Wandering through the North Laines on a chilly morning, my colleague and I found ourselves outside The Coffee Counter. We needed to sit down and recaffeinate – it was Monday morning after all. With their concept being ‘great coffee, great service’, we were excited to settle down for a while and we weren’t disappointed. Spending an hour or so working (promise), we watched a steady stream of customers come and go.
The lovely owners, Hayden and Steve, started off only selling coffees. They have become masters of their trade, their lattes in particular are spot on every time, from taste to presentation. They operate a cash only payment system, which is unusual these days. There’s also a fantastic honesty scheme in place in-case a customer has no cash on them. It’s a risky business move but with a focus on community and personal connections to their customers, not a single person has abused the system. The reward scheme for regulars is great too: buy four coffees, get your fifth free! It’s worth it too – the top-secret five-bean blend leaves nothing to be desired.
In the Counter’s infancy, the regulars made suggestions to compile a menu – and the owners listened, so we decide to get a bite to eat. I chose, uncharacteristically, a vegetarian sandwich called the Dimitri (£4.50). Served on toasted sliced bread, packed full of halloumi, sun dried tomatoes, salad and mayo, I really enjoyed the freshness of the ingredients and it filled me up a treat. My colleague is gluten free so Steve concocted a salad from scratch for him: fresh tomatoes, leaves, goat’s cheese, pastrami and sun dried tomatoes. The latter has such gorgeous tasting oil that oozes from them that there isn’t even any need for dressing – the ingredients have it covered.
With hand written menu boards and local artists’ work displayed around the place, there is a homely feel to The Coffee Counter. Steve’s eclectic playlist matches the interior of the place. The mish-mash of furniture takes the eye from a desk stacked with board games and art prints to a hand crafted table, and a range of leather armchairs and a sofa. We nabbed the sofa area next to an old-school TV set, wired up to an Atari Flashback with joysticks and everything. It felt like we were working from home.
The Coffee Counter, Unit 3, 13-16 Vine Street, Brighton
Words by Freya Hughes