A haven for lovingly made coffee, home-baked cakes and savoury dishes served with charisma and charm.
Go there for: Single estate freshly ground coffee, great food and good company.
Avoid: Going for a quick caffeine fix: take time to savour your drinks and food here.
Is it worth the calories?: This is thoughtfully prepared quality food, so definitely yes.
Tips: Be prepared to discuss your idea of a perfect coffee for a match from Russell’s carefully selected library of beans.
Imagine a café that is so passionate about coffee that they freshly grind 20g of single estate ethically sourced coffee for you after discussing what flavour characters you prefer. The coffee is deposited into a paper filter in a ceramic holder, then water at an optimum temperature is poured over the grains and stirred. The water drips into the waiting mug below, taking with it the oily flavour compounds that define the taste of your drink. Welcome to Pinnock’s Coffee House and the slow coffee movement.
Russell James opened Pinnocks this year. He mans the drinks station on the bar and his exuberant personality and charm fill the room. He seems to know everyone and you immediately feel part of a community that he has, in a few short months, created. It’s not just coffee (supplied by the Grumpy Mule) that is important here: loose-leaf teas come from Tiger teas and the decadent hot chocolate is made from single-estate chocolate shavings from Marimba, based in Suffolk. Russell kindly gave me a sample for my son, a self-appointed chocolate expert, who loved it. You can buy the flakes and their handmade chocolate bars in the deli side of the shop, which is being established.
This is a family affair, with Russell’s mum Shirley in charge of cakes and his partner Andy the savoury menu. I had a mug of Rwanda Musasa coffee (£2.60), which was, as Russell promised, full bodied without any bitter notes but a hint of citrus and caramel. For lunch I chose a caramelised onion and goats cheese tart with salad. The tart was superb, with the ingredients described clearly present and complementary. The accompanying salads, green leaf, potato, tomato and coleslaw were fresh and substantial. The potato salad was plain but this hearty lunch was a steal at £4.50. The menu generally is very keenly priced: Russell wants his locals to become regulars. He serves a selection of wraps, salads and sandwiches at lunch and for breakfast pastries, granolas and bagels. High tea is also served here but instead of an over the top selection of tea-time treats with a staggering price tag a lovely plate of sandwiches, a mini scone and pot of tea costs just £3.90.
Luckily I had spotted the cake counter before lunch so I wisely left space for a slice of plum cake (£2.50). No fluffy puffy sponge here: at Pinnocks you get proper cake. I am not a fan of butter icing so it was delightful to get a cake with a seam of plum jam. I declined the offer of cream: the sponge was moist and fruity enough without it but it would have been a gorgeous addition. Cakes change daily: that day they had lemon drizzle, white chocolate and orange sponge, chocolate and the odd mystery cake that customers have to identify!
I watched in awe as a customer ordered from Russell using sign language: in his former life he was a sign-language interpreter. Upstairs has a club like atmosphere, with comfy sofas and books you can swap – Russell’s house is now bereft of furniture. A garden outside provides extra seating.
Pinnocks is a wonderful addition to a foodie movement emerging in Ripley and it gets a highly recommended from me.