There are few things better in life than having an unhurried evening meal, followed by a hot cup of coffee, a nibble of something sweet, and good conversation over candlelight late into the night. The only way I can think of improving on that is skipping on the dinner altogether and making the coffee and dessert the main event. Thanks to a joint effort by Store Street Espresso and Live and Let Dine, now you can do just that.
Just a few minutes walk from the British Museum, Store Street Espresso is a very picturesque little coffee shop. It is reminiscent of Tapped and Packed, with its minimalistic décor: white walls, plain wooden tables and benches, and white hanging lights. A windowsill in the back is stacked with a row of books for reading, should you forget your own. Sugar rests in jam jars on the tables and little tea lights were scattered around when we arrived last night. We sat at the back of the shop and were presented with the menus for After Hours.
The drinks menu was simple. You could have two types of pour over coffee (Deri Kochi and La Lagunilla) and the Red Brick espresso from Square Mile, a “sweet white wine”, or a “sweet red wine”. The desserts menu was where the decisions became harder to make. Everything sounded like it had the potential to be amazing. We could get one dessert, a coffee, and some petit fours for £10, or three desserts, coffee, and petit fours for £20. The clear choice here was to have three. I couldn’t have decided on just one.
We were recommended to get the “Orange” for sure, one other fruit-based dish (“Banana” or “Blackberries”) and one of the “darker” dishes (“Coffee and cardamom” or “Chocolate and peanut”). We ended up ordering the “Banana” and “Chocolate and peanut” desserts and one of each type of pour over coffee. After ordering, I went up to the counter to take a look at the desserts being prepared. The guys were very friendly and chatty, despite getting quite busy at one point, and I’m very grateful that they put up with my photo-taking and question-asking.
First up was the “Banana” dessert, described on the menu as “Banana and lime ice cream, roasted banana, brown butter puree, caramel glass”. The dish was a bit like bananas Foster, but not quite as sickeningly sweet as bananas can get. The lime in the ice cream lightened it up nicely. The brown butter puree was good, like a somewhat less flavourful version of salted caramel, though it had a sort of mealy mouthfeel. My friend happily scraped up all the bits on his side of the plate, commenting that he didn’t even like bananas usually. It was a good starter dish, but in hindsight, my least favourite of the three.
Next was the “Orange” dessert, consisting of “mandarin curd, burnt orange, cheesecake, gingerbread crumb”. It was absolutely amazing. It was perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, with the fresh mandarin oranges offering a burst of flavourful juice. The gingerbread crumbs added a bit of spice to the mix, and the vanilla cheesecake filling offered a smooth, sweet base for the citrus flavours to build on top of. The only thing that didn’t fit were the bits of mandarin jelly, which added a bit more substance to the dish, but didn’t really taste of anything on their own. But getting a bit of each element in one bite yielded a wonderful and satisfying blend of flavours.
Our last dish was the “Chocolate and peanut”, a dessert of “chocolate ganache, salted caramel, peanut butter, peanut brittle, milk panna cotta”. It was the perfect dish to end on. All the flavours on the plate – chocolate, caramel, peanut butter – are delicious on their own. Combined together, they were outstanding. The discs of chocolate ganache were wonderfully bittersweet, balancing out the super-sweet salted caramel sauce. The peanut butter added in a touch of saltiness and the peanut brittle offered a bit of texture to the otherwise soft dish. This, to me, was the perfect dessert to go with coffee. I wanted to pick up the plate and lick up every last bit, chicken-on-a-brick style. If you get one thing when you go, I definitely would recommend this.
After the desserts, we were brought petit fours: a chocolate truffle and butternut squash macaroon each. By this point we were quite stuffed, having had dinner in addition to all these sweets, but couldn’t resist fitting in the petit fours as well. The macaroon was chewy and sweet, with a nutty flavour a bit like pumpkin. The chocolate truffles were, like the ganache, very dark, bittersweet, and exceedingly rich. I could only manage little nibbles at a time. They were a nice little afterthought to the intricate dessert dishes.
All the dishes we had played with some great combinations of flavours and were obviously well thought-out. I didn’t try the “Coffee and cardamom” (“espresso mousse, cardamom semifreddo, chocolate soil, strained yogurt”) or the “Blackberries” (“picked blackberries, blackberry parfait, meringue, smoked vanilla marshmallows, berry powder”), but they both looked as delicious as the ones we had.
The atmosphere was very lovely and unhurried; we felt able to relax and enjoy our desserts. You can bring a group of friends and laugh over wine and share desserts like one table did, or have a more intimate candlelit post-dinner rendezvous. Either way, the staff are friendly, helpful, and eager to make sure you have a good experience. The coffee is top-notch and the desserts are delectable.
Many thanks to Live and Let Dine for bringing to fruition an idea that is long overdue. They have done several pop-ups before, including one at The Endurance like Patty and Bun, and are hoping to find a more permanent home in Store St Espresso. (They have also helped create the very charitable Mince Pie Project.) Please be sure to check them out tonight – they are testing out the concept to see if it is something that people will be interested in, so let them know if you are a fan of late night coffee and desserts. If things go well, they will be bringing After Hours back for a more permanent stint in January.