Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
Caffé Vergnano 1882 on Charing Cross Road has a sign out the front claiming “Coffee Shop of the Year 2005/6”. It honestly isn’t too bad, but it is not in the same league as Monmouth or The Coffee Plant.
No questions when ordering a ristretto – on both my visits the same girl was operating the machine and she’s Italian, so no ristretto problems here. Both times the coffee has been a little on the watery side, but with good flavour. Possibly the roast isn’t fresh enough (I don’t know where they roast, their flash-based website leaves me disinclined to investigate further) or, more likely, the head was packed too loosely (or, honestly, one of many other possible errors).
The café is small and you’ll be lucky to find a seat when busy. Their branding is everywhere, this gives the place a strong “chain feel” which I find can colour my enjoyment of a coffee (it is a chain though). I’d recommend visiting just to have a look at their Elektra Belle Epoque coffee machine, a visually magnificent beast! All coffees are served with a small square of dark chocolate. Too gimmicky in my mind but it is a good bittersweet 70% cocoa chocolate so there is some feeling there. Unfortunately chocolate and coffee are only a good combination when making desserts and I don’t particularly want a chocolate with my ristretto. They also add a small glass of own-brand bottled water, this is a welcome addition since it certainly doesn’t taste like London tap water.
A good, drinkable ristretto makes Caffé Vergnano 1882 worth dropping into if you’re in the area but not worth going out of your way to visit.
With only two visits this review isn’t entirely complete, especially since I’ve had the same barista both times. Vergnano has potential to be upgraded and we’ll certainly revisit since it coincides with our Chinatown shopping trips. Watch this space.