CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Chambers Coffee Shop

Back Buzz - May 29, 2001

[pumping heart] Chambers Coffee Shop, Radnor Chambers, Cheriton Place, Folkestone, Kent

Continuing with the trend of pubs offering coffee options, Chambers Coffee Shop recently opened in Folkestone adjacent to Chambers Wine Bar. Since the wine bar offers a nice selection of real ales I couldn't wait to stop in and sample the selection of espresso drinks at the sister coffee shop.

Styled very much like a typical Seattle espresso emporium, Chambers is located on a busy corner in the heart of Folkestone's shopping precinct, in an attractive building with large windows adorned by swirly designs. (Is it Art Deco? Sadly I'm not really up on my English seaside architectural styles. But those patterns seem a bit too curvaceous and sensual for the Edwardian or Victorian periods.)

My cappuccino, although promising when presented in its proper white china cup, turned out to be pretty ordinary. And since I didn't have the opportunity to ask the barista to hold the chocolate sprinkles, I honestly couldn't tell what the coffee tasted like. I suspect it wasn't strong enough, because around these parts that's sadly the rule rather than the exception.

It was 10:40am when my friend Barb and I stopped in for a cappuccino and a breakfast snack. All the pastries and breads in the display case were sugary or frosted, which isn't really my style. But then we noticed the chalkboard menu announcing "Bagels with Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese." What a perfect breakfast for two Americans with mild holiday hangovers! Unfortunately the food wouldn't be served until 11:00; so we patiently sat and sipped our cappuccinos for 20 minutes. At approximately 10:58 a massive queue suddenly formed at the counter, so Barb got in line while I held our table. By the time she reached the counter -- after twenty more minutes of slowly processed orders of mochas and lattes and teas and cakes -- we were both ready to devour an entire bagel factory and salmon fishery. "Two bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese, please," Barb said eagerly. "Sorry, no bagels today," was the reply. When the server realised she was in danger of being murdered -- and probably devoured by the two of us as well -- she quickly said, "But I can make you smoked salmon sandwiches."

As she prepared our smoked salmon sandwiches Barb ordered a side of "guacamole" she spotted in the deli shelf. It turned out to be smashed-up avocado, period, with no trace of any additives or seasonings. Not even salt. Why torture two Southern California-bred women by taunting us with spicy Mexican dip and then delivering smashed-up avocado? Why not just offer the avocado in tidy slices instead?

Ah, but this is a coffee column, not a bagels and lox column or a guacamole column, and Chambers is a pleasant place to sit and drink an average-quality cappuccino. Nevertheless the logic of the entire experience was a bit worrying...

Speaking of restaurant logic problems, here's an e-mail from my Bay Area friend from earlier this year about his Costa Rican trip:

As the resplendent quetzal flies the Monteverde Biological Reserve is only about 90 kilometers northwest of San José in Costa Rica along the ridge of the Cordillera de Tilaran. Lunches and dinners at the Monteverde Lodge were quite good, but more memorable than the food was the lesson in the proper function of silverware that was served up by the experienced young lodge staff. As you assumed a seat at the table each place was set with a full array of implements: two forks to the left of the plate (for salad and entrée, that much I knew), a fork and a spoon above the plate (reserved for dessert, as I understood), and two identical knives to the right. Two knives? What were these for? Well, during the course of four meals my question was answered silently, as each place setting mutated slightly (due to actions performed by waiter-puppeteers who circled behind us) in response to the selections each of us made from the limited menu. I observed four key rules with respect to salad and dessert:

1. After you finished your salad, one knife was removed along with the salad plate and salad fork.
2. If you ordered soup instead, the salad fork was removed immediately, and one knife was replaced by a soup spoon. Conclusion: it must be a salad knife! (Was this something I should have learned as a child?)
3. If you ordered cake or pie for dessert, the dessert spoon was removed immediately.
4. If you ordered ice cream for dessert, the dessert fork was removed immediately.

Are these silverware mutations standard at a high-class restaurant? Were the waiters trying to prevent us from making an error of etiquette by eliminating the inappropriate implements? (Or perhaps was the restaurant just trying to cut down on dishwashing by removing the unused ones?)

This is a logic problem, isn't it? Who was sitting to the right of the woman whose dessert spoon was removed? And was she married to the accountant who was having soup, or was it the tree surgeon who still had two knives?

Perhaps this is a game played by the waiters! Before they serve the meal they roll dice in the kitchen. Then, according to what number each of them rolled, they must place certain items and remove certain other items in turn until one of them is left without spoons (or forks or knives).

Did any of the waiters, perhaps after the final shuffling of dessert utensils, suddenly shout something on the order of "BINGO!" or "GIN!" or "GO FISH!"?