Posts Tagged ‘cafe’

Sheffield’s Resident Pig

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Last weekend I went and caught up with my brother and sister-in-law in Sheffield. It is handy living a 50 minute train ride away from my family. It is a significant improvement on a 24 hour plane ride; that’s a long way to go for a hug. My visits to see Ben don’t generally involve much other than sitting around drinking coffee, cooking dinner and then going to bed early. But sometimes it is this sort of relaxed comfort that is exactly what you need to remind yourself of the good things in life.

Saying this, on Saturday afternoon things turned wild when Ben and Zoë took me to Heeley City Farm to meet the animals residing in central Sheffield. Nestled in a residential zone of the city, Heeley City Farm is a community based animal farm, café and garden centre. It is a fantastic space to bring kids and is also highly entertaining for us older folk. Who doesn’t like looking at lambs? Here are some of the characters we met on our visit:

Goat butts.

Goat butts.



Winner of the Best Animal of the Farm competition.

Winner of the Best Animal of the Farm competition.

We think this is a chipmunk but there was no signage to confirm or deny.

We think this is a chipmunk but there was no signage to confirm or deny.

We went to the café for afternoon tea and each had a piece of homemade cake. Flavours included a vegan pear cake, lemon polenta, and I had a sticky ginger cake. They were all quite delicious and clearly made with love and community spirit. Happy cake always tastes better.

Famous Food

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

I didn’t have time in London to put my previous ‘train-journey-written’ posts up so you will have to imagine some sort of magical time difference between this and the following stories. I am currently under the sea (Under the sea… under the sea… doo doo di doo doo doo doo) in a train in a tunnel. I learnt in the Eurostar magazine just a few minutes ago that I’m not actually currently surrounded by water, but the tunnel passes through the seabed. This is extremely disappointing. I like the idea of being merely metres away from fish, but sadly I am not. I’m probably metres away from seabed living worms or algae. I guess I’ll have to make do with this fact. I am less than 10 centimetres from a snoring woman who was going to steal my window seat and became grumpy when I insisted on having it. Within three minutes of departure she was snoring. It would have been a wasted window.

My day in London was a food-bonanza and on a high-profile scale. I appear to have turned into a food snob and only like eating at places run by famous chefs. That’s ok with me, I am willing to accept this status. My morning started with coffee and a piece of chocolate and almond torte at Princi bakery. It is an up-market Italian bakery/pizzeria that does very tasty food at ridiculous prices. It is one of the hip-and-cool places in the middle of Soho that you go to because it’s Princi. My chocolate torte was good but was certainly more almond than chocolate. It was a bit flavourless and could have done with more chocolate but that is probably just my own personal preference for chocolate-based cakes. If it is going to have chocolate in it, make it lots and make it dark. The coffee was very good and wasn’t over priced which was a relief. The café is beautifully laid out with a water fountain running down one wall, lots of large communal tables and a great window looking out into Soho. It was a nice experience but I think you can get just as good cake for half the price (eg. Forge Bakehouse.)

Fancy cakes

Fancy cakes

After using up some time visiting the Queen, a large clock tower called Ben and going future-husband spotting in the fancy-cars-and-houses area towards Kensington, it was time for lunch. For a few years now I have been in love with a Yotam Ottolenghi, a chef whose cookbooks and restaurants have redefined vegetables. I have been wanting to eat at one of his London-based restaurants and made it my mission to do so this trip. His Belgravia café is more a take away venue but I managed to get a seat at the one communal table. You can choose from huge piles of delicious salads with amazing combinations of ingredients, as well as pizzas, quiches and soups.

Mmm... salads.

Mmm… salads.

I had eggplant with goats cheese curd; a red quinoa, rice, dried fruit and spices salad; and roasted carrots with chilli, herbs and a magical mix of spices.

