Whining & Dining is Trident Media’s food critique column. The name does not necessarily reflect the content of the article.
[Tom Boon | Contributing Writer]
With coffee being the second most traded commodity on earth, with more and more people flocking to grab a latte each day, Starbucks have opened a new concept store. Based in the Covent Garden region of London, to compete with the growing artisan coffee sector. Dubbed “Star Reserve”, the outside of the store looks like any other Starbucks in Britain, however, it all changes when you walk through the door.
Waiters stand in the entrance ready to hand you a menu, and escort you to a seat. I feel that despite the added a level of class, it’s somewhere I’d go for a casual coffee. Looking around, there were a mixture of businessmen and women, students just finished for the day, and tourists popping into the store especially before a night in the west end. It looks clean, modern, and fresh. Every little detail had great thought put into it by the company, from the interior decor, right up to complimentary phone chargers for customers. The menu has the core Starbucks offerings, with the addition of some more unique and luxury items.
After first looking at the menu, I ordered a 3 shot Madagascan Vanilla Latte, made with whole milk, as well as a ham and cheese toasted sandwich. My order was taken by a waiter with a tablet, and I paid via the Starbucks app on my phone. I never even removed my wallet from my pocket. Unlike most stores where a cheese and ham sandwich is taken out of a packet and toasted, I could see my order being made with fresh ingredients in store, with the welcome addition of caramelised onions and a small side salad.
Of course running a store like this comes at a cost, and the menu reflects this, being slightly more expensive than what people are used to, with some cups of coffee costing in excess of £5, including the pour over coffee I tried. This takes into consideration the skill of the employees working at the store, as well as the expensive equipment being used.
Obviously this store is a world away from the Starbucks in the forum, so we spoke to a student to find out what they thought of the new concept. Zoë Garnish, a second year Dietetics student, said: “[the store] looks cool and modern. I like the massive cosy chairs.” When asked about which store she preferred, she said “I like the salad [from the toasted sandwich]. I think it cost £6, however I would only pay £4. I would rather that than the forum’s current offerings.” However, on the topic of the mugs and cups, she commented “I prefer the normal cups. I know what I’m getting in a Starbucks cup.”
Whilst I think this store is quirky, and definitely an intriguing addition to the coffee scene, I won’t be frequenting the store due to the effort involved traveling there. However, If there was a Star Reserve in Hertfordshire, I’d likely make the effort to visit it. Overall, I’d say Starbucks are onto a winner, and I’d love to see the idea expanded across Britain.
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Images: Tom Boon