Tag Archives: take-away

Hidden Gems, Arica to Santiago, Chile

Some might say (and often do) that I don’t have a good sense of direction. While my sister is known as a Scottish Sat-Nav there have been times when I couldn’t direct someone two streets from my family home. The Egg Poacher claims a better internal compass, but considering recent escapades that include getting stuck on the side of a volcano and taking a 45 minute detour to a pub around the corner, I suspect what he actually possess is an ability to sound like he knows where he’s going. A relaxed approach to research and our strange insistence on not using a map can mean we find ourselves wandering streets for longer than sanity or an amicable relationship normally allow. And yet we continue to eschew Google and turn our noses up at guides, for this haphazard manner can reveal hidden corners and unmarked paths – normally safe before nightfall. This was to be the case in Chile, too, where an itinerant approach brought us some unexpectedly excellent cafes (and there’s little more satisfying than a surprisingly good coffee after you’ve been walking the streets for hours).

Nusta Cafe, Arica, Chile

Our first stop in Chile was the strangely uninspiring Arica, full of promise with a long stretch of coastline that turned out to be somewhat lacklustre against the backdrop of high-rise hotels and arid desert. Despite a wonderful stay in Hotel Apacheta we were ready to move on, and with time to waste before our bus out we sought out a cup of coffee from the clapboard cafe opposite. Though tiny and boasting a highway view, Nusta Cafe was a surprise, offering fantastic coffee and a small food menu served by a friendly and generous couple.  It was here we’d experience the concept of ‘yapa’ first hand: the idea of a little extra for valued customers, usually offered by cholitas (stall owners) across the country, here embodied in the extra glass of smoothie I got, as well as a tour of the miniature space and its retro miscellany before our bus arrived.

Diablo Cafe, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Our most common introduction to a town – the bus station – isn’t always the most appealing. Though San Pedro’s was nicer than some (no visible cockroaches, relatively non-scabby dogs, minimal shouting) we weren’t expecting much, but after a long overnight bus we decided to linger for a much needed caffiene injection before finding a hostel. There are a couple of cafes to choose from, but Diablo’s striking wall art drew us in; inside, there were soothing tunes and local crafts on the wall and an incongruous promise of WiFi from somewhere so obviously surrounded by desert. A gleaming machine produced decent enough coffee, while from the tiny kitchen came enormous empanadas and various continental breakfast options, all excellent fuel for the short but intensely hot hostel hunt that was to follow.

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Excellent bus terminal #breakfast, Atacama

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Mackalo Cafe, San Pedro Atacama, Chile

Book-ending our trip through the Atacama and into the Bolivian Salt Flats, we’d returned to San Pedro before commencing our journey south. While waiting for our passports to be stamped at the nominal border post in town we spotted the ever-promising signs – chalk-covered A-board, gleaming chrome food truck – that suggested coffee was nearby. And so it was: a short menu offering various filtered options in Styrophome cups, it was expertly brewed and happily accompanied by crisp and delicious pastries presumably baked some distance from the truck’s diesel engine. There were plenty of cafe and restaurant options in the town itself, but few so unexpectedly good as this.

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Amazing coffee at Mackalo Cafe, Atacama

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Cafe Forestal, Santiago, Chile

Through repeated experience we’ve finally learnt that the world – at least from a tourist’s point of view – closes on a Monday. Museums, galleries and parks are shut and despite the likelihood of a host of lost foreigners wandering the streets with nothing to do, restaurants and cafes often follow suit. During such a days’ amble past padlocked gates and ‘Cerrado’ signs we spotted the pretty exterior of Cafe Forestal, toying with us with its bunting, chalkboard walls and solitary Chinese cat waving from behind closed windows. When Tuesday came we filled our boots, visiting all the public buildings we could find and beating a path to Forestal’s door. And it was worth the wait – a tiny space with a few pine stools, the coffee was the best we’ve had in South America, with high-quality and Fairtrade beans shipped from Colombia and brewed with care. Coupled with some truly decadent cakes and a very friendly welcome, this unassuming little place would be on our map – if only we remembered to carry one.

