A Car Cafe For All – As You Like It

A refreshing watering hole in the heart of Shakespeare country is becoming a popular stop for car fans. Colin Goodwin dropped in to meet the man who runs it

Recently I was on a car launch and overheard some younger journalists talking about a joint called Caffeine & Machine. On further questioning, they explained that it’s a sort of car nut’s meeting place where you can go and drink a coffee, eat, even stay over in one of eight rooms and generally chew the automotive fat with fellow enthusiasts.

Fast-talking entrepreneur Phil McGovern set it up in a house just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, only a stone’s throw from Jaguar Land Rover’s HQ. According to McGovern, engineers and test drivers already use Caffeine & Machine as a watering hole. Aston Martin is equally close by and their testers also drop in.

Caffeine & Machine has echoes of The Bike Shed, a motorcycle-themed cafe and eatery in the heart of London’s Shoreditch hipsterville. I hadn’t been to The Bike Shed, but went there for research purposes before coming up to visit Caffeine & Machine. I had a nice lunch, didn’t buy any stylish biker gear and was able to resist having my beard trimmed for £24. It costs two quid at my local barber. It was fairly evident from observing my fellow customers that I was probably alone among the lunchtime guests in holding a motorcycle licence. A bit too trendy and try-hard for me, but I’m told that it’s great fun to watch a MotoGP race live at The Bike Shed because of the atmosphere.

It’s a bit like the Ace Cafe, but set in open countryside 

McGovern grew up in Kenilworth in an estate where neighbours included Volvo and now Geely design wizard Peter Horbury, Jaguar powertrain man David Szczupak and Land Rover legend Roger Crathorne. “I did some work experience with Roger at what was then the start of Land Rover Experience,” says McGovern. Later, post-university, he worked in customer relations at JLR and then in 2007 was sent out to the Middle East to look after the company’s operations there and in Africa. “I’ve always had a love affair with photography,” he explains, “and started a website called Crank and Piston. Unfortunately, I published a photograph of an abandoned Jaguar XJ220 in Qatar and the bosses got wind of it and told me that I had to shut the site down. I didn’t want to and was given the boot.” McGovern stayed in Dubai and founded a successful creative agency. In 2017, he returned to the UK with a plan in his head for what turned out to be Caffeine & Machine.

McGovern is very keen that his place doesn’t become too hipsterish. In fact, he doesn’t want it to be at all sectarian; known only as a meeting place for supercar freaks or classic car cloth cappers. The idea is to create a vibrant and inspiring place to share the passion. So far I like it.

McGovern’s vision for this place fits with my theory on the future of motoring. I’m convinced it’s going to return to being a hobby. Automated, overcomplicated and bland machines will simply be part of the transport infrastructure alongside buses, trains and Uber. We hardcore enthusiasts will be looking for places to go and things to do in our cars. In other words, it’s going to be more like being a biker; a breed that has always sought out excuses to go riding. Caffeine & Machine will be one such place. It’s a bit like the Ace Cafe on London’s North Circular, but the big difference is that this place is set in open countryside and driving here will be a pleasure in itself and part of the experience.

The door handles on the entrance are camshafts allegedly from a Porsche 964 RS. In the entrance, there’s a Yamaha TZ250 once raced by Damon Hill. Turning right into the coffee and drinks bar, there’s a Harley-Davidson bobber parked with a drip tray underneath it. “That came to visit with its owner last weekend, but it conked out. It’s a sort of temporary exhibit,” explains McGovern.

In a room next door, there’s a rather lovely Porsche 356 parked up. Dotted around it are bits of art, furniture and sculptures that are all for sale. Another of Caffeine & Machine’s raison d’être is to be a sort of craft centre for automotive arts. Around the back are various outbuildings, one of which contains a young lad who does suspension geometry the old way with bits of string. He’s charged very little rent in what is a commendable plan to assist youngsters and start-ups.

In the grounds are plinths where cars can be displayed and admired, and there’s also a big teepee-like structure for gatherings. Audi has used Caffeine & Machine for a car launch and I’m sure that other manufacturers are probably looking at the place at least for a coffee stop on a journalists’ test drive route. I hope it doesn’t get too corporate.  It’d be a nuisance to drop in for a chat and cuppa and find the place swamped with car hacks.

Already we have Goodwood’s breakfast club, but that’s not so easy to get to if you don’t live in the south-east. Shelsley Walsh holds regular breakfast gatherings, too, and they’re brilliant. Shelsley is near to Caffeine & Machine, so there’s a very pleasant Sunday morning/lunch run for you. Give it a try. A

For more information, visit caffeineandmachine.com