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I Tried Canada's First Pret A Manger & Here's How It Compares To The UK

There are some pretty big differences!

Charlie Hart at Pret A Manger in Vancouver. Right: Pret in Vancouver

Charlie Hart at Pret A Manger in Vancouver. Right: Pret in Vancouver


This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

When I moved to Canada last year, I really didn't expect to miss some of my favourite U.K. food spots so much but when I heard that Canada was finally getting a Pret A Manger, I was so hyped for it.

In London, Pret is about as frequent as Tim Hortons and it's usually an easy and reliable place to grab a coffee and a somewhat healthy lunch when you're on your lunch break.

Pret is currently being trialled in Canada in a two-year pilot with Canadian chain A&W and its first location is in Vancouver. So when I got the opportunity to stop by on a recent trip, I jumped at the chance.

However, there were actually some pretty big differences between Pret in the U.K. and Pret in Canada that I hadn't entirely expected.

The vibe is kind of weird

The first thing I noticed about Pret was that the vibe is completely different from those in the U.K. Most of the time, they're pretty cozy with exposed brick, plenty of seating, and lots of people in and out between meetings.

The one in Vancouver is actually found inside an A&W so although there is a Pret fridge, a small drinks menu on the wall and some pastries on the counter, it very much still looks like an A&W.

Back in the U.K., I used to work in Pret pretty often but it did feel strange setting up my laptop in a fast-food restaurant.

The food didn't quite match the UK

Once I got to the fridge filled with Pret stock, I was really excited to see what menu items had made their way over to Canada. In the U.K., there's a pretty large selection of salads, sandwiches, soups, and hot wraps.

While the selection was definitely smaller in Canada, I was happy to see that one of my Pret favourites – the mac and cheese – was on offer. It was pretty good but it honestly didn't match my U.K. fave, which has crispy prosciutto and cauliflower mixed into the cheesy sauce. I dream about that mac and cheese far too often.

However, the chocolate croissant I grabbed as an afternoon snack was actually just as good as I remembered. It was nice and flaky and the chocolate basically tastes like Nutella.

The coffee was the most disappointing part

Pret is a coffee shop and it's a pretty popular one at that so I was pretty let down by the coffee at the Canadian location.

Where Pret in the U.K. would normally use an espresso machine, I'm pretty sure the Vancouver store just used the same electric machine it would use to make A&W coffee. It wasn't completely undrinkable but it wasn't the usual decent cup of coffee I'd expect from the store.

All in all, it was so nice to see that familiar branding again but right now, Pret in Canada doesn't quite compete with its U.K. counterpart. The food was good and if you're looking for a slightly healthier alternative to fast food, I don't think you'd be disappointed. Just maybe skip out on the coffee.

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