Venues, be they pubs, hotels, theme parks, whatever, often fall into the trap of bearing a theme in the name of being unique, or exciting. In reality, they often fall short of the mark. This is never more the case when it comes to places with an automotive theme. You see, the problem is that people whom the venue want to attract inevitably know more about cars than the proprietors. And that’s where it goes wrong.
Automotive-themed places are generally tacky, and filled with lowest common denominator automotive crap. Generic American car. Old posters. Neon lights. It’s all bollocks designed to cash in on the passion of a collective.
Happily, this is where Caffeine & Machine, a new venture by Phil McGovern and his team, gets things right. This once generic public house is, make no mistake, a hub of sheer joy for the petrolhead. But it’s not kitschy. It’s not naff. This isn’t a venue with a theme. This is a place that celebrates internal combustion. And it’s wonderful.
It’s been in the works for a little while now, teasing the masses with pictures of the bar being built, or the paint being splashed on the walls, or the construction of ‘plinths’ for cars, nestled into the hillside. It’s made for tantalising viewing. Even though it wasn’t officially open, the social feeds of C&M featured cars of all shapes and forms. There is no brand affinity here. There is no budgetary qualification. There is just passion.
Caffeine & Machine opened officially yesterday (27th October 2018), but we opted to stay at home. When we rang Tom Ford to see if he’d be around the following day, we realised we’d made the right choice. The poor bastard was having some sort of meltdown as he tried to figure out where the thousands (yes, really) of people would go. We left him to it.
Instead, we went for the tactical Sunday visit. And it was just that. We wanted to see it. There was no ‘please write about this’ invite. No obligation. As such, we rocked up, parked up and had a look around. It was busy, make no mistake, but it was buzzing. The atmosphere was exciting and vibrant. There’s no hint of novelty here, and that’s special. It’s not trying to shout about cars. In fact, it’s more a case of it putting its arm around you and saying “Hey, we like cars, but it’s cool if you don’t. Just have a drink and chill.”
There’s no doubt that the throb of internal combustion has served as the impetus behind the creation of this place, but it’s not then forced on you. Yes, the building is full of motoring paraphernalia, but it’s stuff that’s interesting in general. It’s not there because it screams car. The Porsche deck lid with Rothmans livery, the camshaft fashioned into a door handle, the automotive magazines on the tables. It’s just there. It’s not in your face. If you like cars, brilliant. If you don’t, you still feel welcome.
Outside, there are plinths carved into the lush hillside, on which can sit any car. In the case of the opening weekend, there was an AE86, Top Gear’s L200, the Toyota HiLux that went to the North Pole and the angriest Porsche 911 in the world. And eclectic mix, then.
And this eclecticism will continue. It’s the bedrock of this place. The hashtag being banded around social media is #CultOfMachine, and that’s just what it is. A place to celebrate our motoring passions, old or new, cheap or expensive, fast or slow. All are welcome.
We’re blown away by this place, and we wish it every success. But with its considered, intelligent take on being a mecca for motoring, we’re sure it’ll progress perfectly. With food, beer and even rooms to let, Caffeine & Machine has it covered. And because of its welcoming approach to all things motoring, you can be sure that no two visits there will produce the same cars.
This is a place to enjoy, to learn and to be proud of being a petrolhead. And in age of internal combustion being lambasted as being evil, Caffeine & Machine makes for a refreshing change.