A speciality coffee shop isnâ€™t necessarily what you expect to discover when meandering into the Carnaby branch of Jack Wills on Kingly Street, but nonetheless, itâ€™s here that youâ€™ll find the open space of Espresso Hut Soho.
Sister cafe to the fantastic 46b and Hand Cafe, Espresso Hut Soho represents the groupâ€™s first foray out of the speciality coffee comfort zone of east London and into the busy but, arguably less coffee obsessed streets of the centre of our capital.
Itâ€™s a change thatâ€™s taken some adjusting to in the little over a year that the cafe has been open. The team behind the bar when I visit – Dennis and Tomomi – are open about what theyâ€™ve been through in their first year of trading. Single origin espresso has come off the menu, for example, as it was a challenge to get customers to engage with the idea that they could select an espresso. Instead, the focus has fallen back on consistently getting the basics right and demonstrating to customers why itâ€™s worth opting for a cup of speciality coffee over something from one of the many nearby Costas or Starbucks.
Likewise, the food and non-coffee drink offerings have developed with a generous range of fresh juices, presses, toasties and cake on the menu, all of which are made on site.
Itâ€™s no mean feat producing all this – and top quality coffee – in a space primarily designed merely to pop the caps off a few bottles of beer back when Jack Wills operated the space themselves as an events bar called The Mucky Pheasant. Those pastries and cakes the team canâ€™t produce on site are delivered daily by Yeast Bakery.
The cafe is split over two levels, with the entrance and bar on the ground floor and extra seating space downstairs in a basement area (called The Den). This lower floor is also home to the fitting rooms of the clothes shop which, initially, feels odd but ends up making sense as it makes the cafe feel like is knitted into the fabric of the store, rather than being an entirely separate concession.
Coffee is served in beautiful Loveramics crockery and prepared on a two-group Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine. Grinding duties are handled primarily by a Mythos 1, with a MahlkÃ¶enig EK43 also on standby.
While I was there gulping down a flat white, grazing on an almond croissant and tapping out notes for this article, the ground floor was pleasantly abuzz. The cafe has become a favoured retreat for staff in the many nearby office blocks, with numerous groups of smartly dressed customers deep in conversation around laptops.
Potentially the greatest asset Espresso Hut Soho possesses is its location. Walkable from Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Picadilly Circus and Green Park tube stations, itâ€™s eminently accessible, meaning that if youâ€™re in central, youâ€™ve little excuse not to pop in and say hello.
Espresso Hut Soho
Kingly Street, Soho, London W1F 7PD