So colourful and so delicious

So colourful and so delicious

It was all so good but again, I was paying for the experience to eat Ottolenghi’s recipes and £11 for a smallish plate of salad was quite a lot. But I’m glad I did it. Next time I will make sure to have room to try one of his desserts but I was feeling guilty from my morning tea and aware that I was going out for dinner so I resisted.

I think I deserve a medal for resisting these.

I think I deserve a medal for resisting these.

So that brings me to dinner. I was staying with my friends Angela and James who are soon heading back to Perth to join together in holy matrimony. As I won’t be at their wedding, I wanted to take them out for dinner to celebrate and Angela booked a table at the York and Albany hotel – one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants. They have a special set menu on weeknights if you eat between 6-7pm, which is exceptionally good value at three courses for £22. The food was very, very good – I had a celeriac soup with truffle and parmesan croutons (very creamy and delicious); beef with horseradish mash (tasty although a little chewy); and a chocolate fondant with honeycomb ice cream. The fondant was good – not too sweet and the honeycomb added a nice flavour combination. It was a very tasty meal and exceptional for that price. I would definitely go back.

It was romantically dark in the restaurant.

It was romantically dark in the restaurant.

And so concluded my day of famous food. The value and standard of Mr Ramsey’s meal out performed the others but I can’t say I ate anything that disappointed me. Thumbs up all around to London foodies.

Coffee and Carrot Cake at Café Coutume

Monday, December 17th, 2012

There are many hip and cool hangouts for the BoBos of Paris and I like to follow along behind like a lost puppy trying to be as ‘down with it’ as them. Not going to happen. But one of the biggest BoBo hang outs is Café Coutume, a coffee, brunch and ‘Check-out-what-I’m-wearing’ joint located in the ooh-la-di-da seventh arrondissement, down the road from Le Bon Marché. As I walked to find the place, I went past Hermés and various other designer stores that I would be refused entry into, and dodged lots of little old ladies in fur coats buying their grandchildren matching Louis Vuitton slippers for Christmas. I felt somewhat out of place, but pretended to blend anyway.

I had been wanting to try Café Coutume for ages but it’s location on the other side of Paris meant it wasn’t really somewhere I could go and grab a quick coffee. I had heard and read many good things about it so took the opportunity to meet my friend, Jen there as she lives on that side of the river.

The café is reasonably large compared to other places in Paris, although it isn’t particularly well laid out and the tables are quite clunky and take up too much space. I ordered a long black and Jen had a noisette (a short black with a dob of milk foam on top) and we each had a piece of carrot cake. The coffee was good – it was rich and strong which is always a pleasant surprise in Paris. The cake wasn’t bad although I have had much better (I think we all know this to be true.)

Café Coutume

Coffee and carrot cake

While the coffee was good, I don’t plan on going back because:

  1. It was expensive
  2. It was snobby. Seriously snobby. I can handle BoBo arrogance and coolness, but there was a different level of snob at Coutume.

I think because I am used to the less-rich-scene of the tenth arrondissement, the seventh just oozed money. The staff weren’t particularly friendly and there was a strong rich-Parisian attitude that alienates you if you are an outsider or your Daddy isn’t the CEO of a bank. It is a great thing to watch though – I find these people highly entertaining with their Longchamp bags and depressive attitudes.

Speaking of Longchamp bags, a few weeks ago I was bored on the metro and decided to count the number of Longchamp bags I could see just in my section of the carriage. Over a ten minute journey I saw twelve. Wow. Let’s all spend excessive amounts of money on a particularly unattractive handbag that every other woman owns. Congratulations, Longchamp.

Café Coutume
47 Rue de Babylon
Paris, 7eme

Tuck In

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

A few months ago I was sad to see the closure of Sweat Shop – a café/sewing shop where you could rent sewing machines or take a knitting course while eating a piece of cake. Then the other day, a fellow Australian said “Let’s go to Tuck Shop.” to which I auto-replied with, “Ok.” I had no idea what she was talking about. But now I do. Apparently Sweat Shop had been turned into Tuck Shop – a new café for me to spend far too much time and money and calories at!

