Bulldog Edition
News that the new Ace Hotel in London’s Shoreditch would be setting up its resident coffee shop in collaboration with Square Mile Coffee Roasters brought expectations of groundbreaking brewing techniques, cutting-edge gadgetry and barista performance art.

But Square Mile co-owner James Hoffman dropped the coffee geekery for our meeting at Bulldog Edition, as the Ace’s coffee shop is known.

James Hoffmann

James Hoffmann

The 2007 World Barista Champion didn’t explain how the baristas were using a state-of-the-art espresso machine, the La Marzocco Strada, to brew filter coffee.  He uttered not a word about his groovy new grinder, eschewing the new-toys routine so beloved by his peers. He didn’t enumerate the features that would make his coffee equal or superior to that served by Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel coffee shops in Portland and New York .

Hoffmann preferred instead to preach his new coffee-shop gospel:

No preaching.

Bulldog Edition baristas must neither critique nor educate customers, unless prompted. (“If they haven’t asked a question,” Hoffmann tells them, “they haven’t opted into the lecture.”) Their job is not to give people their ultimate coffee experience but rather to give them only what they need right now – typically a cup of hot coffee with or without milk.

Backed by friendly and courteous service Hoffmann insists Bulldog Edition be, in his words, “a coffee shop that reliably makes your day better”.

A coffee shop that makes your day better. Hmmm, try rolling that one around your tongue.

It’s odd to get a dose of all-American happy talk from any Briton, much less from Hoffmann, the coffee expert who, through his personal blog and company blog, has taught us so much about the ins and outs of coffee. But behind this promise is an acknowledgement that not everyone likes being told what they should and shouldn’t like.

“Coffee”, he says, “has replaced wine as the pretentious idiot drink. We’ve become the butt of jokes.”

Bulldog Edition is only Square Mile’s second venture into retail. The first, Penny University, was a pop-up brew bar opened in Shoreditch in 2010. A puritanical shrine to filter coffee, Penny U deprived its disciples of milk and sugar. It was meant to educate and even provoke.

Bulldog Edition is something different, the great coffee notwithstanding. If you want a very short and sticky espresso shot, according to the prevailing fashion, you can have it, even if Hoffmann has his baristas pulling slightly bigger ones with a lovely mouthfeel. Ask a barista for skimmed milk in your flat white or soy milk in your cappuccino and that’s what you’ll get, without commentary.
Pretty much the only thing you won’t get with your coffee order is a perfectly executed eye roll.