I’m starting this months review with a review of the high street chain Nero. As the first coffee shop mum used to take my brother and I when we were young for our morning hot chocolates, I think this is a good place to start this written coffee journey. Starting with Nero is also a way to ease in this new segment and because it’s the one I visit, on average, the most in my everyday life. It’s a recognisable high street chain (probably the only one I will ever review). In my opinion, it is the best POPULAR HIGHSTREET CHAIN coffee shop in London.
I’ve always preferred the aesthetic of Nero to that of other chain coffee shops. It’s classic, not too modern, like Starbucks. And it’s not too basic, like Costa (which has more of a pub atmosphere in my opinion – I only go there if I absolutely have no choice). The, darker wood and blues in Nero, as well as the music, which is usually instrumental or jazz, gives it more of a calming feel, which is what you want when you’re trying to focus on work or conduct a business meeting.
Usually, the staff are quite friendly (save for a few experiences I’ve had in Brixton and Windsor), and the staff are very often (but not always and its definitely not a necessity) Italian. That might be changing now due to Brexit, but it does give the place a more authentic feel.
For me, Nero is one of the best Coffee shops to study at when you’re pushed for time. It’s easy to find, with one on almost every decent high street, with plenty of plugs for laptops. They aren’t as visible as places like Costa and Starbucks which are everywhere, including Motorway service stations and the worst high street is more likely to have those than a Nero. This isn’t great if you (like me) think Costa and Starbucks coffees are trash, but, in a way, it makes them more elite, and I can appreciate that.
It’s not a foody stop, though. Nero doesn’t have a vast range of food, unless you like bread and pastry, nor do they do big complicated brunches. But, aside from the pastries, cakes and paninis, they have salads, soups and, now, a vegan sausage roll if you want something healthier, and their soup is more seasoned and hearty than others I had from their rivals.
Now for a reason, it’s being included on this blog at all: the coffee. It’s excellent. Now, I’m not pretending that it’s on the same level as one of the more niche artisan coffee shops – because it’s not- but it is, by far, much better coffee than what their competitors are serving. It’s strong enough to actually be called coffee and doesn’t have that malted bread taste of the syrups that some of the coffee shop drinks have. The coffee isn’t weak, and even their latte’s aren’t as milky others on the market, which if you’re a heavy coffee drinker like me, is a definite plus.
They also do non-dairy milk now, like many others. They were the last to start doing them but thank-god they did. They have oat, coconut, almond and soy. They don’t do lactose-free dairy however, which is one downside, so if you want a cup of English tea, you may have to suffer the gut ache, unfortunately, but it is still a good start.
They’re also very open to custom order drinks, my large, caramel cappuccino, with coconut milk, rarely lets me down and they treat their regulars well.
On the downside though, it’s not Instagram worthy (even though I have taken an Instagram pic there for this post. It’s not pretty or heavily decorated or themed, but it is practical, and it does exactly what a big high street chain should. Nero is my favourite popular coffee chain, so if you’re around London and are in a struggle for time, need a quiet place to study, to read, to hold a meeting, to catch up, or if you are simply in desperate need of a coffee on the go, Nero is always the better opinion.