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Artisanal Coffee: Parcafé at The Dorchester
November 3, 2015
Starbucks may not seem like a natural competitor to The Dorchester, but with the prestigious London hotel having recently opened the doors of its new artisanal coffee shop Parcafé, the comparison is all of a sudden relevant.
Located on Park Lane, just around the corner from the hotel’s main entrance, Parcafé is a surprisingly unassuming venture. Sleek and modern, it eschews most of the traditional trappings of its sibling, the afternoon tea service. With a total of just five seats and some standing room across marble floors and amid flower arrangements, it’s also firmly focused on coffee to go, with Italian La Marzocco coffee machines serving as the room’s centre point.
The coffee comes from south London roaster Alchemy. An espresso proved strong, bitter and flavourful, bucking the trend for fruity, acidic coffee currently popular across most of the city’s independent coffee shops. There’s a small selection of different beans to select from, and the usual array of lattes and flat whites, but the coffee also extends beyond the espresso machine. Filter coffee is available in a Chemex, which resembles little more than some misappropriated lab equipment, but is currently enjoying resurgence among enthusiasts and produces an overall thinner, less oily brew.
Handmade sandwiches make up the bulk of Parcafé’s savoury food offerings. A lime chicken baguette with chilli and coriander was tangy and vibrant, nicely balanced by surprisingly flavourful bread. An artichoke, tomato and pesto offering was less memorable, with acidic tomatoes dominating the palate, though this is still undoubtedly a cut above your typical chain coffee shop grub.
But it’s the sweet stuff that makes Parcafé truly shine, with an almost dizzying selection of muffins, cupcakes and pastries. A white chocolate and cranberry cookie proved the highlight of the visit; soft and chewy, as any good cookie should be, it was perfectly moreish, staying clear of the sickly sweet territory so many white chocolate desserts fall into.
A premium takeaway coffee shop remains a tough proposition. Without lavish surroundings to add value, the food and drink must justify any price inflation on their own merits, and so far Parcafé doesn’t yet excel consistently enough, though it does have the potential to. Where it does stand out is in service, which is entirely in line with The Dorchester’s stellar hotelier reputation. The baristas were warm, friendly and plainly knowledgeable about their coffee, a far cry from the assembly line service of a busy mainstream coffee shop.
The Dorchester name carries with it certain expectations, and while it undoubtedly betters the takeaway coffee behemoths, Parcafé isn’t likely to become a destination in itself. But as self-confessed coffee aficionados, we like the concept, and it’s certainly a strong contender for coffee and cake if you should find yourself ambling down Park Lane.
Words by Dom Preston