My favourite menu

It isn’t often that a menu fills you with joy.  The current menu at Prufrock, however, does make me very happy, and probably a bit jealous at the same time.  There is so much I like about.

First of all – the simplicity.  How can you not like a menu with only 5 items?

Secondly – the honesty.  As an industry we struggle and utterly fail to define the drinks we serve.  What is a flat white?  What exactly is a latte?  We can barely agree on exactly how the espresso at the bottom of each drink is defined, let alone the rest of the recipe.

I like that the words cappuccino, latte and flat white have gone.  This morning I went and I wanted a 6oz milk drink.  Some would call it a cappuccino, while others would say that it is too strong or didn’t have enough foam.  But I got exactly what I ordered and the combination of carefully brewed espresso and well steam milk is delicious.  I was utterly delighted by it.

In fact whatever combination of coffee and milk that I enjoy – I can probably find it on this menu, which is quite incredible when you think about how complicated some menus get when trying to cover all the bases.  Apart from oversized drinks – is there anything you’d want that  you couldn’t get from this?

Some people, perhaps those across the Atlantic, might be surprised at how small the drinks on sale are.  I had to smile when Gwilym told me that now that he has a 6oz takeaway cup he feels the 8oz is too big…

43 Comments

  1. “Some people, perhaps those across the Atlantic, might be surprised at how small the drinks on sale are.”

    Pssh.

  2. I really appreciate the simplicity of this menu

    As an industry, making coffee more accessible should be the next move, and drink sizes, not drink types is one way this can be achieved

  3. Nice simple menu for sure. Well done.
    But how about milk texture? Any difference in that between the drinks? For me, the difference between a cortado, a latte or a cappuccino lies as much in the mouthfeel as it does in the coffee-to-milk ratio.

  4. I think people still instinctively ask for a cappuccino (but have to make the decision about whether that is a 6oz or 8oz drink) Milk is steamed differently – but it is an area Gwilym is still thinking a bit about.

  5. This is exactly what I’ve always dreamed of.

  6. The other day I was trying to explain to someone that I wanted a cappuccino sized latte, without the suds of a traditional Capp. I suppose if you had sizes like here, but other specifics like ‘dry’ if you wanted more foam.
    A person’s definition of latte vs Capp will only really be about their personal preference or criteria around size, proportion, and foam ‘dryness’

  7. Interesting!

    I was thinking that food menus in great restaurants have gone the other way. At a great restaurant, a chef might take a well-known dish and re-interpret it so that is unrecognizable as the classic but delicious; keeping the classic name. For example, today’s menu at Per Se includes a Ratatouille with no eggplant, but with nasturtium capers; and a Pekin Duck with muscat grapes, purple top turnips, and “condensed milk crumble”. He could have called them “stewed vegetables” and “glazed duck” respectively, but chose the words “Ratatouille” and “Pekin Duck” to evoke the roots of the dish and to convey some sort of cultural meaning. No lover of classic Ratatouille or Pekin Duck would recognize these dishes as such, but everyone accepts them. Is there an analog when we call a coffee a “cappuccino” or “cortado”? While I agree that standards are important, I think we get too hung up on them sometimes. Ultimately, words like “espresso”, “cappuccino”, ” and other culinary words: “cassoulet”, “risotto”, “sashimi”, “barbecue”, might refer to both a classical preparation and a culinary interpretation of that tradition, in a very original fashion.

    I love the simplicity of course- it sends a great message about simple handmade goodness. In the same vein, I sometimes refer to espresso simply as “coffee” for a number of reasons: technically “espresso” is an adjective (caffe espresso or “express coffee”); and it underscores that espresso is a process, not a drink.

    I do miss the adjectives, however. There is something about seeing “Rio Zape Beans” or “Maitake Mushrooms” on a menu rather than simply “Beans” or “Mushrooms”.

    Very interesting indeed. If Gwilym is reading: does this lead to more or less discussion about the coffee and process?

    Peter

  8. I would love to do this or something like it in our shop. We are always trying different things with the menu, partly because we eventually tire of a certain menu, and partly because we learn something in the customer feedback every time we change it. We did a substantial remodel a couple of weeks ago and now have the 4-5 coffees on bar every day in vacuum canisters on the wall with 3 prominent flavor/texture descriptors written below each of them – but no menu whatsoever. It was interesting to find that we have had no drop in sales, but also, a much higher level of customer/barista interaction. In a busier location, of course, I’m sure this would not be viable, but it plays nicely for us at this time. Espresso, espresso+milk, 6 different brewing methods and 4-5 different beans, not to mention an extensive tea list, can make for a very long and easily muddled menu, so we are happy to let the barista and the customer be the menu for now. I wonder what is next.

