Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Ever since I've been on a diet I've stopped having sugar or other sweeteners in my coffee when I go out to cafes. Interestingly enough, once you take sugar out of the equation it becomes very apparent when you are fobbed off with an inferior latte. Good coffee tastes better and bad coffee tastes like a car wreck.

As others have noted, the quality of a coffee depends more on the barista than on the beans or the espresso machine. A good barista can make a drinkable coffee by hitting wet, stale grounds with a hammer. A bad barista can take the finest beans and run them through the most expensive machine and still get something that looks and tastes like a caffeinated oil slick. This would explain why the Dome franchises tend to turn out wretched coffee despite using good beans and state-of-the-art machines - it's a natural result of putting a ditzy student behind the controls rather than a seasoned professional.

Fortunately I know a few good places where the man or woman at the espresso machine can be relied upon to produce good coffee. Food For Me in Victoria Park. Urban Star in Northbridge. Ned's in Nedlands. And The Imp in Victoria Park.

The Imp opened a few months ago, and it’s quickly filled a niche in the local coffee market by offering excellent coffee in a stylish environment. There are plenty of chic establishments which offer style but not good coffee, and a couple which offer good coffee but not style, but only The Imp seems to manage both. The surprising thing is that the industrial/luxe interior (a blend of rough brick and poured concrete contrasting with polished wood and designer wallpaper) is not the creation of a commercial design consultant, but something the owners came up with and mostly did themselves. They deserve a big warm bucket of kudos for that alone.

They also offer a range of newspapers and upmarket magazines, and they actually have opening hours that cover the times when I want a coffee. For example I had a late afternoon coffee there with a friend on Saturday, at a time when places like Food For Me and 868 Gourmet had closed. The coffee was so good that I couldn't stop drinking flat whites, and as a result when I finally got home I was twitching and jittery.

So it’s a chic place selling great coffee at all hours within easy reach of my house – thus far all is bliss. But what is their Achilles Heel? Where are these guys falling down?

To answer that question, one need only order some food. The food is bad. The muffins are rubbery. The poached eggs are cooked solid. The fruit bread is salty - how that even begins to happen is beyond me. The cakes and pastries are generally okay, presumably because they are shipped in from somewhere else. Anything prepared on the premises tastes like it was made by aliens unfamiliar with the nuances of human food.

I'd feel guilty about criticising the food at The Imp but for two considerations. One, the food really is terrible, easily the worst I've ever had at an urban cafe. Two, the place is always packed. Even if this review hits the top of the google searches for "The Imp", it's not exactly going to drive them into bankruptcy. I've never been in there at any time of the day or night and been the only customer there.

I’m certainly going to keep going there for first-rate coffee. I just won’t eat their food. Which makes my diet a lot easier, so it all turns out well in the end.


Anonymous Prudence says said...

Wander down Broadway a bit further to La Galette - if the tall blond barista is on, you're guaranteed a spectacular coffee, and try the almond croissants. Which probably have enough calories for several days of diet, but so worth it!

9:05 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

Thanks Prudence, I'm always on the lookout for new places. I'll be sure to give it a try.

12:24 PM  
Blogger 2BarRiff said...

Since getting one of these bad boys for Christmas, I've found most purchased coffees to be sub par.

2:09 PM  
Blogger TimT said...

OOH! Bitch comment BREWING! Isn't inferior latte a tautology?

Hmm, actually wasn't that bitchy in the end. I usually dislike lattes - more milk than coffee - but they can go well sometimes. But yeah, coffee without sugar is pretty much compulsory, I reckon.

Almond croissants = SO DELICIOUS!

8:31 AM  

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