revisiting Vienna

Food

  • The Guesthouse Brasserie and Bakery Varied breakfast menu with excellent eggs and toast, good tea. Vibrant, crowded, good music at a low level.
  • Meierei in Stadtpark. Beautiful breakfasts in peaceful park surrounds. Quieter than The Guesthouse and more innovative food.
  • Grand Hotel Vienna Rosengarten  is the foyer cafe, good tea, nice dessert cart, goulash soup is about the same as The Bristol’s. Truffles included milk chocolate with pear and thyme.
  • The Bristol is almost next door to The Grand. It’s my favourite place in Vienna to hang out with a pot of tea and a book. There’s a fire. The food is well prepared, unexciting posh hotel style. The staff are very welcoming and know when to leave you aloe.
  • Ulrich is an Oz-style cafe. It’s clearly a hugely popular place in Vienna and has a sister cafe a hundred metres away. But for me it isn’t as good as Australian cafes, and why not go for an atmosphere that’s Austrian?
  • Burggasse 24 is fifty metres from Ulrich – it’s hipster territory all around here. It’s a vintage shop and a gorgeous cafe. Is it ‘uniquely Austrian’? Well, it certainly isn’t Australian. It has very high ceilings, a rich warmth and a fire. You don’t go for the small menu but for the comfortable atmosphere with very friendly staff. Coffee is good. Brownie not bad. Tea as yet untested.

 

 

 

 

 

Eating in London

The new:

Dishoom. It’s taken me a while to get there and more’s the pity. Dishoom succeeds on every level. To a certain extent I mean that literally. It is an enormous area with four floors to choose from and yet it oozes atmosphere. The last few years I’ve been sacrificing, if necessary, food quality for ambience. I am not prepared to eat while shouting – like here and here – and my boycotts know no geographical confines.

Yesterday we decided to give Caravan a try; it being one of the said boycotted cafes, we hadn’t been there for years. Walked in, sat down. Noise from speakers being pumped out, like it’s a night club for the hard of hearing. People shouting over it. And it’s breakfast time. Seriously? I can’t believe all these people actually think shouting during breakfast is the right way to start the day. But apparently they do. Far out.

We went far out before we’d even started looking at the menu. Well, not that far, really. Just around the corner to Dishoom which has been on my list to try for a long time now. For those who don’t know, it’s a homage to the Irani cafes of Bombay and it’s visually stunning. In keeping with the vintage feel is layback jazzy sound at a level which can be heard or ignored. Voice level is at a happy buzz, not the loudspeaker shout of Caravan.

We were in our element, so bring on the food. Everything on the breakfast menu is tempting, but I couldn’t go past:

KEEMA PER EEDU
A Parsi power breakfast: spicy chicken keema studded with delicate
morsels of chicken liver, topped with two runny-yolked fried eggs and
salli crisp-chips. Served with home-made buns. (S) 9.50

Is chicken liver in keema a traditional touch or a Dishoom innovation? I don’t know, but it was genius. The eggs were runny, as advertised. I wasn’t taken with the buns, but that’s because I’m not a Brit. I ordered a plain naan, possibly an extravagance at £2.90, but the dish was worth it.

The other breakfast dish we ordered was:

KEJRIWAL
Two fried eggs on chilli cheese toast. A favourite of the well-to-do
Willingdon Club, the first such Bombay institution to admit natives; the
dish is reputedly named for the member who kept asking for it. (V) 5.90

That and a drink: a £10 breakfast of excellent quality.

We went back mid afternoon for a late lunch. Post breakfast, there is a full menu which is available all day. We were torn between almost everything on it, but in the end settled for:

HOUSE GREEN SALAD
Toasted pistachios and shredded spearmint leaves are jumbled with finest, greenest broccoli, fresh red chillies, pumpkin seeds and dates. All is dressed up with lime and chilli  (V)(N)(S)9.50

JACKFRUIT BIRYANI
Delicious, savoury jackfruit and delicately saffron’d rice, potted and cooked with mint, coriander and sultanas. (V)9.90

CHOLE PURI
Puffed puris lay next to a hearty bowl of spiced chickpea curry, with sweet halwa alongside. Eat altogether. (V)9.50

These came with a variety of chutney/raitas.

Fantastic. And a special word for the service here, it was perfect.

