Skye Coffee Co, Coffee Truck, Poblenou

Skye Coffee Truck, BarcelonaThe coffee theme has snowballed on this blog.  I am not as obsessed with coffee as all these coffee centric posts may suggest.  However, that a diverse city like Barcelona might be missing a trick is intriguing to me.  Is it that all the expats that come to Barcelona are only here for the sun and lifestyle and they don’t work?  Is opening a place up here prohibitive in some way (doubtful given the density of independent shops)?  Or is the Cafe con Leche too ingrained to try anything new (I mean Parisians seem to be fine with that stuff they call coffee over there). Read more of this post

Somewhere, Cafe, Sant Cugat del Vallès

Somewhere CafeMy Jordanian father once told me a story; we were visiting Vienna when I was a toddler and we were refused service at a restaurant because of me. Because I was a child. “But there is a dog in here!” he protested (Remember I said he is Jordanian, so letting in a dog and not a child is kind of carazy!). “Yes, dogs are allowed. Children are not.” Discussion closed.  Although children at mealtimes can still be a contentious issue in Northern Europe, in Southern Europe and Spain in particular it’s no big deal.  Where are your children supposed to be if not with you?  And no, you are not expected to wait until they are 18 before going out to eat.  Which means there isn’t really this niche of “children friendly” restaurants.  All people, of all sizes and ages are welcome in all restaurants.

SomewhereEvery now and then though, there is a place that makes special accommodations for little people.  Like Somewhere Cafe in San Cugat.  They’ve gone ahead and made a small corridor full of windows and stacked with colouring print outs and tubs of crayons.  From the moment I walked in with all my three, that’s where they remained.  Poking their faces through the windows when they needed to be fed before getting back to the business of colouring in. Read more of this post

Cøffee by Nomad Productions, Lab & Shop, El Born

Coffee Bar & CafeIt turns out that, if you look deep deep below the surface, there is something stirring in the Third Wave Coffee corner of Barcelona.  In the past couple of months – 3 places have opened up.  Cøffee Lab & Shop, Skye Coffee (a Citroen coffee truck) and Onna Cafe.  It is a grass-roots renaissance, initiated by people who have a life (I guess) so the hours (as so often happens in Barcelona) are not that favourable to you: punter-that-wants-a-constant-caffeine-fix.
Best coffee I have had to date in BarcelonaCøffee Lab & Shop has got the best ones actually.  Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 3:30 you can find Jordi (of Nomad Productions) making all kinds of magic using a DC/PRO that glows, AeroPress, V60 with Hario Buono pouring kettle, thermometers.  This place is kited out, geeked out.  Honestly, I’m just here for the flat white- I haven’t gone down the coffee anorak route yet. Read more of this post

Caravelle, Coffee and Food, Raval

CaravelleIs it the lack of Australians or the lack of hipsters in Barcelona that can explain away the absence of 3rd wave coffee? Because samples from both these groups are present in Caravelle, the second best place to get a coffee in Barcelona after Cafe El Magnifico. They use a La Marzocco machine and source their coffee from a small roastery called Right Side (girls – I think you should click on their link just to get an eyeful of coffee-taster/roaster-in-lilac-shirt.)  Their flat white is the real deal while their version of a cappuccino is made with rather more milk then I like (same like the flat white in fact but with only one shot of espresso) and comes with a sprinkling of cocoa powder.  

Coffee at Caravelle Read more of this post

Brunch & Cake, Eixample

IMG_5234My first impression of Barcelona was that there were so many cafes, delis, bars and restaurants that you would have to be a fool to consider entering the local food and beverage market. But now that the dust has settled on my move and (most of) the boxes have been unpacked, I am retracting that sentence.  The bars with neat rows of tapas are endless, the paellas, the plates of fideua are everywhere.  Good coffee?  Non-existent (seriously, I have identified 6 shops in Barcelona that use La Marzocco coffee machines (their official distributor for Spain is a company called Coffee People and they list all their clients).  Breakfast places? The ones that do an epic layout a la what I was used to in Berlin, not so much.Brunch and CakeSo I am not at all surprised by the cluster of people I always see outside Brunch and Cake (who are one of the 6 to have a Marzocco).  Their breakfasts are American style and then some.  A perilous tower of pancakes.  A wedge of cake, thick as a dictionary.  The so-called bagel turns out to be the size of my (Smart car’s) steering wheel.  There is also a leaning towards the strange combinations that are widely accepted in the US.  My poached eggs on waffles for instance comes on sweet waffles, with hollandaise sauce – it’s really too weird for me.  And I have always struggled with overly large portions of food, finding myself feeling bloated and defeated before I have even started eating. Read more of this post

