REVIEW ASKEW #2- Openfit Coffee x Spuds, Hockley, Nottingham
Sure, they do coffee and jacket potatoes, but they don't settle regional debates...
I want to buy a camera. Now that might seem to be a strange place to start a coffee shop review, but bear with me, it’ll make less sense the further we go. (And that is the right ‘bear’, I checked).
My mind filled with sensor sizes, crop factors, manual settings and ease of access therein, I needed a quiet little spot to thumb through ebay and dpreview. My objective was Ugly Duck Bakery on Goose Gate in Nottingham, but I as I descended the hill towards Sneinton, I could see a queue hanging out of the door. Now I may be British, but I don’t consider standing in line part of our national identity (I mean, I tend to save post-imperial wistfulness for Wednesdays). Fortunately, a flash of neon and a bright blue doorway caught my eye. Now, those who know me know that I do love me some neon, and the sign COFFEE x SPUDS was deeply intriguing; I mean, how exactly would one go about multiplying potatoes by coffee beans? I don’t like maths, but I feel this sort of abstract arithmetic might be something I could finally get on board with!
Openfit is a tiny place almost opposite Bar Iberico, which by all accounts is a very popular place and long overdue for a visit by your humble narrator. It’s decked out with all the things a basic bitch like me loves; bare, tungsten-style bulbs, bare bricked walls, the aforementioned neon signs and chip-board menu signs with the last zero playfully missed off the prices for the products (perhaps this might a clue to answer to the equation mentioned outside?) Wooden benches are laid out around the edges, windows and back walls, with pre-loved leather stools, and in the plate-glass windows sit two faux cherry trees. They are the sort of thing that in most places would look tacky, and yet here, they add to the ‘don’t give a f**k’ vibe of the place. In terms of décor, the owners know what they’re doing; I mean this is only the latest place they’ve opened in Nottingham. They started with Dino’s (I haven’t been yet, but I am encouraged to), three branches of Bunk (yes, with the chicken wings, and one of my favourite haunts), and another one that I can’t remember (Awkward for a reviewer, I know…)
My laptop plugged into one of the numerous ankle-height sockets around the edges, set purposefully into the benches, crank-handle wound and my ageing computer chugs into life, keys ready for the tapping. It’s not until I am joined by two other laptop users, sat around the little space, abusing the wifi under the pretence of cappuccino consumption. For nostalgic moments it feels like the internet cafes of yore, or a central London branch of Starbucks every weekday.
Openfit then welcomes a host of interesting characters from the streets of Nottingham, from the trendy youth bopping his head between his headphones to the twenty-year-old girls chattering across a screen. My favourite is the fast-talking chappy with an opinion on everything from how long his potato should be microwaved for and what at power level, the fact repeated at least three times that it was the second time Openfit had saved him after finding his usual place closed, and a variety of statements about Covid-19 and its many facets.
I listen as I type this, splitting my own time between writing this review and wading through countless reviews on Fuji X-E1’s, comparing them to the X-T100 and Z-T10’s. My head spinning with crop factors, sensor sizes, X-mount lens fits and a plethora of EF, FX and M42 converters. Even leaving the coffee shop, I was no closer to deciding what exactly I wanted to buy! I mean, how does one balance a lightweight camera, with the largest sensor possible to avoid losing too much focal length and depth of field, whilst keeping as much easy-access manual functionality as possible, and not pay the earth for it? Suffice to say, I left with a headache.
(You’ll be relieved to know that two days later I had come to a hard-won decision and ordered a secondhand Fuji X-E1 from London Camera Exchange, and 7Artisans 25mm f1.8 lens to accompany it. At the time of editing this piece, the camera has arrived looking awesome, and the lens is due tomorrow. You may sleep easy now, dear reader)
Whilst I had my head buried in consumerist agony, my coffee appeared in a to-go cup. They are fully kitted out with a proper coffee machine but cater mainly for takeaway purchases, presumably based on their other USP, the humble Jacket Potato. I am quite happy with the to-go cup, and the coffee within is hot and creamy and lovely, so much so that I have a second just as I hit four-hundred-and-seven words here.
I have arrived towards the end of the working day, and their jacket potato trade is dying down, but I can smell the delights of their oven and the bank of Bain Maries filled with all the fillings you’d come to expect. Apart from Chilli; they’d run out, so I assume it was popular. It’s what I would have. Chilli and cheese, with the cheese first. None of that cheese on top nonsense. I like my cheese melty! It’s odd how divisive the order of foods can be in our post-modern society. I’ve seen it literally tear groups of peers apart at the seams, turning families against one another, life-long friendships ending, promising romantic relationships destroyed before their time. In fact, for the anarchist amongst you, it’s rather to fun to ask one certain question pertaining to how a certain baked delight should be served. It’s even more fun than standing in the middle of a lively yet friendly group debate in autumn 2016 and dropping a Brexit Grenade into the middle.
Scones: Jam first, or cream first? I’m going to weight in, because, you know, I’m right. A generous, yet restrained layer of jam, then the largest dollop of Cornish Clotted Cream the scone can structurally tolerate.
I did once ask this of a diverse group of people in a catering environment, ranging in ages, ethnicities, UK regions of origin, socio-economic backgrounds. Not only was there was no clear winner between the two sides, but there was no correlation between ages, background or upbringing. The whole staff descended into chaotic and passionate squabbling, as though the debate itself was more important than the actual food at its centre.
The only that that was agreed upon with over 95% of the vote (unnecessary as apparently post-2016 we only need 37% to qualify an inarguable majority (ooh, yes he went there…), was the pronunciation. SC-OH-N, rather that SC-ON. But that might be more to do with the fact that the staff was overwhelmingly midlands with only southerner standing bravely against insurmountable odds.
On the subject of odds, there is however a very good chance of me returning to Openfit (and hopefully with a nice new-ish camera), to have not only a coffee but a jacket potato (served correctly), and observe the wonderful cast of characters only a city centre coffee shop can enjoy as patrons.