The revisited

Lantana It’s been a few years since we last visited this Fitzrovia cafe. It’s appallingly noisy, but doesn’t offend the way Caravan does, as long as you don’t want to talk, that is.

We were particularly taken with:

Smashed Avocado
on sourdough with poached egg, labneh, hazelnut & pistachio dukkah, courgette & fresh herb salad with your choice of
Bacon 11.5 or Halloumi 11.5 or Beetroot cured salmon 12.5

and

French Toast
Spiced poached pears, orange mascarpone & pistachio crumble 11

Coffee, tea and service were all excellent.

The reason we hadn’t been to Lantana for a while is that we felt like they’d dropped their ball. Like Dishoom, Lantana started out as a small venture, one cafe, and became an empire. Does anybody manage this and not pay a price? If the interest is in food, in having a cafe, why are so many of those who set up a cafe planning to take over the world? I much prefer cafes which are there for the love of it, not the empire building. Nonetheless, I have to say that both these mini-London empires have, at the moment, in their flagship locations, impeccable standards. I do hope they can be maintained.

The real indie

Savoir Faire We happened to walk past this slightly eccentric establishment and the menu looked both excellent and cheap. Their website proclaims:

This is neither a chain restaurant nor a franchise, it is a family owned and run restaurant and has been in business since 1995.

We cook all our food, sauces, bread, pates and desserts on the premises. Everything is homemade with fresh and natural ingredients. If we can’t make it, we don’t have it! We never use precooked food, flavour enhancers or preservatives. We only use natural butter, cholesterol free oils or olive oil.

Our wine has been sourced from the best wine producing countries in the world and the wine list has been put together with care, to offer the best value for money wines. The price you see is all you pay. There are no hidden charges and all the meals come with vegetables and a basket of freshly baked bread. We have no happy hour or buy one get one free. We try to give the highest quality food at the lowest possible price. There are very few restaurants that can make this claim.

And indeed, our meal attested to the veracity of the claims. We were in time to try their pre-theatre menu. A very nice selection of entrees and mains for £15.95/two courses. Lamb kidneys and bacon in a mustard sauce for me followed by pork belly with spiced pears and roasted vegetables. Oh, if only we could get French food like this in Geneva.

 

 

 

Moong dahl soup

When we were in Leiden recently, I ordered the lentil soup at Voorafentoe, expecting the worst. Actually, it was a pleasant surprise. Good consistency, not a ‘kitchen sink’ experience. The curry flavour was rounded. In particular it was interesting to see that toasted pine nuts through it worked really well. I never would have thought to do this. As the soup had coconut milk in it, even less so – I guess I restrict my use of pinenuts to Italian food, and that’s for no good reason, I would seem.

Anyway. It made me come home with thoughts of making it. I decided to on something which could be a sort of master soup base, with variations to be added from meal to meal.

Ingredients

  • Moong dahl
  • ginger peeled and chopped
  • garlic peeled and chopped
  • onions peeled and chopped
  • ghee
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • coconut milk
  • water
  • chili
  • Julie Sahni’s Master Curry powder, which is my steady companion. Recipe here.

Method

Fry the onions in ghee to soften, add the ginger, garlic and fresh chilli if using and then on gentle heat, the curry powder. Fry for a minute or so and then the tomato, dhal and water go in. Bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour – that is to say, until the moong dahl is soft. Cool a little and puree.

That creates the base – refrigerate for a day to let it all develop a coordinated flavour. From then on, it’s a question of how you want to have it. Last night I added coconut milk, and served with salt and pepper on top. I didn’t want to salt the original soup as I thought it may depend on what one wanted to do with it next. But certainly salt and pepper transformed the flavour at the table.

Other thoughts: coriander leaves on top, as served in Voorafentoe. Yoghurt instead of coconut milk. I’m planning on adding swiss chard leaves, finely chopped to the next batch….And at some point I’ll try the pine nut idea too. Moong dahl is quick to cook and has a relatively mild flavour, which may favour the addition of other ingredients, letting them play a leading role, not be submerged by the lentil taste. Having said this, I don’t know what sort of lentils were used in my cafe experience, but I suspect it was the standard red lentil.

Eating out in Leiden

As long as you are happy with simple fare, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Leiden. Perhaps this is partly because eating establishments seem very friendly, but the food itself was quite well prepared.

The first night we went to Wielinga, highly regarded, but more importantly, about 2 minutes’ walk from our accommodation. It was cold and dark – I suppose it is all those canals, but it felt like London, that kind of cold. At any rate, it was a good choice, not least because it was quiet.

