The Grind – along with Gail’s (but in a different cognitive therapy kind-of-way) – is probably my favourite coffee spot in London. Not only are their beans perfectly roasted, giving their coffee a naturally sweet flavour, but they serve bonsoy(a) milk in well-proportioned white paper cups and their coffee is made on La Marzocco. Need I say more? Luckily for me, the Grind coffee is also served at Press, just outside St. Paul’s undergound, where it can be mixed with all sorts of superfood powers: chicory or cacao mocha anyone? Yes please.
As well as acting as an espresso bar, some branches are also cocktail bars, restaurants and recording studios. Whether for coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, a cake or more coffee, the Grind has become central to the rhythm of so many Londoner’s daily grind or a break from their grind. The humble coffee shop culture – as embodied by the Grind – is expanding; who decided coffee should just be a day time thing? And each is uber-trendy. Just a flick through their Instagram – particularly the bird-eyed shots of diners and drinkers taking i-phone snaps of their brunches with painted nails against the marble tables – highlights the highly curated nature of this “chain”. Very metanarrative. The Grind are also very good about liking photos of their Instagram followers – notification of likes from each of The Grind’s of my snaps is very heart-warming!
The first of The Grinds, the Shoreditch Grind, sits on Old Street Roundabout and it’s name and iconic sign – resembling something of a vintage cinema listing – has become something of a landmark. Since opening its doors in 2011, The Grind has now set up shop across London, celebrating each corner of the city’s unique vibe through a quote individual to each branch and displayed in electric neon lighting on the wall. In this way, The Grind celebrates London – which is probably why I love it so much; as the London Grind’s moto electrically reads, “A man who is tired of London is tired of life”.
The first Grind I visited was the London Grind, housed in a former bank at London Bridge. A coffee stop here is definitely a welcome relief for anyone whose braved the crowds of Borough Market. This outpost has now expanded – both in terms of the size due to its recent renovations and servings – offering everything from morning coffee to discerning (smoothie-bowls, juices served in milk-bottles and avocado on toast) brunches, as well as dinner and everything in-between. It’s all-singing, all-dancing, particularly with the thump of tunes blasted out later in the evening.
Due to its relative proximity to my office, my (local) jaunt has become the Holborn Grind. Part of the stylish Hoxton, Holborn next door, this place – although narrow – is equally well-designed with exposed brick walls, long pendant brassy lights and marble counter-tops. A vintage cocktail trolley is even suspended from the ceiling. Although its moto reads “love is the drug”, for me, their coffee and their vegan energy balls are the drug. Indeed, when The Grind turned five and this outpost offered everyone who quoted “Happy Birthday” to them free coffee for the week and cake on the grand birth date itself, I was given a cacao energy ball. Along with a caffeine kick, this was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
In my opinion, probably the most stylish strand of The Grind is the Royal Exchange Grind whose marble beauty is showcased effortlessly well. What’s more, it sits in the historic, Grade-1 listed Royal Exchange, right opposite the Bank of England. The service is also excellent – particularly the girl whose artfully tied head scarf against the backdrop of this branch’s lit up sign, “can’t buy me love”, is a photo-waiting-to-happen. Perhaps with a caption like, “although you can’t buy my love, you can buy me the best coffee @thegrind”. Although I’m usually just there for – unsurprisingly – coffee, next time I must try their Green Smoothie (£5) which combines all things deliciously green and healthy (spinach, banana, cocoa nibs and almond milk) with coffee. The best of both worlds. Indeed, the Grind have been upping the ante on their menus by serving everything from matcha lattes and turmeric lattes, to…beetroot lattes! Although I’ve tried each and they look gorgeous, I prefer their beloved coffee. Some things just don’t beat an artisan cup of coffee, even if claimed to be “healthier”.
My most recent trip to The Grind came into the form of – yes, you guessed it – a soft launch at Exmouth Market Grind, offering 50% off on food and drink (including alcohol). This Grind is an all-day affair, with food being served from brunch till close. The décor is fittingly (p)lush: a strong Art-deco navy painted outside, exposed brickwork and ceiling inside, filament bulbs etc. – you know the look. Given its trendy personality, the Grind fits into the Clerkenwell neighbourhood very well.
Located on Exmouth Market, this Grind has stiff competition when it comes to food, with Morito just a few door down, Paesan next door and Caravan just across the road. With Kyle Boyce – an ex-Soho House chef behind the menu – I had high expectations for the food which I understand – from speaking to the chef – has a healthy focus in keeping with their vegan energy balls and matcha lattes. Indeed, their Lunch and Dinner menu feature Quinoa, cauliflower, blood orange and yoghurt (£6) and Burnt aubergine, tahini, nuts, seeds (£9).
However, as my friend and I wanted to begin our evening with a few cocktails, we were craving a few nibbley bites like olives, nuts and foccacio, to go with – just as we’d enjoyed aperitivo on our recent trip to Milan. Yet, although this place is part bar, no bar snacks are on the menu. Settling for the Fried green tomatoes with meyer lemon (£5), we were disappointed: they were underseasoned and only really tasted of batter. And not really healthy either. My companion also ordered their Chorizo-stuffed dates, pancetta and yoghurt (£6), which she found very odd.
On the cocktail front, due to the limited availability of most of the cocktail menu during their soft launch, my companion and I tried The Grind classic Tommys (£8.50) made with tequila reposado, lime and agave syrup. Although it had a pleasant first taste, we both found the drink too icey, such that mid-way-through, the flavour had become totally diluted. As coffee is at the heart of The Grind, my companion went on to order their signature espresso martini, made with their house espresso blend. This didn’t disappoint at all: I tried a sip and it brought back happy memories of their excellent coffee.
All-in-all, my visit to this branch of The Grind proved that they do their coffee best and perhaps they should stick to this. Sometimes, less is more and this Grind has stiff neighbourhood foodie competition.
The founder, David Abrahamovitch, informed me they’re opening in Whitechapel in a couple of weeks. Watch this space for my review on their lastest jaunt…
Covent Garden Grind, 42 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC23 7LJ
Exmouth Grind, 8-10 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QA
Holborn Grind, 199 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD
London Grind, 2 London Bridge, SE1 9RA
Royal Exchange Grind, 34 Royal Exchange, Threadneedle Street, EC3V 3LP
Coffee Rating: *****