In Which We Try a New Coffee-Bar…

Just so you know, it's NOT a French franchise...

Just so you know, it’s NOT a French franchise…

My siblings and I were at the mall a couple weeks ago on one of those rare occasions when all three of us were off from work and could just chill out and relax.  After lunch and a happy browse-through at Book Sale which turned into a full-scale hunt for inspirational tomes (for my brother), manga (for my sister), and Brit and/or Aussie food magazines (mine), we decided to hie off and grab some coffee and dessert.

“Is there any other place that does coffee here aside from Starbucks?” my brother asked rather plaintively.

I pointed in the direction of Hollys Coffee which was, ironically, just a hop-skip-and-jump away from Starbucks.  “That place looks promising,” I said.

It does look a bit more posh than the competition...

It does look a bit more posh than the competition…

Hollys (no apostrophes, mind you) is a franchise of a popular chain of coffee-bars in South Korea.  It’s supposed to be based on a Parisian cafe (hence the poster at the top of this particular blog entry) where patrons are encouraged to sit and relax for a while with some coffee and a slice of cake as opposed to barking one’s order out at the barista and sprinting out as soon as you’ve paid and your order’s in hand.

The decor features plush armchairs and couches flanking low wood and wrought iron tables, softly ambient lighting, wood panels and old-school cabinets, and the chairs for the regular cafe tables are cushioned.  Jazz music (I’m not sure if it’s the New York or Paris sort; I was never a big jazz fan, really.) plays softly in the background.

Oh, what to pick...!

Oh, what to pick…!

“Ooh, look at what they’ve got in the display case!” my sister exclaimed, pointing at the array of cakes, buns, cold sarnies, biscuits, and pastries in the refrigerated case.

The selection is a bit more interesting than at the Yankee coffee bars: steamed and baked meat buns appear on the menu, tea-infused sweets such as a blondie infused with black tea are supposed to be best-sellers, Korean flavors like kimchi and bulgogi are added to sandwiches and pasta, and you can opt to top your Belgian waffles with powdered sugar, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, or cream cheese.

The drinks are rather unusual, too.  Aside from the regular coffee bar drinks – your cappuccini, espressi, and whatnot – they also have such unusual things as sweet potato lattes and a yam macchiato, house-blended sparkling sippers, and decadent spins on hot chocolate.

Coffee, cake...

Coffee, cake…

Since it was a hot day, we decided to give the Hollycino, Hollys’ spin on the ice-blended coffee, a shot.  The sibs each ordered the mint chocolate Hollycino which features proper creme de menthe vert blended into an iced mocha; the drink is topped with a fluffy swirl of aerosol whipped cream and a generous drizzle of creme de menthe syrup.  The sibs pronounced it an excellent drink: not too sweet or bitter, the flavor of the mint well-balanced and not reeking of toothpaste.

My choice was a Hollys specialty: the dark forest Hollycino.  For this particular ice-blended, dark chocolate and black Morello cherries in syrup were whizzed into a white mocha, topped with cream, drizzled over with syrup, and completed with a whole, pitted Morello.  Most cherry-infused drinks in this country taste disturbingly of cough syrup and either candied glace cherries or Maraschinos are used for garnishes; this drink was neither.  You get a proper cherry flavor: the slight tartness providing a bold yet tasteful counterpoint to the bittersweet chocolate and the vanilla-ish notes of the white mocha.  Seriously good stuff.

My sister chose a slice of the red velvet cake for the three of us to share, but this proved to be the only misfire for an otherwise perfect dessert.  While it was moist, buttery, and not too sweet, the cake fell flavorwise as it was neither cocoa nor vanilla to our tastebuds and the cream cheese icing was run of the mill.  Nevertheless, it was considerably better than the red velvet flogged by other local purveyors.

Red velvet cake aside, I am definitely stopping by Hollys again soon as the weather gets a bit cooler.  I am so intrigued by the sweet potato bevvies…



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