Actually, I have to give the thumbs up to all the places we ate at in Leiden. The music was always good and at a low level where one could choose to listen. Maybe that’s why, at the end of a few days, I wanted to move there. Well, not the only reason.

Anyway, back to Wielinga, which divides itself into a bistro, a bar and a restaurant, but they all merge seamlessly. We sat in the bistro, but I believe the menu is the same as in the restaurant. Between us we had the following main courses:

COD
€ 28,50

Skin fried cod fillet with mashed potatoes, spinach and calf gravy

RAGOUT
€21,50

Ragout of mushrooms and truffle wrapped in pastry with charcoal roasted vegetables

PHEASANT
€ 29,50

Rosé fried pheasant fillet with sauerkraut, crispy bacon, parsnip cream and orange plum sauce

SWEETBREAD
€ 32,50

Crispy fried sweetbread with potato mousseline, sautéed chicory and porcini mushrooms gravy

I had the cod, and was relieved, after a horrible fish experience in Mons the week before, to have a piece of fish that was cooked nicely. It was a simple dish – all the more important to execute it in a good way. Everybody pronounced themselves happy and I should make a special mention of how beautiful the vegetable ragout looked.

After that:

MENU DESSERT
€ 8,50

Dessert of the Chef’s Menu

CHEESE PLATTER
€ 14,50

5 selected cheeses with quince compote and cranberry-fig bread

The dessert of the day was a sort of deconstructed – and very pretty – tarte tartin. I thought that the cheese platter was neither here nor there, but Manny was quite enthusiastic and in fact we went back a couple of days later to have it again. On that occasion we also tried:

CARROT CAKE
€ 9,50

Carrot cake with mascarpone mousse and yogurt ice cream

Well, I suppose I was expecting some rather ubiquitous slab of cake with cream cheese and icecream on the side. But it was a very creative construction, with nothing in common with that picture I had in my head. Elegant. Fancy that.

Day two

The Dutch seem to like their coffee chains. We started out Day two at one of them: Anne and Max. The coffee was okay, but like many of these places, they simply don’t have the space for a canister of plain black tea – ceylon, or English Breakfast or some such. I confess mystification at this and it loses me as a customer. Fortunately, as I’ve learned to do in Europe, I carry my own teabags. Problem solved. I guess.

We had a dish which was nothing like we expected from the menu.

AN EXCELLENT START…
A savoury breakfast with oeuf en cocotte and your choice of bacon, tomato or warm smoked salmon.
Served with toast, avocado and tomato
8.95

In practice, we received two pieces of brown bread with a very thin spread of avo on it – think vegemite thin – and a thin slice of tomato. The smoked salmon was baked into the egg, which was rather overcooked, not something that improves either egg or salmon.

Don’t get me wrong. If this place was in Geneva, we’d not be complaining. But I really hoped we’d do better in Leiden.

After wandering around, discovering a couple of yarn shops, I might add, I ended up at Voorafentoe for lunch. It has what I gather is typical Dutch cafe fare with a strong emphasis on bread. With misgivings I decided to try the lentil soup and was pleasantly surprised. A generous serving of piping hot curry and coconut flavoured red lentil soup and a large dark brown perfectly heated roll which had been sliced down to the bottom crust into half a dozen pieces. A novelty (to me) which worked well was toasted pinenuts in the soup. All in all for just under 6 euros, a bargain.

Even better, I discovered they had English b/f tea. There was no longer any doubt about it, it would be our breakfast place the next morning. We needed places which opened by 8am due to early work starts while there, which limited our options, but we still had an excellent choice. Breakfast at Voorafentoe started with coffee which stood up to its reputation – it won best coffee in the Netherlands a few years ago – fresh orange juice and good natural yoghurt with granola and fruit. Then we both had the croque monsieur, ie with an organic fried egg on top. It was all cheap, way too much for us, but in the dark and the cold, maybe that’s how you have to eat in this part of Europe in winter. I know, it’s autumn, but to an Australian it’ll pass for worse.

Voorafentoe is open on Thursday nights for dinner, not special, but good value. I had steak, which was an absolute treat given that I could never afford to eat it in Geneva. Manny had fish and was very happy with it. I think we paid about eleven euros for each dish. The burgers looked perfectly cooked, by the way, and I wish I’d had the chance to try one.

