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

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Great Cappuccino and only £1.10

This place in Soho promised to be coffee heaven, filled with the promise of fresh beans and knowledgable staff able to describe the fine differences between a variety of beans.

This little shop has been trading since 1887, the walls are lined with beans and all type of paraphenialia associated coffee, almost like a coffee library. The staff, busy but approachable made me a cappuccino as good as any found at my favourite Australian cafes. There is no where to sit in this shop, but I would have stood in the street to drink this coffee. The icing on the top was the price, at only £1.10 made this a place I will return to again and again.

The place: Algerian Coffee Store, 52 Old Compton Street, Soho

Coffee: A delight and a treat for the senses.
Vibe: like an old time sweet shop, but instead of sweets, coffee.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Ahh the delightful warmth of consistency

Who would have thought that being back at work was a delightful thing. Ok, so being at work is not the reason I was so excited this morning, instead it was the knowledge that I could have a decent coffee. After the last three days I was starting to wonder if I would ever have a decent coffee again!

My local is Fratelli's at Oxford Circus. I can actually taste the coffee, the bean is smooth, the milk not overpowering and they make a consistently good coffee. I rate it as good solid coffee. The place to go when the world is falling around my ears and I need a pick me up.

Vibe: friendly, but not somewhere to spend daydreaming and solving the problems of the universe (Einstein - no, Paris Hilton - yes)

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Lowering my standards doesn't reap good or even drinkable coffee

I was desperate yesterday after a harrowing three hours at the hairdresser. I now look like a mexican poodle. Imagine dark eyebrows and blonde blonde hair....disaster with pasty pale skin. I've decided I may not leave the house for a week at least. 

Anyway back to the was because of this that I needed the warmth and comfort of a cup of coffee. The only place other than the big star that looked like it served coffee was Costa, so I folded, thinking how bad can it be??? Mmmmmm, I should have rethought that sentence.

Think milky, bitter bean, cold milk and burnt coffee. The boy making it took five minutes to produce this muck. I hate to think what he could have done had he had more time...
(note: when I left I noted with a sigh of relief that he had been replaced)

Coffee: undrinkable (tesco value)
Vibe: reminded me of andepartment store restaurant that my mum used to take me to when I was a kid.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Baker and Spice- Maida Vale

At the insistence of my friend I decided to try the coffee here as the coffee shop we were at couldn't make our coffee as their machine had blown up.

Walking in: you can't help but be drawn to the cookies, meringues and assortment of cakes and savoury items. The decor is warm and inviting, however this time it is a quick in and out with a cappuccino and a couple of cookies.

The coffee: burnt and the milk scalding hot. I can't even tell you whether I liked the flavour of the bean! Urrrrggghhhh......Please hire someone drinks the coffee they make!

The vibe: warm, inviting, somewhere to wile away rainy days
The coffee: will try this place once more and see if I can get a true indication of the coffee

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Daniela's Lounge - Shirland Rd, London

I walked past this place this morning. It looked so enticing with its bi-fold doors and warm inviting interior. Somewhere I could sit and read the paper or chat to a friend for hours. so I went in and ordered a cappuccino.

The chocolate....ukkkk, it's bitter. Come on people if I didn't want the secret sweetness of the chocolate on top of a cappuccino I would have ordered a latte! The chocolate is like having a marshmallow surprise.

The coffee - average. The milk outways the flavour of the coffee. The bean is too bitter and the milk sloppy. It tastes like no care and attention has been given to this cup. Do they drink the coffee they make. Is it bad enough to walk away without drinking....nearly, but it is my first coffee of the day and I am desperate.....sad to say it almost reminds me of instant. As I take a couple of sips I get used to the flavour, ok maybe I was a bit premature about the instant coffee remark, but this definitely won't be a repeat.

The vibe: cool and funky 
The coffee: if you like a bitter bean and a milky coffee this is the place for you

Friday, 26 June 2009

It all started here

About nine years ago was the first time I tasted 'real' coffee, not that instant stuff that I drank in uni to keep me awake all night so I could cram for exams. 
It was 2000 and I worked in a lab in Brisbane. My colleagues would down tools and head to Merlos for an 11am coffee. Orders would start about half an hour before so that they were ready to leave dead on time. I was new and wanted to take part in this ritual, but my dislike of coffee was well defined and I wasn't willing to bend for anyone.
A couple of months passed and everyday I would join them for tea, but I would drink something other than coffee. One day one of my colleagues bought me a coffee and insisted I try it. I turned my nose up, but didn't want to appear rude so I took it, promptly sat down and took my first sip. 
Whoa........what had I been missing all of those years, it was warm and smooth, milky but not too milky. A delight to the pallet. I had always loved the smell of coffee, but it had never tasted like this. There began my foray into the world of coffee.......