“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
Evening cuppa at Charles Dickens Coffee House! This was once the busy office where Dickens published his periodical All The Year Round from 1859 until his death in 1870. I sipped on weak herbal tea with milk and had a slice of cheesecake to calm a crazy stream of thoughts. Can’t even begin to count the reasons why I love Covent Garden: accessible WiFi hotspots, neat indie cafés and hangouts that remain open way past midnight.
Tasteless herbal tea and one of the worst cheesecakes ever. Still, I’m liking the serenity and mad affordability.
Covent Garden at sun-down: only then can you see this district come alive!
26 Wellington St,
London WC2E 7DD,
+44 871 426 3659
7.00am – 12.00am
Tante T (otherwise known as THESALON at VIKTORIAGADE): I was really glad my colleagues agreed to come with me!! 5 of us ventured out on-foot, clad in thick winter armoury. We trekked through the blizzard with snow coming down horizontally, and smacking all over our faces. Thesalon’s storefront was a welcoming sight.
On a good spring day perhaps, you could dine outside.
Tante T can be loosely translated as ‘Aunt’s Tea’. Despite being a low-key chill-out tea-salon, this tea-salon is no less ostentatious than its fanciful competitors. It has 2 understated tea-rooms painted pristine white, lined with timeless vintage photographs of Danish royalty. There is also an interesting sewing machine refurnished into a table. A variety of seating arrangements makes the place a perfectly conducive spot for social gatherings!
I love these full shelves decorated with teapots, linen cloths, teacups, bread jams, butters and tea-party knick knacks.
Tante T is best known for having a variety of 150 teas to choose from! The shelves behind the counter are filled with tins of tea leaves. Sniff-sampling is encouraged – you just need to ask!
Their glass display showcases their organic home-made desserts and cakes. Everything was so tempting!
And so we ordered some tea: Rose, Earl Grey Blue Lady, Citrus and a Chai Latte. We also had the chocolate fudge, some cookies and a raspberry marzipan cake. The cakes were less sweet, more chewy, and tougher than the usual eggs and butter mixes. I guess they used more whole-wheat flour and less dairy products. Definitely a healthier dessert option.
From inside looking out: it was -6°C! I love the quaintness of the tea-salon. Whilst we were talking in louder volumes, everyone else gave us weird stares not only because we were the only Asians – it’s a place that isn’t prone to rowdy crowds. Also, the place is a well-kept local hideout with a regular tea-loving crowd. I’d love to try all their teas…but they have 150 types! That means so many trips, I hope I get to travel to Copenhagen that often.
Till the day I’ve tried all 150 teas, perhaps I won’t ever tire of coming back.
+45 32 10 36 10
Highly recommended by the counter staff at Urban Outfitters, we decided to have lunch at Café Sommersko, just round the corner off the main street of Strøget. The lunch crowd had more or less dispersed by 3pm, which was the time our stomachs were growling as we trooped onto the café’s upper deck. Sommersko’s menu consists of simple French-Danish fusion – the basic fare plus some fancy coffees with liquers that might interest you if you’re into that!
I had a Caesar Salad and afternoon coffees. Jasmine had the goat’s cheese salad which was all sour, sweet and savoury at the same time! The food was alright if you disregard the poor service and slow delivery, plus the fact that its a tad pricey. Its a great chillout place if you’re just having a drink with company, otherwise the food was kind of disappointing. As a plus point, though, the view of the blizzard from its windows were really pretty!
I’m just really glad for the good company of my amazing colleagues to Copenhagen, and they made the meal very much enjoyable. The next time, I’ll remember to just have a coffee with Bailey’s!
Kronprinsensgade 6, 1114 København, Denmark
+45 33 14 81 89
I was mad enough to fight the snowstorm in a bid to hunt down Bankeråt Cafè at Ahlefeldtsgade. And every damn effort was worth it! I fell right in love with this little dark room and its creepy ambience. There were taxidermied animals hanging all around, with decapitated doll head light fixtures and funkier window-ledge knick-knacks. The cafè’s casual eccentricity made me feel right at home.
The Danish word ‘bankerøt’ could be simply translated as bankruptcy, and I wonder why! Everything here is very reasonably priced. A DKK36 latte accompanied my stay-in from the blizzard. Dessert choices were very basic though – chocolate tarts, a walnut cake and brunch sandwiches. Young crowds are known to frequent the area; the combination of Bankeråt Cafè’s full bar selection and its mysterious aura is the main draw for Bankeråt.