  9. I love it.
    I love it I love it I love it!!!
    I want to see this menu adopted. Everywhere.

  10. I always liked the idea of dropping the usual drink titles as they are rather obsolete and I would prefer the proprietor to give me whatever they have decided is the best proportion of espresso, milk and air.

    I’d also like to see the price remain the same for whichever size to reinforce the notion that you’re not paying for the materials so much as the expertise and facilities of the establishment. Even milk ninjas are going to struggle to steam 2oz of mik for a 4oz drink, no?

  11. love it, but for non a non regular the strength would be uselful info (unless you do want to create a conversation or all 5 items contain the same amount of shots?)

  12. I REALLY appreciate a simple menu. Too many items add noise, when that valuable and short time with a customer could be spent describing what is great about a given drink, or coffee. I’d also add that as a retailer I understand how words can lose their meaning- there are many places that sell items labeled “coffee”, “latte”, and “cappuccino”. We maintain a simple menu- one size for each drink, for example. At one time we had the menu broken out into sections such as “coffee flavored drinks” and “drinks for the lactose tolerant”- as a silly ice breaker for new customers who may not immediately get the difference between a 6oz cappuccino and a 10oz latte. While I can appreciate the simplicity of abandoning these classic drink names when there are no standards… I would ask the following:

    1- Why is the word espresso more meaningful than a cappuccino, isn’t it just “coffee” after all? There are just as many varied ways of preparing and serving an espresso as a cortado/flat white/etc.

    2- Going a step further… why bother with a menu at all? It seems you could just talk each customer through it. Perhaps instead of a menu then there would be some other sort of written “barista-customer conversation starter”. If written words can’t do it justice just have a sign that reads “we sell delicious little coffee, with milk if you like”.

    3- When I see the amount of milk broken out like that it does dispel the mystery and artistry of the drink, which is fine, but doesn’t it just make the drink like a footlong (yes we on this side of the Atlantic have sandwiches that long) or 6″ sandwich? This invites further customization. How much sugar shall I put in your coffee, or how much water would you like me to run through that espresso puck. In a way it makes the barista more of the “doer” than the “expert”, in my opinion.

    4- I would expect adopters of this scheme of menu to abandon references to brewing methods- it’s all just grounds and hot water, right? Just make the coffee taste great and hand it to me from behind a curtain. Let’s not over complicate it :)

    I’m a huge fan of simplicity, but I also think that words should have meaning. Drink names may not be transferable from business to business but the drink should mean something other than simply “how much would you like me to dilute your espresso?”

    As a customer and as a business owner, however, I tend to accept whatever a business is doing as long as I feel there is a genuine passion behind it. I always order from the menu. If I don’t see something I want, I don’t ask them to create it for me. The assumption is whoever is presenting the menu feels good about what is on it.

    No doubt I would enjoy all of the drinks on this menu and have a great experience- because from what I have read and seen the folks behind it really love this stuff. Having said that I’d like to have a clear definition of what a drink means when you visit our stores. This was a good topic for discussion!

  13. It is my understanding that the cappuccino is a drink of thirds. 1/3 espresso, with 2/3 milk. That is the way we choose to make it at our shop with the milk following the same texture and micro foam as our latte.

  14. 4oz, 6oz, 8oz. Wet or Dry.

    Beautiful. No ambiguity, all bases covered.

  15. When I first moved back to Chicago and saw the change to the Intelligentsia menu, I was so happy. Espresso, Con Panna, Macchiato, Cappuccino, Latte, Mocha, Chai. But even a simple menu like that can get complicated with just a choice of sizes for some of the drinks.

    I love a simple menu, because you know you can trust that they know how to make what they want to make. If I go into a place and say “cappuccino,” I’m really hoping there’s only one way they make it. Just like if I go into a nice restaurant, I’m not going to ask the chef to change a dish, unless there’s an allergy.

    But I love the fact that we have 6oz takeaway cups for cappuccino in the store. Even though most of our business is takeaway morning office traffic, we still have a high ratio of people who’ve fallen in love with the 6oz cappuccino size that we default to and who ask for it to go. It really changed the way a lot of our customers interact with our coffee, and helped them find something that they love that normal American standards (“you paid how much for something how small?”) would otherwise discount.

    More than anything, I love the signage itself. The classic pokey letters on the felt board, usually useful for showing which conference room is hosting the business retreat. Excellent!