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The really very lovely Cafe Forestal, Santiago

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No. 12, Easton, Bristol

wpid-img_20150207_140941.jpgAt 10am on a Saturday morning, No. 12 is stacked floor to ceiling with children. They spill out onto, under and into the handful of tables available, cosying their way onto window seats and other people’s chairs. As you’d expect, there’s a sense of weekend chaos in the air: toast crusts and pastry crumbs fly, and over-caffienated parents read stories at a rate of knots. The staff assure us this is nothing new, and indeed they squeeze past tiny heads and adult legs like pros, delivering piping hot coffees and plates of fresh breakfast with a patient smile.

Having hovered long enough to bag a table, we set about devouring crisp, fresh pastries and well-made coffees before moving on to the main event. The menu is short and satisfying: there are bacon or sausage sandwiches and a pork pattie creation that stands 4 inches tall. Veggies (a popular breed in Easton) are served by scrambled eggs or waffles with fresh fruit, and trays of freshly made granola bars and cakes wend their way from the kitchen at the back. As well as café food (for which they won a Bristol Good Food Award) there’s a deli that provides artisan cheese, charcuterie and craft beers to the foodie masses; take-away coffees prove popular, too, with the barista ready to share a laugh while whipping up the perfect flat white.

By 11, the children have dispersed, their parents no doubt taking them on to their third breakfast or pre-lunch snack. Meanwhile, those unencumbered with heirs can order another coffee and settle back (perhaps letting a soupçon of smugness creep in). A popular spot, and rightly so – just pick your times carefully if you want to avoid the miniature hoards.

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Spicer & Cole, Queen’s Square, Bristol

IMG_1728[1]Last weekend it was wet. Cats-and-dogs, heaven’s opened, where’s Noah when you need him? wet. As we squelched through Queen’s Square, mulched leaves fusing to our feet as rain drops filled our pockets, a small black sign glowed in the distance, it’s white Swedish font making it look all the world like welcoming Bang & Olufsen store, but with promises of coffee.

And very nice coffee it is too. As well as the house there’s a guest blend that makes all the right provenance noises – single origin, natural process – and the baristas make each cup carefully, no matter what the well-heeled clientele request (soya-decaff lattes proved particularly popular. Shame really.) The interiors match the minimalist signage, with the ubiquitous exposed lightbulbs, brushed steel and plain wooden tables made softer by the low ceilings, quietly cool music and a well-formed list of menu options chalked up on the wall.

As well as simple options – toast from many breads, fresh pastries, granola – there are some bolder offerings like brioche French toast with chai spiced plums and maple syrup, or mushrooms with thyme wrapped goats cheese and a poached egg; the Egg Poacher’s eponymous breakfast choice came with smoked bacon, harissa and rocket in a roll that was artfully crammed into his face, lest the eggy goodness escape down his chin.

During the week this place fills with busy bankers, office workers and freelancers, dropping in for giant toasties or stocked salad boxes. At the weekend, the pace slows and shaggy-haired creatives, offensively well-off students and day-glo’d gym folks can take their time over brunch that’s served ’til 2pm. With another site recently opened in Clifton, there’s little doubt that Spicer & Cole are here to stay. Head for a corner table and settle in.

Price: From £2.25 (toast) to £6.95 (brioche French toast & chai spiced plums)

 

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#GuardianCoffee, Shoreditch, London

IMG_1667[1]Shoreditch – the kind of place that wholeheartedly embraces its own stereotype, and no more so than in #GuardianCoffee ensconced in the @BoxPark, sandwiched between an #Apple store, #Nike shop and something so urban and artisan it didn’t even have a hashtag (an @BoxPark naming convention, which tells you about as much as you need to know).

It’s like stepping into a version of the future where politically left-leaning, bearded baristas rule the world: the Guardian headlines are projected onto the walls, coffee-related Tweets run along the bottom and a constantly updating Instagram feed keeps all informed about the latest in sepia-toned latte art.
It’s all very meta – as well as free copies by the door, there are screens on every table and iPads at the counter, ensuring you don’t miss a second of the latest edition of the Guardian. The update everyone’s surely waiting for, however, is on the digital leader board, where every drink purchased pips the cappuccinos against the cortados, macchiatos against mochas, in a never-ending feud not seen since the Montagues and Capulets failed to get along. Even the wallpaper is self-referential, with picnicking hipsters on fixed gear bikes printed repeatedly around you like a middle-class hallucinogenic migraine.