Tuck Shop is another “Australian style” café offering GOOD coffee (hooray) and great home made cakes. Run by some lovely expat ladies, it is vintage galore in this cozy little joint. I had a long-black equivalent which was delicious and served in a great looking cup.

Tuck Shop coffee

What a cup!

Plus a scone with jam and cream which was a little disappointingly rock-like but still tasted good. My friend had the cheesecake which was as creamy and cheesy as a good cheesecake should be.

Tuck Shop

Happy times.

The café wasn’t particularly busy, but it was a Wednesday morning in the middle of winter and close to Christmas so not the busiest time of the year. To be honest, it was nice to be in a quiet space for once as Paris is becoming a little bit manic with all of the christmas shopping requirements that are sending Parisians mad.

My friend and I stayed chatting and soon it was lunch time so we decided to do the lunch time formule backwards – we’d already had the dessert so we ordered the home made zucchini soup and grilled vegetable and houmus sandwiches. Luckily the staff aren’t French otherwise doing this would have caused massive brain explosions. So so tasty and healthy – it was the perfect lunch for just 10 Euros. Brilliant.

Tuck Shop
13, rue Lucien Sampaix

Bad Cake

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

I often write to describe the explosions of taste bud ecstasy that I experience almost daily while living in Paris. Today I bring you devastating news – bad cake does exist in Paris. It was my own fault though – I should have guessed from the name of the café that it was going to be bad. Twinkie. Not a good sign.

I walk past this café on Rue St Denis quite regularly and the decor and general ‘vibe’ of the place suggested it could be a good place to try. But the name kept stopping me from entering as it conjured up bad, sweet American lollies and it was clearly going to be a try-hard ‘American style’ café. However, yesterday I found myself going there with my primary school buddy and now York resident, Jane, who was visiting Paris for a few days. I had wanted to take her to a new place that I had spotted, Café Madame but for some reason it was closed. There was no signage to suggest when or if it would ever open again. A typical Parisian “Bofffffff!” attitude. So we walked across the road and went to Twinkie. Sigh.

The place is nicely decorated and the guy serving was very friendly. But the cake… oh the cake. The menu offered mostly Brunch options, with bagels, pancakes, and cooked breakfasts. As we were just there for coffee, I was hoping for a nice piece of cake. The only sweet options were pancakes or cheesecake, neither of which I wanted. However, I asked if there were any other cakes not mentioned and the waiter mentioned their Gâteau de Jour – an apple tea cake. Perfect.

When someone says “Apple tea cake” in my head I think of custardy-spongey-buttery-cake with soft chunks of cooked apple and maybe some flaked almonds. Perhaps a touch of cinnamon. What arrived was this:

Twinkie Apple Cake


I wasn’t sure why a giant mountain of whipped cream with Smarties was required until I tasted the cake. It was dry, lacked flavour and the apple – I’m not entirely sure there was any. There was something that could have been apple at some point in its life but it had been turned into horrible glacé awfulness. And then there was lemon peel. WHY?! WHY LEMON PEEL?! Yes, I just generally hate lemon peel, but I have gotten over my childhood refusal to eat it in Hot Cross Buns and am willing to consume it. But there is absolutely no reason to put it on an apple tea cake.

I took one bite and almost cried. So disappointing. I had brought a visiting friend to a place called Twinkie that served really bad cake. And to add to the fun, Jane found the nozzle of the whipped cream container floating in her hot chocolate. Never again.

Luckily for me, I had an afternoon tea appointment at Helmut Newcake and could reset my fabulous-cake-consumption with an apricot and pistachio tart. DELICIOUS. Thank you, Helmut. Thank you.

