Lager was for city slickers, wine was drunk sweet and therefore for women, and coffee was always powdered. Yet, several decades on, the rugby playing people of the shaky isles has not only developed a reputation as a producer of fine wines (pinot noir and sauvignon blanc) but also as the home of a bona fide coffee culture. Even as I write, this sounds absurd.
However, a million or so Flat Whites later, and the kiwi coffee shop is a fixture on the London eating and drinking scene. The latest entrant is Ozone Coffee Roasters in Shoreditch. Hailing from unfashionable New Plymouth (think of Bournemouth with better surf), Ozone has taken over a nondescript office block and converted into a Lower East Side meets Old Street warehouse-styled space. Distressed and unvarnished woods, industrial steel, exposed brickwork and breezeblock booths add to the edgy Shoreditch feel. Split over two levels, the upstairs has a bar / kitchen at its centre point, surrounded by stool-bound diners, while the room is framed by the booths. American diner with a UK twist. Downstairs are even more tables, a private dining room space, and an industrial coffee grinder, which the English-born, Kiwi-convert manager told me was from Germany. (As with their cars, apparently they’re best in class.)
The Northerner went for the chickpea and lentil cake with fennel, orange, red pepper, pine nut and mixed seeds. The cakes were subtle in flavor, slightly dry, and possibly lacking the orange sharpness we might have expected, but were good nevertheless. I tried the pan fried-cod on warm green bean, roasted pepper, and baby corn and fennel salad with a side of chips. This was nicely done, although might have benefitted from more seasoning. The chips were superb. I washed it down with a glass of house white, which was dry rather than sweet, so good enough. We followed with the house specialty, the flat whites, which were superb.
The punters were mostly City / Shoreditch types, and the queue out the door indicated how quickly Ozone’s reputation has spread. As we settled up, one of the owner’s told us that they see Ozone as more of a shop window to their real business of roasting coffee beans. Which perhaps explains why the service, despite being warm and friendly, was a little inconsistent. But Ozone is neither a restaurant nor a bar, it’s a coffee roasters, and on the evidence we saw, pretty good at it. However, given its stunning interiors and natural charm on top of their kiwi propensity for reinvention, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where it ends up. One can only hope.