Fortitude - a chance to sit in a coffee shop again, with a china cup!

Monday 10th August 2020

The last coffee shop I sat in before the covid-19 lockdown took effect was Fortitude in York Place, at the East end of Edinburgh's Queen Street. It is a small coffee shop with a big following, a respected player in Edinburgh's speciality coffee scene. I was aware that Fortitude had just opened a second shop in Stockbridge but unfortunately I didn't have a chance to visit before the lockdown.

The new shop in Stockbridge's Hamilton Place has been open for a takeaway service for the past few weeks and has now opened up fully, offering a sit-in service also. My timing was spot on and I was able to get a seat to check out the new shop while enjoying a coffee.

Fortitude have a fairly straight forward procedure which follows a series of steps to meet the covid-19 guidelines for staff and customers. The counter is at the front of the shop, a few feet away from the large main windows at the entrance which allows for a few bar stools along the windows. The signage on the counter and markings on the floor helps to maintain the required physical distancing. However the cheerful welcome from the girl behind the counter includes some further guidance to help you make your order. I ordered the bulk brew filter coffee which was advertised on the counter - Ethiopian Banko Gotiti (a fully washed Heirloom variety for the coffee specialists) - with a chocolate brownie to accompany.

I was asked to wait just a few minutes while a table was cleaned after the previous customer left - some hand gel is available to clean your hands while you wait. After the counter, which runs a few meters into the shop, is the seating area with toilets to the rear. I was soon shown to my table right at the back of the shop. Tables are spaced out appropriately and access is clear for wheelchairs and pushchairs; and child seats are available.

While I waited on my order I checked out the interior of the shop. You're immediately drawn to the old wall tiles along the length of the walls; and the high ceilings with ornate detail along the edges and beams. There was a steady flow of customers looking to sit inside; and customers ordering takeaways - no doubt many loyal customers from the local area who would previously have visited the York Place shop. 

The shop was previously a cafe area within the Ronde Bicycle Outfitters, selling bicycles, clothing & accessories - see the photo below.



Now refurbished, Fortitude have put their own stamp on it and the space is now a modern family friendly speciality coffee shop; and with some low chilled music playing in the background, it oozes great vibes and is sure to be a success with the local coffee lovers. 

The most obvious difference when you look around the shop is the lack of an espresso machine at the counter. The owners have installed the impressive MODBAR system where the "business end" of the espresso machine is hidden below the counter. Only the streamlined silver taps for milk steaming and group heads are visible to the customer, allowing a more open space over the counter between the server and the customer. This is a new innovative system for coffee shops, with only one other system installed in Scotland at the moment I believe. Elsewhere, retail shelves stock coffee home brewing equipment and Fortitude's own range of coffee beans.


After five minutes or so, the cheerful girl serving at the counter brought my order to my table - a carafe of water, my cup of coffee (in a china cup!) and chocolate brownie. The Ethiopian Banko Gotiti was described at the counter with notes of Peach, Strawberry & White Tea, brewed on the bulk brewer; and it was lovely.


I'm not the greatest at detecting all the various different notes coffee has to offer - I didn't get the peach or white tea but it was clean and crisp, with the strawberry coming through strongly. These guys know how to brew good coffee - but I knew that already.

It must be difficult opening a new shop in the current climate but Fortitude are experts. With their usual friendly service and pleasant coffee shop atmosphere, this is sure to be a very popular new coffee venue in Stockbridge.

Gordon Street Coffee

Tuesday, 4th August 2020

The weather was dreich and I was looking for a decent cup of coffee near Edinburgh's Waverley Station. I had a few favourite coffee shops in mind but I wasn't sure how they were operating with the lockdown still largely in place. As I crossed the High Street near North Bridge the smell hit me - a smokey, ashey, almost wood burning smell. I recognised this smell right away - it was coffee being roasted and it would be coming from Gordon St Coffee on Market Street. I headed towards Market Street.

Woohoo! They were open, with a sitting-in service too and there was a free socially distanced seat at the window - haud me back.

I've written about the Gordon St coffee shop previously in my post labelled "coffee shops near Edinburgh Waverley Station" but that was in March, just before the lockdown came into force. The Gordon St crew are a very professional outfit - I've visited here on a few occasions and have also ordered coffee from them on line. Their service was excellent on each occasion.

The coffee shop is across the street from the Market Street entrance to Waverley Station, so very handy if you're travelling to or from Edinburgh by rail. Gordon St's main base is in Glasgow, again well located for travelers at Glasgow Central Station.


