McKechnies is a comfy independent coffee shop which opens out onto historic Stratford’s market place.
Stratford, as we all know, is Shakespeare’s birthplace and spiritual home of England’s thespians. It’s also a tourist trap, and, as I paid it in a visit during a very sunny half term holiday, it was pretty darn busy.
So it was nice to get away from it all and sit in McKechnies.
It’s an award-winning coffee shop, having snapped up, amongst other things, a local “best café” title in 2008. The the atmosphere is very relaxed and friendly. I must admit I thought the interior was fairly drab. I suppose it’s the sort of place you’d expect on a busy street in a touristy town (my girlfriend was horrified when I told her I’d be writing this — she thought it was lovely).
There are pictures of latte art on the walls (and on the website, which describes the skills required of McKechnies’ baristas). Behind the counter is a sign which shows the temperature to which the coffee is brewed, and it says that if customers want it a bit hotter they only have to ask. Whilst coffee is at its best served not too hot, I know that some people like it piping, so it’s a considerate touch.
It’s always a good sign when a coffee shop sources its coffee from a renowned roastery, and McKechnies’ comes from the very highly regarded James’ Gourmet Coffee Company (http://www.jamesgourmetcoffee.co.uk/).
Unfortunately, my latte was just a little disappointing. Afterwards, I got in touch with Beth and Toby, the owners, and they said it’s what their customers, who are used to the chains, have come to expect. Apparently angry comments can ensue if the latte doesn’t live up to the Starbucks model! It’s that tricky balance between commercial reality and coffee purity.
Beth suggests that next time I try a cappuccino, which is their speciality drink (the picture of the latte art was one of Beth’s cappuccinos). She and Toby have spent a lot of time working on their coffee with the help of Peter James (of James’ Gourmet Coffee Co). Clearly, McKechnies is run by people who are passionate about coffee.
The tea (according to my girlfriend) is excellent and the food is locally sourced, which is fantastic.
It’s always a delight to stumble across a really good independent coffee shop. With hindsight, I didn’t make the most of my brief visit, and I have an urge to return.
37 Rother Street
We visited on 29 May 2009.