Panna Chester (COVID-19 Update)

An espresso, made with Panna's bespoke house blend, served in one of its quirky white espresso cups.I first came across Panna in Liverpool at the end of 2015, catching up with owners Ivana and Peter once again at the end of last year after they’d successfully relocated Panna to Chester’s Watergate Street. They had done a good job of establishing Panna in the city’s booming speciality coffee scene when along came COVID-19. I was therefore delighted to see that Panna had reopened after the relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Naturally, there have been changes to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, the most obvious of which can be seen outside on Watergate Street. The street has been pedestrianised, and, as a result, Panna, along with some of the neighbouring business, has an expanded outside seating area. There are more changes inside, such as the inevitable thinning out of the seating, but perhaps the best news is what hasn’t changed, with Panna still offering its full range of coffee and its innovative all-day brunch menu, backed up by a range of cakes and pastries. And, of course, there’s Panna’s famous warm welcome.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Panna, on Chester's Watergate Street, from my recent visit this month...
  • ... and a similar view from almost a year ago.
  • The obvious change is the outdoor seating, once tucked in under the windows...
  • ... it's now in its own enclosed area on the street itself, one benefit from COVID-19.
  • There are more changes inside, where this is how Panna currently looks...
  • ... compared to a similar view in pre-COVID times.
  • The window-bar, to the right of the door, is still there, but I don't know if it's in use...
  • ... while the counter, with some changes, is still on the right.
  • The seating, on the left and at the back, are where the most obvious changes are...
  • ... starting with the seats opposite the counter, now spaced out by plants.
  • This is how it looked from my visit last year. Note that the tiling on the wall is new as well.
  • There's more seating at the back...
  • ... with these two tables on the left...
  • ... and, tucked away around the corner, are two more tables. The rest aren't in use.
  • There are other, obvious changes, like the markers on the floor for queuing purposes...
  • ... and while this sign is new since my last visit, it at least has nothing to do with COVID.
  • Honestly, I didn't ask them to put this out. Besides, no-one knew I was coming!!
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • So, to business. Tables/benches in front of the counter ensure you keep your distance...
  • ... while there's a new grab-and-go chiller cabinet to the right.
  • Good news, though: Panna's full brunch menu is available...
  • ... supported by a range of cakes.
  • The full coffee selection is also on offer...
  • ... although pride of place still goes to the Victoria Arduino White Eagle espresso machine.
  • It's a 90 degrees to the main counter, so you can watch the espresso extract.
  • Here's mine, a shot of the house blend in one of Panna's quirky cups...
  • ... with the offset saucers, which is where I'll leave you.
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Panna used to have a fairly small outdoor seating area, with three two-person tables tucked up on the pavement under the front window. However, with the pedestrianisation of Watergate Street, Panna has moved into an expanded outdoor seating on the street itself, leaving the pavement clear. You’ll find four well-spaced two-person tables, all within a clearly delineated area, its boundaries marked by waist-high wooden planters (which used to flank Panna’s door), separated by wooden panels.

The door is still on the left, and you’ll need to go inside to order, although the staff will bring your drinks and food out to you when they’re ready. Inside, there are more changes, starting with the counter, which is set back on the right-hand side. Rather than go the Perspex screen route (one consistent thing that I’ve heard from coffee shop owners is that Perspex screens are hard to come by, with long lead-times), Panna has used some of its spare tables and benches to pad out the front of the counter, thus keeping customers the requisite two metres away from the masked staff. There’s also a new grab-and-go fridge on the right with sandwiches and cold drinks.

The other obvious change is the seating. The window-bar is still there, although I’m not sure it’s still in use, while the short row of tables down the centre has gone. On the left-hand wall, opposite the counter, the tables have been thinned out, down from seven to four, each cleverly separated from its neighbour by a tall plant. While not providing an impermeable physical barrier, it ensures the necessary separation, while adding a touch of greenery to the interior. Frankly, I’ll be sad to see them go.

There’s more seating at the back, although this too has been reduced, with a four-person and a two-person table on the left, plus a pair of two-person tables tucked away around the corner on the right. Sadly, the outdoor courtyard at the back is off-limits for now.

When I visited last year, Panna had two Has Bean blends  on espresso (Jailbreak and Jabberwocky), but this time around, Jailbreak has been replaced by a bespoke house-blend, a mix of two Brazilian single-origins, along with a range of single-origins (again from Has Bean) on filter through AeroPress, Chemex and V60. Best of all, Panna’s innovative all-day brunch menu is still available, including classics such as bacon sandwiches and waffles along with some less common dishes like the Mexican brunch (chorizo, chicken, peppers and four eggs!).

Sadly I’d just eaten at The Flower Cup, so I settled for an espresso, made wwith the house blend, a lovely, well-balanced shot with plenty of classic notes and pleasing a touch of acidity. This was served in the same white cups that I remember from Panna’s Liverpool days, although if you have a larger drink, it will come in a HuskeeCup, which is a neat touch.

Like everywhere else I’ve visited in Chester, Panna has been very busy since reopening (I snuck in on a quiet Friday afternoon). It’s currently participating in the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out which runs to the end of August. As a result, I was told that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were particularly busy, more akin to a three-day Bank Holiday weekend than the start of the week!

35 WATERGATE STREET • CHESTER • CH1 2LB +44 (0)1244 344553
Monday 10:00 – 17:00 Roaster Has Bean (espresso) + Guests (filter)
Tuesday 10:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 10:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 10:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 10:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards Only
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 19th September 2019
Update: 7th August 2020

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3 thoughts on “Panna Chester (COVID-19 Update)

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