Tartine San Francisco

Tartine is a well known institution in San Francisco where you need to queue and you need to come early. It’s well known for being a great bakery and with only a number of tables inside, you need to queue and watch like a hawk to get one on a first come first serve basis.

Just like the good citizens of the city, we queued just like everyone else. Things seemed to be move pretty fast although I’d recommend they had pictures of what they sold as well as their names so you got an idea about what you wanted before you got to ordering. Once at the counter where you can see into their case of decadent cakes and baked goods, the pressure is on for you to hurry up and order by the big number of people behind you.

I tried one of their morning buns in the hope for trying to get some cinnamon roll goodness before leaving. Although not filled with cinnamon sugar delights, their bun lightly coated with caster sugar also came with pleasant hints of orange infusions. The bun instead made of reasonably good bread and not pastry.

On the other hand, I looked at all the croissants. The one below is an almond croissant and the pattern seemed to be the same across the entire range. Impressively large, but way over cooked. Almost no croissant appeared unharmed by their overzealous baking and the result, bitter aftertaste in the pastry. The pastry was indeed very flaky and buttery, but devastated that a “good” bakery can’t quite perfect the honest croissant.

Here’s one before the eating.

Tartine definitely has its fans. Is it worth lining up for? Maybe if you were buying quite a lot. And then again, be prepared to pay a premium for all their goods. I’m sure you cold probably find better elsewhere in the city but for a whole bunch of people this is probably an easy option.

Name: Tartine Bakery and Cafe
Found at: 600 Guerrero Street San Francisco, CA 94110, United States
Website: http://www.tartinebakery.com/

DeLise Dessert Cafe

This cute little ice cream and cake store sits quite close to the tourist-central Fisherman’s Wharf. They offer an eclectic range of foods including sandwiches and salads involving truffle (mmm!) and other interesting flavour combinations.

Choose to have a coffee and a small cake from their broad range of offerings like banana, carrot, green tea, red velvet or perhaps you want something a bit lighter light a brown butter cookie or a chocolate macaroon. A small, beautifully displayed assortment of what’s available shows you what is on offer.

The store looks very inviting being extremely bright from the large windows but unfortunately they only have one table and a counter for you to sit out. Not really a problem if you’re taking things to go. Here’s the picture of the brown butter shortbread cookie and bacon maple scone that we tried. Both fairly small portions and reasonably priced at 85c and USD1.50. I’ll admit it’s a bit of a premium for the size and bear in mind you’re paying for some quality stuff.

Of course we had to try the ice cream flavours of which they cycle through plenty of different offerings. In the end I settled on a pear yuzu involving plenty of tart bite, as well as the sweeter honey lavender yogurt. A good combination that left me refreshed.

Beware their opening hours as we tried to visit on the Monday and found them shut. Check out their website for a more up to date account.

Name: DeLise Dessert Cafe
Found at: 327 Bay St, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States
Website: http://www.delisesf.com/

Culture Espresso New York

I’m always on the look out for decent places that do great coffee. One place that I found was Culture Espresso. The store is pretty big for a coffee place in Manhattan, with huge glass windows allowing lots of natural light into the store.

The bar is simple, though welcoming with a cold drinks station as you walk in, and a very tempting bakery selection on the right where the queue forms. I found this place because it was one of the places that actually did a flat white (US$3.75) and it was beautifully made.

Perfect latte art to enjoy. Deliciously well made to boot.

Name: Culture Espresso
Found at: 72W 38th Street, New York, New York
Website: http://cultureespresso.com/


Berlin is in no short supply of coffee stores. And fortunately for me, they aren’t all like your run-of-the-mill German coffee stores where there is often more milk than in their coffee of their “latte macchiatos”.

One of the coffee stores I’ve been meaning to visit was Godshot. Although it’s not that far away from our workplace, the fact that they don’t open up until 9am doesn’t make it easy to get to before work, and my body’s auto-awake til 3am response with coffee after 2pm doesn’t encourage me to try going after work. So, with that, I had to wait for a weekeend where I stayed in Berlin.

Fortunately it was worth the wait for a good coffee. It’s surprisingly big on the inside, not something you’d really expect from the small front interior – although you’ll probably be nudging people out for any of the seats outside. There’s enough character in this place for you and another one of your alternative ego’s.

I like the fact, for example, the sugar, mixes and tap water stand atop old Austrian Airway dinner trollies and the soft leather lounge chairs make you feel like you’re visiting someone else’s home than just a normal coffee store.

