Flat Cap, Fleet Street

May 22, 2012

Fleet Street is an area imbued with a rich sense of place and history. The greatest of London’s manifold underground rivers flow along its length and, at its east end, used to lap against the escarpments of the medieval walls of the city. Indeed, the progress of Fleet Street can be seen as a microcosmic reflection of the city itself, growing from a series of hamlets into something resembling what we know of the city’s nexus today, pregnant with the influences of industries such as printing and the trade in chancery law which sprouted the Inns of Court, and which retain resonance today, either in going concerns or nostalgic terminology. London is, if nothing else, a dynamic place which melts modernity into the fabric of its preexistence. And so, nestled in the warm, stone embrace of St Dunstan church courtyard, we find one of ‘new’ London’s more regular features, the gourmet coffee cart – in this instance Flat Cap, one of several under the auspices of the very popular Notes cafés.

Flat Cap Fleet Street is absolutely lovely.

Flat Cap, Fleet Street

I was lucky enough to visit when the blend was not the standard (though that is by no means pejorative) Red Brick Square Mile, but a bespoke single origin made by Square Mile for the Notes concern. It is a lovely, angry little gem from the Huila Guayacanera farm in Colombia, and like a good single origin, the complexity of the taste really rewards drinking the coffee in its purest form. This bean is like chewing on the bark of a cherry tree, getting to the sweet sap, and then shoving in a fistful of the fruits to complete the subtle play of flavours. If I had a complaint, it would be that the acidity ever so slightly gets the better of the shot at the end, but the experience prior to that is so worthwhile, a gripe seems a bit bitty, if you know what I mean. The shot was expertly made and really sits up there with the single origin from Climpson as one of the highlights of my early reviewing. I then wanted, naturally, to try the roast with milk in the macchiato form, but I had to wait a fair while because this place gets busy, and with only one barista, a queue can form. But on a lovely sunny day, a church courtyard is a great place to shelter from direct sunlight, and there is sufficient space to breathe and relax. The macchiato, when I lolloped up to order it, was really worth the wait. This is probably the best-made macchiato I have had so far in London, joining such august company as the Piano Bar in Camden Market and Vagabonds in N4. It was rich and creamy and exactly the right temperature, cool enough to drink straight-away but hot enough to have achieved the melty consistency needed to get the milk right. The bold flavours of the single origin achieved a beautiful harmony with the milk, never bitter, never boring. This well-rounded macchiato is simply brilliant and the barista and the roastery should have plaudits for making such a glorious cup. Encomium over!

Flat Cap, Fleet Street

And what of the general feel of the place? Because we don’t just go for the coffee (though this is so good, I would anyway). The courtyard, as stated before, is roomier than you initially realise, oddly serene given the proximity to a busy thoroughfare, and the perfect place for a hushed bit of legalese or a withdrawal from the hustle and bustle for ten minutes of respite. The queue can be a bit imposing, but this is a business part of town, and enterprise does seem to run on caffeine these days, so that is to be accepted. The barista was friendly and knowledgeable about his brew. At £2.00 for a double shot espresso and £2.20 for a double shot macchiato, it is not cheap when compared with the few of its peers who measure up to its standards, but I am making the assumption that this is a combination of location and margin. I would probably balk at paying it every day, but as an every-so-often treat, it’s totally worth it. I don’t really have a great deal more to add, save to say go here and drink the coffee. That is all.

Flat Cap, Fleet Street (just down from the Fetter Lane junction), EC4A 2HR

Follow on Twitter: @FlatCapFleetSt

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