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House of Coffee Pop-Up Café by Panasonic UK

10 Oct

Gone are the days of ugly coffee-makers bringing down the tone of modern kitchens – Panasonic’s latest espresso machine – the NC-ZA1 – is a sleek, elegant newcomer, worthy of its own exhibition space in a futuristic gallery.

The sophisticated, silver-coloured, beans-to-cup machine was unveiled to bloggers at an exclusive, all day pop-up café, called House of Coffee, housed in ‘The Caves’ – a tunnel-shaped venue near Farringdon tube station.

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Stepping into the space, the first thing I noticed was a breathtaking series of images on the left-hand wall. Sheets of parcel wrap were adorned with stunning retro portraits by artist Cosmo Sarson. The disco-inspired images were all cleverly produced using coffee and were a fitting welcome to the ‘café’, which hosted a range of events throughout the day: breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea and a cocktail evening with a DJ set.

 

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Opting for the brunch slot, I arrived at midday to indulge in bagels, pastries and plenty of warm, soothing coffee – it was freezing outside, despite the appearance of the sun, and I needed to defrost quickly!

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An impressive bar area was topped with three of Panasonic’s machines and, spoilt for choice, I started off my coffee binge by asking for a Latte: not too strong and generous in quantity, preferably served in a mug.

Invited to step behind the bar to witness my drink being made, the high-tech machine had no problem in catering to my picky request. Made with hand-roasted coffee beans by Union, and served in a stylish mug printed with Cosmo’s art, my Latte was creamy, smooth and perfectly delicious.

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Using the machine was simple: a touch-screen display offered Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, Americano and Macchiato, after which further options included the desired strength of the drink and the volume – so if you fancy a super-strong double espresso or a big mug of weak Latte, you can have it within 60 seconds, all at the touch of a screen!

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Expecting something far more complicated (which is often the case with state of the art machinery), I was surprised by the ease and speed of using the machine – so effortless, it will make even the biggest technophobe feel like a professional barista!

Coffee beans were poured into the top of the machine, which can also be fitted with an optional milk chiller – available to purchase separately for attachment to the side of the unit. Otherwise, it’s fine to use a simple jug of milk: the machine includes a handy tube to draw up the liquid without fuss.

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Proving that coffee isn’t just for teetotal-ers, there were three varieties of coffee-laced cocktails on offer – shaken and blended by The Rum Runner (acclaimed bartender Sam Paget-Steavenson, who also made all the hot drinks).

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Whilst I don’t usually partake in cocktails before evening, I couldn’t resist Sam’s menu and threw caution to the wind! Opting for a Madrugada (Bianco Tequila with dark chocolate, fresh mint and espresso coffee, it was crisp and refreshing, despite an earthy undertone with a minty edge!

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By the time I left House of Coffee, I felt super-charged and pleasantly light-headed! I was sent on my [merry] way with a gorgeous goody bag, containing a bag of Union’s hand-roasted Equinox Seasonal Blend and a fabulous espresso cup, decorated with a portrait by Cosmo Sarson – a lovely end to a lovely afternoon.

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The NC-ZA1 retails for around £899, with the optional milk attachment costing a further £69. For regular coffee drinkers, it’s a great investment and worth the extravagance. Sadly, it’s a bit out of my price range, but would definitely be on my Crimbo ‘wish list’ if I had a wealthy boyfriend!

There’s not much to criticise about the unit: it’s compact enough for a kitchen counter, smart enough to look elegant and it makes a damn fine cup of coffee! A great gadget and an undeniable must-have for coffee addicts.

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RECOMMENDED: Four Corners Café near the South Bank

18 Sep

Behind Waterloo station, adjacent to the London Eye and a stone’s throw from the bustle of London’s South Bank sits an airy and charming café: Four Corners.

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Located on Lower Marsh, its pea-green exterior is a welcoming beacon for the delights within. Hot and cold sandwiches, fresh salads, sweet pastries and fruit tarts are complemented by a wide range of loose leaf teas and smooth yet rich coffee.

Surprisingly, there is no kitchen on the premises but the café has no problem in finding ways to serve tasty food. Sourcing ingredients from the four corners of the globe, the simple menu is regularly updated; next week will see the launch of new, tapas-themed dishes. These will include slices of manchego cheese with forest honey, and a platter of lomo, chorizo and serrano ham with pepper jelly.

This comfortable and relaxed café only opened two months ago and its inviting interior – with a global travel theme – has already attracted a loyal customer base. Further charm can be found in the staff, led by owner Shaun. Everyone was wonderfully welcoming, helpful and cheerful, happy to answer questions and explain key menu items.

Having won free teas and cakes for two via a contest on Twitter, I took my mother along for a treat and arrived just after midday. We couldn’t resist buying a freshly-prepared chorizo and cheddar roll (£4.50) – complemented with rocket leaves in what looked like a sesame-seeded pretzel bun. It was delicious: a perfect mixture of texture and flavour.

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Our pastry tarts of fig and apricot were both exceedingly good – washed down with lovely teas and coffees – and it was difficult to select a favourite. After all, partake in a scrumptious tart and you can’t go wrong! We finally settled on apricot, buying one to take home. We plan to return to the café very soon for more!

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Offering great service and excellent food, Four Corners is well worth a visit during your next trip to London’s South Bank; the simple yet flavoursome menu is great value for money in a location were over-priced tourist-traps are usually the norm.

Four Corners, 12 Lower Marsh, London, SE1 7RJ, is opening from 7.30am – 5.30pm from Monday to Friday and from 10am – 5pm on Saturdays.