Owner of Edinburgh’s Detour Espresso, Matt Rees, describes himself as a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra).
He fell in love with road cycling nine years ago, but his second passion is coffee.
Rees combined them both to open Detour Espresso on Argyle Place, Marchmont, back in the summer of 2018. This coffee shop has “something of a cycling vibe”, with a road bike mounted on the wall and themed prints by local artists, alongside a counter of Kilted Doughnuts wares, cakes and pastries.
On November 19, he opens a second branch at 348 Morningside Road, in the former premises of Stewart Travel. As well as the usual flat whites, mocha and hot chocolate, it will offer filter coffee (or batch brew) for just £1.
“Our focus is on coffee and we take great pride in trying to give people the best cup we can”, says Rees. “This means working with different roasters, paying attention to extractions and ratios - all the nerdy stuff”.
There will also be food, including soup, vegan daal, toasties, cinnamon buns, banana bread, rocky road and the other cakes you may be familiar with if you’ve visited the original Marchmont venue. Although the staff were furloughed there during lockdown, Rees managed to keep it open, adapting to restrictions by serving from the door. Despite that experience, he still wanted to expand.
“It was a bit of a nightmare and looking back I’m not quite sure how we got through it”, he says. “Coming out of lockdown there was a sense of it being time to ‘go big or go home’. It’s a risk, as the things that are worth doing usually are, but we felt there was something good about Detour and we wanted to see if we could grow it and transplant it. We’re about to find out if we were right”.
They’ve gone for a contemporary monochrome look for the new space, in contrast to the natural wood in the old branch. There’s a wall of white tiles, a cool curved coffee bar and low slung pedant lights. It’s modern, but they’ve still made the most of the building’s features.
“When we went into the new unit none of the original surfaces were visible. We took the plaster off the wall to discover beautiful brick and stonework, and discovered extra height and cornicing under the suspended ceiling”, says Rees. “However, when we took the chipboard and carpet tiles up, we found rotten original joists that needed replacing. There have been lots of challenges but we think it’s been worth it”.
Although there are already great coffee shops on Morningside Road, from Soderberg to Blackwood, Detour Espresso hopes to attract a regular customer base who will visit for the relaxed atmosphere and good chat.
“We are known in Marchmont for our friendly vibe - we know so many people by their name and their drink”, says Rees. “We pick up conversations that started the day before and it’s no exaggeration to say there’s a community that’s grown around the shop. We’re looking forward to getting to know Morningside and we hope we can nurture something of the same”.