I was at Starbucks. It was gloomy. It’s wet season once again here in the Philippines and nothing makes me blissful during rainy days more than a cup of extra hot coffee, a pen and a notepad to write my thoughts on. And then I had this random thought of doing something new for my blog by making a coffee shop review series. It would pretty much serve my interests, I imagined, since I love coffee, writing, blogging, trying out new things, photography and discovering places!
So this monsoon season, join me as I take on a pleasurable adventure of trying out alternative and budding coffee shops that are waiting to be discovered just yet. Welcome to the awesome journey that is Bry is Bipolar Café Reviews!
First in line is this new café that is not so far from my place: City Cakes Coffee and Pastries.
People from Caloocan surely know how traffic-congested places near Monumento Circle can be even during not-so-rush hours. This café located along Samson Road corner Francisco Street offers a much-needed retreat from the hustle and bustle of the busy metropolis.
The Place and Ambiance
The place is relatively small compared to others but it sparks intimacy between a reader and a book, a writer and his pen, a lover with his sweetheart, a thinker with his thoughts, and a coffee-drinker with his, well, coffee! Despite foreign RnB music playing in the background, the ambiance creates a certain kind of silence and calmness conducive for impromptu studying and focused reading that mainstream coffee chains like Starbucks rarely offer. With only one barista and a few crews, it may take three to eight minutes before your order is served—just enough for a little browsing over their newspaper and magazine rack or internet surfing made possible by their free and speedy wifi connection. There are two parking slots right in front of the shop. Upon entrance, you are greeted by the lovely barista and some eight small tables and chairs, three couches, and city-themed wall frames all accentuated with a brown-orange motif. Unlike in some cafés that intentionally make the room extremely chilly as a subtle way of driving away overstaying customers, their air conditioning units make the room adequately and relaxingly cold.
Coffee and Food
In my first visit here, I tried their 16oz cup of Hot Cappuccino with brownies on the side. Unlike in other shops where they use sugar granules, they make sure the sweetness suits your preference by letting you add the sugar syrup yourself. For the hardcore coffee guzzlers who always crave for more caffeine, I recommend adding extra shots of espresso for 20 pesos each. The cappuccino I had turned cold quickly so perhaps I shall get an extra hot on my next visit. The brownies I tried have a very crumbly and sufficiently sweet top layer which complements the coffee well. It is interesting to know that they actually bake the pastries themselves. In fact you can even watch the bakers/ pastry chefs while they do their thing. The whole crew seemed very nice and friendly.
One of the leads of City Cakes Coffee and Pastries is that it is both a coffee shop and a restaurant. Aside from the coffee and pastries, they also have sandwiches, pasta and non-coffee based drinks such as juice. The influx of people, I observed, isn’t all that high. During my stay, there were only about two to three people who would come in every ten minutes. This is actually a good thing especially if you want to maintain the stillness of the atmosphere. Such isn’t really feasible in busy cafés where yammering, inconsiderate people can drain all your patience and focus on what you are doing. It can be a good study spot for students from nearby universities and colleges like University of the East- Caloocan, Manila Central University and AMA- Caloocan College. This is also a great hangout place for the comfort-seeking stress eaters and those who have sweet tooth. You will surely get lost amidst the variety of their sweet eats.
For more photos of their pastries, go visit their FB Fanpage: http://www.fb.com/citycakesph
Value for Money
The prices aren’t exorbitantly high even for those who don’t have income just yet. I got my cappuccino for only 95 pesos and the brownies for 28 pesos. This is not bad especially if you make the most out of them by enjoying the food, the place, the music and by being productive in whatever you are trying to accomplish.
There’s nothing really wrong with their service although I wish the barista had established rapport among the customers. Starbucks and other popular coffee chains are very keen on this since it plays a big role in forming customer experience. When baristas call you by your name, ask you about your day, compliment on how nice you look, they really try to create rapport and once it is effectively established, they can turn people into regular customers. Surely, the barista at City Cakes can work on this.
Opportunities to Work On
As a multimedia arts student, though, I could not help but notice the colors used on the menu. The designer/ layout artist could have used highly contrasting colors to make the text distinct from the background and make it more readable. The menu is also mounted behind glass with incandescent lighting right above it making everything glaring and hard to read. A matte printout of the menu can solve this problem. Moreover, they can purchase new issues of magazines since most of those in their rack are back copies. Online presence and activities especially in social networks will definitely help City Cakes become more visible to its target market.
Overall, my first visit in City Cakes was a good experience. It’s nice that I have finally started what was just a random concept I thought of during my hypomanic periods. City Cakes is undoubtedly a neophyte in an arena where competitiveness is crucial but it strives to be at par with the well-established cafés. The willingness is very evident and it would not be a wonder if they make it far. To its people and the management, I say, “Kudos and way to go!” It’s great to have started BiB Café Reviews with you!