Fernandez and Wells is a name that is synonymous with the London coffee movement. With wonderful premises in Sohon and Somerset House, it is easy to be swept away in the theatrics. But I like my coffee simple and close to the bone, which is why I decided to seek out the small Fernandez and Wells shop a stone’s throw from Soho, lovingly called St Annes, after the alley (and it isn’t much more than that) where you can find it.
Despite being so in tune with the coffee crowd, there is much more to Fernandez and Wells than just this. The little shop is almost missable, even if you can find the right street, which is a bustling but well-concealed. However, it is seductive, with a beautiful display of sandwiches aimed to entice you in. That’s the first thing they’ve done well that one comes not to expect where there is good coffee: good food. Now I may not write about it much, but I love my food. It’s a constant disappointment to me that a coffee shop sees food as secondary to the coffee. But Fernandez and Wells does not. The sandwiches are beautifully crafted: my portion (highly recommended) was a pulled pork ciabatta, toasted with apple sauce. Aside from being a little dry from the thickness of the bread, the flavours and the quality of the ingredients was absolutely top notch. The apple sauce cut superbly through the pork.
Of course, there is also the coffee, supplied by Has Bean, which is a welcome change from the legions of Square Mile and Monmouth that now lines London’s streets. The particular piccolo I had was very nicely brewed. The beginning of the flavour comes through with a clear, but indistinctive coffee taste, which all of a sudden turns to a sublime nuttiness. Almost like a praline. Wonderfully clean and concise coffee. All the coffee in this shop is espresso-based, so do not expect choice. But do expect a well crafted coffee, blossoming with perfect extraction.
The last thing to note about Fernandez and Wells is the ambience. And I don’t just mean the ambient atmosphere. With connections to local micro-breweries and a heavy connection with food, this is not your average third wave coffee bar. St Annes works within the triumvirate of the Soho F&W shops to cater to a multitude of tastes. With wine on the menu and opening hours that mirror a French Bistrot, this place is about much more than just the coffee.