Nestling in leafy Mossley Hill, Espresso Plus makes the extra effort to bring a community together with a mix of events, imaginative food and some great tasting coffee. Plus one other secret ingredient: table service.
Owner Tim Gray says that with most local coffee establishments feeling the pressure from big brand franchises, an independent coffee shop has to offer something to set itself apart.
“There’s two Costas just a short walk away from here to compete with. But the procedure over there just involves going up, getting your drink and leaving. It’s why our customers like the fact that after ordering from us, they are also seated and served at the table.”
Tim may have the manner of a born raconteur, but his background wasn’t always as a restauranteur. Following art college, specialising in printing and packaging, he worked in food packaging for clients including Kellogg’s and Marks & Spencer.
“The work paid well and involved a lot of travelling. But I’d decided to step it down a little. My wife owned a wine bar previous to this business.
“We’ve had 12 years. At first the place was almost like a tea shop. It was much smaller and narrower, with a tiny kitchen and could only fit about 20 seats! It wasn’t licensed like it is today, or have outdoor seating. It’s now doubled in size.”
So much so that Espresso Plus is now a favoured local spot for coffee breaks, hearty breakfasts and lunch. Espresso Plus hosts ladies who lunch, cricketers from Sefton Park Cricket Club, where Tim plays, and students alike – the latter on their short walk to Liverpool College. And although his daughter Anna manages the front of house, Tim still makes the effort to show up often and say hello.
“People do like you being around,” says Tim, who can be found moving from table to table most mornings as customers tuck into breakfasts of Full Englishes and healthier options such as smoked salmon. Lunchtime menus swap the carbs for lighter bites, including smashed avocado with pumpkin seeds, and a Big Fat Greek Pita, complete with humous and tzatziki. Budding cage fighters – there’s one in the kitchen smashing avocados when he’s not smashing heads – can opt for ‘protein pancakes’ topped with honey, peanut butter, Nutella.
Although it closes its doors at 5pm weekdays, 6pm Fridays and 4pm on Sundays Espresso Plus stays open late for occasional event nights. Monthly wine tasting sessions, at £25 per head, include a four-course meal and variety of reds and whites – presented by Tim himself. As a well-travelled enthusiast, the host offers visitors something different with a unique theme each night.
“I always try to make it as interesting as possible by introducing to people wines they wouldn’t normally buy. Our German wine tasting night for example included Eiswein, which is grown from frozen grapes in North Germany to give it a very sweet and rich taste. The feedback we get from the customers means more join in the next time round – our last one had the place packed out with about 70 people.”
Tim also brings in local stand-up comedians for a monthly comedy night.
“They all have own styles; some comics can be slightly weird but can still work the crowd a little bit, while some guys just get up and tell simple jokes. We’ve even had a 15 year old girl from Wigan a couple of times. She was a bit near the knuckle, but hilarious! No matter who we get, I do admire them all for getting up there.”
It’s these personal touches that make Espresso Plus a consistently popular neighbourhood hang-out in Mossley Hill. It’s an integral part of the community; more than a service. And a mile away from the glum line-shuffling wait for a Flat White.
Espresso Plus173 Rose Lane,