Elan Cafe first started out as a small but elegant & stylish cafe in London Park Lane. Over the years, they’ve expanded into multiple locations in Knightsbridge, South Kensington, Soho, Oxford Circus, etc. and even at St Pancras station and Heathrow Terminal 3. One of the key reasons behind their success? Instagrammable pink flower walls and heart-shaped wreaths made of pink roses. In fact, they are the culprit of overrated Instagram pink cafes & flower walls in London. If pink flower walls and hearts still aren’t enough, more notably, Elan Cafe Knightsbridge branch even has a carousel in there.
Personally, I have nothing against pretty interiors. If anything, I love them and am a sucker for all things aesthetic. But the pretty facade means absolutely nothing if the quality of the food doesn’t match up. When you see the unmissable massive queues outside Elan Cafe, you would hope that the food would be worth the hype and wait. Well, a girl can dream when I joined the queue (luckily not that long, relatively) at their Brompton Road branch early on a Saturday morning.
Elan Cafe: London’s Culprit of Overrated Pink Flower Walls
On paper, the concept of Elan Cafe is fantastic. Who doesn’t love a stylish elegant cafe? Even better, Elan Cafe also prides itself in running a minimum-waste system – recycling coffee by-products and making in-store “an earth-friendly range of scrubs and masks for face, body and hair” with no preservatives or harmful chemicals.
Elan – (n.) Distinctive and stylish elegance, impulsive, confident ardour
Upon queueing for 35-40 minutes at their Brompton Road branch (the queue was at least tripled by the time I was leaving the cafe), unfortunately, I was met with disappointment. Once I managed to get inside, I was flabbergasted by how overcrowded it was. All the outlook of pink elegance completely vanished with the loudness and crowdedness of the place. The pink flowery aesthetics are there but the ambience was absolutely nowhere.
Perhaps it would’ve been slightly better if I was seated at an actual table with sofa seats. But I was seated by a large communal table and it was not at all comfortable. To an extent, I felt like I was crammed into some crowded street food market of sorts – not an elegant cafe.
The Food: What I Ordered
Date of visit: May 2018
Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant (£3.95)
Drawn by the colour stripes, I had my eyes set on the croissants when I was queuing. On the day, the available colours were pink, green, and brown – I went with the latter, which is of chocolate & hazelnut flavour. The croissant was lightly crispy on the outside and generally airy on the inside. It wasn’t the fluffiest and the most well-laminated croissant ever, but it was flakey and decent. The chocolate and hazelnut flavours weren’t too distinct though and were just a subtle touch. It was more for the colours rather than a proper filling, in my opinion.
Coconut Canele (£4.5)
Doesn’t this little canele look so dainty and peculiar? I saw them by the counter and simply couldn’t resist getting one. I picked the Coconut one – it wasn’t originally on the menu but was available as one of the special flavours of the day. Despite the pretty look, unfortunately, I just couldn’t quite say the same for the flavours. The canele tasted average at best. Its texture was unpleasantly dense and got an artificial almond aftertaste. For the price, I was not happy with the quality I received and it’s super tiny in size as well.
Speaking of poor quality at high prices, it’s the coffee that trumps it. At £4.80 a cup, I had high expectations for my latte. Especially when they pride themselves on being in partnership with London’s award-winning Union Coffee roasters, it’s fair to have some sort of expectation, wouldn’t you agree?
Sadly, the coffee was below par from mediocre. It was probably the most unimpressive cup of coffee I ever had. Truthfully, it tasted like a cup of bad coffee that shouldn’t cost more than £2 – I say two quid because they did pull a somewhat decent latte art, but that’s about it. When a high street chain makes better coffee than a supposedly speciality coffee shop, that’s just bad. I truly felt the sting of paying for such an overpriced cup of coffee.
Perhaps their speciality lies with fancy creations such as their Lucky Charms Latte, Red Velvet Cake Latte, etc. But I feel that if they couldn’t get a good grasp of the basics, the quality of these fancier drinks couldn’t be much better either. Although those drinks probably bring in incredible aesthetics to distract from their actual quality. Regardless, even I couldn’t bear to pay near £10 or above for a “cute-looking” cup of “fancy” coffee.
Elan Cafe is a prime example that looks are not everything. Whilst pretty, it was a ridiculously overrated place. The word “underwhelming” doesn’t even sum it up properly. I really struggle to wrap my head around how there is still so much hype around Elan Cafe. Surely, merely a pretty aesthetic could only last this long without substantial quality behind it? Worse still, seeing the kind of success Elan Cafe has, many other cafes are following suit by putting their efforts into flowery decor rather than improving their food. If you are a true foodie, I’m sure you’re with me on the same page here that you don’t want that to happen to the London food scene.
Nearest station: South Kensington