  16. “meh.”

    Sorry, but while I think the new Prufrock menu is unique, I certainly am not one to hope that it spreads everywhere.

    Instead, I’d much prefer coffee operators and baristas to wrangle better control over their craft. Learn how to texture milk. Learn how to make a classic “cappuccino.” Learn how to pull a great espresso. Learn more about their coffee. Learn how to interact with me (the customer) in a friendly, engaging, enthusiastic and non-pretentious way.

    And drink titles being “obsolete”??? What kind of thinking is this? Perhaps the same kind of thinking that our customers names are obsolete as well, which makes it perfectly normal in our industry for “professional” baristas to yell out: “There’s a cappuccino on the bar!”

    To my mind, this new menu is lazy thinking. Simply calling it “6z espresso with milk” means that the “barista” can do willy nilly with the beverage. Never mind a balance of milk, espresso and foam – any texture of milk will do since we’ve deemed drink nomenclature to be “obsolete.”

    I’m for less celebrating about non-issues like menu titles and greater focus on craft.

  17. Jay,

    while I do agree that doing away with drink names may take away from the effort it took the barista to learn how to properly make a cappuccino, latte, macchiatto, etc., I do think the spirit of the menu is a step forward. It’s not something that should be adopted by everyone, but the idea of simplifying is a good one.

    Even

    Espresso
    Macchiatto
    Cappuccino
    Latte

    might suffice.

    And do we really need sizes? Just make the drink the proper size, and call it a day.

  18. I like it.

    But, you could argue it has become more complicated. Milk texture is important. I’d assume Gwilym is getting more back and forth with the customers – and i’m assuming they are still using ‘cappuccino’ and ‘latte’ to describe their milk. We do it the other way around. No size choice – just milk texture choice. Cappuccino, Latte, Piccolino/Cortado. Done.

  19. But we’re talking about Prufrock. There’s not a rotating staff of 13 baristas freely interpreting this menu. You’d have to assume that these drinks are being prepared to a standard.

    No, scratch that. Not assume, trust. If I walked into a place, and a fella with the reputation that Gwilym has his drink menu set out thusly, I’m going to trust that any option I pick is going to have a certain standard of preparation, and that they’re all going to be tasty.

    And even if this was the menu at a much larger place, there would need to be a trust that milk texture is the same across the board.

    It’s pretty assuming to walk into a coffee place and order what you think tastes good, instead of trusting the barista on what tastes good. They are, in fact, the ones that spend all day with that espresso, and whatever milk texture they’re using, well, that’s the one I’d like to try.

    There’s an argument to be made about preserving craft, however, I’m fairly certain that Gwilym isn’t pulling 7g, 1oz single espressos, or 14g, 2oz doubles. If the debate is about preserving craft, then it should be about preserving the integrity of traditional Italian espresso. We’ve moved far beyond that, and just as how we’ve given the best chefs of the world liberty to openly re-interpret classic dishes, we should give the same to the best baristas of the world.

  20. Jesse-

    I think your comment strikes on something that truly is at the core of the discussion:

    “There’s not a rotating staff of 13 baristas freely interpreting this menu. You’d have to assume that these drinks are being prepared to a standard.”

    Does the number of baristas on staff “forgive” the lack of standards? Since you mentioned the best chefs in the world, let’s think about their example. Does one visit per se and simply lower their expectations because they have 85 people on staff? I’m sure we’ll agree that one does not.

    But it seems that your comment posits that having a larger staff means that the staff will freely interpret the names of the menu items and create their own variations. Certainly this can be (and probably is) the case at many coffee shops worldwide and this is where I’m thinking that we need to uphold standards and preserve the craft.

    To my mind, a strong shop should be the vision of the lead barista. That person should set the standard for the staff baristas to live up to – much as a chef like Keller, Ramsay or Gagnaire does in their own restaurants. This to me is where the excitement lies – not in the description of a silly menu. Does Gwilym set a high standard at Prufrock? One that is executed consistently and faithfully regardless of his presence? Can a person such as myself visit Prufrock (or any coffee place, for that matter) and experience something noteworthy and superior?

    And BTW, “we” haven’t “given” the best chefs in the world anything, much less the liberty to re-interpret classic dishes on their own. They did that on their own and showed the world something special and unique. Now is our time as baristas to forge our own craft and show the world something more unique and special than relabeling a cappuccino as a “6z espresso with milk.”

    The menu description is not exciting, it’s the actual product that should be exciting.

