Welcome to Bulldog Edition, a recently opened cafe at London’s brand new Ace Hotel (100 Shoreditch High Street), situated right in the heart of the creative and entrepreneurial hub that is East London.
Bulldog Edition forms part of the communal ground floor at the Ace, which also includes a gallery, lobby bar and shared work space. The Ace now has several sites internationally, and in keeping with the company’s core value of ‘incorporating a sense of place from the surrounding environs,’ the London location is adapted to connect with the diverse and dynamic demographics of the local community.
One way in which this is achieved is through embracing collaborations with local designers, artists and businesses. In the case of Bulldog Edition, this led to engaging the services of internationally renowned, East London based, Square Mile Coffee Roasters.
The independent coffee scene has been awash in London recently with rumours of a Square Mile owned and operated cafe taking residence at the Ace Hotel, but this is not the case. To clarify, The Bulldog Edition is owned and operated under the Ace Hotel. Square Mile have, however, worked alongside Ace with not only the supply of beans, but also consultation and training.
Facing onto the bustling Shoreditch High Street, Bulldog Edition is conveniently situated for commuters and passers by alike. Once inside, visitors will observe handmade tiles, patterned timber floor and a marble bar. The materials utilised were selected by London based, architecture and interior design firm Universal Design Studio, as a way of incorporating the historic context of Shoreditch as a hub for traditional craftsmanship and skilled trades.
Although relatively small, the deliberately simple design theme creates a feeling of space. This aesthetic flows through the communal areas that adjoin, creating an environment which lends itself to social interaction among patrons. While advantageous for sitting in groups or finding private space to work, limited seating within the cafe and separate communal areas inevitably distance patrons from bar staff – a potential negative. Still, guests at the hotel and customers of the cafe are welcome to sit in the lobby area to meet, read or simply explore the complexities of a fine coffee.
In the wake of this year’s World Barista Championships in Melbourne, coffee bars worldwide have begun experimenting with the Mahlkonig EK-43, the use of which is fast becoming an essential addition to the bar for cafes positioning themselves as a high-end alternative. It was with no surprise then, when upon our visit to Bulldog Edition, we observed an EK-43 being used to grind for both espresso and ‘filter shots.’ Serious coffee enthusiasts may notice that this “EK” at Bulldog Edition has undergone a few modifications. More efficient preparation is enabled by both a smaller hopper, half the size of the standard issue and the dosing chute has been replaced by a mechanism for dosing straight into the portafilter basket. The friendly manager, James Andrews, informed us that the customized grinder is the innovation of Square Mile’s John Gordon (UKBC 2011, 2013) and that further modifications to improve functionality will be tested on site in the coming months.
The majority of the coffee and food menu doesn’t deviate too far from the norm. One addition however, which will inevitably create intrigue is the concept of ‘filter shots.’ That is, filter length shots, extracted at low pressure through the espresso machine. We ordered one such ‘filter shot’ of Square Mile’s Kochere, one of our favourite coffees in recent months. While we’ve personally preferred this coffee prepared using other brew methods in the past, the ‘filter shot’ we enjoyed from Bulldog was undeniably balanced, and ready to serve in less than a minute.
In the course of researching this article we visited Bulldog Edition numerous times, and on each occasion sampled several coffees. All the coffees presented were prepared meticulously with acute attention to detail and by engaging staff. Our only qualm is the degree of separation we felt in the shop’s design scheme between customer and patron; a small quibble in what’s otherwise an excellently executed new coffee bar with friendly, engaging and professional staff. In the endlessly competitive London independent coffee market, consumers have their open choice from an array of cafes. The commitment to quality and consistency we observed at Bulldog Edition is now prerequisite for success.