Sensory Lab has joined a select few independent London cafes that direct their focus on single origin filter coffees. Like the Melbourne venture, coffee is the star of the show and Director of Operations Tim Styles has designed an open, inviting space that removes the barriers between barista and customer. Styles says the idea is for staff to be expert but “un-intrusive” and be able to answer any questions customers might throw at them. Education is important and once the cafe is more established, Styles plans to hold tastings and classes at Sensory Lab.

At the brew station, customers can watch a barista prepare syphon, aeropress or simple filter coffee from a menu that changes weekly. The emphasis is on the beans’ origin, with options such as syphon-brewed San Jose Red Bourbon from El Salvador available. Traditionalists can choose an espresso-based coffee from a pared-down menu – there’s no flat white, but the latte ticks all the boxes for an excellent espresso with milk.

Beans come from Sensory Lab’s sister operation, the new St Ali outpost in Clerkenwell, which has been so successful since its April opening that its kitchen is being extended for the third time. Other suppliers include London roaster Square Mile, and Has Bean from Staffordshire in the UK, satisfying Styles’ belief that local is best.

“We went with Square Mile and Has Bean to start with, as they're (relatively) local roasters, each with different coffees, but both executing to a very high standard,” says Styles. “We'll look at bringing coffee in from other roasters such as Tim Wendelboe (Norway), The Coffee Collective (Denmark), Intelligentsia (US) and so on from time to time, but want to help reiterate the importance of buying coffee from local purveyors.”

You’ll find Sensory Lab a block or so behind Bond Street Station on the west side of the city, an area traditionally short in quality coffee, espresso or otherwise. Coffee-starved neighbours eager to make the most of Sensory Lab’s arrival on Wigmore Street include the nearby Monocle office, which bodes well for the cafe’s fortunes.

London’s specialty coffee push has been credited in a large part to the constant wave of coffee-savvy Antipodeans who come to live in the English capital. Cafes serving specialty coffee are even usually labelled with this ‘Antipodean’ tag. Five years ago, Tim says, it was only Australians working in third wave cafes, but he’s quick to defend London’s growing coffee pedigree.

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In recent years London has produced two world champion baristas, Square Mile’s James Hoffman (2007) and Gwilym Davies in 2009, and has witnessed a growing energy take hold in its coffee scene. Sensory Lab’s arrival in London adds to the buzz and is a boon for coffee lovers in the capital.

Sensory Lab
75 Wigmore St, London
Mon to Fri 7am–7pm
Sat to Sun 9am–5pm