Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017

After missing last year’s event through negligently failing to apply for tickets in time, I did manage to remember this year’s date and successfully secured my place several weeks ago.  Undeterred by a foot injury, even a perfect spring day, – the hottest so far, this year, in the city – couldn’t keep me away.

The Briggait: Glasgow's wonderful Victorian fish market
The Briggait: Glasgow’s wonderful Victorian fish market

The Victorian splendour of the Briggait Glasgow’s old fish market, provided an appropriate setting for the profusion of gleaming brass and chrome on display across the main hall.

One of the great advantages of living in Scotland’s biggest city these days – up there with better cycling provision and ever-expanding foodie options – is the amazing variety of locally roasted beans now available, as well as the burgeoning range of indie and speciality cafes where they can be sampled.

Highlights were discovering some new kids on the block; Davide for his very informative backstory of Ovenbird (about to try my first flat white with Wegida Blue Natural); McCune Smith for the scrumptious amaretto and Glenfiddich brownie; and the lovely lady from Indycoffeeguides.

Essential packing for trip north in the summer
Essential packing for trip north in the summer

Armed with my new Scotland copy, complete with its essential advice on cycling friendly establishments, I’m well set for my trip north to Skye later in the summer and a detour to Dundee now looks to be in order, en route to the Fife coast  in the autumn.

Thanks to Dear Green for an excellent (on the house) flat white and for hosting the event.  I’m still hopeful you can come up with some letterbox-friendly packaging so your beans  can be delivered straight to my door later in the year!

Roll on 2018.

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Riverhill Cafe: Glasgow and Helensburgh

As regular readers will know all too well, I always take the opportunity to plug Glasgow as the ideal location to combine some top notch culture, food and  shopping with the chance to enjoy some spectacular local outdoor jaunts as well.

Maybe because my trips to the city as a child were many and varied and ranged from pantomime visits, to shopping expeditions and later on, all kinds of things connected with education, that I have always considered Glasgow to be such an eclectic place.

Among these primal associations, it was in the city that I first began my love affair with good coffee; indeed, I can still remember the excitement of discovering what I termed ‘frothy coffee’,  drinking it from a glass cup in one of the Italian cafes I was taken to by my grandmother. And, from then on, sourcing and consuming the best coffee I can find has become something of an obsession – as well as providing the excuse to sample some of the finest cafes that Vienna, Budapest, Rome and Turin have to offer.

So, it was with a sense of excitement that I headed across Gordon Street last Monday to try out the new Riverhill Cafe. Its first few weeks had certainly been a hit on social media, and if its coffee was half as good as its location – within luggage wheeling distance of Central Station and in an otherwise desert of good independent refreshment outlets – it would be worth the wait.

It was. My flat white was rich and creamy and a crusty sandwich of Italian sausage with salad and dressing was freshly made and nicely on the plus side of substantial. But, it was the staff who provided the real highlight; pleasant, informative and happy to accommodate any requests for slight variations of the items on offer. My only disappointment was that, after my sandwich, even I couldn’t find room for a piece of their appropriately-named billionaire’s shortbread.

Overlooking Helensburgh and the Firth of Clyde
Overlooking Helensburgh and the Firth of Clyde

However, apart from its excellent menu and ideal location, Riverhill has yet another asset; its sister, the Riverhill Cafe and Deli, in Helensburgh. And as Helensburgh just so happened to be where I started and finished a couple of stages on the Three Lochs Way later in the week, then I really had no excuse not to taste another excellent flat white and replace some of the calories expended tramping through the forest with a slice of their slightly different take on that luxury shortbread. Apparently the chef here also regularly forages for edible herbs and plants to use in the daily menu, so no excuse then not to factor in another trip around Helensburgh on my next visit.

Well done Riverhill: you’ll be my first and last stop next time I’m back in Glasgow and, with the Hill House, other handsome buildings and enviable setting beneath the mountains and beside the Firth, yet another reason to boot and bike to Helensburgh.