Just like all good coffee stores, this one sells your classic Flat White (offering three different coffee beans from €2.70-€2.90) although on my post-lunch visit, decided to go for a full bodied espresso, that comes accompanied by a nice little biscuit that I failed to eat.

Name: Godshot
Found at: Immanuelkirchestrasse 32, Berlin, Germany
Website: http://godshot.de/

Bonanza Coffee Heroes

Yet another really great place in Berlin that does coffee worth visiting for. They even do their own roasts, as you can see in the picture below.

The cafe probably does much better in the summer with tables to sit outside as there isn’t that much room inside with their roasting equipment. This might explain why they offer magazines for reading as well.

A perfectly worth flat white to compete with any others around town. Great if you’re in the area.

Friendly service and a bustling atmosphere, particularly with Mauer Park not far from its steps, I can highly recommend this place if you’re in the area.

Name: Bonanza Coffee Heroes
Found at: Oderberger Strasse 35, 10435 Berlin
Website: http://www.bonanzacoffee.de/

Disappointing Brunch at St Ali London

After reading about St Ali’s opening in Farringdon, I just had to try it out the next time I was back for a weekend. It’s just that close. Anyone from Melbourne, who is into their food and coffee (and really, who isn’t when they’re from there) will know about St Ali. My first day in the office and someone introduced me to Brother Baba Budan (previous post here) in the city serving their coffee, and I had a really wonderful weekend brunch at their main location.

After reading a couple of reviews about the place already in London, things looked pretty good. I organised to catch up with a couple of friends at St Ali this weekend just gone, and unfortunately I have to report, they have a bit to get going before it’s going to win any awards.

Scheduled to meet my friends at 12:30, I thought I should arrive a little earlier to get a table, knowing how frustrating waiting can be. Things looked positive. As soon as I walked in, I asked for table for three, and they asked for me politely to wait by the door. It wasn’t long after that I was seated and whilst I waited (I still had at least 10 minutes to go) asked if I wanted any coffees.

Let’s get the review under way:

The good
St Ali in London is associated with coffee, and if they couldn’t get this right, I genuinely would have been worried for what they had to stand for. Fortunately the flat white (£2.40) delivered according to expectation with a well made espresso and not too much milk like the terrible lattes served around town.

It was also great not being rushed off our tables. Things were casual, although service didn’t seem to note when we needed something. The perfect charm of not being hassled when you didn’t want to be might have been something else where, actually, you were almost being ignored. It worked quite well for some time.

When the food arrived (more on that later), I had some good reports. The names on the menu are playful and whilst some people report them as annoying, give you a good idea on what you’re ordering. I was a little disappointed by the French Toast I had (the bread a little too dry), however the toasted walnuts provided some excellent contrast and the classic sweet/salty combinations worked like a charm.

We had a few problems with the bill (more on that later as well) and the second time, they took all the coffees off the bill. Nice to see them immediately respond to a problem pointed out to them… multiple times.

Unfortunately, my list of things they can improve are much, much longer. And I’m sure they’re good reasons for it. Living locally, I would hope they find time to up their game.

What soured our experience
Being asked for drinks was a good start. Juice was drunk. Coffee appreciated and then we started getting hungry. It took us a while to flag someone for food, and things looked good when our order was taken down. With our food taken down, I should have been more observant to see them actually put it through to the kitchen. Someone tried to bring us food that we didn’t order, however a simple indication that there were two dishes for the three of us helped them see it wasn’t for us.

We fretted a bit more, when a couple of people, arriving much after us, got their food order sooner than we did. Not just them, but another table. Twenty more minutes on and we asked to see if we had any more progress. Apparently not so much. The food did arrive, and I was so ravenous that I forgot to take pictures – definitely not like me.

The food was pretty good in general. I wouldn’t order the French Toast again though because the bread seemed a little bit too dry to really soak up the delicious maple syrup and fork the perfect combo of salty bacon, crispy walnut and soft bread. Was it worth the £? I’ve had better.

Despite the hiccups in the ordering, we finally asked for the bill. It was nice not being rushed off, however it seemed to take a while to make eye contact and get someone to bring us the bill. What arrived was a surprising four dishes plus extras. Although I may have been hungry, and we were originally served just two meals, these numbers don’t exactly even out.