On another occasion I tried the tomato soup in Voorafentoe. It was the usual story – okay for tomato soup. It’s really hard to get the depth of flavour that makes a soup worth eating to the end. I ate maybe half of it. A discussion with the waiter ensued. He said that it was like a national dish for the Dutch and he didn’t understand why. It’s a boring soup. It was being taken off the menu. And sure enough I see that

  • SWEET POTATO COURGETTE SOUP WITH CRÊME FRAÎCHE

has taken its place.

I did try another highly regarded place for lunch: Bistro Noroc. It’s a sweet, teensy place with very friendly staff. The menu is – you guessed it – soup, sandwiches, salads and pasta. I tried the pasta for a change and it was okay, but in retrospect I wish I’d gone for a sandwich, which after all, is the local preference. We went back for drinks another time.

Overall, however, as you may have guessed, we spent a lot of time in Voorafentoe. It wasn’t just the food/drinks which sold us, but it’s a cafe with a lovely vibe. Spacious, various areas to sit, the music is good enough to listen to – which is something I rarely find myself saying. Cafes in Geneva could take a lesson just from that. Ambience – it’s important if you are trying to create a place where people might hang out. I mostly had a book for company there, and we were very happy together. The staff were lovely, but then, we didn’t strike a place where they weren’t.

I did get as far as sitting down in Roos, but it was so crowded and noisy, I went back to Vooranfentoe instead. I suspect Roos would be best first thing in the morning. Both Roos and Vooranfentoe are on the canal, and on market days sitting outside at either place is quite atmospheric. However, it was too cold for me to consider this, though I admired the fortitude of those who did.

We loved eating in Leiden. A wide range of choice, and in particular lots of the sorts of cafes I terribly miss here in Geneva. My only wish is that more of them bothered to provide plain black tea instead of habitually offering the evil Earl Grey in that guise. Oh, and a big thumbs up for the fact that we were only served fresh milk whereever we went. Cafes in Geneva, again, take note. It’s not that hard. Stop serving UHT!

 

 

 

 

cafes in London – July 2018 visit

Foyles cafe – 5th floor of their Charing Cross Rd store
We thought that the lunch was excellent, a choice of half a dozen (or more) options served with two salads for a tenner. The salads were not just on the plate as filler, they were really nice. We’d go back for the tea and coffee. Being in a cafe where books are the norm was also a treat. They did try the old ‘the orange juice is freshly squeezed…just not here, not now’. We are getting used to that in London, but others may need to be warned.

Muxima is a sweet spot for breakfast (and the rest) in East London. The daytime menu is terrific value for money, I had the cheap option for tea not realising that there was a teapig option for a few pence extra. The first cup of coffee induced seconds for the Caffeine Kid.

Wagamama can’t be any Oz person’s favourite Asian fusion. But if you are in an airport, standards change. We’d tried Gordon Ramsay in Terminal 5 a few years ago and that was a reason to be looking for something else. For an airport feed, Wagamama is okay.

Corner Room at Town Hall Hotel remains untried for dinner. For the simple fare advertised Mon-Fri lunchtimes, we were disappointed.

The Deli Downstairs is….on the ground floor. It used to be in the basement, I gather. We bought a lot of takeaway from here and it was all excellent. We particularly recall the bean and potato pesto salad and terrific sausage rolls. They also have a nice cheese selection where I was able to score some Yarg. It’s in Victoria Park Village, just a few minutes’ walk from the park. You can eat in.

Ottolenghi. Yes, expensive – it was our one dining out treat. Bear in mind the dishes are not large, these were a pre-dinner snack.

Green beans and grilled runner beans with sour
cherries, capers and pistachios
£9.80

Pan fried octopus with Jersey Royals, pickled
radish and capers
£13.50

Slow-roasted Cabrito goat with whey polenta and
spicy spring onion salsa
£12.90

Good bread with excellent olive oil was provided. Prices do not include tip.

If I had my time over, I’d have tried something other than the goat, but the other two had me wishing I could make them. Indeed, I’m going to have a go at trying to recreate the beans dish…wondering what secret ingredients aren’t mentioned in the menu.

Roseate House, London: a model small hotel

Truth be told, I don’t like surprises in my accommodation, much as surprises can be good as well as bad. In London I therefore head for the big chains where I know exactly what I’m going to get and it’s adequate. Heating’s going to work, the wifi will be okay, the beds are often excellent without having to spend a fortune. The rooms in the centre of town will be small but not unworkable.

