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Take your espresso experience underground at this maximalist coffee shop

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Head to Felix Roasting Co. for a multisensory coffee experience. (Photo: Emily Faber, Sinclair Broadcast Group)

NEW YORK CITY (SBG) - Walking into Felix Roasting Co. is enough to stop you in your tracks.

I’m well-acquainted with the aesthetics of what owner Matt Moinian calls “the Brooklyn coffee shop.” My usual cafe has three white walls and one with exposed brick, and the highlight of the decor is a few cacti and succulents that provide a pop of green against the neutral tones of pretty much everything else in the shop. Nearly every coffee shop I frequent has the same exposed brick and a chalkboard propped outside with a clever pun to draw you in for a latte.

By contrast, Felix Roasting Co. is best described as glamorous. A domed ceiling highlights the circular bar, and the walls, furniture, and floors are covered in colorful pattern upon colorful pattern. It’s not merely a step in the opposite direction from the aforementioned coffee shops; Moinian has deliberately pushed for an “anti-Brooklyn” appearance for his Park Avenue spot. San Francisco-based interior designer Ken Fulk made those fanciful visions come true.

Felix Roasting Co. is all about the experience, and while it starts with the over-the-top decor, it doesn’t stop there. Instead, the adventure continues into their coffee menu, where “every coffee has a story,” and that story is told through taste and presentation. The honeycomb latte comes with a brittle toffee shell guarding the beverage. You must first smash the shell before you can sip your drink. Espresso is served on the side for the deconstructed espresso tonic, and guests should pour it into the tonic concoction themselves only after tasting each component solo. Alternative kinds of milk are housemade and as creamy as can be. These aren’t drinks to mindlessly gulp down for a quick caffeine fix.

The magic of the main floor is more than enough to satisfy your senses. But if you’re looking for things to get genuinely experimental, you’ll want to find your way underground.

The Cellar, every bit as ornate as the top floor, is Felix’s event space, designed to host workshops and tastings that expose further attendees to the art of coffee. In the age of multisensory experiences that are as Instagrammable as they are appetizing, the Cellar is creating a must-visit space for coffee lovers to gather and learn.

Led by Head of Brand Reagan Petrehn, the four-course coffee tasting event that I attended managed to surprise and delight the guests with each drink that was served. Petrehn’s creations are a mix of classic flavors with pioneering techniques, served in a way that is considerate of senses beyond taste.

That’s certainly not to say that taste takes a backseat to appearance. The first course was inspired by the practice of “coffee cupping,” the observation of flavors and aromas. “Ethiopian Wush Wush, presented to best highlight aromatics,” the menu stated. Moinian joked about loving the name of the coffee, but there’s more to their choice than its fun-sounding name. All of their globally-sourced coffee beans are drawn from rotating locations, based on peak harvesting seasons and a quest for quality.

The second course was served on a burning log, and the cameras came out. As parts of the log continued to smolder, guests poured cacao-infused milk onto a honeycomb, causing the honeycomb to melt into the espresso below. With my sweet tooth, this course was undoubtedly my favorite - and a considerable improvement over my usual coffee consumption method of dumping sugar packets into a boring old iced latte, both in terms of my experience and the drink’s taste.

It was the third and fourth courses; however, that took the idea of a multisensory experience most literally.

The smell took the spotlight for the third course, which found the espresso served on a tray alongside a decorative dish of aromatic fog. A bouquet was placed atop the orange blossom beverage, and then Petrehn spritzed it with some perfume. While sipping the drink, the combination of smells added an intriguing element to the already-floral taste.

The unexpected usage of Pop Rocks rounded out the five senses, by bringing in that nostalgic crackling sound inside the head with each spoonful. The Pop Rocks were served with a small tin of caviar, contrasting the jagged rocks of the candy with the smooth feel of the seafood delicacy. The accompanying drink was a passionfruit and blackberry house tonic that matched the acidity of the Pop Rocks. While the overall mixture may sound strange, it made perfect sense upon tasting.

Everything at Felix Roasting Co. is just as expertly curated, from the team that Moinian brought together to turn his vision into reality to the individual ingredients that are combined in each coffee concoction. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed coffee snob or merely interested in learning more about espresso, this Midtown spot is calling your name. And if you’re in it for the ‘gram, you’ll be delighted by the quality that matches, or even surpasses, the glamour.

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