The hotel chain gave Urban Espresso a brief which demanded ‘a premium quality hot beverage concept that would enable them to take their current coffee and tea menu to the next level'.
One of the results is a drink product which is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, and which has now gone on to the Crowne Plaza menu.
The Espresso Gourmand makes use of a hollow domed honeycomb biscuit which is coated with thick dark chocolate on the underside. The biscuit is shaped so that it sits on top of the espresso cup, and when the heat from the espresso rises up into the domed biscuit, the dark chocolate on the underside melts into the espresso. As the chocolate melts, the biscuit softens and can be eaten or dunked.
"In all honesty I really did not know how this new espresso would be received," said Dominic Boyett, managing director of Urban Espresso. "It's amazing how a simple idea, based on a biscuit that I picked up on my travels in France, has got everyone talking just because it is so different, and yet simple.
"I thought that, if nothing else, it would get guests in the hotel talking about the new coffee menu, and about us as a company. Crowne Plaza added it to their restaurant menu, and it has been a big hit with their guests to such a degree that we have just added it to our own Urban Espresso branded espresso bar menu."
The brittle domed butter-type biscuit is produced exclusively in Paris by pastry chef Fabien Rouillard, who keeps the recipe and how the biscuit is actually made a well guarded secret, even from his new British customer, Urban Espresso.
Urban Espresso has also recently been appointed as national distributors for London Tea into the corporate and premium hotel market.
"We have been working closely with London Tea for the past 6 months, and have come up with a new range of ten second-flush Fairtrade and Organic teas and infusions, individually packed in 100% bio-degradable silk pyramid tagged pouches and presented in black leather bound presentation boxes, perfect for any quality-sensitive environments," said Boyett.
The name of the new drink, Espresso Gourmand, is a quite deliberate joke. A ‘gourmet' is a connoisseur, but ‘gourmand' translates more accurately as ‘greedy pig'. "You do need an understanding of French to get it," agrees Boyett, "but it certainly puts a smile on the customer's face."
"Well, most of the time it does…!"
By Ian Boughton