The Spot – Hangouts you should visit at least once in your life.
The theory of working on the trot is all well and good. But, despite the promises of free wi-fi for no more than the price of a cup of coffee, the practicality of “coffee shop hot-desking” is often another thing altogether. Anyone who travels regularly – and is expected to work whilst on the move- can tell you, if it’s not the staff shooting you dirty looks while you construct a pressing e-mail back to HQ, it’s the customers themselves who stare you down, thinking you’ve had quite enough time at your particular table now that they’ve arrived eager for gossip over cappuccinos. The more overcrowded the city, the more likely the barristas and punters will conspire to get you logged off and out the door.
Paris, despite its long tradition of café culture, is no exception. And then Café Craft opened its doors. Most visitors staying in the hotels in the neighbourhood near to the city’s Gare du Nord, a short distance from the Canal Saint-Martin, have no idea that the area is also a popular residential choice for Paris’ numerous writers and journalists. But, the proprietors of Café Craft not only took this into account, they saw them as a distinct benefit.
The unassuming façade of Café Craft belies what might be the city’s first café designed specifically as a workplace for writers, freelancers and the growing population of créatifs sans un bureau. In commissioning local studio POOL to design their bijou little café, the brief was to create an environment that would appeal to those who needed to sit and work in relative peace and quiet.
POOL’s response was a bold monochromatic design that references traditional Parisian café culture embedded in its otherwise uncluttered and cool lines; the eccentric use of tiles or bar stools for those merely on a momentary pit stop. POOL unveiled an environment that is neither too cosy nor too office-like, an environment that says, “work” as much as it says, “relax”. Notice boards mounted on metal grilles add to the feeling of a working environment but also perform the function of affording privacy to different seating areas. Here the café goes cubicle. And there’s even a long central communal table that takes its cue from the Dutch café tradition of the bibliotafel – the original versions can still be found in many Dutch cafés where they fulfill their function of making it easier to read newspapers and magazines.
In POOL’s hands, however, it’s converted to contemporary needs: the communal table can accommodate twelve workstations complete with Ethernet connection. It’s likely to be populated by strangers or acquaintances in this writer-heavy neighbourhood. But, in theory, there’s nothing to stop a smart group from taking it over to hold a parasite group meeting.
All of the contemporary resources, such as power sockets and Internet access, are available to the laptop generation that Craft welcomes. And there is no pressure placed upon anyone to constantly replenish his or her order for the privilege of an impromptu office.
None of this makes Craft a place to be avoided by the idle. Indeed, its quiet atmosphere and excellent coffee make it the ideal break for anyone sick of the Parisian hustle and bustle or whiling away some time before heading for the station. But, if your trip to Paris requires that you get some work done and you don’t fancy being secreted away in your hotel room, this is definitely a destination to remember.