Earlier this year Kevin Ayers and his wife Kristin packed their bags, left Paris for Utrecht, and brought their award-winning coffee secrets with them. Their new cafe, Ohoj, quickly established itself as the best new cafe in town with a French flair, Scandinavian design, American hospitality and artfully-crafted coffee.
The espresso bar and specialty coffee roastery is located on the Rijnlaan, in the old neighborhood of the Pastoe factory, and just a couple minutes past the new Vaartsche Rijn station. The shopfront is simple and unsuspecting, tucked in an up-and-coming neighborhood teeming with a community of young people and families.
But when you step in, natural light floods the front window and reflects off white, marble tables. Patrons sit at the stool-lined bar, often chatting with Kevin. There isn’t much on the wall behind the bar except for a simple black and white menu — the center of attention really being the espresso machine and the signature blue cups scattered about. You also can’t miss the professional-grade roaster sitting in the back corner — it’s half the reason the place smells so great.
I have yet to go to another cafe in Utrecht where the barista actually talks to you about the beans and the brew — not to mention, unpretentiously. Kevin will ask you about your preferences and even explain how the roast or the brew will affect the taste — last time I was there, we even did a couple of samples to see the difference. I’ll tell you something, I’ve never had a coffee buzz like that in my life.
So, what should you try? The espresso tonic is a thirst quencher and must-try. The cappuccino is a personal favorite — with the milk never burnt or over-frothy. Ask about the beans in the filter coffee for the day. During the summer, they also team up with the ice cream shop next door so you can buy a scoop then get some espresso poured on top to make a delicious affogato.
Now, they’ve even added cakes and goodies to the menu — because we all know the Dutchies can’t have coffee without a sweet. Last week, I jealously glared and picked at the crumbs as my friends engorged the red velvet cake. And for the artisan coffee you get, the price is also extremely fair and even cheaper than some of the more popular cafes in the center.
Finally, if you haven’t been to Ohoj yet and your excuse is that this place is on the outskirts of the center ring — I’ll politely tell you to get over it and get on your bike now. Admittedly, I’m a city-center snob — with anything outside the ring feeling like a pilgrimage. But, Ohoj is worth the short bike ride (just) outside the center, or outside the confines of your neighbourhood. The space is the perfect meeting place and the service is exceptional, but, it’s the coffee that will keep you coming back.