My discovery of the existence of the espresso con panna came about last week, the morning of the Premier Inn Purple Sauce launch media event . Despite being well versed in the blogging freebies philosophy from an early age, for some reason Michael was coy about taking a bacon sandwich, or drink, so while I had a bacon bap & big cup of tea, he requested to go get a cookie afterwards instead. We had to wait around until 11am for Yo Sushi! to open to get our takeaway to take home anyway, so we went to the Caffe Nero on Anne Street where he got a giant slice of chocolate fudge cake. I was full of bacon and tea, but wanted to get something to drink to occupy me while Michael attacked his cake, so I spied the espresso con panna, and thankfully for the coffee ignorant like me, a description of what it actually was underneath. Two shots of espresso topped with whipped cream. It sounded good, and it tasted good, and it was teeny enough to fit in after by giant cup of tea just half an hour before. Plus it was only £1.90, which seems cheap for a coffee chain where big, sugary coffees are over £3.
And so my experiment unwittingly began.
My next place to try their version of the espresso con panna was local coffee chain Bob & Bert's. Again the drink was printed on the giant wall menu, but the two staff members said literally no-one had ever asked for it before! This led me to Google the drink when I got home, finding out it's actually a very old fashioned coffee option, which was around before other lighter drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes.
At Bob & Bert's there was a small or medium size, which I'm guessing just meant one or two shots. It was served in a cute little glass this time, and was just as good as Caffe Neros.
On Saturday, I was rushing around doing messages before my son got back, and stopped into my local Independant chain Coffee Cure, which has several branches in Bangor, including the restaurant at the heritage centre. I live very close to the original flagship branch on the Rathmore Road, so I popped in to see how their espresso con panna held up.
This time it wasn't on the menu, so I just asked for two shots of espresso with whipped cream on top. They made the cream up fresh, and it was really thick. I forgot to get a photo, but it was good.
The final contender in part one of my search for the best espresso con panna is every coffee snob's nemesis, Starbucks. I love Starbucks, and Michael loves Starbucks, although we rarely go as it's just so bloody expensive. Luckily the espresso con panna was not only on the wall menu, but only £1.90 and apparently only 37 calories. I'm not sure I can really judge Starbucks fairly, as I got the drink to take away, and with all the other cafés I sat in. Why this effects the outcome is that by the time I drove round home with the drink, the cream had completely dissolved into the espresso, so it was just like a tiny strong coffee with a splash of milk in it. It definitely wasn't good, but I might give Starbucks another go sitting in with it next time.
So far I think the best version has been the original, Caffe Nero. But I've plenty more places to try, so watch out for part two!