Friday, 10 April 2009

Press Coffee, Edinburgh

Press Coffee, Buccleuch Street

Press Coffee is in what used to be a second hand bookshop, with a rather dubious hippy cafe underneath. Given that their nachos comprised of some doritos with ketchup on top, I wasn't surprised when it shut down.

I was initially a bit suspicious the first few times I walked past. There was no decor to speak of, with plain white walls and a rather forlorn looking chiller counter in the middle of the floor. For several weeks nothing seemed to happen, and I wondered if it was one of those places that shut down before it even got going.

A week or so later, while eating lunch in Kilimanjaro (a rather nice coffee shop near to uni), I saw on their news bulletin sheet that Press Coffee was essentially a second branch of Kilimanjaro. Having been reassured that it wasn't some dubious ketchup nacho affair, I decided to give it a try.

I ordered Moroccan chicken soup and a cappuccino. I was instantly impressed that I was asked whether I wanted my coffee with the meal or after. I still find it a bit strange drinking coffee with a meal, but as I was pushed for time I opted to have both together. Just as I sat down, the guy at the counter came over to tell me that they'd run out of chicken soup, but had some Thai vegetable instead. I was fine with the switch, although I little disappointed as I do love a bit of Moroccan chicken!

The cappuccino arrived and had an attempt at latte art on it. My flatmate E usually works as a barista during the holidays, and reckons that latte art is always a good sign. Apparently you need several variables to right before you can do it properly, and it indicates that a certain level of care goes in to the coffee.

Although Peter's Yard does the best latte art I've seen in Edinburgh, this was a pretty decent attempt, and the coffee underneath was pretty tasty too. Also, I really liked the spoon. A minor thing, but well designed cutlery always scores bonus points.

The soup came with a massive section of baguette, and a pot of butter. It was generally tasty, although not that memorable. I have visited subsequently and had the paninis, which again, while good, aren't so great that they are worth the visit alone. I think Press Coffee's real strength is that they are very close to uni, and the only places that are cheaper than them serve really bad food and drink. I've already been several times, just because they are easy to get to, good value and I know I'll get a decent meal, unlike the union-run cafes!

I think the biggest disadvantages Press Coffee has are the location and the decor. (I know I just said they had a good location but hear me out.) The coffee is better than most places nearby, and the food is good value, but not so great as to make it worth a special trip for. While they are close to uni, I suspect they could struggle during the summer when that part of town isn't so busy. However, if their business plan revolves around making money during term time to tide over the quieter holiday periods, then they could do ok.

While the decor is not offensive, it isn't exciting either. The white walls, plain seating and strangely placed chiller cabinet make it seem a bit clinical, and it needs to be full to get any kind of atmosphere going. Given that it used to be a book shop, I would have perhaps played on this and made the interior slightly more cosy. The big windows will be spectacular in summer, but seeing as Edinburgh is grey and dull most of the year, I'm not convinced that people want to feel that exposed. Certainly, when I'm looking for somewhere to eat in winter (and most of autumn and spring too), my key factor is warmth. They'll have to really have the radiators on full blast to counteract the "coldness" of the decor when the two days of summer are over!

I'll be interested to see how Press Coffee fairs over the next few months, and it's currently slightly ahead of Kilimanjaro in my opinion, mainly as Kilimanjaro is often too busy to be comfortable. I'd also keep it in mind if you are planning to visit for the festival, as it's close enough to the action (Gilded Balloon and Pleasance Dome are 5 minutes away) to be convenient, but hidden enough that you might actually get a seat.