Hutong Cafe, Plymouth
Plymouth rejoice! There's a super cool new place to go for coffee in Plymouth (and the rosti's are lush,too)
People of Plymouth, I have news! You all know the smart and pretty Royal William Yard on the waterfront at Stonehouse, right? But have you ever noticed that sad little place just on the left that used to be a pub, before you enter the big gated arches? *Cue the smoke and dry ice and cut to the after shot* – it’s only gone and transformed itself into a seriously appealing new indie coffee hangout! The doors quietly opened this week for a soft launch and they’ll make more of a fanfare over the coming days, but in the meantime, here’s what you can expect. I’ve been already. TWICE.
The Hutong Cafe has a simple premise, really, which I’m guessing stems from the name, which I *think* (googles frantically) derives from the Chinese system of little backstreet alleyways joining up to create neighbourhoods. I had a natter to two of its three owners, George and Emma (George’s brother Jack completes the trio), who said that they wanted to create a little hub, a community where people can come and chat, eat and drink in a comfy cool setting. Yep, I’ll go along with that.
And that setting begins outside. Perched next to the waterfront, you’ll find colourful seats, brightening up the black and white exterior paint job with woolly blankets for those hoping to make the most of the fairer days. It’s a great spot to people watch, as the Yard is always bustling with people coming and going. Not that I wanted to do that, with those clouds looming.
When I popped in before 8.30 on a Saturday morning (yesss, there’s now a place that’s open from 7.30am, for the sleep-deprived, caffeine craving mums and dads of newborns!), the place was already nicely busy, which took me by surprise. Clearly some serious coffee drinkers are in the know in this neck of the woods. Inside, it’s a cosy space with family tables, tables for two in the window and a nook at the back for the biggest groups, along with plumpy cushions. Lovely exposed walls and low ceilings make the place feel different to its neighbours in the Yard, where the buildings feel more industrial and stripped back (both good, just depends on what you fancy). I’d pitch The Hutong as the kind of place you’d want to come after a bracing walk, or boat trip to warm up with a good cuppa and a natter.
I’m a bit of a coffee bean myself and I think it’s always promising when copies of the South West Indie Coffee Guide are sitting on the counter. Indeed these guys are serious about the black stuff themselves and they have their own blend of beans, developed with the artisan Roastworks Coffee Company. To you and me, that means expertly roasted beans, expertly served up by George (who trained as a Barista in Sydney). And that means a stonkingly good cup of coffee.
You’ll find hunking great sandwiches on the bar, as well as mountains of cake…
…and there’s a very appealing menu too, perfect for breakfast, brunch or lunch, depending on how early a riser you are. I had a rosti stack, with a poached egg and bacon and Mr Muddy had a brioche bacon roll. Is it greedy to say that I went for some warm banana bread on the side? It was all gobbled down. It’s worth knowing that the freshly baked stuff comes from Jacka Bakery over on the Barbican, the UK’s oldest working commercial bakery, which has seen rather a transformation itself over the past few years and serves up the best loaf of sourdough.
I reckon I can confidently say that you’re in good hands, here – Cafe Hutong is great news for Plymouth. The team are super-lovely, energetic and they’re all over it. You would never have guessed they’d only been open a couple of days; it was slick, friendly and professional.
I’m quite excited to see what happens next, actually. beyond the flat whites. The trio have exciting plans bubbling to develop the place as a cultural hub, hoping to bring music and art to the party, but they very sensibly say they want to get the coffee and food bang on first. I’d say they’re already nailing it!
The Muddy Verdict:
Cosy, cool, warm and welcoming. A great spot for friends and families (very kid-friendly) to get together. Small, but extremely tasty menu.
Good for: coffee heads, parents who are desperate to get out of the house early after a sleep-deprived night (it opens at 7.30am every day except Tuesday’s when they close) and those who want to feel part of Plymouth’s cultural scene.
Not for: humungous group gatherings; it’s not a huge place and couldn’t take an enormous coach load of rugby fans, for instance (although I’d quite like to see that).
££: Very reasonably and competitively priced, in line with all the other offerings in that part of town. Especially when you consider the high quality of the produce.
Have you been yet? I’d love to know what you think in the comments box below.