), so they have proven quality in those departments. They make their own sandwiches, on the premises.
On our visit today, I was joined once more by Gary. We decided that we’d opt for takeout lunch, but have a quick sit-in espresso, to get a feel for the place.
The décor blends wooden benches with comfy brown sofas, but the defining feature is the unfinished, bare-brick walls. Set against the wondrous machines on the serving counter, the overall effect is a down-at-heel chic; it’s hipster heaven. It’s not to my taste, but then I’m not their target market, so I’d have been surprised if it were. Their core business, as with many cafes in the neighbourhood, is wifi users, be they student or freelancer, with a need for on-tap caffeine to make their daily travails more bearable.
The deli counter selection is focussed but tempting. They have a few sandwich selections that look great and showcase nice flavour combinations. At £4.50 a pop, they’re not cheap, but they are very big, so represent a meal in themselves. Of course, I couldn’t resist the soup, also, as I’m always happy to try something new from the Union of Genius range.
Having placed our orders, we found a perch (the place was wall-to-wall busy, with a queue out of the door) and our espressos quickly arrived.
At the launch evening, the espresso I sampled was good, with a lingering liquorice finish to it. The one today was a blast of intense citrus matched with a good oily texture. It was relentlessly interesting, but I’m not 100% convinced that it’s the finished article, quite yet.
We toddled off down the road, and were soon contemplating our lunch. The Moroccan chicken soup, filled with beautifully aromatic spicing, chunky vegetables, and another great blast of citrus was up to Union of Genius’ excellent standards.
The baguette was rather good, too, although it could have used a dollop more mayo to bring things together with a degree more wetness. Gary commented similarly on his baguette. In both cases the bread was of excellent quality, so they were definitely satisfying sandwich creations.
Overall, I think “relentlessly interesting” is quite a fitting description for Brew Lab, for now. They’ve got the food side of things working really nicely, and while it is on the expensive side, I think they have their market pegged pretty nicely. Their “faster than the speed of plaster” décor doesn’t do it for me, but the welcome was friendly, and the enthusiasm to produce excellent quality coffee is accessible, infectious and heart-warming.
I don’t think they have their coffee quite at the standards that they’re aiming for, yet. The spectacular espresso in Hula, Lovecrumbs and Castello hits the mark much more reliably, for me, but I have every confidence that once they’re fully bedded-in, they’ll get things operating to a level commensurate with their exacting standards. For sure, this is the place to bring the coffee lover in your life, as what Brew Lab has on offer is fresh, intriguing and ebulliently exciting.
Blythe scores Brew Lab
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 15/20
Today’s questers were: Gary, Blythe
We ate: chorizo baguette, roasted red pepper baguette, Moroccan chicken and vegetable soup
We drank: espresso (2)
We wore: denim; red, white and blue www.tieclub.co.uk tie
Total bill: £16.30