Empire State Coffee

The fun side of being a freelancer is that you get to travel from time to time. The not-so-glamourous side is that it’s not always exotic places – albeit some might consider Dundee as such.

This visit happened a while ago, in the winter months. I had finished my meeting early and had a couple of hours to spare before my train back (just a proof it’s not always glamorous travel!), so – naturally – I was looking for somewhere comfy and warm to wait it out.

Despite my original assumption (sorry Dundee!) it seems like there are actually a few coffee shops to choose from in town, according to Google maps. One that caught my eye, since it was a relatively short walk from the train station, was Empire State Coffee. Trip Advisor reviews seemed to rate this place highly, so I headed to the destination… only to find it plastered in brown paper with a “moved-out” note on the front door!

As it turned out, they didn’t move far, just a few corners away. I was pleased to discover that, although the place seemed buzzing with the people that were there, there were still plenty of free seats on ground level, and an arrow pointed at more seating in the basement.

I took a seat, dumped my laptop bag and handbag, and eagerly ordered my coffee at the counter. I decided to go for the larger size of mocha for a change – probably because I knew I wanted to settle in for a while.

Mocha at Empire State Coffee

Mocha at Empire State Coffee

I got a bit of a scare – and a tiny bit of disappointment – when I saw a large, Costa-like latte glass arriving, filled to the bream. At that point I had the laptop open and was cracking on with work, so I took the first few sips wondering how much of the brew I’d end up leaving behind.

But alas, 10min later the glass was empty.

The Empire mocha was a nice, smooth concoction; sweetness was more notable than the caffeine, but not overwhelmingly so, and at times it had a bit of a powdery aftertaste to it. Regardless, it made for a great winter drink accompanying my work.

I spent just over an hour there, and people were coming and going, but the place never felt chaotic or noisy – in fact, it made for quite a relaxing space to work, complemented by staff who were friendly but not intrusive.

Yes, I know there are more coffee shops to visit in Dundee – but I would not hold back from returning to Empire State.

Mocha (medium): £2.90

Verdict justification: Very pleasant venue with tasty coffee – definitely worth a visit!

Visit Empire State Coffee website here.

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Café by Benugo at John Lewis

Visited in Bon Accord centre

It’s been a very busy few months as I had taken the plunge and finally got myself on the property ladder. This has meant loads of weekend trips to B&Q and Homebase, not so much popping out for a cup of coffee – unless it was really needed as a stress reliever.

This was the case when I was looking for bits and bobs in John Lewis’ during my lunch break and all of a sudden I felt it was all too much, and a break was required. When I saw the café in the store, I didn’t think twice – I almost ran in.

Mocha at Café by Benugo

I was expecting a level of elegance and sophistication from a coffee shop associated with a high-end homeware store, and first impressions were positive. There was only a couple in the queue in front of me, which gave me time to skim through the drinks menu on the wall and decide on the cake to accompany my mocha (sugar required as much as caffeine).

I took a seat close to the entrance as I knew I didn’t have much time to relax and enjoy myself. Once the coffee was delivered I knew I wouldn’t want to draw this out too long either. There had been an attempt at a latte art, but juxtaposed with the leaflet on the table, it made the coffee look a bit sad…

The looks corresponded with the taste, unfortunately. Despite the blob of milk on top, the consistency of the drink was generally good, but that same froth remained at the bottom of the cup when I was done, suggesting not all of it had blended properly. Same with the cocoa, as a thick layer stuck on the bottom of the cup, contributing to a quite acidic beverage all together.

I drank quickly, ate my marble cake, and ran. It was good to rest my feet for a few minutes, but sadly, this franchise cafe did not encourage me to come to John Lewis’ for anything more than household goods.

Mocha: £2.80

Verdict justification: The coffee was OK but not particularly memorable. A pause-and-go experience – but isn’t that what cafes in shopping centres are for?

 

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