However short a visit I paid, I’m just really glad to have witnessed the cafè’s much raved-about creepy decor! I’m all for anything out of the ordinary and BANKERÅT ranks way up on my list for being one of a kind.
Mon – Fri 09:30 – 00:00,
Sat – Sun 10:30 – 00:00
If you love pancakes, and the French comic series Asterix, La Galette is the place for you!
The place is a well-kept local secret as it is hidden from the sidewalk. Upon seeing the cardboard Asterix cut-out, you need to enter the gates into the yellow building and walk further in. The owners are French and boy, they do know how to whip up a good crispy pancake!
In French, the galette is a flat, round or freeform crusty pancake – almost like a crêpe but crispier. La Galette offers both decadent sweet or savoury buckwheat pancakes. The interior is a small cosy space with an open-concept kitchen. From where I sat I could hear the chefs speaking French. When the (cute) chef served up my Pomme Caramel – pancakes with French caramelized apples – he actually said bon appetit and I melted! There’s just something about French men…
Thereafter my Pomme Caramel tasted extra sweet and yummy!
C’était vraiment délicieux! Merci beaucoup..
The pancakes are all within the range of DKK 40 – 110. Mine costs DKK 45 and tasted amaaazing. The range of pancakes are really stunning and varied, and you can really trust the chef to deliver the taste of French pancakes direct from Paris. Mes compliments au chef!
Cafè culture in Copenhagen is amaaaazing! Touched down in the morning at 6am, slept for 3hrs, until the silence of the hotel room made me so darn restless. So, I embarked on the list of coffee-places I wanted to visit! First stop: The Living Room @ Larsbjørnstræde. The street is lined with indie cafès, vintage designer stores, chill-out bars and late-night pubs – the kind of street culture I love the best.
I took a while to make my choices because there were too many! Had a cuppa piping hot latte and a soft, slightly dry slice of tiramisu. Somehow I miss the tiramisu I had in Frankfurt – it’s more moist and tastes strongly of eggs and dark rum rather than flour and sugar.
I love the interior of The Living Room – it’s spacious yet cosy and lives up to its name by being ideal for social gatherings! There’s even a dark underground ‘dungeon’ where friends or couples can sink into large sofas for more privacy.
My view of the sidewalk from the bar-top is just right. Spent close to an hour hiding from the cold (-4°C!!) and reading my book whilst sipping on latte.
If you’re out seeking for good coffee, I’m sure there are better caffeine joints with tastier brews. For cakes or food, definitely there would be better patisseries out there. I still loved this place nevertheless! It gave me very good vibes. The Living Room baristas were super friendly (one of them chatted with me in perfect English!) and the variety of tables and seats are made to suit any occasion. The Living Room is best enjoyed with good company for the ambience is fantastic. Even if you’re alone, the space is quiet without being stale, and is ideal for that me-time you’re seeking.
The Living Room – Bars, Coffee & tea, Snacks
Mon – Thu 10:00 – 23:00,
Fri 10:00 – 02:00,
Sat 11:00 – 02:00,
Sun 12:00 – 19:00
In a shop along the quiet streets of a village in Frankfurt: an old man works alone in a cafe pizzeria, serving up heavenly pasta dishes, coffees and pizzas. Andrey, Azri, Chloe and I were there on a busy afternoon, sharing a Quattro Formaggi (4-cheeses pizza), tagliatelle, potato ravioli and the works. The old man does all the cooking, pan-frying, searing, and barista-ing. He thoughtfully makes sure everybody at any table is served together. He also makes the effort for small-talk with all customers. At the peak lunch hour, a lone helper goes into the kitchen to help him. At that point in time we ordered 4 plates of tiramisu. The freshly-baked goodness was in short the best tiramisu I’ve ever had in my life.
‘Twas a rainy mid-afternoon, and we ran from Mondsee Abbey (a quick 50m dash) into the welcoming embrace of Cafè Braun, where the aroma of vanilla syrup and freshly roasted coffee jolted our olfactory senses into working overtime.
This small-town cafè is everything you can ask for: the apple strudel is next to the best I’ve ever had (the first on my list being Corica’s Apple Strudel from Perth)! The beverages were simply divine and the interior cosy and welcoming.
Definitely one of those places you have to try, at least once in your lifetime.