Have a happy purple day!
It’s a triumph when I finally make it to Subspace. I hear about it in early December and I mentally play out many machinations trying to fit it into my schedule. But I blame the craziness that is Christmas and so I don’t make it there until mid-January.
Subspace’s motto – nay, manifesto, is “The Science of Coffee, The Seoul of Design.” As a disciple of K-pop and everything it represents, the coffee shop is a paean to that nation’s pop stars and design aesthetic. The wall on the immediate left of the entrance is any teenage girl’s shrine to male Korean singing sensations, nattily dressed and preening perfectly practiced pouts and poses.
And speaking of design, Subspace is the sister company to Space Encounters, a bewitching furniture store just a jaunt away from the café. I’m told that Subspace is called such because it used to be on the floor below Space Encounters, while another relates that it’s the second store, thus “Sub…” Whichever it is, both spaces are beguiling for whiling away one’s time.
This coffee shop is a playground for the eyes, there’s always something new here to ferret out visually or “spy with my little eyes.” A design chameleon, Subspace dares to reinvent itself by trouncing boundaries and quelling conservatism. Look up: a chair-chandelier dangles precariously from the ceiling; it reminds me of the red-shoe-chandelier at Landmark Makati. Nearby, the word “rocket,” its letters in ascending sizes seem to rocket off into the ceiling. A rotary telephone circa when party lines still existed, sits placidly on telephone books, both are items from a throwback era. Above the counter hang elongated, tear drop chrome lamps that want to beam me up, while CDs (still remember those?), spin dial timers, and other indefinable tchotchke, kitsch, trinkets, whatever-you-want-to-call-them contribute their own brand of fascination. This place is boss.
I’m having me a Happy Purple Day alright! It’s a spaceship logo but look long enough and you’ll see the coffee cup shape emerge.
Once Subspace habitués soak up their quota for design, they subsist on sweets and the café’s pair of most popular drinks. First, the Purple Potato Latte (P125, hot; P140, cold). Don’t make the mistake of calling it the ube latte because you’ll be gently but assuredly corrected – “No, not ube latte, it’s a purple potato latte.” Hey, their place, their rules. The barista recommends that I take it hot and I do. Compelling in color and displaying a fanciful flair for floral, it’s sweet with a nudge towards salty at the end. The ube’s … er, purple potato’s familiar flavor is but a whiff then a flutter on the tongue before milk and coffee take over. I think the pull of this drink demonstrates the power of suggestion: see purple potato, taste purple potato, like.
Peanut Butter Lattes, hot and cold.
Peanut butter monster is what I am so I’m expecting exponentially peanutty pleasures from the Peanut Butter Latte (P130, hot; P145, cold). I prefer my coffee drinks hot but I take this one cold, once again upon the barista’s recommendation. Peanut butter takes two forms in the cold beverage, peanut butter syrup and lashes of actual peanut butter that lace the cup’s sides. If it weren’t for the globs of peanut butter that make their way up the straw, I’d complain. For comparison’s sake, I order a hot peanut butter latte. This one has no syrup, just peanut butter that’s melted in the hot liquid, the flavor of which is weak, unfortunately. My friend tells me that the last time she was here, it actually tasted like ChocNut. I’m jealous. Still, these are two creamy lattes that provide milk and whimsy from my daily black-slap joe.
Subspace is full today, on a weekend when this part of Ortigas mimics a ghost town. Here are mostly students armed with their hodgepodge of gadgets, BFFs exclaiming delightedly over stories shared, and the barista duo cool and capable and charged on caffeine.
For a coffee shop that could probably afford to ride on the popularity of their lattes (and interiors), I’m impressed with Subspace’s food selection. Savory and sugary, slices and tartlets, diversity rules. I want to order one of everything but restraint reigns. The Chocolate Paradise (P115) tastes like it’s spent more time communing with the chiller than in someone’s mouth, but it’s all good. It’s moist enough and the chocolate is solidly good and not waxy.
Unit 103 G/F Grand Emerald Tower
F. Ortigas Jr. Road (formerly Emerald Ave.),
Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Open Monday- Saturday, 8am-11pm.