Getting There: St. Ali/Workshop Coffee in Marylebone

In my filofax, I have  along list of restaurants, cafes and bakeries that I simply must try.  There are separate lists for New York, Bristol and London.  I’ve been fortunate enough to take several trips to London over the past year and, over the course of them, I amassed quite the knowledge of the city’s food scene.

Workshop coffee—originally named St. Ali—has been on the list for quit a while.  Before going home in December, I rounded up a list of cafes and restaurants where I could go to warm up from relentless grey of British December.  St. Ali, as it was then called, consistently came up with glowing reviews.  Unfortunately, the queues for brunch were supposedly never ending.  I decided to skip it and continued to do so during subsequent trips.

Well, I finally made it.  Not to their Clerkenwell cafe for brunch—that’s still on the list—but to their Marylebone coffee bar.  It was a wonderfully sunny day and I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the impossibly cute (and impossibly central) Marylebone.  Walking around, I spotted the cafe from across the street thanks to London’s uniform looking cafes.

I ordered a cappuccino and a croissant.  The pinnacle of special breakfasts as far as I’m concerned.

Though the space is plentiful, the seating isn’t.  It’s mostly bar seating; better for solo caffination than for espresso-fuelled  group chats.  The cafe is dark, but not depressing.  Perfect, I imagine, for cozying up in during dreadful British weather.  People were streaming in as I waited for my coffee.

Perhaps I built up my expectations a bit too much.  Perhaps I wanted the best coffee and the best croissant ever.  Perhaps brunch is the real reason why everyone loves Workshop.  I didn’t understand the hype.  My cappuccino was fine, but a bit milky.  The actual coffee was nice and bright, though you had to focus on the coffee and not the milk.  There was a thin covering of schiuma—not exactly enough for a cappuccino—that wasn’t excessively creamy (which I appreciated after Speakeasy).  Still, I couldn’t help but feeling that it didn’t merit the intense praise.  I enjoyed Workshop, but I didn’t fall off my chrome stool.

The croissant was typical.  It was what you expect to get from a cafe, perfectly fine, but nothing to write home about.  There were layers and a light butter taste, but other than that it could be have been from anywhere.

So, Workshop Coffee?  Worth a stop if you’re by Marylebone or Bond Street, but other than that, there are better coffee shops in London that deserve higher praise.

I’ll see you on the brunch queue!

Do you keep a list of cafes/restaurants that you want to visit?

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