“When good Americans die, they go to Paris,’ the ghost said, after taking a drag on a small cigarette.”
― Karen Chance, Embrace the Night
The sky decided on delivering a full-blown shower and a trio of very drenched Paris Explorers braved their way on foot across the Eiffel Tower and towards Trocadero. Pretty much everywhere in Paris’ city centre you’ll be able to locate patisseries and cafes that are great for alfresco-dining.
A walking distance from Tour de Eiffel is The Carette Paris where locals and tourists alike can be seen nursing a cuppa, having pre-dinner drinks along the pavement portico, or enjoying a full-course dinner in its premises. Its interior decor is made up of beautiful pristine whites in stark contrast to the red velvet cushions and dark brown mahogany woods of their lounges and seats, which in my opinion is the classiest interior colour combination ever.
A handful of pistachio, raspberry, dark chocolate and sea salt caramel, rose, and fudge cake macarons. My favourite was the pistachio. So yummy! ^^ See how Paris has spoilt me on the dessert front? Overloading on good pastries is a given when in Paris! They have an impressive collection of macarons on offer, you can never taste them all.
Breakfast was pepperoni and salami pizza at the Gran Caffe Roma via Vittorio Veneto in Rome, Italy. Alfresco dining in the morning summer breeze gave us plenty of room for people-watching, which brings me to remembering the blatant stares we’d throughout our journey received from patrons of pavement cafes and restaurants. Sometimes I wonder if we’re the first Asian species that these people are seeing. We too have 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth, no? The cafe interior was lovely, the servers were surly (clearly not morning people) and for an Italian joint the food bland and disappointing. Coffee, though, was the only yummy thing. Nonetheless the pizza, beef lasagna and bacon&cheese sandwich managed to satiate our ginormous need for carbs.
A while ago, I got to enjoy some much desired me-time in London! Originally from France, the British branch of Caffe Vergnano 1882 sits right across from Chancery Lane station, a short walk away from the likes of Prufrock and Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.
Everybody else was shopping at SOHO or Oxford Circus whilst strangely I had nothing I needed to get. I guess it was too cold to be walking out there alone in the crazy winds, snapping random photographs of an ordinary day in London with my badly abused umbrella. Hence I took the time out and sat through the rain (no matter how bad the storm you just gotta tide it through)
Nowadays I can’t stand being cooped up anywhere for long, but wherever I have piping hot latte and a book, I’m good to go. The ham & cheese croissant was amazingly toasty!
What sets Vergnano apart from most commercial coffee-houses would be its classic sleek black chairs and walls, dimly-lit retro lights, and latte / espresso shots that come with a slice of cookie or chocolate. Not exactly setting itself up as that friendly neighbourhood café, but a place for business meetings, catch-ups between distant friends and formal gatherings. I’m told they also have franchises in Dubai & Mongolia!
Despite all that positivity I’m not sure it serves the best espresso in London. I still love the latte from Department of Coffee and Social Affairs! Caffe Vergnano is a much quieter place probably ‘cos half its storefront is currently hidden behind construction works.
Someday I would really love to visit its branch in Mongolia.
Caffe Vergnano 1882
337 High Holborn
London, United Kingdom
+44 20 7242 7119
If you’re heading to Chancery Lane Station, you will find this neat little café hideout on Leather Lane, a short 5-minute walk from the subway station towards Holborn Viaduct. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs is one of London’s most talked-about cafés on Yelp, TripAdvisor and many travel tip sites, and indeed the place serves up really good coffee.
Somewhat comforted by their warm, textured brick walls and smooth black table tops, I was half expecting to see a burning fireplace behind the barista counter. Simply put, the place was just so welcoming! I could easily grab a quiet table at 1PM in the afternoon. There were many lone Londoners in the café, either furiously studying or jabbing away at their laptops with intent.
Having just been to Waterstones, I had a few reads stored away in my bag for a peaceful afternoon. This is just the place to be! It isn’t too quiet as there were pleasant background chatters, but not loud enough to give me splitting headaches. I’m told that the place can get really noisy at its worst, especially in the evenings. Thankfully it was serene that afternoon. Best way to enjoy a cuppa smooth, and hipster-priced flat white!
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
14-16 Leather Lane
Monday – Friday
07.00 – 18.00
Saturday & Sunday
10.00 – 17.00
As mentioned previously, I had major unresolved cravings for waffles. Whilst everyone else went shopping at SOHO, I slinked into the stylish, contemporary waffle parlour to have the Pecan & Butterscotch Waffle with Ice Cream for lunch.
