The Coffee House on Watford High Street

The Coffee House on Watford High Street

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

The Coffee House on Watford High Street
The Coffee House on Watford High Street

Coffee House: The Coffee House
Address: The Parade, High Street , Watford, WD17 1LQ (inside the Presence gift shop)
Rating: Between New Orleans and Bathers’, tending to the former on good days (Sydney-Coffee Rating System)

When we first spotted The Coffee House in Watford we puzzled over whether or not it was part of a chain. It seems that it is not; but, just like Cinnamon Square in Ricky, a lot of effort has been put into the finishings, so much so that it seems like a franchise kit. Chain or not, they do a pretty good attempt at an espresso.

The Coffee House came into existence some time after we moved to Rickmansworth and is a welcome addition to Watford’s[1] retail centre. Previously the best we could do for espresso was dreary old Starbucks, yeah, that bad. There are a few small coffee shops around the town centre, I doubt we’ve tried all of them but the ones that we’ve tried (the more inviting ones) have all been a disappointment (i.e. Starbucks beats the lot).

"The Coffee House" branded demitasse.
“The Coffee House” branded demitasse.

So what’s distinctive about The Coffee House? Well, first of all, you can easily miss the place — out the front there’s a small cluster of chairs with in a branded enclosure that doesn’t look associated with any nearby café, a very small sign, and a chalked swing-board. What makes the place really easy to miss is that the entire shop-front is one of those kitschy gift shops and The Coffee House is tucked away up the back of the shop. Other distinctive features include: plenty of comfy leather sofas, free wireless, fresh roast coffee (relatively), and their self-description as Watford’s finest coffee bar.

Crema? Like light cloud cover.
Coffee House coffee

What about the espresso? Welllll… it isn’t close to excellent, and isn’t worth travelling to Watford for. That aside, it is easily the finest espresso we’ve found in Watford over the last 18 months. On the Sydney scale it certainly betters Bathers’ (i.e. it’s much better than typical Sydney restaurant coffee, which is not to be mistaken for the swill English restaurants call coffee) but isn’t quite up to the New Orleans Cafe standard. Crema is often very light and short-lived, but the wide demitasse and typical over-volume of water is probably more responsible for this than anything else. On the flavour side, they seem to use a well balanced blend and they claim that it’s recently roasted (on November 10th they had a sign up to say the coffee was roasted on November 5th, maybe getting old by Toby’s standards but certainly far from long in the tooth). I think there’s a lot of potential to be unleashed here, if I was there more regularly than fortnightly I might work up the motivation to have a chat about pseudo-ristretto.

In conclusion: Watford’s not all bad, there’s a place to hide on a comfy sofa, with free wireless and rather decent espresso. The espresso isn’t free! But no worries at 155p for a double[2]. If you’re in Watford town centre and you feel the urge for some short black indulgence you probably can’t do better than The Coffee Bar.

[1] Watford is the closest major shopping-town to Rickmansworth, where we live. The one advantage of the Metro line always being “maintained” during weekends is the free bus trips to the not-very-conveniently-located Watford tube station. If it wasn’t for the frequent free transport we’d probably go to somewhere only a single tube trip away, like Harrow, Finchley, or London proper.

[2] Ever noticed that as the espresso gets better the price goes down? 1.85 quid here, 1.70 at Cinnamon Square, 1.20 at The Coffee Plant, and 1.00 at Monmouth … curious. As far as I can recall a similar pattern exists in Sydney.
Well, given the correction on the price below this pattern doesn’t seem to hold. That said, since a couple of people left Cinnamon Square the coffee wasn’t as good anyway, so maybe it balances out. Of course, for the inner London places economies of scale must play a part too.

2 thoughts on “The Coffee House on Watford High Street”

  1. A double espresso actually costs £1.55 here not £1.85. Apologies if you were overcharged but with the way the tills work it would be very difficult for this to happen. It would be great if you could ammend the article accordingly.

    As for the lack of crema, apologies again, those photos are embarrassing. I will resume my nagging about not leaving the grinder on automatic.

  2. Correction… OK, £1.55 it is! Maybe I got it wrong, though I visited the Coffee House on several occasions before (and after) writing the above. But it is quite likely I only took the price from one data-point. Was it £1.55 back in November?

    So many things can go wrong for poor old crema, beans, grind, and, very importantly, the person driving the machine. I’m not in the Ricky/Watford area any more, but will be passing through next month and will check in for an update then.

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