Review: Coffee #1, 22-24 High St, Warwick, CV34 4AP
Boldly proclaiming itself ‘the UK’s best coffee chain’, this recent addition to Warwick’s High Street certainly knows how to make an entrance.
For sure, Coffee #1 hasn’t been short of fans since launching in Cardiff fifteen years ago. Among the famous faces captured in a menagerie of framed pictures on the wall are Carol Vorderman, Huw Stephens, Melinda Messenger and Mel C. At first glance, they chose well. The open-plan interior, complete with wall art and bookshelves, has a contemporary pub feel and could just about host a Spice Girls book signing.
Parked at a table in the chain’s latest outpost, I chatted with a fellow writer about research we are conducting into the Dark Ages, when Warwick was the frontline for wars between the Anglo-Saxons and their Viking foes. Norse steel may no longer fall in Warwick, but the expanding chain has put a stake in the ground by taking over a prime street corner in a town many thought was already saturated with coffee chains.
Make no mistake, this is the battle of the branded mugs.
Cabinets on a bulky counter are resplendent with eats such as couscous salads and sundry sweet delights including salted caramel and pecan nut pretzels and ‘feel good’ graniola slices. The menus overhead go way beyond flat whites and espressos. I tried the steamed apple and cinnamon, an embracing, full-bodied winter warmer retaining all the zest of its original ingredients. Other caffeine-less drinks include fresh juices, delectable hot chocolates and an imaginative list of herbal teas.
There are seven coffees including three blends with flavours from around the world. For example, the house recipe is a mixture of East African and Brazilian beans. Coffee #1 stocks Fairtrade and ethically-traded products and professes to only use suppliers adhering to social responsibility codes.
Reigning supreme on this visit was the bosco cheesecake – a berry-topped circle of pure indulgence with a soft, creamy core. We also tried a piece of orange polenta and almond cake which added a firm, crumbly texture to help our drinks sail along. Our tea break was good value, too, the apple and cinnamon coming to £2.35 and the desserts under £3 each.
On later visits the coffee shop appeared to have been a victim of its own success with queues up to 10-deep at the counter and the frothy swirls losing their shape as the baristas ground out orders.
However there is always ample space to sit and spread out the newspapers provided by the house.
Among the framed paintings on the wall is a cartoon portrayal of Aethelflaed, who liberated Warwick from the Vikings. In the battle of the brands, it seems Coffee #1 is here to stay.
For opening times and further information visit: www.coffee1.co.uk