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Better latte than never

A school run by Glasgow coffee specialist Matthew Algie will not turn you into a barista over night, but in a few hours you can certainly earn a degree of expertise in espresso.

Words: Barry Shelby

Next time you order a cappuccino. a latte or something similar ~‘ expecting a supreme brew and instead receive bitter. foul-tasting swill. return to the counter and kindly suggest they attend coffee school. Coffee school'.’ Yep: courses are regularly held in Glasgow and London under the auspices of local roaster and distributor Mathew Algie. In conjunction with the Scottish Hotel School in (ilasgow and Butlers Wharf (‘hcf School. London. it has trained over 1000 people. Although most of the pupils are customers from places like the Savoy. Pret a Manger. Tinderbox and the (‘rief Hydro. classes are open. Anyone with more than a passing interest will come away with a greater appreciation for the craft of making good cappuccinos.

(‘harles Dickens wrote of mixing punch in ()ur Mutual Friend: 'However particular you may be in allotting your materials. so much will depend upon the individual gifts. and there being a feeling thrown into it.’ The same could be said about making proper espresso. (iood beans are a necessary but insufficient condition. As Brian McGregor. divisional director for Mathew Algie. explains. it‘s the beans. the machine and the operator which are key. And he emphasises that bad practises are the leading cause of dodgy coffees.

Tamp. tap and twist are but three of the eighteen steps McGregor dashes through in his demonstration of how to make the perfect shot of espresso. McGregor clearly spends time in the field. showing budding baristas how it's done. Many of his sentences


62 THE lIST 24 Aug—5] Sep 2000

'Our desire is for people to send back a bad cup. We want people to love great coffee and seek it out.’

If you see this your coffee could be all wrong

are punctuated with a punchy rhetorical interrogative - ‘y'ezili‘.” ‘lt is essential that the porta-filter be kept locked on the machine. Yeah.” he says. ‘The passionate barista will always be busy cleaning and tidying his machine. Yeah‘."

Passion is a word that might sound out of place but it crops up throughout coffee school. Both McGregor and his teaching partner at a recent course. PR chief Andrew Paxton McMillian. bring sincere enthusiasm to their product. They know they occasionally go overboard. conscious of a certain pseudo—religious fervour that raises a wry chuckle. Yet. when you see and taste the espresso they tease out of the shiny lilektra machine. some of the more cringe-worthy coffee babble such as ‘the espresso cxperience‘. ‘frothing performance’ and ‘micro bubble lattice’ is forgivable.

In addition to learning about how coffee is harvested. processed and roasted. the school will send you away a better consumer. wary of the bad habits that contribute to cruddy cappuccinos. For example. the metal scoop in which the ground coffee goes (aka the ‘porta-filtei”) should always be locked on the machine. where circulating hot water keeps it toasty. Also. the steam wand that froths the milk should

never sit in a jug of cleaning solution. Spy either of

these practises and you can expect a substandard cuppa. Sure. this sounds pernickety: but a cold porta- filter can ruin the espresso. while back—flow up the wand will draw liquid into the boiler. which taints any water ejaculated from the machine. As sortie places charge £3 for so-callcd speciality coffee. why shouldn't the buyer be aware'.’

(‘offee culture seems stuck to us. The (‘osta cafe chain sees the (ilasgow/lidinburgh market as second only to London in the [‘K. Should a shakcdown occur. it would be nice to think the poorer purveyors will be put out of business. Know your coffee. ‘()ur desire is for people to send back a bad cup.‘ McUregor says. ‘We want people to love great coffee and seek it out.‘ But. he sighs. ‘a huge amount of education still needs to take place.‘

Anyone interested in attending the Matthew Algie Coffee School should contact the company on 0800 263 333. The course costs £25.

Side dishes Rick's

HAVING OPENED ON 11 August, Rick’s has defied the received Wisdom about never launching an enterprise in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival. The £2 million venue is the latest from Montpeliers Edinburgh Ltd, whose other successful capital ventures include Favorit, Iguana, and, of c0urse, the flagship Montpeliers bistro in Bruntsfield Place. This l80-seat restaurant and bar on Frederick Street is the leisure-retail company‘s largest investment so far; and it includes ten rooms for overnight guests, as well.

Mimicking Ian Schrager's first landmark ’anti-hotel' Morgans in Manhattan Rick’s follows soit With minimal signage at the door, YOU know yOu have found the place by the six- foot steel and glass column Illuminated from Within and some discrete plaques on steps to the front door, The design, by Malcolm Fraser Architects (responsible for the recent Bann uk make-over as well as the new Cafe Odile in the Stills Gallery and three branches of Pizza Express), has taken a derelict Georgian warehouse and one- time Italian restaurant and literally placed it in a completely new light. The separate areas are defined and linked largely by their lighting, both natural and artifiCial, which was co-ordinated by Kevm Shaw The restaurant, with dark walnut furniture and leather seating, is softly lit, while the ceiling above the fifteen metre lOng bar of red marble is bathed in a rather more dramatic glow.

Food is served all day from two large, eclectic menus Breakfast dishes include steak, fried egg and onion rosti potatoes (£6.85) and sugar grilled figs vvith cinnamon mascarpone cream (£3.60. The evening selections range from grilled entrecote bernaise (£12 85) or fresh tuna with coriander mash and crispy onions (£10 95) to duck With stir-fried noodles, coriander and lemon grass (£7 95> and green Thai vegetable curry and Jasmine rice «£7.80‘l Oysters and other crustacea such as lobster and langoustine are available at market prices throughout the day and into the evening Rooms are £90 per night.

Rick ’5, 55a Frederick Street, Edinburgh, 622 7800

Rick's has 180 seats and tea rooms for overnight stays