Every now and again, I think that a coffee shop can’t surprise me, hubris overtakes and I think I have nothing left to learn. The coffee gods’ way of putting me in my place is by revealing a coffee shop that shifts paradigms and breaks concepts. Prufrock on Leather Lane is one such coffee shop.
Why rhapsody in this way? At this stage, it’s not enough to just produce good coffee, and good food is an interesting, but unnecessary aside. Something that makes Prufrock stand out as a coffee shop is its overarching concept. It has been designed from the ground up with one thing in mind: coffee. The first thing that struck me upon entering was the space. I had just previously been enjoying a wonderful coffee in a much smaller space, and walking into Prufrock was like standing in the centre of a football pitch. The room itself is fairly big, but this is compounded by the minimal amount of tables and chairs, and further accentuated by the brightness and cleanliness of the shop.
But the concept builds past mere decor, into the very structure of the room. Whilst coffee paraphernalia (everything from on-sale V60s to vintage roasters) line much of the walls, a good proportion of it is dedicated to space for the baristas to practise their alchemy. A customised Simonelli brings art to the front counter, whilst the rest of the workspace is taken up by various pieces of brewing equipment. Aeropresses, Woodnecks and chemexes are scattered around in organised chaos and an Uber boiler (tap with temp control and scales, especially designed for making filter coffee) majestically awaits. Prufrock is a temple to coffee.
And as such, the coffee was blessed. Naturally, Square Mile is used, and I firstly tried the Deri Kochi, through V60. It was a clean taste with a slightly unusual flavour too. The real magic came when the barista brought it over, poured a little in the cup and started to explain the flavours to me and the roaster it had come from. This was one of the paradigm-changers: barista as sommelier. Ready to explain and support your journey; a sort of midwife to flavour experiences. The second coffee I had was through a woodsock: a modern take on a traditional cloth filter, served in a beautiful chemex-like carafe. The flavour here was very clear. A nice easy start, but with a very potent spice present. Tasting like nutmeg perhaps. A little late for Christmas, but extremely complex nonetheless.
The Michelin guide awards two stars to somewhere that is ‘worth a detour’ and three stars to a restaurant that is ‘worth a special trip’. There is no Michelin guide for coffee, but I have no trouble recommending Prufrock as worth a special trip. For the coffee lover, a visit to Prufrock is not so much a trip as a pilgrimage.