Cafe El Magnifico, Coffee Roasters, El Born

Cafe El MagnificoThe other day, I was at Casa Ametller (which I know is a fruit and vegetable shop but still) and I ordered a coffee. Café con leche would do, whatever, I just needed the caffeine and fast. This is what happened; a gauze wrapped Novell pod was loaded into a machine, a switch – like a light switch – was flipped on and then the woman walked away to have a (long) chat with a colleague. What seemed like eons later, she returned, at that point I was on the counter peering into the cup trying to figure out if there was any room for milk. She then opened the fridge, took out some abomination tetrapak milk, the kind that I could put away and give to the twins for their graduation and it would still taste vaguely, like milk. She poured that 4ºC milk into my coffee. I thought: “well now my coffee is cold?”.
And then she put the whole thing into the microwave and zapped it for 40 seconds. Honest to god truth, this happened. Cafes el MagnificoCrazy!  That’s crazy right?  But here is the thing, the coffee culture here is largely, non-existent.  When I ask local friends, they point me in the direction of someplace that uses Illy. Read more of this post

WestBerlin, Coffee & Cakes, Kreuzberg

IMG_1314I got a big kick out of the post I wrote on The Barn because so many of you left comments.  I like when this blog generates a dialogue and I get a chance to exchange thoughts directly with some of you.

When I first came to Berlin in 2009.  The only place you could get a flat white was Bonanza Coffee.  Like The Barn today, they did away with any modesty and strutted around like they had invented coffee.  I remember being shamed when I asked for a decaf and I haven’t been back in 3 years.Coffee and CakeIt’s a very different landscape in Berlin these days.  There are plenty of great coffee places around.  They get coffee.  They have a slick machine.  Square Mile or Monmouth beans.  The baristas with the trendy hair cuts that waffle on to each other about the beans and the tiny nuances they are detecting.  And they are nice to you.  You don’t have to fiddle nervously at the bar, wondering if you are going to get the lingo right?  If they can smell the instant coffee you had 3 days ago when you were absolutely dying for some caffeine and your grinder was on the fritz (Really? You have a grinder? You’re such a coffee nerd.)

IMG_1313I mean – sometimes you just want a coffee?  Am I right?  A good cup of coffee, somewhere nice.  You don’t want to feel like you are being screened to join your local Scientology branch. Read more of this post

The Barn – Roastery, Mitte

The Roastery
I was sitting inside the child friendly Ginger and White in London when I read that Ralf Rüller had banned prams in his coffee shop. “Big deal!” I thought and soon tweeted – it’s not like prams fit in the teeny tiny Augustrasse shop. Only much later, while I sat with a group of bristling mothers, did I understand that there was a new bigger shop, The Roastery and that it also did not allow prams. Nor did they let you use their toilet, allow dogs, provide sugar, use soya milk and if you wanted to use your computer – you had to wait in line for the one table where it was allowed.IMG_1275

“Do you know that they deleted all the negative comments off their Facebook page?” one said “I mean if you are going to do social media, then you have to do social media!”

A big no!Even more confounding was the chosen location; the Mitte end of Schönhauser Allee – the other end of which is Prenzlauerberg.  Prenzlauerberg.  As in the bastion of designer babies and prams.  The styling of the babies and The Barn is nearly identical with a preference for wood (Prenzlauerberg babies don’t play with plastic), clothing in muted hues, even for the girls (especially for the girls) and no sugar allowed (The Barn because it thinks that  sugar would ruin a perfectly balanced coffee and the parents because they are trying to channel Gwenyth Paltrow).  Not allowing prams in that part of town  is like banning gambling in Las Vegas: absurd.

I set out for a weekend coffee in my SUV (3 kids people, need a big car) with Layla in the back so as to avoid the “what to do with the pram” conundrum.

There housed in a now defunct pharmacy was an extremely large coffee shop. I could have easily driven the Lexus up to the counter and placed my order without making a significant dent in the enormous space. Clearly the pram ban is not a space issue.

