Is this railway arch roastery the future of London's coffee scene?

Watch House Roastery takes the meaning of ‘bean counting' to a whole new, glorious level

Coffee cups on the counter of a London roastery.
(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Though the usually teeming streets around Tower Bridge are eerily quiet for a Wednesday morning, there is a small, socially-distancing crowd outside the newly opened Watch House Roastery in Bermondsey. The smell of scientifically-brewed coffee has lured them from their pandemic hideouts.

The space, tucked into one of the railway arches on Maltby Street, is welcoming; despite the urge of this writer to shy away from all forms of non-essential human contact, until the end of time. But Watch House's well-crafted coffee might just tip into the bucket of essentialism. Head of Coffee Ryan Garrick, a self-styled brew nerd, is enthusiastic and knowledgeable; weighing his beans on scales to the milligram, while describing their origin down to the street name.

Coffee beans being turned and roasted

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

He talks about coffee like a sommelier talks about wine; noting the ‘balance of craftmanship and controlled precision' required to make a truly great cup. He's convinced there's a market for exceptional coffee in the UK – think: £14 for a flat white – in the same way as very special wines. Although the price points remain closer to earth for the time being, Garrick (who qualified along with his Watch House team to the World Barrista Championship in Melbourne this year, since postponed by the pandemic) thinks the Maltby Street Roastery is the perfect playground in which to develop these ideas.

After months of rigorous tasting trials, five beans (split into three ‘moods' – Rituals, Ventures and Rarities) are available. The Businde variety from the Rarities collection is of particular note. ‘Coffee blossom, strawberry jam, Assam teaI,' read the tasting notes. To this untrained palate, it simply tastes really good. ‘The average customer might not tell the difference in the same was as a coffee expert might,' says Garrick. ‘But it's about the pursuit of better.'

Coffee product from Watch House Roastery in London

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

The space – which is one part coffee shop three parts experimental laboratory – was designed by London-based architecture and design studio (and Square Mile Coffee veterans) Kirkwood McCarthy. A U-shaped bar made from the same terracotta bricks that scale the walls is an impressive focal point of the arched building, which used to house Monmouth Coffee. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the roaster and training room, giving visitors behind-the-scenes access to the Modern Coffee experience. At the back, a quiet ‘cupping room' is the training ground for Watch House baristas and will be open for customer tastings and workshops as lockdowns ease. The darkened space (a cooling respite from this summer's awkward heat) is separated from the factory floor by wooden sliding doors to create a fully immersive, and safe, experience.

While the Maltby Street flagship is new, there are four other, smaller outposts dotted across the capital; meaning you shouldn't have to travel too far to curb your Watch House craving. If you'd prefer to not leave your house at all, a recently launched subscription coffee service has you covered.

Entrance photo of Watch House coffee shop

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Baristas at work making cups of coffee

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Coffee cups laid out neatly on a wooden table

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Three cups of frothy coffee on a wooden table

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Numbered jars in a black desk drawer

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Barisa aprons hanging up on the wall

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Spacious layout and design of a coffee shop

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Watch House coffee packages on display at the coffee bar

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

Close up view of coffee beans

(Image credit: WatchHouse)

INFORMATION

watchhouse.com (opens in new tab)

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.