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What's 'Caffeine&Machine' all about?

Food, coffee… and cars. TG takes a look at an upcoming ode to the cult of motoring

“It’ll be a place where everyone is welcome, where we can have a stanced third-gen Civic turn up and chat to a bloke with a pre-war Bentley, be interrupted by a lady with a Norton and they all fall into conversation with a GT2 owner. There’ll be art on the walls, people building things, amazing food and coffee, really good booze, a place where you can have your car valeted. We’ll have EV charging points and places to sort your bike out, be that pedal or motor. But more than that, it’ll be inclusive. No hierarchy based on the thickness of your wallet. This will be a place where everyone knows your name.”

Phil McGovern is waxing lyrical, lost in a furious eddy of inspiration, and it’s something to behold. A impressive mini-rant-slash-mission statement that’s a weird mix of hippy socialism and southern-American TV preacher, seasoned with an obvious - and slightly feral - intelligence. His green eyes are gently unfocussed behind his patched-up glasses as he surveys the plot of his new venture near a little place called Ettington at the bottom of the Cotswolds, mentally overlaying future vision on the bones of the present. He’s pointed himself in the direction of the massive, majestic and ancient cedar in the middle of the grounds, the view forwards summertime idyllic. TG looks back at a builder joyfully smashing a wall down of the main house with an implausibly large hammer, take in the various skips and rubble piles, and can think of only one thing:

“Did you really just quote the tagline from Cheers?”

“Did I?”

“Yeah. ‘Where everybody knows your name’ - that’s from Cheers.”

“Well.. it fits. This is going to be something special. And even if people don’t y’know, actually know your name, they soon will. You’ll know they’re your people - we’re all the same species, just different tribes. We’re going to give everyone a place to come.”

The builder grinds out a roll-up and straightens, satisfied. There’s now a gaping hole in the front, framed by trusses and looking disturbingly like a toothless mouth in the face of a blinded building. The windows are due this week, the whole operation opening in a scant few weeks. There are many outbuildings with massive potential and yet roofing that rolls like sea swell, sine waves that speak the language of foundations made entirely of wonky. There are several hundred tonnes of new driveway material piled out back, a veritable miniature Alp of Cotswold stone only partially laid. This place has been pried apart and gutted, and is being rebuilt to a very ambitious recipe. But we can’t help feeling that Phil is going to need more than vision to get this thing done on time.

It’s pitched as a kind of permanent Festival of Speed crossed with a bike ride-out, but with hipster-quality surroundings

‘This thing’ is called Caffeine&Machine, and it sounds like some sort of commune based around interaction via any kind of interesting machinery you care to mention. The best interpretation is that it’s pitched as a kind of permanent Festival of Speed crossed with a bike ride-out, but with hipster-quality surroundings. There’s a restaurant, rooms, a La Marzocco coffee machine that looks like a cross between an industrial steam press and late ‘50s aeroplane cockpit and enough hardstanding for a medium-sized car show, all ringed by a pretty little woodland. According to Phil, the idea is that it becomes a focal point for moving things, where you can go to find the like-minded, but more importantly, mix with people from other streams of automotive and bike culture.

“This started about four years ago where we lived in Dubai,” says Phil, going a bit wistful again. “We started up a few small meet-ups for air-cooled Porsche owners, and before we knew it, it expanded. We started including all sorts of other cars and bikes, built up a little community. When we moved back to the UK, it felt right to try something similar here.”

The thing is, he’s got a point. Car events have started springing up more and more over recent years, the perfect antidote to seeing everything at one remove on social media. There’s nothing like actually being in the presence of, smelling and experiencing first hand when it comes to machinery. Just think about the popularity of Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, Bicester Scramble, the Retro Rides Festival, Players events, Wheels Day. And yet there aren’t many permanent venues for people to gather.

“It’s about giving people an excuse to go for a drive or ride, to meet up with friends you haven’t met yet, and the rest of the stuff sort of came with it…” continues Phil, inadvertently quoting a social media meme. “First, you think it’d be nice to have decent coffee and snacks. Then a proper lunch. Then it kind of morphed into an idea for something a bit more all-encompassing.”

That seems to be the over-arching theme here, too. Phil’s own car history pokes curious fingers into pretty much every type of car scene you can imagine, and his interest seems to stretch from vintage motorcycles to tractor pulling. His personal daily drivers currently run from a scraping, glacial VW Westfalia ‘bus to a rather special Highland green Jaguar XJ220, with a few quirky rides somewhere in-between. The yellow one is particularly interesting. The man obviously doesn’t much go for cliques. Or maybe he just likes a lot of input.

One thing he does go for, mind you, is detail. Dig deeper, and you’ll soon figure out that this isn’t going to be a ‘themed’ place, absolutely no V8 engine block tables, or cheesy race-seat chairs - “This is not the TGI Friday’s of car culture” says Phil - but there’ll be little nods to cars and bikes, if you know where to look. Bar stools trimmed in the same tartan as a Golf GTi, for instance, or a standard lamp made from the headlight of a vintage Delahaye, a couple of interesting old bikes parked in the foyer. If you didn’t know what it was, you might miss the referencing. Even the bar is made by a custom car shop.

Ah yes, the bar. Now, even if you don’t like cars and bikes, the C&M bar is a work of art. Built by Wayne Allman (who drag races a spaceframe VW ‘bus called ‘Mental Breakdown’ that has 2,000bhp and runs 7.1s / 196mph on the strip) of Intergalactic Custom Shop, the C&M bar is a vision in stainless steel. Rolled, pressed, beaten and hand formed out of a giant sheet of the famously intransigent metal, it gleams with newly-minted freshness, a homage to old-school fabrication skills deployed in a new way, and it’s probably worth a look all on its own. That coffee machine lurks in the corner featuring even more stainless, making me think this place is going to go through litres and litres of Scotchbrite.

It’s weird, but with brands reaching desperately for ‘authenticity’ and ‘realness’, the Caffeine&Machine vibe seems to be rooted in something very simple: the people here really, really like cars and bikes, and appreciate the innately social aspects of both. And that’s literally social, rather than the digital kind. There’s no grand corporate agenda, no subterfuge or entry tickets. It’s turned into something of a friends and family business, too, conscripted into a jolly little army, augmented by various trades. There’s the thousand-watt smile of Emma McGovern - Phil’s wife - project managing and doing many, many things at once. When we first meet her, she’s single-handedly boarding out a toilet block and arranging other trades, while simultaneously trying to prevent Phil from installing a helipad. There’s Alan McGovern, Phil’s dad, who is supposed to be simply loving life, but seems to have a different job every two hours, Emma’s bothers, Sam and Ant, running the incipient bar and restaurant. A charming man called Dan pulling a double life in Dublin doing something financial, and then coming home each night and researching coffee grinders and checking Fire Safety regs. Close friends arranging a shop and merch web business, producing photography, being completely, intimately involved.

And that’s what you get when you visit. It’s not even finished yet, and people have been turning up and being allowed to poke around, handed a mug of instant coffee (the plumbing isn’t quite up and running on the big bean rig yet) and chatted to. It’s open, friendly and already strangely special. Will it work? Who knows. But one thing’s for sure: it won’t be for a lack of effort, or the right intention. Not everyone will know your name, but we get the feeling you’ll be welcome anyway.

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