Crafty Cakes

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Usually my reviews of cafés and restaurants are a post-experience reflection. This time I write to you direct from the source – mid-mange, mid-bois – at Café Craft in the 10eme. I was having a moment of ‘oh-woe-is-me, what am I doing with my life?’ so I decided to take it outside and head to another new café in a street nearby. Café Craft opened two or so months ago and is designed as a space for artists, craftspeople and general freelancers to come and work while drinking coffee and eating cake. That sounds like me!

The space has a clean design and set up almost like an office with a long table running down the centre of the room. The black and white interior makes it an non-distracting space to work in but the coloured pencils and pens sitting in the middle of the table are catching my eye.

But enough about the tables, let’s talk about the coffee! Or more importantly, the extremely rich, chocolatey, chunky brownie that I am currently devouring with extreme pleasure. It is hitting every sugar craving spot in my body and making me realise that when brownies like this exist, life can’t be so bad. Huge thumbs up to whoever concocted this beauty – not everyone in Paris can do a brownie but whoever baked this is a genius.

Cafe Craft

Chocolate, coffee and coloured pencils

I will definitely be returning here for another work-related coffee and chocolate hit. I’d like to do something a bit more ‘creative’ – I wonder how they’d feel about me bringing paints and my lino-prints and making a mess of their nice table tops. Maybe not. I have discovered one issue – two men have arrived and are having a loud-ish discussion in this previously quiet room and my preference for writing in complete silence isn’t possible. But it does mean I can eavesdrop on people – my next favourite activity after eating chocolate brownies.

Café Craft
24, rue des Vinaigriers

Hanging With the Birds

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

On Sunday after a failed attempt to get into Ten Belles for afternoon tea (too many blogs are talking about it at the moment), I headed with three friends around the corner to La Chambre aux Oiseaux – directly translated into The Bedroom of the Birds. This vintage-styled joint is spacious compared the average hipster café, but some big wooden furniture and very impressive flower wallpaper give the place a cozy grandmother feel.

We arrived just after lunch and I think it had been busy. The staff looked tired and didn’t appear to want to serve us. They were apologetic for their slow service but I had just run 16 kilometres and REALLY wanted cake. It wasn’t a good time to disappoint me.

La Chambre aux Oiseaux offers a selection of home made food and a good looking (and reasonably priced) breakfast that I think I will have to go back for. They had finished lunch service and were just offering cakes, although had finished most of their daily supply. While this is always disappointing for those who arrive late, it is a good sign that their product is fresh and home made.

I had a coffee and a piece of the beetroot cake which was described to me as “like carrot cake but with beetroot.” Made sense. And it was delicious – moist and full of crunchy walnuts and drizzled not-too-heavily with a vanilla icing. Very good.

Beetroot cake

Vintage Beetroot Cake

The coffee was tasty too, and unlike Ten Belles, the cup was nice to drink out of. It makes a big difference to your dining experience!

I’d like to go back and give this place another go as I feel we hit them at a bad moment and the café has a lot of potential. Plus I seriously loved their wallpaper.

La Chambre Aux Oiseaux
48 Rue Bichat 75010
Open: Wednesday to Sunday

Welcome to the 10eme, Ten Belles

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every week there is a new café opening in the 10eme. In the past month, I have spotted four new places within a 300 metre radius. So exciting.

On Saturday I went with my friend Giulia for a catch-up coffee to one of the new hipster hangouts – Ten Belles. Once again the Australian coffee shop influence is hitting Paris with GOOD coffee and a delicious assortment of home-made cakes. The café is small but has a balcony area with additional seating. Giulia and I nabbed the table outside and had roadside (and cigarette side) dining on some cute plywood stools. Extremely uncomfortable, likely to fall apart quickly, but they looked great.

Ten Belles Stool

Nice seating.

Unfortunately while their coffee is amazing, their tea is less impressive with a small selection and it is served in a small milk jug with a cumbersome coffee cup. The cake, however, made up for it. I had a piece of chocolate and raspberry tart – dark chocolate with the tartness of the raspberry on a decent crust. Very tasty.