We asked again for our bill and what arrived was a slight repeat of the first. We finally managed to get a bill (fifteen minutes later) that represented almost what we had only to find an extra coffee on it. Considering that this place serves a cheeky (12.5% service), that extra coffee does make a little difference. We pointed out this mistake and at least our waitress (points definitely for being friendly) took off all our coffees. This equated to approximately the service we would have asked to have been taken off given all of this galavanting. Oh, and did I mention they only accept one credit card – what are we? In Australia? This is why we have advanced portable, technical machines. If you’re going to charge 12.5%, at least earn it? Grrr.

I’m hopeful
Being a local place, and one where I had a good experience in Australia, I’m hopeful for things to get better. When we finally managed to pay, we were told the excuse, oh, we had Time Out come review us yesterday and still trying to recover.

What? I’m sorry. London deserves better than this. One doesn’t expect people who review a place to be better treated than those who might come everyday. That excuse just doesn’t cut it here. Use the excuse that you’re just opening. Don’t use excuses that allow you to treat people differently depending on what you get out of it.

Coffee is good. Food is promising. I’m still hopeful about the dining and eating in experience you can have.

No Fire No Glory

Berlin has plenty of good coffee places around. I’m very thankful for this given that London used to struggle with only a handful actually serving decent quality coffee and Berlin seems to be ahead of the game. The latest on my list I tracked down was one with the awesome name, No Fire No Glory. Located much further out than where I’m working, it was nice to visit a different part of Berin and experience yet another side to the city. I think they’ll be moving soon but the information right now is correct.

Upon entering the cafe, a large old fashioned cash register confronts you. It’s a wonderfully old working piece with each item entered resulting in a very satisfying click, and the turn of a handle, a very loud bang as the cash drawer opens. Behind the til sits a large gold-plated mirror opening up the space of the already well sized cafe. Soft, calming music pipes in the air, a pillowy blanket punctuated only by the sound of the coffee grinder and milk steaming.

I hung around for a while, working on a presentation for a conference, and it looks like this place is licensed as well serving alcohol and non alcoholic drinks in addition to sandwiches, cookies and slices of pie.

More importantly they list a whole bunch of different coffees for sale. The flat white is the most expensive I’ve seen around so far ringing in at €3.50 per cup. I wonder if it has to do with an extra shot of coffee as I definitely felt the caffeine hit when I finished drinking my cup.

Name: No Fire No Glory
Found at: Jessnerstr. 35, 10247 Berlin (nearest UBahn Frankfurter Allee)
Website: www.nofirenoglory.de

Awesomeness by Antiopodes

Two of the friendliest shop owners greet you as you walk into this wonderfully warm cafe found conveniently right around the corner from where my current client is working. Everything they do is home made and prepared with care, particularly their all day breakfast, a much healthier and hearty breakfast that you’ll ever eat in England.

Best yet, they also do a mean flat white for an extremely reasonable €2. This lets you spend more on their awesome little cakes, slices and biscuits instead.

There’s plenty of seating available in this cafe, and even with free wi-fi that many of their visitors seem to occupy themselves with.

Name: Antipodes
Found at: Fehrbelliner 5, 10119 Berlin, Germany
Link: http://www.exberliner.com/locations/antipodes

The Barn in Berlin

Located in the middle of trendy Mitte district, close to Hackescher Markt is this wonderful cafe serving great coffee and food to be had all around. Whilst not the biggest of cafes in Berlin, it has made the most of its interior serving a constant stream of customers.

Throughout the day, they serve coffee and tea alongside many impressive looking cakes and slices with a handful of sandwiches thrown in at the same time. The walls also offer up many products, many of which looked like local products. On the other side, closest to where the caffeinated beverages emerge, another wall offers up coffee products, tools and accessories – something for everyone including the closest coffee aficionado.

Here’s my lovely flat white. Perfectly made, dark and delicious. Prepared by an Australian barista (they’re everywhere!)

Arriving for breakfast, I went for the muesli – a toasted concoction served with thick creamy yogurt, in addition to a glass of milk I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. The pre-sliced half apple provides the final fruity touches.

My German isn’t very good so couldn’t tell if they constantly serve Square Mile coffee (from way across the pond) but I’m impressed to see the beans hit this city. The beans are really good stuff.

This isn’t the cafe to bring twelve of your friends but is a great place to catch up with a one or two, or to drop in for a really well made coffee.

Name: The Barn
Found at: Auguststrasse 58, 10119 Berlin
Website: http://www.thebarn.de/