Penny Lane and the southern end of Smithdown Road has, peculiarly, lacked much in the way of cafes over the last couple of decades. As one of the city’s most visited areas, amid plenty of students, young professionals and tourists with cash to flash, this is a strange state of affairs. We’re happy to report that it was worth the wait: Bean There Coffee Shop is the friendly, neighbourhood cafe we’ve all been waiting for.
With an emphasis on very good coffee and very tasty, simple food Bean There has forged a recipe for success. Coffee is a serious business at Bean There. They use Atkinson’s Coffee, a Lancaster based speciality roaster and make a feature of their single-origin pour overs – this is real coffee purity. These heady brews are made to order with your choice of beans.
The water has more time to come in contact with the grounds, making a richer and more flavourful brew – a bespoke cup of coffee that’s a little different every time. No wonder you’ll find Bean There in this year’s Independent Coffee Guide. Just skip the milk and sugar, eh?
There are fried breakfasts and later in the day there are are excellent wraps and sandwiches, salad bowls and burgers. The homemade scotch eggs and sausage rolls are a favourite of ours. Don’t think of the sad efforts you see in Greggs shops windows here though.
And these burgers are stuffed to bursting, oozing sauce and stickiness: massaman curried beef burger with mango chutney and house slaw; grilled halloumi burger with sweet potato hummus, roast Mediterranean veg and pesto mayonnaise; salt and pepper chicken burger with Asian salsa and soy glaze.
Hearing Candice talk about losing the first venue they thought they’d secured, then juggling jobs and a family with setting up a brand new business reminds us a little of the personal odysseys often outlined in an episode of Grand Designs.
There’s much more too in terms of those salad bowls, plus sandwiches (including chicken Po’ Boys), a superb scotch egg, sausage rolls (pork and apples; mushroom and walnut; cauliflower with feta, sweet potato and pomegranate – we’ll sign any petition to bring back the Moroccan lamb, date and pistachio however) and plenty of beverages. Let’s not forget the pastries, fancies, teacakes and banana breads either.
It’s all homemade and although it feels very now – big proteiny salad bowls are side-by-side with dirty burgers and there’s an authenticity to this food.
Inside? Well, think Scandi showroom and airy art gallery crossed with a mostly-built set. It’s a little rough and ready, but it amplifies the sense that you’re in a more personal, cosy space. Plenty of space for kids to run around, but it’s a great place to work too, watching the world go by at the end of Penny Lane.
In this sense, Bean There Coffee Shop reminds us a little of the hangouts further down Smithdown Road, such as Naked Lunch, Craft Taproom and Evil Eye. All these venues have the imprint of real people and they’re all the better for it.
That may be because founders Candice and Andrew are a couple with backgrounds in teaching and mechanical engineering. Like us, they attended university in Liverpool and stayed. They might have lacked a background in hospitality, but is it possible that this can be an advantage?
The likes of Bean There Coffee Shop would certainly suggest as much. Hearing Candice talk about losing the first venue they thought they’d secured, then juggling jobs and a family with setting up a brand new business reminds us a little of the personal odysseys often outlined in an episode of Grand Designs.
Andrew describes how he sketched out a business plan for Bean There Coffee Shop on a flight back from a business trip. And having made the decision, the couple threw themselves into making the cafe a reality, despite the oncoming patter of tiny feet. The plywood aesthetic inside is testament to Andrew’s skill in knocking up counters, tables and the treelike book shelf that dominates the main room.
That style carries through to a second room, where there’s space for kids to run around and for homeworkers keen to get a caffeine fix while answering emails. With a cheerful staff and constant influx of new customers, there’s a bright, welcoming feel to the cafe.
Still it’s not all about the coffee. Recent events have included a high tea while watching Bake Off live, open-mics, craft shares and film nights (burger, veg fries and shake/wine/beer for a tenner).
With the food-and-drink basics ship shape, the incremental development of later hours, a drinks license and wider entertainment offerings are a positive sign. Bean There Coffee Shop is a grand design indeed and we wish it had been there all the time we’ve lived in the city.
Bean There Coffee Shop376 Smithdown Road