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

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.

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

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

Coffee hits the spot at Sweetleaf

Rounding out the last of my back logged posts from my time in New York, I wanted to make another special mention to a coffee store in Long Island City called Sweetleaf. Located a couple of blocks away from the PS1, this was where I got a perfectly formed cortado and wished I could have spent just a litle bit more time relaxing in their very nice cafe.

I think like many modern coffee stores, Sweetleaf supplies free wifi although they have this really nice large table next to their open aired kitchen that they recommend you use.

Amongst all the cakes and pastries, they also looked like they prepared a good selection of sandwiches and salads though it wasn’t quite lunch time when we went by. I just really needed my coffee at this point.

It looked like quite a number of other customers were regulars, or at least on a first name basis with the baristas behind the bar. I can see why because the baristas were pretty friendly and knew what they were doing. In fact, the barista told me that she was just going to pull another shot because she knew immediately that it apparently wasn’t a good one. It wasn’t long before I was sipping on the crema of a beautifully made cortado, once again waking up to the world.

Name: Sweetleaf Lic
Found at: 10-93 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101

Hackesches Hof Theater Cafe

We dropped into this awesome cafe near the Hackescher Markt. Attached to a theatre, or what I’m guessing is a bigger theatre, this small cafe offers all sorts of drinks from the teas and coffees, through to beers and wines. From what I could tell of the menu, it also offers a small amount of food to eat like sandwiches and cakes though we just dropped in for a drink.

Hackesches Hof Theatre is warmed by an array of theatre lights hanging for the ceiling. Some people won’t like the heat although it really worked for me because of the cold outside. This cafe, like many others in Berlin, is full of characters with old movie and theatre posters hanging from all walls.

Name: Hackesches Hof Theatre
Found at: Rosenthaler Straße 40, 10178 Berlin, Germany

D’Espresso New York

I first read about D’Espresso from a mailing list I subscribe to about interesting designs around the world. Seeing as I enjoy my coffee, I’m always up for some non chain coffee house that serves espresso.

We dropped into the one closest to Grand Central station, though struggled to find it as I was looking for it on Madison Avenue. It took us a while to triangulate it and find it located on 42nd Street. Watch out for that. They serve all kinds of coffees. I ordered a cortado being the closest thing they might make to a flat white.

They also had, on display, a great display of these bombolino’s – or donuts filled with various ones.

Although starting to get a little run down from all the people dropping in, this tiny store looks pretty amazing for the wallpaper that plasters the floor, walls and roof, effectively turning the store into a sideways library.

Pretty trippy but neat.

Name: D’Espresso
Found at: 317 Madison Ave on 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10017

Caravan London

Breakfast time is not something that the British do well. The standard, and most familiar, is the full English from your little cafe, to help ease the ringing from the night before. Fortunately many antipodeans are stepping into London to fill a void, with one of the latest yet another protege graduating from Peter Gordon’s well respected The Providores.

Run by some coffee-loving Kiwis, my respect for them extends beyond the normal appreciation of a decent flat white (pictured above) because they roast all of their own beans on the premises. Awesome!

I came along here whilst working on some writing for work because I got to work from home before flying out for the Christmas break. They open at 8am so out I went from home to brave the cold thinking a coffee and a decent breakfast would help kickstart the brain. My laptop came with me and it wasn’t as crazy busy as the queues that form on the weekend so they didn’t really have any problems with that all.

Above is the Corn bread french toast, bacon, rocket and avocado (£9) that proved a delightful breakfast. Slightly crispy egg covering combined with the salty bacon, soft richness of the avocado and the only thing that felt healthy on the plate, the rocket. I definitely couldn’t have this everyday but is worth going out for something different.

Service throughout was perfect. Dishes whipped away not immediately after I put my last fork down but without letting the plate linger. A constant check to make sure the caffeine quotient didn’t fall too low and a very prompt card machine when I signalled for the bill and left my card. It’s the sort of service I’m happy paying for the 12.5% they put on bringing the total up to £19.46 for two coffees, an orange juice, French toast. Not the cheapest of places.

Remember that places that do breakfast well are hard to find in London so are sometimes well worth paying for. This one wins another bonus point for offering take away coffees as well.

Name: Caravan Restaurant
Found at: No. 11-13 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QD, United Kingdom.

Where’s the good coffee? Foxcroft and Ginger

Foxcroft and Ginger‘s been open for a while though I haven’t had a chance to try their coffee until quite recently. Fortunately it’s another boutique cafe focused on serving interesting food and serving a decent coffee supplied by famous London roasters, Monmouth Coffee.

The outside looks appealing although on first impressions it doesn’t look very big mainly being very long and narrow with only three small tables to sit at. Wait a while and you might notice the noise coming from downstairs and realise it’s not a whole of juiced up people waiting for their turn in the lavatory but people chatting and enjoying themselves with the food.

Order food and coffee at the bar and they’ll deliver it to you. I have no idea how they do it but I guess the baristas also have amazing face recognition and immaculate memories. Of course, they might also just give you a number to put on your table but I kind of forgot to notice.

The flat white’s definitely on the more pricey side costing £2.50 though I’m pleased to report it’s well made and the baristas seem to know what they’re doing. The food offerings looked tempting as well, probably best saved after a week’s hard workout or many, many, long runs. Eggy Bread with Honey Roast Ham, Cheese & Béchamel & Honey Mustard Dressing sounds perfect for pleasing those winter cravings and is wonderfully priced at £3.95. A bargain if you’re looking at adding some padding for those winter months.

Name: Foxcroft and Ginger
Found at: 3 Berwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 0DR

Where’s the good coffee? Ginger and White

I have to admit I get a bit lazy on weekends, tending to walk to get my coffee, rather than go out and venture beyond zone one to explore. Hence, my ever growing list of places to go and visit to try their coffee. Fortunately I had a brunch invitation one weekend and suggested we meet at a place sitting on my list for probably the last year and a half, Ginger and White.

Sure, it’s located in the rather posh Hampstead area so I already had fairly high expectations, though it’s located down a narrow alleyway and isn’t a very large shop. The Sunday we went ended up being rather wet and since the cafe opened so early, we were lucky to get a table under one of the awnings outside. At least it wasn’t too cold.

Ginger and White is definitely more cafe than restaurant. Apparently they don’t really have an extensive kitchen which is why their brunch menu focused on sandwiches, cakes and pastries and not very much hot food at all. Fortunately their coffee is good, once again a great place supplied by the wonderful Square Mile Roasters.

Drinking two flat whites (pictured above) was just too easy. Feeling like I wanted something a bit more warming than a heated croissant, I opted for the unusual soldiers and toast. I say unusual because it’s not something many places offer, probably because it is so ordinary, yet I thought it’d be quite appropriate.

What arrived what two eggs, one of them covered in a cosy knitted egg cosy and nicely toasted granary bread fingers to dip them in. I felt very British and it felt strangely appropriate given the inclement weather. While service wans’t the most efficient when we wanted the bill, I found it refreshing to be in such a popular place without feeling rushed or pressured to leave. I’d like to see what it’s like during the week, when you can avoid the manic weekend crowds.

Name: Ginger and White
Found at: 4a-5a Perrin’s Court, Hampstead, London NW3 1QS