This being Shoreditch, the clientele are achingly hip, with grown men rolling in on Brompton-style scooters and beautiful women, clad head to toe in black bar their neon Nike Airs and ombre hair, ordering coffees to go, forgoing pastries in favour of a caffeine hit from “London’s leading micro-roastery”, Nude Espresso. The coffee is good, and – for London – reasonably priced, but for this cynical Scot, the heavy handed concept somewhat overwhelms the quality. Despite being a regular liberal Guardian fan, I left feeling like I’d been beaten over the head by Saturday’s bumper supplement edition (magazine and all), and been asked to pay for it afterwards.

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Katie & Kim’s Kitchen, Picton Street, Bristol

IMG_1576[1]Katie and Kim’s represents all that is good with eating in Bristol. Simple, delicious fare from good sources is served on plain wooden plates to one big communal table – all are welcome to take a pew and you could find yourself sat next to any variety of beardy local, hip bike fiend or wandering tourist. Theirs is a small space next to the fruit and veg shop, with the eponymous chefs at the helm in a small kitchen at the back.

Katie is the baker, and from the oven come freshly made sourdoughs, milk rolls and seriously fine looking cinnamon buns. The menu on the blackboard is short and simple, with some surprising flavours adding something pretty special to some brunch familiars – bacon served in a roll comes with basil, aioli and tomato, while poached eggs nestle on a bed of chard and a rosemary and cheese scone. There is much to please egg lovers (baked eggs with ewes curd looked especially good) and everything was so delicious even this self-confessed ovophobe has been inspired to give those poached domes another go.

Though the space is neat, the service is great with happy staff nattering to diners, friends and owners in equal measure. The lovely Kim makes a decent coffee and the mismatched crockery and unfussy surroundings lend a sense of breakfast at a friend’s house – and it’s all the better for that.

Price: from £2 (toasted cinnamon bun) to £7 (smoked salmon, poached eggs and greens).

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The Buttery, Harbourside, Bristol

Buttery6The Buttery is a Bristol institution, a firm favourite for the mix of canal boat dwellers, office workers and tourists that gather around the Harbourside in all weathers. It’s a bit like stepping back in time – chips in cardboard cones, milky coffees served in brown glass mugs from your granny’s days – and there’s something reassuring about a place that has stayed committed to simple food without the words “hand-crafted” “traditionally sliced” or “rustic” anywhere in sight.

The Buttery itself is a tiny shed from which breakfast favourites are despatched with aplomb – bacon butties, fried egg rolls, sausage baps, any and all combination of the three with extra portions of cheese, black pudding or mushrooms to create a truly cholesterol raising start to your day. On busy weekends you take a number wait – but there’s plenty of aquatic life to contemplate with tug boats, pirate ships and irate swans all competing for space in the busy waterways; you’re likely to be joined by pigeons and the odd hungry dog as your orders arrive through the hatch wrapped in a single white serviette.

In Bristol we’re blessed with many fine eateries, all proclaiming a passion for provenance, few food miles and artisanal beginnings – undeniably worthy, but often beyond the means of many. And it’s here where The Buttery proves its worth – a no-nonsense greasy spoon serving cheap and tasty breakfast to Bristol’s finest.

Price: from £2.20 (bacon roll) to £4.90 (bacon, sausage and cheese baguette).

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The Pavilion, Victoria Park, London

IMG_0968[1]I’m not really designed for London. I always forget the last bit to topping up my second hand Oyster card, have been stuck in the ticket barriers more than once and cause mass confusion whenever I offer someone space to go past me in the mad dash to get, well, anywhere. However, while I’ll probably never desist in commenting on the pure massiveness of the capital, I have come to learn that London, it bite-sized bits, can be very enticing. Victoria Park is one such city soupçon, recently home to one of my favourite couples who were keen to show me what their borough had to offer when it came to breakfast. Enter The Pavilion.

On a blustery Sunday we carried our heavy heads and delicate bellies to the eponymous park, already bustling with beautifully coiffed runners and smart children straight from the Boden catalogue. It’s clearly a local favourite, and with a glance to the chalkboards above the kitchen it’s easy to see why. As well as the regular attendees on the menu (Eggs Benedict, the full English) there’s egg curry with idiyappam (Indian noodles) and a host of interesting options for vegetarians; their milk comes from “happy cows” from one farm, their ingredients are organic and the bread is made on site.

