I have only recently discovered Soho as a place for food-related adventures. In the past few years I'd been there once or twice for so-so Chinese food and went to an insalubrious bar, cruelly lured in by the offer of a free shot which turned out to be Ribena.
I started cutting through Soho as a way of avoiding the hell that is the herds of aimless, ambling crowds on Oxford Street, but now go there to gaze in the windows of the Italian delis and sushi bars - window shopping for food.
On Friday, while I was gazing in shop windows at kinky accessories, reading menus posted on walls and adding to my mental lists of restaurants I want to visit I came across a little red shop that smelt strongly of roasting coffee beans. The Algerian Coffee Stores is a Aladdin's cave of all things hot-drink related: huge glass jars filled of dried flowers and herbs for tisanes, tiny Moka pots, wooden drawers with coffee beans roasted to different degrees and the prettiest tins of sweets you've ever seen. Most appealing of all was a large board listing all the different types of coffee and blends on offer.
I couldn't decide between the Lebanese blend (with cardamom) or the Arabic (with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom). The man behind the counter recommended the Arabic so I went for that one and he set about measuring out a mixture of dark and medium roast beans, grinding them and then adding the ground spices. Then to compound my love for the shop, after I had paid I was offered a dried fig dipped in chocolate to taste: I was completely seduced.
Despite the blend of dark and medium roast beans the coffee is much darker than what I'd been drinking before. The spices work really well, mingling with the aroma of the coffee to create a small and taste that is not quite like coffee or sweet spices something new, and more intriging. It's a coffee that I think is better suited to after-drinking than breakfast, and I can't wait to try it out alongside baklava. Even though six hours have passed since I made the coffee my kitchen still carries a faint scent of a Middle Eastern souk.
Algerian Coffee Stores Ltd, 52 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4BP