But every now and then I decide to try out a small hotel and….it’s always been a mistake. Looming large in my memory is an establishment in Kensington with a circular hole in the window, some inches wide, and a room so small that had I been male I could have relieved myself without leaving the bed (assuming a good aim, that is). That after I’d paid for an upgrade to a larger room – I was assured I was in the right place upon asking. Breakfast best left undescribed.

Another time we tried the Montague near the British Museum. They don’t describe the size of their rooms on their site, which should have set alarm bells ringing. Their basic room is, I only discover now from looking at booking.com is 15sqm. We found in practice that if we used the desk where it was located, it was impossible to get out of the room and even upon moving it, this meant that the room could only be navigated by the other person by climbing over the bed. We were really disappointed by this. To be fair, upon writing to the management subsequent to our trip, we were offered a subsequent upgrade should we stay there again, but we didn’t take that up, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in a larger room without a free upgrade. It was never going to be a regular hotel for  us, in other words.

Back to Hilton, Holiday Inn, Pullman, Novotel for a while. We even tried an Ibis. But looking for somewhere close to Paddington Heathrow Express for a one night stay last week, I happened to notice Roseate House. It was time to try a small boutique hotel again. And, for the first time ever I can define the experience in two words ‘no regrets’.

I do have to say that we were upgraded from the basic room to the next size which gave us a couple of extra square metres, but the basic room is still 20sqm, according to their site, which is so much more generous than the Montague’s 15sqm.

When we fronted at reception, we’d been on the road for 36 hours, the long haul from Australia, carrying way too much luggage (five months away) and it was 9am. Would they take pity on us and let us check in early? Very early? Personally I think that if there’s a room available there is no reason for keeping a guest out, but there are hotels in London who expect you to pay extra – let’s avoid those places if we can.

So, here we were faced by smiling staff upgrading us and telling us about the biscuits which we’d find in our room – definitely worth a special mention, we discovered. Along with the ubiquitous Nespresso machine and – three cheers for this, a kettle too. In Europe hotels don’t understand that water has to be boiled properly for tea and that Nespresso machines are not adequate. Say what you like about Brexit, the English ARE different from Europe proper. Knowing how to do tea being top of my list.

Our room was on the lower floor – basement, I guess  you’d say – but it had a window with a lovely garden view and the wifi was good, so being low down was no punishment. Sitting in an armchair with a cup of tea in hand, looking out onto the garden, life was definitely looking up. Shower, clean clothes, and we were starting to feel human again.

To continue the comparison, the Montague’s stylish furnishings are rather flamboyant and lavish compared with Roseate House. Here we have a more true to English nature gentle quirky quaintness. We loved our room, professed by Manny to be the best we’ve stayed at in London. It felt like home. The quality of everything was excellent, the bed, furnishing generally, bathroom products, good shower (over bath, which we did not try). Towels were on a warmer rack. That made me so happy!

Next a visit to the small dining room and bar for a proper pot of tea. And indeed, it was impeccably served, excellent quality tea, pot and china all held up to my stringent conditions. After lunch and an afternoon out, we decided to try the hotel for dinner. There is an excellent cocktail menu. Manny couldn’t resist the idea of a blue cheese cocktail and S-L had to try Breakfast with Granny.

  • Breakfast with Granny £9.50
    Hayman’s Sloe Gin, Lime, Grapefruit, Vanilla, Blackcurrant
  • Say Cheese £12.75
    Blue Cheese, Hayman’s Gin, Parsley

The Hyde Bar is famous for its special whisky collection, to be sampled, perhaps, another day.

Special mention has to be made of the music. I wonder why it is that so many establishments, even if they are five star – or so posh that they are beyond stars – think it’s okay to put on random shuffled music at too loud a volume. The music here fitted the style of the bar and never interfered with conversation. That gives it a very big tick from me.

Overall, we found the food and tea to be better than The Montague, which is not to damn it with faint praise. In fact we didn’t try breakfast at The M. but here we were offered full breakfast for two at the price of £25. The standard of both the buffet and the cooked to order dishes was excellent. We tried the full English and avocado with poached eggs delicately presented on crustless toast. The eggs stayed runny until they were dispensed with. I don’t know how typical that price is for the hotel, but take it if you can as I don’t think you can get a better value breakfast in London.

