Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
Coffee House: Coffee Cube
Address: 111 High Street, Rickmansworth [Map]
Rating: Ten Buck Alley or better (Sydney-Coffee Rating)
Hours: Mon-Fri: 07:30 – 17:00, Sat: 09:00 – 17:00
Dammit! Just as I’m planning to move away from Rickmansworth another good espresso place opens. For a long time it was Cinnamon Square or nothing, but now my loyalty is divided. As far as espresso goes I think Coffee Cube now comes out on top.
When we moved to Ricky there was a little coffee place on the High Street, I tried it once but wasn’t impressed – as far as espresso goes it was a little better than Nero. It didn’t help that it was only open weekdays with hours something like 09:00 to 15:00. They used Segafredo beans, if I recall correctly, and a La Cimbali machine. Several months ago they shut down suddenly due to illness, according to the note that went up in the window. I remember saying to Kat on a couple of occasions that it was a tempting opportunity… if only I wasn’t constrained by visa requirements. (As far as I can tell the HSMP doesn’t prohibit starting your own business, but ultimately you must maintain a sufficient level of income. Starting a business always comes with the risk of failure, or mediocrity, in my case both also come with being thrown out of the country!)
Anyway, this March the coffee place re-opened under the name Coffee Cube. I was hesitant to try them at first, since Cinnamon Square has earned my loyalty. However one fateful day I ducked in and asked for a double. Surprise! It was very good. Too long, in the English style, but with excellent flavour. Doubly surprising, it turns out the coffee they’re using is from Lavazza. This is a brand I’ve never had much respect for, it is fairly ubiquitous in Sydney and certainly not associated with good coffee. (The University of Sydney Union used it, for example, and the terribleness of “union coffee” defies description – that’s a whole other story.)
It is a conceit of mine to believe that the only good coffee is boutique-roaster coffee. In this I include the likes of The Coffee Plant and Monmouth in London, The Coffee Tree in Aylesbury (I never got around to writing about them), and the inimitable Toby’s Estate back in Sydney. All at the top of my espresso (dare I say, ristretto) table. So, it turns out that Coffee Cube has thrown a spanner in my works with their use of Lavazza’s “Crema Aroma” blend (no link sorry, while Lavazza does seem able to do good coffee after all, they clearly can’t do good websites. Their 100% flash monstrosity is unlinkable, flaky, and they don’t even show up in the top 10 when Googling their own product. An insanely bad web strategy!)
On request Coffee Cube will, of course, do a less English espresso. Shorter and more intense. The crema is firm, but could do with a narrower cup (I should see about getting the double in a demitasse), and the taste smooth. If anything is to be raised in the negative it could be that the espresso is a little too smooth, a little lacking in edge. This is espresso I’d give to someone I wanted to “break in” to the espresso drinking world. Like 60% cocoa mass chocolate before graduating to 75%+.
Overall they’re definitely as good as Ten Buck Alley, possibly just a little better, but don’t make the Olympian leap to Toby’s standard. (While TBA coffee is my “second best” in Sydney, it’s still a mere mortal looking up to the god that is Toby’s – yeah, OK, I’m going overboard now.)
They do good lunches too and have all the usual pastries. Chicken and avo panini were a staple of mine back in Sydney and it’s nice to have a place doing them here in Ricky! (In general England doesn’t seem to have discovered what an excellent sandwich/roll ingredient avocado is.) On the food front you also get a biscotti with your coffee, so much for espresso being low-calorie. I might have four cups a day, which is less than I used to have back in Sydney, that’s a lot of biscotti.
The café itself is small, with just 5 tables. A couple are booths with comfy benches, and one is a coffee-table with a couple of very comfy couches. The owners’ last business was a club, it would seem they’ve brought a bit of club-like décor with them – bright, but pleasantly different. They’d benefit from being able to put a couple of small tables or seats outside in summer. One thing that I think would be great for Ricky’s town centre is to pedestrianise the main strip of the High Street, not sure if it is logistically feasible though.
What more can I say? If you want espresso in Rickmansworth I think Coffee Cube is the place now – but you still can’t beat Cinnamon Square when it comes to anything baked (oh, the fresh Panettone!) I think it is great that there are now two good places to have an espresso. There demand is there, Cinnamon Square is often packed to a line’s-out-the-door level, and the crappy chain store never seems to have a quiet moment (until after 17:00 when all the Poms retire to pubs – sigh evening café culture hasn’t a chance in this country.)