 

RIverhill Cafe: 24 Gordon Street, Glasgow G1 3PU  0141 204 4762

Riverhill Cafe and Deli: 64 Sinclair Street, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Helensburgh G84 6TP 01436 677575

 

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Cafes on Sustrans Route 54: Burton on Trent to Lichfield

Now it looks as though summer might finally have arrived, what better excuse to get out in the saddle and enjoy the long, sunny days. And, of course, that little bit of extra effort can fully justify a well-deserved stop en route for a refreshing drink and tempting slice of cake.  The 15 mile stretch of Route 54 between Burton on Trent and Lichfield is an ideal ride  at any time of year and the route is well endowed with welcoming cafes, tearooms and pubs. Here are some of our favourites, riding north to south.

 

BARTON:

SKINNY KITTEN, 23 Main Street, Barton under Needwood, http://skinnykittencafe.co.uk 01283 711217

Great little cafe right on the route and almost at the half way point between Burton and Lichfield. Quirky and friendly, with delicious sausage sandwiches and cakes, classy coffee and always interesting soundtracks from the musical owners. Very bike friendly with secure racks round the back. Popular with cyclists, particularly on Sunday mornings. Open every day 9-5 (Sunday 10-4).

There are also two attractive pubs in the village main street; the Middle Bell http://www.themiddlebell.co.uk and the Three Horseshoes http://www.3horseshoesbarton.co.uk  Both serve excellent meals, welcome cyclists and have space in their gardens for bike storage. The Royal Oak, at the junction of The Green and Dogshead Lane is renowned for its beer.

 

ALREWAS:

CRACKPOTZ CERAMIC CAFE, 57 Main Street , Alrewas, http://www.crackpotz.co.uk 01283 792666

An interesting stop, especially if you have the time to hand paint a piece of pottery from their large range of ceramics! Although it can get busy during school holidays, cyclists and non-artists are made very welcome. Tea cakes are particularly tasty. Some space against front wall where bikes can be left relatively safely. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10-5, plus Mondays during February and October half terms.

THE VILLAGE RAINBOW, 136 Main Street, Alrewas, http://www.thevillagerainbow.com 01283 791373

A welcome new addition to the village is this original shop, selling design-led gifts, jewellery and fair trade products. It also contains a small tea room. Untested, as yet, by the local Volunteer Rangers, it’s on our ‘to-do’ list for the summer. Open Monday-Saturday 9.45-5.30 and 10-4 on Sundays.

THE GEORGE and DRAGON, 120 Main Street, Alrewas, http://www.georgeanddragonalrewas.co.uk  01283 791476

This historic building boasts one of the rare CTC Winged Wheel Plaques just above the front door. Landlord Graham welcomes all cyclists and you will be served with a good coffee any day from 11am, as well as the usual range of food and drink.

 

FRADLEY:

KINGFISHER CAFE, Fradley Junction,, Alrewas http://www.kingfisherholidaypark.com 01283 790407

A short detour from the route will bring you to the picturesque Fradley Junction, where the Trent and Mersey and Coventry Canals merge. The Kingfisher Cafe is just past the pub and actively welcomes cyclists, with racks outside the front. Tea cakes are also good here too; there’s WiFi and the cafe encompasses a small shop selling basics. Open 10-5 weekends between November to February (same times everyday March to October).

CANALSIDE CAFE, Fradley Junction, Alrewas 01283 792508

You’re certainly spoilt for choice at Fradley Junction, with another cafe just across the canal. Again, there is plenty of space for cycles around the cafe. Full English breakfasts are rated highly here. Opening hours are 10-3.30 daily.

 

LICHFIELD:

CHAPTERS RESTAURANT AND COFFEE SHOP, 19A The Close, Lichfield http://www.lichfield-cathedral.org/Visiting-Lichfield-Cathedral/chapters-restaurant.html  01543 306100 

And with Route 54 passing right by Lichfield Cathedral, where better to admire this magnificent 12th century Gothic edifice  than from the unique 13th century walled garden of the Chapters Restaurant in the Cathedral Close? There’s plenty of room inside too when the weather is inclement and Chapters always extends a warm welcome to cyclists, including Sustran’s local Volunteer Rangers for their monthly meetings. Open 9-4 (winter) 9-5 (summer) Monday to Saturday and 10-4 Sundays.

 

 

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