Large hotels aren’t often celebrated for their coffee offer, but Tony Mosca, InterContinental London Park Lane’s director of food and beverage, has set out to create a unique and altogether special experience for coffee lovers.
High Coffee, an alternative to the hotel’s well-established Royal Afternoon Tea, is a sensory event that takes guests on a culinary journey with each course paired with a coffee experience, courtesy of Mosca, executive chef Ashley Wells, executive sous chef Stirling Webb and Eva Inzani of coffee partner, L’Unico Caffe Musetti.
“The idea was to deliver a coffee experience to guests that celebrated the different ways of serving coffee,” explains Mosca, a self-proclaimed coffee lover who grew up in Melbourne, Australia amid his coffee-centric family, whose percolator was always brewing and kitchen packed full of coffee-related gadgets.
“Our High Coffee experience is a first within the London hotel market and is about creating theatre; giving our guests a unique coffee experience.”
Mosca first mooted the idea of High Coffee while working in Sydney, where he was food and beverage director for InterContinental (2009-2012).
“Afternoon tea was at a peak, so we wanted to develop a new market and while afternoon tea was seen as more of a feminine experience, we understood that coffee would have a broader appeal,” says Mosca.
Working with award-winning Australian/Italian chef, Stefano Manfredi, Mosca helped develop a food and coffee pairing menu. It was hugely successful and led InterContinental to expand the High Coffee concept into its hotels in Melbourne and Adelaide.
When Mosca arrived in London last year, he again recognised a ‘saturated afternoon tea’ market and set out to recreate a coffee experience to capture a whole new market here.
“We wanted to bring something unique to London’s coffee scene,” he continues.
“London’s coffee market is growing; there are more coffee houses than ever before, even Harrods has a roasting area. There is amazing coffee to be enjoyed and people will go out of their way to get a great cup.”
Adding: “And people are increasingly prepared to pay more for a great cup of coffee, while not being prepared to put up with sub-standard products.”
Mosca continues: “Our High Coffee is an experience for coffee lovers and makes a perfect gift, or can be enjoyed by friends and groups of people. We’re seeing big groups of friends taking over a corner of our Wellington Lounge to hold a baby shower or other celebration. It’s a unique experience and being coffee, it leaves people feeling energised afterwards.”
The hotel, which serves over 100,000 cups of coffee a year, offers four different blends with the majority of it being a 85% Arabica/15% robusta blend from Musetti, which also supplies the coffee equipment and staff training.
There’s a barista station, with a Gaggia machine, situated in the Wellington Lounge for the staff who have gone through “extensive training” to provide them with a wide spectrum of knowledge; from how coffee is grown, the regions, the coffee to milk ratio, how to keep the machines clean and so on.
“We want our staff to be confident and be able to explain our High Coffee experience; why the foods are paired with the particular style of coffee. For instance, we have smoked eel (served with red onion, caper aioli on a beetroot brioche roll) among the open sandwiches on the first course, which compliments the 100% Arabica 1934 blend used in the Espresso Martini,” says Mosca.
“People are surprised how well it works, with the oil in the eel going beautifully with the coffee. It creates a ‘wow’ reaction, with people saying they are surprised by the pairing and how well the flavours work together.”
From the open sandwiches, warm savouries to the desserts, which are paired with a Caffe du Paradiso – an 85% Arabica/15% robusta, with a dark cocoa, nuttiness, peachy, caramel, blackcurrant and butterscotch notes – every element of the menu, the dishes and the presentation is designed to impress.
The finale is a Gold Cuvee, a special blend exclusively produced by Musetti for the hotel using beans from seven countries, explains the manager of the Arch Bar and Wellington Lounge Manuel De Juan (pictured right), whose passion for High Coffee is evident in his elegant narration of the each course and coffee pairing.
Mosca continues: “All the feedback has been very positive, although some say there is, perhaps, too much food! Guests enjoy the interaction with the staff. They’re not just there to drink a pot of tea, but take part in an experience – one which begins with an Espresso Martini!”
The development of High Coffee isn’t to end here, with plans afoot to review the menu early next year as Mosca believes the experience must continue to evolve.
Elsewhere in the hotel, Mosca is looking to reinvigorate the coffee experience. He’s currently in discussion with a Cold Brew company to supply product for the rooms’ mini-bars.
Events are another big area for the hotel, with up to 1,000 delegates using the conference facilities at any one time.
“We want to develop the hotel’s regular cup of coffee by bringing in different varieties of beans to make the coffee offer even better. It’s about giving more attention to coffee culture within the hotel.”
Looking how to deliver a better coffee experience to a larger audience is something he’s actively investigating – to provide delegates with a choice of cappuccinos or lattes, alongside the filter coffee.
“Often the problem comes with how the coffee is served. People see large coffee pots or urns and think it won’t be great quality. I’d like to find different ways to serve coffee to create theatre and interest. For instance, in New York we used syphons to create a sense of fun.”
From High Coffee to expanding the hotel’s coffee culture, Mosca is intent on delivering an altogether more spectacular and unique coffee offer than is available at any other big London hotel – perhaps driven by a long-held dream to one day open a speciality coffee shop of his own back home in Melbourne.
This article was commissioned and published by Beverage Business World (Quinic Events).