PLEASE NOTE – THIS REVIEW DATES BACK TO 2015 – THE BUSINESS HAS CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE THEN – SEE COMMENTS AT THE BOTTOM FOR DETAILS
What’s in a name?
When it comes to Playground Coffee House, quite a lot, actually. Walking past, you can’t help but be drawn in by the set of swings in the window, beckoning you to throw caution (and dignity) to the wind and recapture, if only for a few moments, the hedonistic abandon of childhood. If you can walk past such an apparatus and not feel at least a twinge of juvenile yearning, then congratulations: you have no soul.
The ground floor was spacious but packed, it being a sunny Saturday morning, and the décor was everything you’d expect from an establishment with ‘playground’ in the title: colourful, eclectic and charmingly haphazard. The espresso menu was playfully scrawled in multicoloured chalk on a blackboard that looms over the long, curved counter, behind which stood two slightly flustered baristas (Ed. Update: It was one barista and one last minute helper – the visit was on the day of the Italian Motor Show, meaning that there was a huge number of people in the city centre…). I went for my usual, a flat white made with the house blend. The other option was a guest blend, although no other information on the blends themselves was available, save for their countries of origin (Costa Rica/Nicaragua and Kenya/Ethiopia, respectively).
Having placed my order after a five minute wait to be served, I immediately made a beeline for the swings, only to find them occupied by a pair of friendly young women, one of whom was, incidentally, a fellow food blogger (@InsatiableGaga). This is 2015, after all. After a brief primary school flashback, I made my way upstairs to the secondary dining area, where a shocking pink mantelpiece and some slightly grubby furniture, clearly transplanted from the children’s bedroom section of IKEA, continued the scholastic vibe. Someone had forgotten to switch the upstairs lights on, which made the room pretty gloomy, in spite of the glorious sunshine outside.
Stacked on shelves and strewn across every available surface were board games, from familiar classics like Connect 4 and Monopoly to more arcane choices like Rapidough and Halli Galli, while a foosball table stood gathering dust in the corner. Ample seating was provided by a battered red leather sofa, assorted beanbags, and a large, multicoloured acrylic table, where I took a seat, fished out my notebook, and waited.
To be fair, the young man who served me had explained (rather bluntly) that it ‘might be two minutes’; in the event, it was more like 20, and the coffee, when it did arrive, was underwhelming. It was thin and somewhat watery, which was a real shame, because the flavours that I could discern – sweet milk chocolate, perfectly tempered with a subtle acidity – were delicious. My irritation was only compounded when the stereo began piping in slightly-too-loud music from the likes of Kings of Leon, The Killers and The Arctic Monkeys, which, together with the foosball table, gave the whole affair a student union vibe – hardly an atmosphere in which to relax over a coffee.
I can only assume, in the face of excellent reviews from other quarters, that I caught Playground Coffee House on a bad day. We all have them. And, to be fair, I can be something of a young fogey at the best of times (if you couldn’t tell). I’m sure that youngsters and the young at heart will be charmed by the laidback, informal atmosphere, and while not one for the diehard coffee connoisseur, students, families and small groups looking to escape the ubiquitous high street chains could do a lot worse. Maybe I’m just getting old…