La Fábrica Girona: Could this be Spain’s Best Cycle Cafe?
Cyclists are regularly seen on the streets of Girona. The proximity of The Pyrenees and a warm climate make it a magnet for athletes and recreational bikers alike. Now a new cycle cafe in this Catalonian city is offering them something special. Run by pro-cyclist Christian Meier and his wife Amber, La Fábrica Girona is a sophisticated fusion of bike cafe and specialist coffee house. And word is getting around. Towards the end of our recent Transpyrenees biking adventure we headed to La Fábrica Girona for coffee, cake and cycling chat…
A fusion of coffee and cycling
It’s not often you are lovingly served a latte in a bike cafe by a Tour de France cyclist. But then, to be honest it’s not often in Spain that you are lovingly served a latte. Coffees here tend to be uncomplicated, cheap, fast and unadorned by pretty pictures of coffee beans and butterflies. La Fábrica cycle cafe is veering from the norm. Co-owner Amber Meier explains their philosophy.
“We’re the only coffee shop in Girona that roasts our own coffee. We do pour-overs and filter coffees. We source the beans from different countries. We use double shots in all our beverages.”
While all this may sound normal in the UK, Amber says it’s a new concept for many Catalonian locals.
“Normally the cafes here have a contract with one coffee provider. They provide the machine and the cups for free and then the cafes buy their product. It was very scary because we didn’t know if people were going to like us.”
A coffee revolution
Today’s visitors like it well enough. The communal table in the centre of this cycle cafe (counter-cultural in itself) is populated at different times during our visit by German and American tourists, a couple animatedly discussing a triathlon and someone who looks like he’s snuck out of the office for a brew. The huge honey cake that presides over the counter at the start of our visit is demolished by the end. And cyclists continually wheel up to the terrace tables in the alley outside as they finish their morning’s training. One of these is cyclist Christian Meier, who fits in visits around his day’s training regime. He doesn’t come because he loves cake (although apparently he does). The café is his brainchild and he works here after a practice spin each day if he can.
A career spin off
Amber and Christian moved to Girona from Vancouver, Canada eight years ago. But they didn’t come to open a bike café. Christian was about to start his first professional cycling contract, with Garmin Slipstream.
“They required their cyclists to be based in Europe for logistical reasons,” says Amber. “And a lot of them are based in Girona. So we moved over here and eight years kind of flew by. And last year he did his first Tour de France. And after that we kind of thought now what?”
They had always talked of opening a café when Christian retired. But Amber nudged her husband to bring it forward.
“I basically hit a wall and said ‘You did your dream but I’m not studying or learning. I need something for me.’ And he said ‘Ok, let’s do the retirement plan now.’”
A word of mouth success
The couple have relied on locals and tourists spreading the word, and it has worked.
“Christian said he didn’t want to pay a dime in advertising. We want people to love our product so much that they tell other people,” explains Amber, who says people come for many reasons. “Some come because they think the architecture is really cool. Some come for the coffee. Some come because they are new to Girona and starting cycling here and they want to know some routes. On the table we have books and maps, and you can chat to other cyclists about good rides. We are extremely bike friendly – we have parking outside, you can bring your bikes in here; the floor is concrete for your cleats.”
But this bike cafe isn’t he kind of place that smells of bike grease and sweaty shorts. This is a boutique style cycle cafe. Set in a meticulously renovated, century-old carpenters shop.
“It was like a wedding dress. We saw the space and thought this is it. I could see my husband going bing! bing!”
Stylish in every detail
Christian and Amber thought long and hard about design. Everything is branded, from the La Fábrica range of cycling clothes to the coffee cups to the phone protectors you can also buy online. There are racing cyclists looking down from on high, snapped in their prime by Christian’s favourite photographer. There are some beautiful bike frames floating around. In the toilets the door handles are Dali moustaches and lights are mounted into handlebars. And there’s a minimalist drinking fountain with free water. But Amber says it’s not intended to feel like a gallery – more like a hangout for like minded people.
“We wanted it to be a really homely place. I don’t cycle. I don’t ride a bike at all and I wanted it to be a place you can come whether or not you like cycling. We wanted to cater to everyone, but everyone who has something in common.”
A healthy choice and no Pepsi
Food wise, there is a healthy glow to the place. Popular staples are bowls of muesli, sandwiches on delicious granary bread and cake crammed with undiluted nature.
“There’s no hydrogenated vegetable oil or things you can’t pronounce. It’s all really good wholesome ingredients,” says Amber. Fitting for cyclists.
I find myself wondering if it’s the only café in Spain that doesn’t sell Coca Cola. The downside is that for a family it isn’t cheap.
“Honestly? It’s expensive but people are saving their pennies to come as they feel it is worth saving for,” say Amber.
Tastes as good as it looks
The coffee is indeed good, beautifully presented in bowls on wooden blocks with powder hearts and leaves in the froth. I agree it is worth the price and tip the euros out of my purse to order another round.
“We want people to know we roast the coffee. We use fresh milk that we bring in every day. You’re getting so much more for the price. People will go to Plaza Independencia and get an espresso for a euro, but it’s not because our profit margin is bigger; we are just using better ingredients to get a better coffee.” says Amber.
The cake is on another level from the picnics we’ve been having for the last six weeks. It is some of the best I have tasted anywhere. And I find myself reflecting on how different it is when a cafe is born out of passion. In this case passion for coffee and for cycling.
La Fábrica is on Carrer de la Llebre, in Girona’s Old Town. You can probably find it by following a cyclist.