Turns out, in dressage—colloquially: horse ballet—a capriole is the hardest of the classical jumps. To capriole, a horse must spring to twice its own height, kick its hind legs out straight while tucking its front legs into its chest, and then land with all four limbs on the ground at once. “It takes supreme preparation” and “an extraordinary trainer with a lot of feel for the horse,” according to Dressage Today.
So it is fitting that one of The Hague coffee scene’s most impressive arrivals last year is called Capriole Café. This 100-plus-capacity restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in more ways than one, revolves around the Giesen W6A roaster right in the middle of the place. Opened in August, the venue is a very personal offshoot of Capriole Coffee Service, an independent supplier to Dutch and Belgian workplaces in the market for products by Melitta, Nescafé, and Cup-a-Soup, to name a few. Yet, despite or perhaps because it descends from a parentage used to dealing with big transnational enterprises, Capriole’s leap is all the more remarkable.
Speaking to Sprudge in early 2017, cafe director Pascal Ultee recalled how the idea came after his father, Peter Ultee, had fallen ill and was asked to articulate a future vision for the company he founded in 1975. “In 40 years [of] working with other brands—it’s fun, it’s nice to do, but—you also always feel that you want to do it differently from how they are doing it,” said Pascal Ultee. So the family concurred: Pascal Ultee and his sister and business partner, Joyce Ultee, would “take the next step…and build our own coffee brand,” he explained. Plus, they would establish a huiskamer—or living space—for the brand.
That “living space” was designed by Amsterdam-based architects Bureau Fraii to feel modern and mature. Most industrial chic of all is Café Capriole’s location in Nieuw Binckhorst, an industrial zone once housing a Fokker aeronautical school and now undergoing mixed-use development. Through windowed walls, diners look onto the Trekvliet, a canal dug up around 1345, at the time a major means for transporting goods, and today an opportunity for guests to arrive by boat. The roaster and the bar match the interior’s columns and beams, all in a matte black, though they are warmed by sienna-toned tables, chair legs, and light fixtures. That the entire drink-devising section rests on a platform is symbolic.
“It’s really cool that you can have your roaster and your barista working side by side together to create this experience for our customers,” said Pascal Ultee. “You [usually] never see the roaster, it’s always happening somewhere in the back. And basically—obviously—we need great baristas, but it starts with the roaster.”
Master roaster Giancarlo Matarazzi can usually be found doing his job en plein air five days a week. Alongside three house blend espressos, which are pulled on a three-group San Remo Opera, four single-origin coffees are regularly available for filter. The choice brewing device is a Gino Dripper by notNeutral, whose Lino cups and mugs are also favored.
Matarazzi sources green beans via specialty coffee merchants, such as This Side Up and 32Cup, though is unafraid to cross what others might see as the Robusta rubicon. Asked about a recent washed Ugandan, he replied: “People think that I’m crazy because I like to experiment.” The 100% Robusta beans were praised for having “lots of body” and “a lot of acids”—for being koffie met ballen, if you will.
But it is a 100% Arabica that Matarazzi and Capriole head chef Diego Buik most frequently use as an ingredient on their menu. The Flores, an organic blend of Peruvian and semi-washed Sumatran beans, is featured in a pink peppercorn-infused espresso; a Hermit Dutch coastal gin and tonic with a double shot of espresso; an espresso gelée-encased vanilla custard with stewed pears and speculaas crumble; and The Smoked Dutch, Buik’s award-winning pulled pork burger topped with coffee barbecue sauce.
Capriole, however, is also perfectly hospitable to those not seeking coffee everything. The morning laptop worker preferring to sip some Tea in Motion is as welcome as the wine-and-steak set. A young family might find pleasure in weekend French toast or, far rarer in the Netherlands, mozzarella sticks. Upstairs, a boardroom and a workshop area (outfitted with a two-group Kees van der Westen Mirage) can be booked for private meetings and hands-on coffee breaks.
The capriole, a sign of the equine sublime, reportedly takes years to perfect. Its performance lasts approximately two seconds. Capriole Café emerged from a family’s four decades of commitment to coffee, but judging by its first months of operation, this performance will be long-lasting. And although Peter Ultee passed away nearly two weeks after Sprudge’s interview, Pascal Ultee, Joyce Ultee, and their 30-strong team seem to have everything it takes to sustain and elevate his entrepreneurial spirit.
Karina Hof is a Sprudge staff writer based in Amsterdam. Read more Karina Hof on Sprudge.