We’re thinking of London in July and I see these rates come up for three days in their most basic room:

  • Roseate House £600
  • The Montague on the Gardens £747

What are you getting for that? The Montague is fabulously situated for the tourist. You really do step out into the heartland of London sights. Maybe that makes up for the 5sqm you will be missing in your room. It’s also bigger and busier and some people want that.

Roseate House has larger rooms which are finely furbished, different character but at least on a par for quality. Both have excellent service, but simply because it’s smaller – about half the number of rooms – Roseate House is more personal. All the staff were wonderful.

And for us Roseate House is in a great location, uncrowded, untouristy. It’s a walk to Regent’s Park, Marylebone High St and the surrounding neighbourhood for food and Daunt’s Bookshop. The fabulous Satay House is nearby and Kendal St etc a bit further, followed by Hyde Park. London’s so teensy. But in any case, Paddington Underground is a few minutes’ walk away should you prefer. If you know London, I think you’d find Roseate House perfectly located.

In short, we highly recommend Roseate House as a place to stay in London and we are sure to be back.

 

 

 

And the winner is….bircher muesli in Adelaide

On the hunt.

In the good old days, Jones the Grocer existed on King William Road – a site that’s been empty for a long time now. There, amongst much lovely food, they offered bircher done as you pleased. That is to say, you chose fresh fruit or stewed and, having narrowed it down to the latter, as I always did, you had then to decide which stewed fruit to take this time. The meal you ended up with was large, but in balance!

Chianti Classico Hutt St Adelaide
with quince & rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, orange syrup, toasted pistachios. 16.90
One does not necessarily need choice in bircher, but balance is not optional. Chianti has done various takes on this dish over the years and its new version is the best, an observation that other long standing customers there have also made. The serving size is right; consistency is lovely – not to heavy, not too runny; it is not too sweet; it has a nice proportion of additions to the oats component and it looks exquisite.

Sublime Cafe East Ave Clarence Park
blueberry compote, toasted coconut, chia & honey 14.9
Extremely thick and ultra sweet. Too much like dessert, not enough like breakfast. Not enough like bircher. My dining companion couldn’t finish it but took it home for her kids to eat after dinner.

Trouble and Strife Goodwood Road
Coconut Bircher, apricot, yogurt, nuts + blood orange syrup 14
Sorely lacked balance. A vast plate of oats with a very small pile of apricots to go with it. If it had half the oats, even if they hadn’t decreased the price, I’d be more likely to order it again.

Bricks and Stones Unley Road
Bircher Museli, natural yogurt, coconut, seasonal fruit & nuts 16
Much better balance than Trouble and Strife’s. When you eat bircher, it should be possible to eat fruit as well as oats in every mouthful. It isn’t as elegant as Chianti’s. If it were my local, I’d eat it regularly. But I’d always have Chianti’s at the back of my mind.

Rise and Grind (Adelaide) vs Bishopgate Kitchen (London)

On the weekend we went to breakfast at Bishopgate Kitchen (Spitalfields).  It’s part of a posh chain and I hope that we saw the worst of it. Mine was probably worst. I ordered poached eggs with smashed avocado, side serves of salmon and bacon and loose-leaf tea.

I got a plate so challenged to fit what was on it that the bacon was chucked on top of the salmon. The avocado wasn’t smashed, it was pureed with a large quantity of vinegar, such as you would put on avocado to stop it discolouring if you made it about once a week. It was inedible. The bacon had been cooked much earlier than it was served and was only lukewarm as were the overcooked poached eggs. The ‘loose leaf tea’ was a teabag. When I asked the staff about that I was cheerfully told that yes, they should change that. Apparently they changed hands several months ago. Well, that would explain why they haven’t yet updated their description of the tea. Rome wasn’t built in three months. As it happened, later on in the day I had a cup of tea at the Maritime Museum’s cafe, also described as ‘loose leafed’ and also a teabag. Maybe real loose leaf tea doesn’t exist in London anymore. Maybe they don’t even know what it is. The ‘fresh’ orange juice was not made on the premises, upon further interrogation, which in my opinion means it isn’t fresh. I know Londoners beg to disagree on this.

Neither of my companions had better food, but they are born and bred in the UK, so they are used to being dished up stuff that wouldn’t let a cafe last a week in Australia. So they ate all theirs, blissfully indifferent to what they’d shovelled down.

