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.