The store manager Andy was extremely friendly and chatted with me! He commented on the books I was reading, talked about the Chinese zodiac (year of the horse etc) and asked if I was here on holiday – to which I said yes. He then gave me his contact and invited me to look for him every time I’m in London! What a great guy ^^. The Pecan & Butterscotch Waffles is, hands-down, the best waffle I’ve had in a long time. When my dessert came, a very nice black couple were just leaving the café and they casually told me “You’ll totally love that. I just ate the same one.” It’s insane! I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the waffles were.
Each waffle is made to order, and toasted to my favourite kinda crispy. Topped with a scoop of fresh ice-cream, the combination is pure perfection. I was watching the waitress dribble butterscotch – they did it with so much precision and care. You feel as though they’re giving each dish so much attention!
Food aside, the decor of Pure Waffle is minimalist and very comfortably spacious. It is thoughtfully furnished as a social hangout for large groups, with private tables and stands for couples and individuals. Definitely one of those earmarked cafés which I’ll bring my loved ones to when we come back to London, and also to look for Andy, the store manager!
58 Duke St, London W1K 6JW, United Kingdom
+44 20 7629 0546
To satisfy the major cravings I had for waffles, I googled “Best Waffles in Central London”. This Swedish gem of a café turned up multiple times in the search engine and I decided to hunt it down! Jet lag woke me up at 5am hence I was ravenous! KULA opens at 8am. I took the underground to Bond Street. The cafeé is at the corner adjacent to St Christopher’s Place, and easily recognized. Small warm and cosy, with splendid waffle choices, a spectrum of coffees and breakfast smoothies…on first impression it’s a lovely place to dine. Boy am I glad the place has WiFi.
To be honest, the service was terrible! The waitress / boss had a grumpy attitude, and my latte was served lukewarm (I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I’m Asian, and I have ‘tourist’ written all over my face, because she seemed much nicer to the regulars whom she recognised). Besides coffee, I had a fresh fruits waffle with maple syrup which was satisfyingly sweet. My fruits were indeed cold and fresh, and I felt that it was a hearty, healthy breakfast. I like my waffles crispy though! Mine came slightly soft It was still yummy, disregarding the less than welcoming service.
It’s safe to say that I won’t come back, unless they do a menu revamp, or perhaps just to try their Swedish ice cream. A pity though, I would have loved this hangout a lot.
21 James Street London
W1u 1DS London, United Kingdom
So, The Attendant is an abandoned underground toilet in London, refurnished into a café. Say what? I was skeptical about lingering lavatory smells but trust me, the café has been so thoroughly cleaned up, everyone’s literally eating off urinal walls.
Pete Tomlinson and Ben Russel acquired the 1890′s victorian style London lavatory, and to capitalise upon its prime location, turned it into the existing café. Walking down the flight of stairs really felt like stepping into another realm, one that’s quite like the early 1900s.
Because it’s winter and I’m perpetually hungry, thank god for this range of brunch sandwiches. Had a usual hot latte with a toasted ham, bacon & cheese muffin to go along. They also had cookies and fudge brownies that looked equally yummy. The underground haven promised warmth and protection against the February winds, which was why many people were holed up in the individual urinals, sipping coffees at their own leisure.
Rereading an old Murakami classic: Norwegian Wood.
From the curbside, you can even buzz for street level service and they’ll have coffee/food delivered up to you. But then again the space downstairs is too amazing, you’d wanna check it out! Come on, I mean, how many times in your life do you get to eat comfortably in a legit toilet?
26-27 Foley St,
London W1W 6DY, United Kingdom
+44 20 7637 3794
A tangy, zesty slice of gluten-free lemon polenta later, we were outta the small takeouts-only café. Their Fitzrovia store has a dine-in area which was brimming with people at lunch-time. The smaller Lantana patisserie is well and aesthetically stocked: banana bread, blueberry muffins, double chocolate brownies, oaty nutty choc chip cookies, flourless almond cakes and a standard coffee range.
It’s not possible to be disappointed by sweets!!
We walked here after getting off at Tottenham Court Road and walked into Charlotte Place – a small lane filled with many cool independent eateries and stores! So many things to see and do, so little time.
13 Charlotte Pl, Fitzrovia,
London W1T 1SN, United Kingdom
+44 20 7637 3347