  21. James, you spelled “favorite” incorrectly.

  22. I think much of this menu is a reaction to the spread of things like that flat white. This is an extremely common order in the UK, yet most people ordering it would struggle to define it even vaguely. I would struggle to define it, I should add. A small, strong latte should probably just be called a small strong latte.

    Anyway – I think that taking the drink names away here has allowed greater focus on craft. A drink doesn’t taste good because it’s a flat white – but because it is a combination of great coffee and milk. Craft and ingredient.

    I should also add that while I really like this menu – I’d hate to see it adopted everywhere because the coffee experience, even speciality, is homogenous enough already….

  23. This is a topic that needs further elaboration, so forgive my short response here.

    I am absolutely for taking inspiration from both chefs and their restaurants, but I worry that we could chase it too far and (much as with the habit of using wine to explain coffee) fail to work to create a unique, defined coffee culture – a culture of both preparation and appreciation.

    I’m not going to speak any more on Gwilym’s behalf – I feel I’ve done that more than I should already. I posted the menu because I liked it. It was different, honest and interesting. It sparked and interesting discussion but I feel much of the criticism has been along the lines of its wider impracticality or wider usage which I wasn’t really suggesting.

  24. There is a widely diverging set of opinions on what a cappucino is — is it the “thirds rule” mentioned previously? Is it the size of the drink — one of my favorite cafés designates any espresso drink with milk above 8oz. as being something other than a cappucino — or is it the milk texture or the amount of foam? There seems to be no universally accepted designation. So I see this menu as a reaction to that (my interpretation, of course, not knowing how Mr. Davies thinks). As long as there are nearly as many interpretations of what makes a particular drink a particular drink, why not make an end-run around the whole thing? There is no disagreement, after all, that weather you are talking about a Cortado, a latte, a cappucino or a gibralter, you are talking about a drink containing espresso and milk. That we can all agree on. Let everyone else fight over the names. How much milk would you like? Courageous, really. I like it.

  25. First reaction. I love it. Second reaction. I still love it. Oh, how I want to go to London.

    Closer inspection my super picky brain kicks in. Questions of texture and style aside, it seems like the menue should say “steamed” milk. Perhaps everyone who goes to Prufrock knows better or maybe this is an English thing, but it seems like the menu ought to convey that the milk is hot and has some texture beyond just purely heated milk. Second, why does the jump from 4 oz. to 6 oz. cost 20p and the jump from 6 to 8 cost 30 p? Different cup costs?

    Of course, to be really picky, shouldn’t the weight be in grams or something? And shouldn’t the shot size be specified up front. =)

  26. brilliant idea. who cares about the title, if coffee is good? all genius is simple

  27. Then if a cappuccino is made of a 1oz shot then the drink is just 3oz? or do you have a double shot and 6oz cup?

  28. hi Guys
    first a disclaimer – we are quiet, staffed 98% of the time by national barista champs and serve very media savvy types, we never have requests for skinny/dry/Q’s about fair trade/bigger sizes

    yep, it is a reaction but also a realisation
    we had a short menu that listed the names of drinks we enjoyed (no size options) and ,taking Cappuccino out of the conversation for a while (in fact the whole comment- i am still working this one out) , the only thing that defined these drinks was a difference in the amount of milk added to the espresso. no our flat whites do not have a different texture to our latte or piccolo just a different amount of milk
    working at the Penny University i would sell 3 black coffees, each defined a farm, mill or region no matter what the size of drink. Going went back to Prufrock where i would define a my espresso based drinks with a name that just says how much that espresso is diluted with milk

    This menu was also influenced by my trip to Australia where my favourite drink was a “Magic” it was an espresso based drink with some milk in it – i liked the proportions. it is a drink we sell but under a different name. every cafe dictates how its own drinks are defined. when i do a guest shift at a cafe i have to ask how they make the drinks on the menu

    as mentioned in a previous comment i too also like to get rid of the menu altogether but i like the physical menu we have and …. i have not got the balls to do so. i would also like to do what was also mentioned and i saw in Aus – ‘one price for all drinks’ as the ingredients cost is a small % compared to the rent, machine,training, staff etc but i do not want to price people out of getting espresso + cortado (i do not have the balls(cojones))

    how have the public reacted – they do not really care but we get to talk to them much more

  29. Christian, I too, have thaught about the totally silly pickybrain issue of the 20p and 30p jump.

    I have concluded by assuming this theory: the jump is meant to be 25p per additional 2oz. But, the 2.20 is rounded downwards from the coinically complicated 2.25. So you have a discount for the 6 ounce of 5p, and not a higher price for the 8oz!

