October 23, 2017

Caffè Nero: Charming, but still a chain

By Olivia Gieger '17, Editor in Chief

Photo by Olivia Gieger '17.

Finally Wellesley is home to what it has craved for so many years now: a cozy coffee shop complete with fireplaces, bookshelves and comfy couches.

Caffè Nero opened its doors on 339 Washington Street in early September in a historic brick building that was once the Wellesley Hills train station.

Its menu boasts an impressive array of sandwiches, salads, and baked goods, as well as an extensive list of coffee drinks, teas, juices, and smoothies. This branch of the London-based chain also offers a handful of gluten-free desserts, which always warrants bonus points from me.

Truthfully, I cannot tell you much about the food. There is nothing exceptional or noteworthy about their menu options.  It is just what you would expect from coffee shop food: nothing too boring, but nothing too original; they offer exactly what one needs for a cozy snack or casual lunch.

The nature of the menu reflects the nature of the coffee shop itself; it is exactly what we need. Wellesley has longed for a place where high schoolers can go after school or where writers can set up shop on the weekend. Caffè Nero provides just that.

However, while the cozy atmosphere of Caffè Nero adds to its character and charm, it feels contrived. Walk into a Caffè Nero in Boston, London, or even Edinburgh, and you will find the same scene: the same sort of menu offerings, the same exact drink recipes, and the same furniture. While there is something charming about sitting in Wellesley’s branch of the coffee shop and realizing that someone 3,000 miles away is doing the same thing, there is also something lost in that. We lose an opportunity to express our own, unique Wellesley character, and we snack with the knowledge that a communal gathering place is one that mirrors a chain of others across the globe.   

I am willing to overlook the lack of originality in the caffè, however, to celebrate the fact that it is unique in the face of the other restaurants in town. Wellesley needs a gathering place for coffee and conversation, and unless Wellesley suddenly launches an array of independent coffee shops overnight, Caffè Nero fills a void in our town that desperately needed filling.

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