Mad about the bean: #4, Matthew Neel, Bear + Wolf

In the last of our series we meet the newest coffee guru to open up shop on Fortess Road

Matthew Neel: ''
Matthew Neel: ‘Coffee meant Gold Blend until I moved to London’. Photo: Juliette Neel

Tell us about your coffee conversion.
Growing up in Shropshire and North Norfolk, “coffee” meant Gold Blend until I moved to London. And even then it took until I was researching for Bear+Wolf and started going to proper barista-led cafes for me to truly lose myself in the bean. Even in and around NW5, places like Bread and Bean, Fields Beneath and Vagabond (on Holloway Road) were all consistently providing these delicious, textured drinks, and anything less became unacceptable.

Talk us through what you serve.
Our house blend is Empire from the Ozone Roastery: they produce a contemporary take on a traditional dark roast which is the way my personal tastes lie. We haven’t changed it at all yet, partly because we wanted to establish a consistent style at the start, and partly because we keep preferring it in tastings.

Airy interior. Photo: B+ W
Airy interior. Photo: Juliette Neel

How do you like your espresso?
For me, the proper way to is to add 8oz of velvety steamed full-fat milk and one brown sugar. Delicious.

What’s been your worst experience so far?
Having to tell Giles Coren I’d run out of coffee on our second morning trading.


And the best?
Getting a delivery of 20 kilos of beans fifteen minutes later.

Matthew Neel: ''
Matthew Neel: ‘I have plans for a second branch. But not yet.’ Photo: Juliette Neel
What else is on the menu?
Full breakfast and brunch, fresh juices and smoothies and a serious cake selection. Best sellers would be our Ultimate Bacon Roll, or the beetroot, apple, carrot, ginger and mint juice. Biggest surprise is how many people there are on Fortess Road on Saturday mornings. Sometimes you wonder where they’re all coming from.

Describe the clientele.
All sorts: we have the Eleanor Palmer Mums after the school run, loads of parents and babies, local businesses, freelancers, writers, actors…and, of course, anyone whose daily routine demands the finest coffee.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
I hear Hackney’s nice.

Any plans for a second branch?
Definitely. But not yet.

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Find Bear + Wolf at 153 Fortess Road NW5. Read our full review here

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