Nick Lakin and Nicola Adam review some of the caffeine kicks in town
The Hall (J Atkinsons & Co.), China Street, Lancaster
The Hall is a quirky cafe with a reputation locally for quality coffee and serving up constant innovation. Atkinsons is to Lancaster what Starbucks was to Seattle ten years ago, a homegrown business on the brink of something big - if it wants.
The former Priory Hall itself - an old art deco building - was vacant when it was taken over and has retained the nostalgic feel of a functional public building, while fostering an atmosphere that promotes conversation and debate - I didn’t spot many i-pads here.
There are no soggy sofas, instead a mixture of small and large functional tables and chairs with a serving of freshly baked goods and tantalising coffee aromas. I ordered my usual latte (£2.40) during a business meeting which was served up in a handle free glass and proved smooth, delicious with the caffeine kick required.
The Hall has no need for in-your-face signage and has enough character to keep you kicking back for hours. Top marks go to the loo - I’ll let you check that one out for yourself.
Juicafe, Market Street, Lancaster
Renowned ultimately for being the best independent smoothie bar in the UK, Juicafe also takes pride in its coffee offering.
It’s a place the kids insist on going when we’re out and about in Lancaster, so I know the place well, and agree with them that it is a destination of quality (and sugar).
With a prime location in the city centre, it gets a steady stream of trade, but is never too busy that you can’t get in. Seating wise it’s basic and no-nonsense, but comfortable, and there is a slouchy bean bag area to relax in if you’re young and hip enough.
I ordered a regular mocha, priced £2.70, after a job in Lancaster city centre.It comes in a large handled cup and has a frothy top covered in chocolate sprinkles. It’s hot but not burning, and sweet without the need for sugar.
A sign on the cafe wall reveals that the coffee “shot” used to make this drink has been carefully roasted to order by J. Atkinson & Co, and comes from an award winning Rainforest Alliance bean from the Daterra Estate in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, known to Barista Champions and coffee lovers alike as the Brazilian Bruzzi.
It’s a good brew, and the coffee part of the mocha is not out-flavoured by the chocolate. I’m impressed, but more importantly, recharged and ready to face the day with gusto.
Esquires coffee shop, Cheapside, Lancaster
Unpretentious yet buzzy coffee shop with lots of quiet corners if required, Esquires boasts an extensive and easy to read menu of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and frappuchino with lots of delicious and homemade looking cakes and a fridge full of goodies.
One of those coffee shops where all are welcomed by the friendly, cheery staff. Even a chilly-ish but sunny day, plenty of people are taking advantage of outside tables on the pedestrianised and cobbled street.
The cafe is big enough to be baby and child (and pram) friendly - babychinos are on the menu and a woman was breastfeeding her tot while I was there, tucked quietly away in a corner. On another table a man worked feverishly on his laptop while others watched the paper and watched Sky headlines on an inobtrusive big screen, turned down low. A chilled atmosphere is complimented with the delicious smooth coffee (my regular latte was £2.45 with a biscuit on the side).
The Yard, King Street,
The tiny Yard coffee shop sits opposite Waterstones on the main ring road.
Its big glass frontage reveals a small seating area for roughly eight, plenty of colourful artwork, and a decent drinks, light meal and cake menu. My wife and I spot an empty table so we call in for a quick coffee one midweek lunchtime. Inside it’s quiet and relaxed, a far cry from the constant traffic outside the window. Our regular cappucinos are £2.20 each, and come in small handled cups on saucers.
The service is quick, literally less than two minutes, and the drink looks impressive with the light and dark trademark high end coffee swirls. As far as cappuccinos go they’re good, albeit slightly on the luke warm side, resulting in us finishing our drinks in less than five minutes and heading out again.
The cafe offers a takeaway service, and the signage and logo make for an independent, city centre feel. If you’re in need of a quick fix pre or post-shopping. The Yard is well worth a look.