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Review of Liverpool Lime Street Station Coffee Shops
Cafe Nero Espresso Bar - Lime Street Station
Commuter coffee at Liverpool Lime Street Station
Liverpool Lime Street Station has two main cafe's; Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee. These are what I would class as 'proper' coffee houses, where the coffee comes first and the food second. Then there are the food first, drinks second establishments; The Upper Crust and Burger King. Finally the food only outlets; The Pasty Shop and M&S Food.
I'm looking at this review from the perspective of a daily commuter (that's me), who is moving fast and who needs a good quality hot drink – regular Americano (sometimes decaf if I'm being good!). Food is secondary requirement but comes into the picture mainly on a Friday, which is special treat day for having gone to work all week.
Caffe Nero Espresso Bar
This is more a coffee kiosk than a coffee shop. With a footprint not much bigger than a phone booth, two cheerful Barista's churn out what seems like a never ending flood of hot drinks to the Liverpool morning workforce. You can barely see the girls (and occasionally guy's) behind the counter, as the coffee machine and food displays leave just about enough room to hand over your cash and loyalty card. In the time it takes to exchange pleasantries, a hand appears over the top of the sandwiches (a la Addams Family Thing) with your steaming Americano and you are on your way.
With no internal space, Nero have cordoned off a small portion of the concourse to sit and sip. Ideal for people watching or taking in the view of the magnificent St Georges Hall through the glass wall of the station. My only criticism of this space is the wicker and steel framed chairs are bit uncomfortable.
Food is limited to a small selection of sandwiches and pastries. The choice is modest but quality is high. I can recommend the Chocolate Twist; naughty but very nice.
The coffee quality is excellent and consistent and the Barista's are unfailingly smiling and cheerful. They genuinely seem to love their job, and it shows.
Nero offer a loyalty card, with ten stamps earning you a free pick from the drinks menu – I always go for the most expensive hot drink – large Mocha and hold the cream, at £2.55 it's pint of pure indulgence.
Rating 5 Stars
Costa have a proper shop with room to sit down. Mostly tables and upright chairs, with a breakfast bar and high chairs facing the window on one side. Alas no view of St Georges Hall this time, only the ample outlines of the barrier guards discussing last night's football.
They too have an external space on the concourse with more high chairs and tables for those wishing to look down upon the customers in the cheap seats around the perimeter fence.
Service is quick – there is always a queue – with a production line of Barista's conveying coffee to the impatient masses. Alas the opportunity for a smile is often missed and banter just doesn't happen. I don't know why, but you get the impression that the staff are not so happy with their lot. It's all very functional and business-like.
Costa have a wide range of food, from hot Panini's to shortcake biscuits with some very tempting cake and pastries thrown in.
The coffee is excellent and can't be faulted.
They too have a loyalty card. This is one of the credit card types that they swipe through the till and you reclaim your points online.
Rating 4 Stars
The Upper Crust
Crusty's as I call them, is lower down the food chain in my estimation. They focus mainly on the food, with a range of Baguettes and Panini's. Hot drinks seem to be a less important sideline. The quality is okay but nothing special, and as they charge similar prices to Costa and Nero they need to up their game. Having said that, they also have a queue in the morning and obviously have their own fans.
They have the biggest internal space with a selection of tables and chairs and also leather easy chairs and coffee tables. I used to wonder why these appealing looking seats were often empty. Then I sat in one and realised why. They may look cosy but are hard and uncomfortable in reality. Crusty's don't have an external space.
The till area is often in need of a dust and doesn't look like it gets cleaned too often, I hope that doesn't apply to the food prep area.
Rating 3 Stars
Well what can I say? I'm pretty sure everyone has sampled their wares at some point or other. Functional and predictable is the word here. Burgers are king and hot drinks are the court jester. You may as well bring a flask of Nescafe if BK was the only act in town.
No internal or external seating. You have to perch on the station concourse seats if you need a sit down.
Rating 2 Stars
Best Coffee Shop at Liverpool Lime Street Station
It's a close thing between Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee. Drink and food quality is excellent. Facilities are better at Costa but that's not always important if all you want is a coffee on the run.
I'm not going to list all the prices because at going to press in November 2012 a regular Americano was £2.50 in pretty much all the establishments with very small price variations. Same goes for other beverages and food. There are cheaper alternatives close to the station but that's for another article.
I have to give my recommendation to Caffe Nero Espresso Bar because of the customer service. No matter who is behind the counter you always get a smile. Even with a queue of impatient commuters they are a model of efficiency. They take time to get to know their customers and often know their order. It's not just about the coffee, it's the attitude of the Barista's that make them winners.
Caffe Nero Espresso Bar
Lime Street Station, Liverpool, England
Liverpool's main line railway station