    There is also a psychological motive: it is an incentive towards the clearly favorited 6oz size (see end of post).

  30. if i thought more i think this would be my reasoning but it was due to the fact we could not find the ‘4’ and so put in a ‘5’ until we recovered all the other numbers from Charlie who had thought it funny to run off with them

  31. “Just coffee?” With many passionate baristas and roasters reading this, I’m surprised no one has commented on this unfortunate superlative. Also, most will agree that espresso and coffee are different things, what with all the atmospheres of pressure and such. Otherwise, why not make lattes with drip? So, that distinction is absolutely necessary.

    (and to be clear, yes, espresso is made using coffee, but coffee and espresso are understood to be totally different beverages… just ask anyone in the vicinity what the difference is)

    I’ll now take my seat in the “I like this menu” section of the arena.

  32. C’mon, man, it was a joke. Of course, I’m an American, so what do I know. I only drink 87 ounce lattes.

  33. Perhaps we, as a community, will take analogies with chefs and wines too far, but I think that’s the nature of the beast we we wrestle with developing, defining and honing our craft. I’ve long said that I think our craft is at the level of recognition of chefs 20-30 years ago: toiling in relative obscurity.

    To my mind, these are exciting and heady times. The opportunity exists for us to create the definition for our craft, to set the standard, to go beyond the norm. As with any growth, we fit and spurt on various things and ideas before pushing forward with something truly advanced. This is all part of the process.

  34. Woah! Great! (just heard about this from Street Level) Seems Gwil’s full of great ideas like this – sign of a true master! Breathtaking simplicity – turning it all right around.
    Might be another of those things though (like the purist nature of PennyU) that (might!) only work in a place like London where there is a thriving high-end speciality coffee culture (amonst lots of bad, ok, good, and great cafes) – where places have the (admittedly hard-won) freedom to create and offer something less conventional like this, with the knowledge that the reputation, and the quality, will ensure custom, regardless of whether a lot of folks get it or not.
    As has been mentioned (I should really read all the replies!), I too am curious about the texture offered – milk simply in the ‘middle zone’, is perhaps where it’s best …but also easiest. Nothing wrong with that – and a LOT right with it – but it could take some of the magic out of milk that, although perfect, gets textured differently for different drinks…
    SO good though – love it!!!!
    (loved the washed Yirg too!)

  35. Not trying to bash starbucks any more than the stick they already get, but why grande, tall, etc. That menu above is very simple, but a first step for cafe’s would be to use small/regular and large. I don’t think volumes are great for everyone, some of the average punters probably won’t know what 4oz, 6oz or 8oz is. Its also in non SI units so any person that does a science of any kind will look at you with disgrace.

  36. I my last shop, I noticed that people have all these preconceived notions if you give them the drink names they are used to. I served a gibralter, as a 4oz. glass cup, a dbl ristretto espresso pulled very short through a LM triple shot filter with milk steamed like a classic cap only to about 120 degrees F. They watch it being made, check out the tulip poured on top and then taste the goodness of great espresso with milk not over steamed. They love it and buy another. If I had tried to get them to sacrifice oune-age and heat in their capp, no go. This menu hacks the mind’s habit of putting everything into a category. Our next shop will do something very similar or maybe more simple.

    espresso
    espresso w/ milk
    brew
    *All drinks $2.50

    Some days it will be single origin espresso. Some days it will be 4oz. with milk, some 6oz. What tastes best with this coffee. V60, then French Press. Have questions? Ask the barista why he chose to treat each in that particular way. I say pretend each customer is a judge at the WBC and you have to defend or explain why this washed coffee pairs will with this milk at this ratio.

    As far competition within lesser shops, you will quickly find a group of people who love it and now can’t go anywhere near you for coffee. The competition can’t compete by simply adding a gibralter or pourover to the menu.

    Of course, you more than free to create an amazing drink, call it want you want, sell by hand and charge whatever for it. People will come in and ask what’s good.

  37. The minimalism of the menu doesn’t really phase me. I could really care less about what a particular shop calls a drink. In the light of the Penny U experiment, however, I’m more interested in why there is no specific information about the coffee used in the drink. Why not name the origin/farm/harvest/roast date? Personally, I make the decision as to how to drink espresso at the shop– and what to recommend to customers– based on what’s in the grinder and how much age it has. At least with our customers, we’re seeing more everyday that will notice a different espresso coffee on the board and the first question is “how is that best enjoyed.”

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