The newly refurbished Rapha Cafe re-opened for business this weekend. So after a Monday night spin, Ben, Debbie and I make tracks to check it out.
The immediate impression is there is more space. Where the bar used to end to the right, it now sweeps round to offer extra seating and access to a sandwich-style bar. The cafe now offers an extended menu, which includes hot food. After a long day’s work, followed by a spin, hot food is something to look forward to.
Naturally, the revised menu offers a cycling theme and we all go for a post-ride offering. Ben orders the Salami Toastie; Debbie, the Tuna on Rye and I go for the Onion Soup, with a pot of mint-tea to wash it down. There is alcohol on offer too.
The food isn’t amazing. It’s fresh, well presented – what you’d expect at this price-point and in this area. At around £5-8, it will tie you over before heading home. Ben shares with us his cinnamon pastry, and like a lot of their nibbles, it is delicious. As a central location, it’s ideal for meeting up and having a post ride de-brief. It’s here I think it will do very well.
As a performance cycling retailer, they have optimised their sales space well. Around the new dining area are subtle spots where the latest Team-Sky clothing hangs. It’s within eye-line and sits behind you, so there is a choice to have a look if desired. The main sales point is still by the main entrance. This is good, if you know what you want and want to get it quickly. There’s no getting away from the fact that if you need the WC, you’ll have to go round to it, and this means passing the complete Rapha line-up. This isn’t altogether a bad thing, as it gives you a chance to look at the latest gear, without feeling like you’ve intentionally left your friends to do so.
We sit in the centre of the new space, and can’t help but notice the glass doors to our right. It would have been acceptable to look onto the open pedestrianised area by Whole Foods, and further still, to the bustle of Piccadilly, but instead it looks onto an office foyer. I feel like I’m in Singapore, or HK, and I haven’t left the job. Perhaps a smoky window would be more apt.
Made you Look
The new screens by SHARP are extraordinary. There’s a lot of definition here and with a re-run of the Tour of Dubai showing, we get to view its sensational technology. I’m sure this will prove popular during the Classics and GT seasons.
There’s a lot of planning, investment and thought behind this new cafe. It’s a welcome addition to central London. The place doesn’t quite hit the benchmark that is Look Mum No Hands, but it’s still early days, and it might not be what Rapha are after. The menu is fair, and to Rapha’s credit, a step in the right direction – you don’t want to lose people to the wealth of eateries in the area. Although, the cycling memorabilia under the glass tables is interesting, just not when it’s a soiled cycling cap, when you’re about to make a food order.
The open space will attract more cyclists, if not a different clientele, especially in the summer months. With the updated TV screens, they’re onto a winner. It may have just been the Monday blues, or a quiet night, but there was a distinctive lack of atmosphere, and enthusiasm from a lot of the staff. A waitress, and what seemed like the store manager did ask how we were doing, but the place doesn’t breathe life, which is what much of their marketing suggests when you buy into their kit. People who want to be there and are having fun is a lot more rewarding. If the shop is to attract new people and retain it’s seasoned clients, there will need to be a new approach that goes with the new cafe.