With an industrial-styled space that might have been stolen from a web start-up, Cup One is a minimalist lounge far from the identikit rent-a-couch coffee shops around town. The design makes a strong impression; dominating bay windows look out over the oblong Wangjing SOHO landscape, while muted tones colour the enormous, multi-levelled interior. Some might call it corporate; we think it’s got a lot of polished cool.
The standard roster of coffee drinks (22-35RMB) is delivered by hoodie-sporting wait staff, and Cup One raises the hip factor with a small selection of single-origin beans in hand-ground pour-overs. This puts the café in a higher league for coffee aficionados, but our natural Yirgacheffe brew (58RMB) felt like a sampler – a glass vase of weak, mild brew. Nevertheless, the little cup of light, nutty roast was enough to jump-start our afternoon. It’s easily followed up with one of a decent range of smoothies and milkshakes.
Cup One’s food menu is fairly extensive, highlighted by a number of tapas options portioned for in-between meals. Wispy slices of prosciutto (48RMB) clamour for space with sweet tomatoes, a dollop of pointed horseradish, and feta on a pillow of soft, crusty bread. But what we thought was a chicken wrap (38RMB) came off more like a fajita in need of more spice; three fist-sized triangles folded with stringy cheese alongside a bowl of diced tomatoes that was akin to a forgettable pico de gallo.
Larger dishes suggest bistro tendencies, with dishes from pasta and rice all the way up to duck confit and rib-eye steak.The kick-back attitude is perhaps the real draw. It’s more design studio than living room, but it’s easy to sink into one of the couches for an hour or two.
By Sean Silbert