It’s a popular choice for those with sprogs in tow, the small space indoors filling up fast with harried-looking parents being pelted with mashed banana. If you can bring (or borrow) a stiff upper lip you can join folks outside dressed in oversized coats supping flat whites as they contemplate the swans, gamely resisting the chill winds while dodging flying serviettes and plastic cups. You might even be joined by Crufts-worthy dogs snuffling for scraps while their owners dash inside for take-away coffees. Whatever the weather, the food is worth the visit: their bacon sandwich on grilled sourdough was the perfect balm to a banging head, matched nicely with expertly made coffee and freshly-pressed fruit juices downed in one dehydrated gulp.

Price: from £5 (granola & yoghurt) to £8 (Farmhouse breakfast).

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The Crepe & Coffee Cabin, Harbourside, Bristol

IMAG0561Every so often you find a place so good you don’t want to share it with anyone. But, in the spirit of intrepid brunch hunters the world over, I’m duty bound to write about a tiny and terrific place on the bridge that links Bristol north and south – the Smallest Coffee Cabin in the World™ – that manages to pack more personality, quality and service in its wardrobe-like proportions than a thousand Starbucks could ever hope for.

Nestled on the Prince Street Bridge, it looks right down the harbour, past the famous cranes and steam trains to the left, the bustling waterfront with its plethora of canal boats and passenger ferries on the right. One tiny table and two chairs, replete with vase of flowers, are squeezed onto the pavement and there’s just enough room indoors for two or three (depending on your full-fat-or-skinny preference) when the wind picks up. Inside it’s like a nautically themed Broom Cupboard – mercifully duck-free – with curios that hang from the walls and line the shelves; the menu is chalked up behind the bar and your barista is dressed in full chef whites. Those in the know had already texted their orders ahead, and it’s clear it has its fair share of regulars, all here for one thing – the coffee.

There’s a house (or hut?) blend and a weekly guest coffee and each order is made with care. This is a place in no hurry, but you can while away your time reading the ‘Facts of the Day’ or, if you’re lucky, spinning an old Game of Life wheel for a freebie. Once ready, the coffee is a treat. My house blend was a smooth, subtly syrup-y delight, with just the right amount of dark chocolate bitterness and the perfect coffee-to-milk ratio for a proper latte; there are soya options and flavours to add, too (their hazelnut mocha is legendary).

This is the ideal place for busy folks in need of an early morning pick me up, and there’s food on the go in the form of freshly made crepes with all the fillings you could hope for or homemade tiffins and flapjacks. The service is sublime, and, better still, there’s a discount before 10am to make those dark winter mornings all the brighter. Go forth and be happy.

Price: from £1.80 (latte, before 10am).

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Thali Café, Southville, Bristol

20130606-201651.jpgThe Thali cafés have been blazing a sustainable trail in Bristol for years with their original restaurant in Easton soon being joined by sibling ventures in Montpelier, Clifton and Totterdown. Their newest inclusion serves lucky Southville – a place quickly becoming the place for hip young families seeking good living without skimping on the delis, bistros and pubs run by the tattoos-and-vintage-hair-dos crowd more readily available north of the river.

They’ve landed next to the Tobacco Factory in a huge, warehouse-like space, but the food and the service are just as good as in their more intimate venues. Breakfast is a recent addition, but shouldn’t be missed – you can opt for a traditional aloo paratha or a more familiar full English, though the latter brings an Indian flavour in gunpowder potatoes, coriander infused sausage and homemade tomato chutney; all meals come with hot, milky chai which transported me back to my days of traversing Kerala by train (all that’s missing is the wallah).

They’re generous with the portions and happy to add extras, so the Egg Poacher’s carnivorous breakfast came with the King of All Breakfast Additions – lightly toasted halloumi – as well as all the regulars you might hope for (excellent crusty toast, fried tomatoes and great, thick rashers of bacon). They are resolutely friendly, and all are welcome – children can (and will) run free and have their own portions while those looking to start the weekend properly can opt for a pint of Kingfisher, straight from the tap.

Price: from £1.50 (Chai & toast) to £7.25 (Thali festival fry up).

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