Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Vida e Caffe

After hearing how great this coffee shop was from a South African friend of mine I thought it time that I tried it.

Vida e Caffe, is a place where the warm customer service would make you want to come again and again. There are currently 40 stores in SA, but this is their first foray into London. Msizi, Sele, Sikilela, Thabo and Vuyani have all come over from SA to experience the sights and sounds of London life. They all live as well as work together. There are always two of them in the store, so make sure that you say hi and they will welcome you like an old friend.

Now let's talk coffee. I have to admit that it was too strong for me, I prefer more of a mild bean, however there is no bitterness, instead it is a smooth, creamy, exceptionally well made coffee. If like me you like a mild coffee than ask for a half shot. This is definitely somewhere that I would come again.

The vibe is alive and buzzing, although not somewhere to sit and wile the day away.

Coffee: ☻☻☻☻

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Baker and Spice - second time around

I finally got round to trying Baker and Spice in Maida Vale again yesterday. After the last experience with the coffee so burnt that I was unable to drink it I was determined to give this bakery one more try. Admittedly, it was not just the thought of a well made cappuccino that drew me there it was also their delightful biscuits and dreamy salads. Who knew salads could be so sexy? If you get a chance try the avocado salad.

I ordered a take away coffee, wanting a quick, dirty caffeine fix and not the luxury of a coffee shop experience. The coffee was surprisingly good. The milk smooth and creamy and no burnt flavour. The bean smooth and mild had a little bit of an after taste, but nothing too disastrous. I decided to go back later in the afternoon and try the full coffee shop experience. Lumbered with my laptop and the need to write I ordered a cappuccino. This one was as good as the first, possibly better. For the sake of the review I thought I better order another. This one was not as good, but still very drinkable.

This is somewhere that I will definitely go again, you may see me there on a weekend with my laptop and a cappuccino. If do, don't forget to say hello.

My advice, this place is worth sticking with. If you get a bad coffee, take it back and ask them to make another because they certainly know how to make an exceptionally good coffee.

The place: Baker and Spice, 20 Clifton Road, Maida Vale.
There are two other stores, one in Chelsea and another in Belgravia. It looks like their coffee is also available in Selfridges foodhall.

Coffee: ✯✯✯✯ (dependant on the barista)
Vibe: funky and filled with delicious cakes, salads and desserts. A great place to meet friends for lunch. If you want a quieter coffee, go later in the day or early in the morning.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Princi on Wardour St

rinci is not somewhere to go if you don't like hustle and bustle and noise, at least not at lunch time which was when I went. It is filled with people vying for a seat trying to fit lunch into their hectic work day. The seats are bench style, with the a basin of running water along one of the walls, possibly intending to promote a tranquil, soothing background. While you are here it is worth checking out the gorgeous stone basin in the bathroom.

I had lemon chibosa, I'm not sure how to describe it, but like a lemon meringue only lighter. At £3.50 it is not something to have every day. My friend had a cheese and ham foccacia at £3.50 a more reasonable price.

The coffee: well made, although the bean had a bit of an after taste so I didn't order a second.

This is not somewhere to come for intimate conversation, but is definitely worth a takeaway coffee in the leisure of your home or office. Just don't forget the cake.

The place: Princi, 35 Wardour Street, Soho

Coffee: ✭✮✮✯
Vibe: Vibrant, buzzing and lively

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Monmouth Coffee Shop

After all the hype and reviews about this place about being one the best coffee shops in London, I wasn't sure that I was going to like it. Not because I am a coffee snob or one of those people who doesn't adhere to reviews, but because I become quite disappointed when the reviews do no match my expectations. However I was pleasantly surprised. I did like this cafe. It was rustic, bustling and warm with simple wooden tables. There was nothing overly complicated about this place.

We went at 5:50pm when they were due to close at 6:00pm. We wanted to sit in and have a coffee and although they let us know that they were closing soon they were more than happy to let us sit and savour our coffees.

The seating area was cosy, possibly a little cosy for some as we had to share a table with three others. It was quite warm and could have done with some ventilation.

That aside the coffee was made with exceptional skill, the milk silky and a lovely crema. The staff served the coffee with pride and cute little pictures. When I asked about the type of bean they had used I was told they had used a 'house blend', a Guatemalan, Brazilian and Colombian mix. I must admit that the blend was not too my liking, it had too much of an after taste, however I am told that you can choose the bean that you like and if you don't know what type of flavour each bean has then you can tell the barista that you want a mild or smooth or bitter bean. Whatever takes your fancy.

The only downside is that they only use full cream milk. Purists will always argue that this is the best type of milk for a coffee, but I strongly disagree.

Vibe: rustic and friendly
Coffee: well made , with love and care ✯✯✯✯

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bar Italia, Soho

Bar Italia, located in Frith Street reminds me of one of the multitude of cafes that I came across when in Rome. It was neither pretentious nor smug. Instead it offered friendly and prompt service with the taste of really good coffee. It was so good that I ordered two, even though it was my fourth coffee of the day. The afternoon caffeine crash was not pretty.

We sat outside and the only downside was that the tables were too close together. You had to virtually move the person at the table next to you to get to your seat. 

The coffee, mild and smooth while still having a strong coffee flavour. This is somewhere to go for an afternoon coffee or lunch with a friend (beware the prices are not cheap) or to pick up a take away. Worth the trek into the Soho to try this gem.

The place: Bar Italia, Frith st

Monday, 20 July 2009

Sacred on Ganton Street

Sacred on Ganton st is not like any other, it has more in common with coffee shops in Australia than any I have visited in London. The bi-fold doors open onto the street with tables spilling onto the street outside, perfect for watching passerbys. Good luck getting one of those though, instead we took our coffees downstairs where we were met with comfortable couches, the heady smell of incense and a faux gold buddha. If it weren't for the quality of the coffee one might think they had been transported to Thailand. 

The coffee was well made, showcasing the skill of a trained barista. The bean was nutty and mild, it reminded me of Soya milk. Not something for the everyday, but more for the once in a while. The service friendly and prompt. This is definitely a place to catch up with a friend or bring your laptop and watch the Carnaby St crowd. 

The place: Sacred on Ganton Street

Vibe: funky, meets spiritual
Coffee: a treat kept for once a week

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

16mm, a world away from Oxford Street

16mm is only a block away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, but yet it felt like I was transported to another part of the country, somewhere with time to wile away the day.

If I had been blind-folded and taken there I would have never known that I was in the centre of London. It was a slow, friendly relaxed atmosphere, however there was nothing slow about the service or the food.

The cafe serves not just a great salad, but also a darn good coffee. It is run by Brazilians who know how to take the time to make a good coffee. The bean was strong, but not bitter, not to my usual liking, but when a coffee is as well made as this that matters not.

The place: 16mm on D'Arblay Street

Vibe: a haven from the hustle and bustle if Oxford Street
Coffee: top of the line