Caffeine addict reporter SARAH TROTTER has buzzed her way around Bromley on a quest for the borough’s best coffee.
Here she spills the beans on her top daytime drinking dens.
A LONG-term Cappuccino lover, I recently grew dissatisfied with the sometimes watery, all-froth-no-substance cup which often leaves you in need of a second caffeine-hit.
But then its feisty cousin came along from Australia and New Zealand - the hard-hitting, yet velvety smooth flat white - and I haven’t looked back.
The flat white is an intense coffee experience, with a higher ratio of espresso to milk than its latte and cappuccino rivals and is capped off with a dense, satisfying foam topping.
Yet the art is all too often mishandled, so I set off on a mission to trawl Bromley’s coffee houses and forage out its finest flat whites.
NB The coffee connoisseur is a uniformly fussy beast but of varying tastes and I enjoy a lively debate with others over whether Nero’s – too burnt-ash-in-the-mouth in my opinion – or Costa top the chain coffee polls. So this is not meant to be a comprehensive list and I would love to hear your opinion.
THE COFFEE CHART
The Lavender House, 26 Plaistow Lane, Sundridge Park
This calming, community hub ranks highest for ambience, where coffee hour could easily spill over into lunch – and there is a range of tasty-looking bites to oblige. Cream-coloured tables with flower shapes punched into them, surrounded by basket chairs and gingham cushions set the serene scene for coffee-sipping. Their signature purple is splashed liberally around – even the hand-wash is lavender – and the customers all radiated calm back. This was definitely my favourite place to sit.
The coffee (£ 2.40) was delicious, if a little weak for a flat white, but I was so relaxed that it was only on finishing that I spotted a sign explaining they use a single shot – flat whites typically take at least two – unless requested. There are benches outside bedecked with bunting and a children’s play area and it was clear the venue was well-loved by its regulars.
Fee & Brown’s, 50 High Street, Beckenham
This independent coffee haven has mastered the flat white. My only criticism was that the foam design on the strong, rich coffee, served in a blue porcelain cup was a little splodgy.
It is an ideal place to people-watch or browse the papers. The Spartan wooden bench seating is complemented by a lively attention-to-detail - summed up by the delicate cucumber water brought to you with your beverage. A line-up of delicious-looking cake wedges and an extensive tea range almost diverted me from my coffee quest.
Panacea, 190, High Street, Orpington
The people of Orpington have spoken! Voted Orpington’s Finest 2012, the café-cum-wine-bar delivers a first-class flat white. My brimming cup for a steep £2.60 arrived with a perfectly-crafted leaf embroidery in the foam.
I was ready to fault it as the first sip was a little on the milky side, but the rich, sweet coffee still infused the drink and it became an appealing cappuccino/flat white hybrid. The interior combines comfort with finesse, and pulls off a purple and brown colour scheme with quirky décor touches, creating a place to linger.
Bromley town centre itself is decidedly lacking in independent coffee houses and there is a gap in the market for a comfortable outlet where tired shoppers can revive. However, a couple stood out as good pick-me ups.
Pronto, 33 Masons Hill, Bromley South
Easily-missed, this cheap family-run business found to the left of Bromley South rail station, is geared towards takeaways and perfect for a pre-work caffeine-injection. The coffee, at just £ 1.80, was one to savour, even if the craftsmanship on the foam left a little to be desired.
Brodies, 161, High Street, Town Centre, Bromley
The artisan Union coffee brand sign was a beacon in a town bristling with chain coffee shops and I hurried in. The good, strong solid coffee experience at £2 lacked the perfect inch of textured foam I sought, but was an excellent quick fix.
What's your favourite coffee spot in Bromley? Let us know below.