The Edinburgh shop was well laid out and clearly marked out for social distancing measures; and there were several signs in place advising customers of the safety requirement when in the shop. The staff wore masks and a perspex screen was in place at the ordering point. I remember the long counter from my last visit which had a selection of cakes and pastries and a huge display of hand made chocolate truffles. No truffles today but I'm sure they'll be back after the lockdown is fully lifted.




Gordon Street Coffee offer a good range of espresso based coffees and single origin coffees but I was craving a flat white. They had two espressos on the go - the House Blend and the Edinburgh Blend. I opted for the Edinburgh Blend first, with a cinnamon swirl and both went down a treat. I then tried the House Blend - as a flat white again. Both coffees were nice but for me The Edinburgh Blend has the edge. I thought it was a bit richer but smooth, with maybe a slight nuttiness in there somewhere. Nice. 


Roasting was taking place during my visit at the other end of the shop. Normally, customers can approach the area and discuss the process with the roaster and I will certainly make an effort to visit again on a roasting day after lockdown has finished and certainly look forward to trying more of their coffees. 💚
            



'ello, 'ello, 'ello . . . . . .Coffee?

'ello, 'ello, 'ello

       

Police boxes were first installed in Edinburgh in 1933,  to allow police officers on the beat to phone in to their station to report incidents and to receive orders. They were designed by City Architect Ebenezer MacRae and were manufactured by Carron Ironworks in Falkirk. Inevitably, with the progress of technology and specifically the introduction of radios and mobile phones their intended use became redundant.

In 2012 the Scottish Police Authority started to sell off the boxes with the help of Edinburgh City Council and over a period of a few years boxes were either bought and removed, or bought for a change of use. Some were brought into use as Tourist Information Boxes and some were fitted out as coffee kiosks, which required new supplies of electricity and water. Since then many have changed hands and have been used as retail outlets for coffee, food, ice cream, porridge and cannabis oil (I believe).

So I set out earlier this week to see if I could find any which were still operating as coffee outlets.

It was obvious from my travels around the city centre that the majority of coffee shops were still closed due to the lockdown. Footfall was still really low, although there appeared to be a "trickle" of tourists starting to appear around the city. 

I did come across one outlet which was open, near Waverley Station at the junction of Waverley Bridge and Market Street called Waverley Cafe. The box was in good order with some attractive ornaments and plants outside. I saw tins of Illy Coffee on the shelf but these were just for show - the girl serving said they had changed from Illy but wasn't sure what the current coffee was.💁 Obviously this outlet is aimed mainly at the tourist market; I'm sure the coffee they sell is good enough but I decided to preserve my potential caffeine intake for now.


I spotted a few more while I drove around, which were obviously still closed due to the lockdown or were not in use.


Lothian Road, by Usher Hall (Coffee)
Temp closed due to lockdown









Grassmarket, (Ice Cream)
Temp closed due to lockdown






I then drove towards Bruntsfield - I had passed one previously which was open, with a small queue of customers so I was hoping to be able to buy a coffee there.

I was in luck, Sam's Coffee Box was still open and no queue!

The box is well situated at the end of Bruntsfield's main shopping area; and just at the edge of Bruntsfield Links. Ideal for a takeaway coffee and a bun; and a sunbathe in the park.

Sam, who owns and operates the box, was able to give me an outline of the coffee scene in Bruntsfield during the lockdown, as he has been open throughout. He has a loyal following from the local community and offers espresso based coffees using beans from Williams & Johnson coffee roasters in Leith and a small selection of treats and sausage rolls. 


 




Williams & Johnsons Peru Espresso is a favourite of mine so I was able to enjoy a flat white while I spoke to Sam. It wasn't long before more customers arrived so I left Sam to sell more of his great coffee.




After Bruntsfield I continued on to Morningside and found The Drip, a coffee box situated midway down Morningside Road. The Drip was open and I spoke with the owner Jakub while I had one of his excellent flat whites. 

The Drip, Morningside
Jakub and his wife Aimee operate two converted police boxes, this one at Morningside and another at Tollcross. The Tollcross unit is temporary closed for the lockdown period due to the low footfall in the area.

Both units have recently been decorated with some zany graphics, painted by a local artist. They certainly make the boxes stand out on the grey Edinburgh pavements.

The Drip offer a selection of cookies, muffins, brownies and pastries to accompany their excellent coffee. The coffee is a bespoke blend, supplied by Edinburgh roaster Mr. Eion and I found it smooth and well balanced, chocolate and nutty.








                      
The Drip, Tollcross
 
So, perhaps not as many police boxes converted to coffee outlets as I had thought but it was interesting to see a few of those which were. Obviously the lockdown period has affected the operation of many so I will revisit this again when things get back to "normal".

In the meantime . . . . evening all  



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