Cover Trois Cafe in Hong Kong Vista Coffee Shop (Photo: Courtesy of Restaurant & Bar Design Awards)

Come for the coffee, stay for the surroundings—these are some of the most stunning cafes and coffee shops that we’re marking down for future visits

The coffee shop’s significance in the history of humanity is not to be underestimated. As sanctuaries for solitude as well as conversation and exchange of news, politics and ideas, these “third spaces” are more than just a place to drink coffee. Witness the grand kaffeehausen of Vienna, where intellectuals and artists such as Sigmund Freud and Gustav Klimt would be seen regularly propping up the bar, or the intimate kissaten of Japan where salarymen start their day with dark roast coffee and pizza toast for breakfast, a slice of quiet before being absorbed into the chaos of the corporate world.

Some cafes are starkly decked out, allowing coffee equipment and brewing performances to shine; others create an entirely fantastical world, be it via pop-art modernism or immersive bamboo forests where you just so happen to be able to order a flat white. Around the world, as cafes continue to soar in popularity and coffee consumption per capita steadily increases, it’s even more of an imperative to stand out with great architecture and thoughtful design. In anticipation of the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards to be announced on 14 October 2021, we take a look at some cafes shortlisted around Asia for an accolade—and more that we just love the look of.

See also: This New Robot Cafe In Tokyo Is Remotely Operated By Disabled Workers

1. Vista Coffee Shop, Fuzhou, China

Hong Kong and Guangzhou-based architects Karvone designed this 945 square meter coffee shop with a dramatic undulating ribbon-like steel structure hovering overhead, with greenery hanging gracefully from the trellises. Terrazzo and metal are used as generously as soft flowers and plants, with terrazzo benches and flooring for added whimsy. Vista is shortlisted for a Restaurant & Bar Design Award.

8 Chayuan Road, Wu Si Lu Zhong Yang Shang Wu Qu, Jinan Qu, Fuzhou Shi, Fujian Sheng, China, 350025

2. PAGA Microroastery, Bangkok

Designed by Taste Space, this minimalist microroastery cafe in Watthana, central Bangkok combines glass and concrete to great effect. While the colour palette is kept light and white—almost Apple Store-esque—the studio incorporated subtle stone textures in neutral shades, and an acrylic stone coffee bar to bring to mind the mountain environments where the coffee beans grow. Double-height floor-to-ceiling windows invite the light in gloriously, casting sun-dappled shadows across the cafe space.

45, 1 Soi Sukhumvit 31, Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

3. % Arabica, Taguig

One of the most instantly recognisable coffee shop brands in the world, Arabica’s pristine white palette and simple, clean lines lends itself to creative adaptations wherever they land—whether it’s a tiny mobile kiosk leading up to Hirafu in Niseko, or the arched brick facade of their newest Brooklyn branch—the first in the US, cementing founder Kenneth Shoji’s dream of having an Arabica in both Paris and America (Arabica now has close to 100 branches around the world since launching in 2013). Their seventh branch in Beijing’s The New Mall makes the most of its ultra sleek surroundings to create an electrifying, futuristic effect using light and reflection. In Manila’s 257 McKinley, the third Arabica coffee store in the city, the impressive glass facade and illuminated ceiling highlights the interiors even from street level; the amphitheatre seating has echoes of Banaue’s iconic rice terraces, offering drinkers an unusual vantage point to view the coffee making action below.

Shop G03-G04, Ground Floor 25/7 McKinley Building, 25th corner 7th Ave, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

4. Uni Gyre, Tokyo

This spacious, moody cafe located inside the Gyre shopping mall in Omotesando is designed by Japanese firm Atelier Tsuyoshi Tane Architects, who created an impressive Escher-like amphitheatre seating area of dark wooden blocks cascading down towards the illuminated coffee bar. Elsewhere, the cafe is filled with lush greenery and earth textures.

Gyre 4F, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

5. Lacàph, Ho Chi Minh City

Situated upstairs in a 1930’s residential house, Lacàph is a space worth seeking out. With its slanted roofing and split-level, loft-like interiors with double-height windows, it’s a cafe that immediately feels fresh and light. Elements of the interiors are made from 90 per cent reclaimed wood, and the business supports local Vietnamese coffee farmers from four provinces around the country.

220 Nguyễn Công Trứ, P. Nguyễn Thái Bình, Q. 1, Tp. Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

6. Trois, Hong Kong

This new opening designed by Nelson Chan is striking in its aesthetics, with contrasting bubble gum pinks and pastel greens flowing smoothly throughout the space. Circular windows and chalk-white lines bring to mind the playful shapes and colours of Hong Kong’s Instagrammable housing estates and basketball courts—even one of their signature drinks echoes the pink and green theme. Trois is one of the shortlisted cafes in the Restaurant & Design Awards for 2021.

Centre Point, Shop 2-3, 181-185 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

7. Hathaway, Singapore

Also shortlisted in the 2021 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards is this modern Asian bistro and cafe in Dempsey, a calming vision of rattan, wood and stone. A terrazzo coffee bar with dramatic pill-shaped shelving is where Hathaway’s baristas and rustic breads are on show, while some of the best window seats look out onto lush greenery.

13 Dempsey Road #01-07 Singapore 249674

8. Merchant’s Lane, Kuala Lumpur

Located within an old shophouse that once housed a brothel, Merchant’s Lane retains much of the building’s character and quirks, artfully peeling paint and all. Antique posters, Peranakan cushions and other Malay-Chinese knickknacks present themselves throughout, and the highlight of the space is the central courtyard with trees. Founder Ken Ho admits that when he first embarked on the project, he told the designer to please “make it Instagrammable”—and that, they delivered.

150, Jalan Petaling, Central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

9. HOH Cafe (東厚食 Cafe), Zhubei City, Taiwan

Made entirely from shipping containers, HOH Cafe (designed by Infeel Architects) was envisioned to blend in with its forest surroundings, the rusting iron reflecting the gnarled wood of nearby trees. Structure is given with solid black beams while warm wood slates create the body of the coffee bar. Pendant lights and gravelled walkways give the space a homely feel, just the kind of vibe you’d want for a coffee shop in the great outdoors.

No. 95-5, E Section 2, Guangming 6th Rd, Zhubei City, Hsinchu County, Taiwan 30271

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