Ten Belles Chocolate tart

A mighty fine tart.

The service was cheerful, friendly and good-looking and it is definitely going to be a new regular hang out for me. In fact, I tried to return there on Sunday afternoon and it was packed. BoBos galore.

Ten Belles
10 rue de la Grange aux Belles 75010 Paris
Open: Tuesday to Sunday

Helmut Great Cake

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Yesterday I finally found an opportunity to try a new(ish) café near me, called Helmut Newcake. It a gluten free pâtisserie offering all of your most loved treats in a deliciously gluten-free way. I always feel sorry for people who are living in or visiting France who are gluten intolerant (or dairy for that matter) because you are instantly excluded from most of the greatest food that France has to offer. No baguettes, no viennoiseries, no crêpes, no chocolate tarts… Poor, poor people… but finally, gluten intolerance has been recognised in Paris and there is now ONE gluten free pâtisserie. It’s a miracle! Now all they have to do is invent lactose free camembert.

I was joined by two fellow Perthians (Judy and Natasha) and a mini-French-Australian (Hugo just turned one and has an Australian mum, a French Dad and he loves straws.) Natasha is gluten intolerant and was excited to finally be able to eat cake without regretting it later.

Helmut Newcake is located in a BoBo-concentrated zone next to Le Petit Cambodge (a hipster cambodian restaurant) and across an intersection from one of the best pizza restaurant in Paris, Maria Luisa. You can also go there for meals but we were after cake, most of which had been snatched up by earlier patrons. The range of cakes was great – there were fruit tarts, choux pastries and your more basic cakes, all very reasonably priced. I went for the peach and pistachio tart – seriously good.

Helmut Newcake tart

Served a cute little plate.

Crunchy pastry with a smooth pistachio filling and just enough peach on top. Often gluten free cakes taste like they have been over worked or too much effort has been put into making them gluten free – not so for this tart. They serve Clipper tea and Judy and I were given a huge teapot of hot water to serve ourselves endless cups. I love a café that isn’t stingy with the hot water.

I will definitely be going back and making it a regular hang out. I have also discovered two other new cafés that I have to go and try soon – every week there is another place opening up. So much cake to try…

Caramel Cream

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

You may have noticed that I eat a lot of good food in Paris. It is a daily occurrence that makes the idea of ever leaving this city/country completely unfathomable. Despite the frequency of this deliciousness, every now and then I will eat something that will make me stop breathing, my eyes will pop out of my head in amazement and a large, extremely-satisfied grin will spread across my face. Holy moly.

And it happened again recently, when I met up with a friend from high school, Nat, and her friend, Chloe, who were visiting Paris for the weekend. I took them to Le Marché des Enfants Rouges for coffee at L’Estaminet where we were served by a lovely, smiley guy (miracle!) and we could sit outside and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. I ordered the cake of the day which was described as a ‘caramel tart’. Nothing exciting in that. OH BUT HOW WRONG I WAS!

caramel tart

Look at that…

The tart itself was deliciously rich without being too sweet – firm yet chewy and with a nice pastry base. Seriously good. But what made this tart so amazingly wonderful was the cream that was served alongside it. Normally, I ignore cream as it is just additional calories that don’t really taste that great. This rule only changes if 1. it is clotted cream or 2. it is the cream I was served on this day which was somehow infused with caramel. Holy mongolia, it was heavenly. The combination of the tart with the caramel infused cream created some sort of magic land in my mouth and all three of us couldn’t get over how good it was. My “this is making you fat” brain did stop me from eating ALL of the cream, but Nat happily picked up a spoon and inhaled the remnants. This tart sits alongside my favourite chocolate cake from Le Jardin d’en Face as a delicious sweet good that I think about daily. Anyone who can tell me how to make caramel cream OR (better still) deliver it to me now, will be my favourite person ever.