The set up is meticulous. The milking stools are lined up straight, with their legs crossed in a way that makes me think of how women used to be taught to cross their ankles demurely in finishing schools.  There is a young man exerting tremendous concentration over each cup of coffee.  He seems to be weighing every loaded portafiler then scooping out minute quantities of ground beans.  I have a lot of time to observe all of this because perfection takes a while.

IMG_1284At some point, a customer returning his empty cup drops a balled up paper napkin onto the floor, Rüller, who is operating the roaster, hones in on it immediately. He can’t leave the roaster (I know this because he’s already warned me in an overly weary tone that I must mind my child and that should she trespass into the space he will not be responsible because his first priority is the beans) but I can feel his irritation.

It lays there for maybe 5 minutes, all the while Rüller is shooting it harried glances. Until finally he catches the eye of one of his cowgirls, holds it, then casts his eyes down to the ground. She bends and covertly scoops it up. Read more of this post

OSLO kaffe bar, Coffee, Mitte

I was picking my way through the wreck that is Chausseestrasse, trying to get to Bondi Cafe. Two women walked passed me, lovingly cradling white paper coffee cups with what looked like the word “Oslo” stamped on them.

There was a lot of love in that embrace between woman and cup.  As I turned the corner onto Eichendorffstrasse, there it was: OSLO kaffe bar.  The styling of the cafe vaguely reminded me of Nordic Bakery in London but when I stepped inside there was no food bar a heel of dried up loaf cake.

“Do you sell food in here?” I asked “Like croissants or cake?”
“We used to have croissants.” the barista replied “but our focus is coffee.”

I looked at the black board behind her and tried to work out what I wanted. Instead of Lattes and Cappuccinos, there were ratios 1:0, 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 indicating the ratio of espresso to milk.  I order the 1:2 single origin Ethiopian coffee for €2.90 (the blend is €2.60).

I was told to expect a strong blueberry aroma.  A comment which brought to mind my wine diploma, when a red wine might be described as having tobacco and leather notes.  Attributes I could find no trace of when tasting the wine.  Looking at my classmates, they would all be vigorously agreeing with the pronouncement while I scratched my head in wonder.

Read more of this post

The Counter, Cafe, Hackney-Wick London

NOTE: I am in London until the beginning of October, for Berlin Posts, please visit my Berlin, Favourites page or Places I’ve Eaten In 

I was doing some accounts today listening to Desert Island Discs (as is my habit).  Nick Clegg this time. After choices such as Prince singing ‘The Cross’ for song number three to take to a desert island, David Bowie ‘Life on Mars’ at number 6,  things went wacky with his choice for number 7: Shakira Waka Waka. “Because my one year old loves it.” He explained to Kirsty Young.

Aha. Just the teensiest bit sceptical about that.

Shakira on the radio prompts my father to drive hands free so he can clap as the car veeres perilously between lanes. “I love Shakira! I don’t know why?!”Someone close to me is more specific. As Waka Waka comes on the car radio, the heavy metal fan turns it up. I give him a shocked side ways glance. “When she sings certain refrains I feel a tingling in my balls.” He grins sheepishly. “See listen…”  (Sorry, I did search for an elegant way to say that but failed)

He cranks it up.

“I don’t have balls”. I reply. Turning it back down.It’s all doom and gloom here: wettest June since records began; Olympic lanes with £130 fines for driving in them; surface to air missiles; ‘shambolic’ G4S Security.  The list is long.  This is a congested city, people are fighting for space on the sidewalk or the tube without the extra 4 million visitors due for the Olympics.  So I’m thinking that maybe what London needs is a Shakira song (like the one that she did for FIFA 2010).  At least to get the boys on board.  For the girls…  Ryan Gosling squinting and flexing should probably do the trick.

My sister took me to Counter Cafe in Stour Space for brunch on Sunday.  Across the river from the cafe we could see the Olympic stadium.  Which if you don’t have a ticket is as close as you can get.Even without the looming Olympic Stadium, the Counter Cafe is a nice brunch spot.  With seating over two floors and outside by the river and no reservations there is usually a bit of a wait for a table.  Which is somewhat alleviated because you queue against a cake laden counter watching the barista make coffee, it really gets your appetite going. Read more of this post

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