Today we went to Rise and Grind, our closest cafe in Clarence Park (Adelaide). It was Carnavale on our last visit and the change is definitely for the better. The menu is a small but interesting selection, healthy options that sound enticing. We started out simple. I had poached eggs with a side serve of spinach, presented on turkish bread, toasted. Manny went for the smashed avo (with feta etc) and poached eggs on dark rye (maybe, I’ve guessed the bread). The avo was everything that the London version wasn’t. Vinegar? If it was an ingredient, we didn’t notice. It was excellent.

Coffee was high standard, tea was good – thought I balk at $6 for a pot, it seems a lot for a cafe. I took a mug for $3.70.

First impressions is that it is a cut above the standard of its predecessor and we are thrilled to have it at close quarters.

My only complaint is that Rise and Grind need better signage. It is mainly an ad for FACEBOOK, as it was for the predecessor too. Weird.

 

 

 

 

 

Chou and The Marcel: two new cafes in Geneva

Both these cafes are on rue des Eaux-Vives, but there the resemblance stops.

The Marcel is a French chain which opened up its (first) Geneva branch on Friday. As you can see from their menu, the prices in Geneva are more expensive. Not a lot more, but given Paris’s reputation for expensiveness, I’m curious to know if this was necessary.

The Marcel is dark and very noisy. Even though, along with everybody else there today we shouted, I could scarcely hear my companions. Chou is light and quiet.

The Marcel seems to be making an attempt at an Anglo-Saxon cafe, both in style and menu. For us this didn’t work. The coffee doesn’t stand up to the better places in Geneva and we found the food disappointing. One of us had The Full English Breakfast at 19CHF. It was crowded onto a plate too small for the food, but at the same time we could see it was substantially smaller than such a dish would have been in Australia. Notably it came without toast, though toast was listed as an ingredient. I might add that the cafe latte was approximately half a glass of coffee, with about an equal amount of froth.

The biggest disappointment was the cinnamon roll, which had almost no cinnamon taste and was heavy going. One of my companions who declined to taste it said it looked industrial which made me wonder what its pedigree was. Certainly at 7CHF, I would much rather have had two of Paradiso’s light cinnamon rolls. A bagel with cream cheese and avocado was okay, not special, but safe. I am undecided on whether a few pomegranate seeds scattered through worked.

No doubt The Marcel will cope with these comments. It was packed and presumably is going to thrive.

Chou has all the grace and delicacy that The Marcel lacks. Everything on its (small) food menu is refined in looks and taste. Coffee from a barista whose pedigree includes Paradiso and Boreal is at the best end for Geneva. Tea is good quality with a better range than in most cafes which focus on coffee – and therefore think that they don’t have to cater to tea drinkers – and your pot is refilled, for which I am most appreciative. The decor is light and for anybody looking for a lovely place to read a book whilst taking some refreshment, this is the place for you.

No doubt there is room for both these places. I hope I was never young enough to think that having to shout through a meal is acceptable, but maybe I’ve just got a bad memory. For me, it’s Chou every time….I leave you with their exquisite apricot and matcha tea sweet temptation:

Apricot matcha tea chou

Dining in Stockholm 2017

You may not be able to use cash in Stockholm any more (well, here and there still) but not much else has changed over the last three years. Cream and mayo, sweet and salty still prevail. I find that challenging. Easier to take is the price. It’s the usual story, you live in Geneva and everything else seems cheap and good….

Bar Central is Hungarian without creamed spinach. The ultimate statement about how impossible it is, still, to get green vegetables in Stockholm. As long as you can cope with that, I recommend it. Menu ranges from trad Schnitzel to interesting risotto. I didn’t really notice how salty it was at the time, but came home to find myself drinking water, which is a rare thing for me. SALTY! I gather there are a few Hungarian cafes around town, I may search for one which does spinach.

Aubergine does a mixture of local, Italian and French cuisine. I found the tomato base of the fish soup coarse. Fish needs something more subtle. Like so many restaurants in Stockholm it provides an excellent value lunch, when I went back I tried an acceptable lasagne – on the side was a mysterious salty cream thickness, no idea what it was, didn’t like it, left it alone. It was better than I expected when it turned up decorated with small tomato halves.

