By Ellie Philpotts
When a cafe not only has creative coffee that doesn’t abandon great taste; price-tags that remember we can’t all be millionaires (even if we CAN eat our body weight in Millionaire Shortbread); quirky decor and a whole lot else going for it, it doesn’t take much to make its visitors into human boomerangs. That sums up 200 Degrees.
Following my interview, semi-interrogating Managing Director, Tom, on what could be expected – which you can find elsewhere in the depths of Quench Food here (shameless plug) – I’ve become a bit of a regular, so thought it was high time I morphed one of my visits into a review. So, to be logical, here it is.
It’s hard to believe 200 Degrees only expanded to Cardiff last month. Most new business ventures would be sensible to expect a period of uncertainty, during which they hope to get their feet off the ground and the word spread. However, this has been far from the case in this instance. The only Welsh branch is always bustling, from study groups credited to the close proximity of the universities, to one-off shoppers who’ve descended on Queen Street from far and wide; locals in need of their morning boost to survive the final dregs of the commute to the office; to, in fact, anyone else who’s joined the capital’s ever-growing tribe of coffee lovers.
Despite this, though, 200 Degrees manages to retain the balance between popularity and calm. It’s never unpleasantly crowded (that’s reserved to the rest of the city on Match Day…); the friendly team of baristas will be serving you within a couple of minutes at most; and the plentiful space means you’re more than likely to find a seat, whether the cosy floral armchair in the window; little den by the fire (it is wet Wales, after all); larger tables perfect for groups; or al-fresco area, if the sun is actually fulfilling its sunny responsibilities.
But enough of the furnishing, and onto the fellow F – the food. 200 Degrees’ main focus is obviously those lovely little beans, but the rest of their menu is similarly praise-worthy. It changes weekly, but this time options included the meaty Milano Salami with Brie, Fresh Plums, Sautéed Leeks and Smoked Chilli Jelly sandwich and Honey-Roast Ham, Emmental and Dijon Mustard Croissant, while, for veggies, Thyme-Roasted Aubergine with Plum and Ginger Chutney, Edam, Spring Onion and Watercress; and Chickpea Salad with Vine Tomato, Hummus and Watercress sandwiches. However, I finally narrowed my options down to Prosciutto with Raspberries, Rocket, Goats’ Cheese and Balsamic Glaze. It’s fair to say you wouldn’t normally picture unassuming raspberries in a sandwich – but since their cranberry counterpart has smoothly made the transition to be teamed with camembert and brie, you have to admire the raspberry’s perseverance.
And its berry good decision paid off – 200 Degrees know the contrast of sweet and savoury is a match made in heaven. They also know that there’s room for multiple matches all in one coffee shop – because nothing compliments a chunky sandwich on a sunny day better than an iced coffee. Or even on a rainy day, come to think of it.
200 Degrees’ menu isn’t just sandwiches and coffee, punctuated with the occasional French touch of the croissant. If you’re making the most of May’s summery vibes (the month, not necessarily the Prime Minister), you can go for a salad, on this occasion also including Triple Green Bean (love the rhyming) with Beetroot and Rocket, or Roasted Celeriac alongside Spinach, Spring Onion and Orange Peppers; Caramelised Onion, Leek, Sage and Apricot Sausage Roll (these rolls are the manager’s choice, FYI), or Sweet Potato, Roasted Red Pepper and Aubergine Frittata. Jumping on the sweet potato hype has never been so good.
With an impressive variety of drinks, from Matcha Lattes to Whole Leaf Teas; Milkshakes to Nitro Cold Brews, 200 Degrees are simultaneously proving it’s a crime against coffee to limit it to the bog-standard cappuccino. Saying that, their cappuccinos are also worth talking about, and then Instagramming, obvs, but when it boils down to it, they’re a multi-talented bunch.
Although it’s definitely socially acceptable to plonk yourself here for the best part of the day, armed with a mug the size of your head and some sweet treats mandatory for the ol’ brain power, there’s also a saving grace for when you really have to drag yourself away (ie, when they close at 8pm on weekdays, and 7 and 6pm respectively on Saturdays and Sundays). You can buy bags of the good stuff to take away – aka coffee beans in versions like ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ and ‘Nicaragua Finca El Bosque.’
Overall, 200 Degrees genuinely has it all. The sandwiches are fancier than any of the standard chains’, meaning they’re even wrapped in pretty packages with bows on top. But this doesn’t mean the kitchen dab-hands think they can rely on aesthetics alone – they’re simply an added bonus of their flavoursome and fabulous creations. Plus we can’t even say ‘good things come in small packages’, because although they’re good, and in a package, they’re definitely big enough to keep the hunger pangs at bay for the afternoon. Or at least until you spot the sugary section…
It’s exam season, which means there’s the combination of 200 degrees in the library at any given moment. So why not take the books to actual 200 Degrees instead? It’s enough to make me wish I hadn’t finished uni now.. (No wait, I take that back.)
Images: Taken by me, and from twitter.com/200degscardiff