With an industrial-styled space that might have been stolen from a web start-up, Cup One is a minimalist lounge far from the identikit rent-a-couch coffee shops around town. The design makes a strong impression; dominating bay windows look out over the oblong Wangjing SOHO landscape, while muted tones colour the enormous, multi-levelled interior. Some might call it corporate; we think it’s got a lot of polished cool.
The standard roster of coffee drinks (22-35RMB) is delivered by hoodie-sporting wait staff, and Cup One raises the hip factor with a small selection of single-origin beans in hand-ground pour-overs. This puts the café in a higher league for coffee aficionados, but our natural Yirgacheffe brew (58RMB) felt like a sampler – a glass vase of weak, mild brew. Nevertheless, the little cup of light, nutty roast was enough to jump-start our afternoon. It’s easily followed up with one of a decent range of smoothies and milkshakes.
Cup One’s food menu is fairly extensive, highlighted by a number of tapas options portioned for in-between meals. Wispy slices of prosciutto (48RMB) clamour for space with sweet tomatoes, a dollop of pointed horseradish, and feta on a pillow of soft, crusty bread. But what we thought was a chicken wrap (38RMB) came off more like a fajita in need of more spice; three fist-sized triangles folded with stringy cheese alongside a bowl of diced tomatoes that was akin to a forgettable pico de gallo.
Larger dishes suggest bistro tendencies, with dishes from pasta and rice all the way up to duck confit and rib-eye steak.The kick-back attitude is perhaps the real draw. It’s more design studio than living room, but it’s easy to sink into one of the couches for an hour or two.