Speceriet is the neighbouring cheap and casual sibling of Gastrologik. It’s a good ad for the latter. Based on my experience today I’d be willing to trust them to serve me up great fare for the not-cheap experience. And maybe you get to sit at tables with chairs. Speceriet is high chair territory and that’s usually enough to put me off. But I had an idea that I would find a lighter touch than I’d so far been eating and my stomach really need that. So, I balanced on a chair at a high table and looked at their lunch menu for this week:

THE PACKAGE

Choose one of the lunch dishes, something sweet and coffee 195

VEGETARIAN

Carrots, honey, egg and kale 135 (take out 105)

“ALMOST VEGETARIAN”

Cabbage, celeriac, parsley and smoked pork 135 (take out 105)

FISH

Rose fish, tomato, fennel and potatoe 135 (take out 105)

DESSERT

Berries, cream cheese and short bread 65

I had the fish. ‘We don’t have any rose left, so it is another white fish’. I conveyed my indifference. I don’t know one fish from another. Suffice to say it was flakey, soft, really very nice. The tomato was a concentration, but refined, more as I had wanted in my fish soup at Aubergine. The fennel was delicate. The bread at meals in Stockholm is always good quality, but I’d say this was best, ditto for the accompanying butter.

We went back for dinner, small dishes meant to be shared. It was a good deal more expensive than lunch and I found it hard to come away with a definitive opinion as to whether it had all worked. I need to give it another chance, which will be on another trip.

Bobonne is an excellent restaurant which had me thinking, as usual, that by getting out of French areas, one can find acceptable French fare. The usual fabulous lunchtime value. Dinner time is more expensive, a small menu strongly oriented to meat and seafood. Unlike Speceriet, which has the sort of music people willing to sit on highchairs might take to, Bobonne is low key and as the place fills, the music is not turned up, so the endless cycle one suffers in Australia of music louder, people louder, doesn’t happen. Why do Australian restaurants find that hard? Friendly expert service – the second time I went there I was immediately given the table we asked to be moved to on our first visit. How nice to feel like a regular instantly! And the staff had that feeling that they were a big family, the open kitchen was a pleasure to view, unlike most which are loud, tense and frenetic.

Ciao Ciao Grande is a pasta/pizza establishment rumoured to be the place favoured by the Royals when they fancy a ham and pineapple. The service was impersonal and atmosphere, much as it is described as candle lit at night, was totally lacking, not least because food delivery people were rushing in and out. I read of an Adelaide restaurant recently pointedly stating that it did not consider it was appropriate to subject its eating guests to this and I’m going to start a list! If I go out for a meal, I don’t expect it to feel like I’m in the middle of a takeaway. Having said that, we both thought our pasta dishes were better than we expected, but I’m not sure if that’s because we were feeling like we’d made a terrible mistake as we were waiting for them.

We went to NK and I somehow expected the lovely places to eat that one finds in London at places like Harrods and F&M. But instead all the settings were cafeterias, lining up to buy prepared food which was not even an attractive price. I was surprised.

Saluhall is in a temporary structure at the moment whilst the historic building is being renovated. I suspect it’s a fair bit smaller, but has ample of everything to please the diner in or taker out as I discovered once or twice, though nothing stands out as deserving special mention.

Finally, we went to The Grand, which is the only posh hotel in Stockholm. The Verandah Restaurant fills up quite early with people doing the buffet dinner. I talked Manny into going really early so we could be out by the time that was happening. We got window seats with the iconic water views while we ate:

Grilled fillet of char with deep-fried scallop, broccoli purée, Lavaret roe, edamame beans, green peas, white wine sauce and green asparagus SEK 305

Salt cured salmon with dill-creamed potatoes SEK 230

Manny tried this for dessert: Chocolate cake with whisky purée, milk chocolate cream and cherry sorbet SEK 120, passing up on a concoction that included pickled cucumber:

Yoghurt variation with dill and white chocolate crème and pickled cucumber  SEK 110

If you want to stuff your face on a good quality buffet in nice surrounds, this is definitely the place to be. But I’m glad we went for something more refined than that. Fish with green vegetables done posh was a welcome treat for me after a week of meat and cream.

Conclusion: I don’t really understand the Swedish fixation with sweet, fatty/creamy and salty. Maybe it’s historic from when it was the only way to stay warm, but in modern days of overheated indoors, it seems odd to me. I also don’t understand why good quality greens are so rare. Is it lack of demand?