Tag Archives: Cafes

Parc des Buttes Chaumont

16 Nov

Whether or not this park, tucked away quietly in the 19th arrondissement, resembles a balding mountain is irrelevant.

Relevant: wearing your woolliest jacket and leatheriest gloves so that you’re warm enough to skedaddle along the mountainside trails like the billy goat gruff you are.

The Parc des Buttes Chaumont is not as central as that park in New York but it’s also not overrun with bike-taxi drivers and ice cream vendors. Mais non. The Buttes is the real deal – right down to its artificial stalactites and caves.

After all, when you’re converting an abandoned quarry into a park, what’s wrong with throwing in a well-placed grotto?

Skip the lake that doesn’t freeze and head straight to Rosa Bonheur: one of the most underrated eating/funhavens in Paris named after one of the only painters to have officially been given permission to wear pants.

High five to Napoleon III for coming up with the whole quarry-to-park idea. And to the scruffy waitress for drizzling honey so liberally on the chèvre. And to the DJ for his god-awful-wonderful 80’s mix after dark. And to the Parisians for not caring about cutting loose on the dancefloor for once.

And especially to whoever made the rosé labels look so pretty.

Parc des Buttes Chaumont
19e Arrondissement  75019 Paris

Second image from Sprawling Places


Sugarplum Cake Shop

11 Nov

Fact: slow yodeling makes me faint. Actually, being crammed in an underground bar listening to melancholic cowboys sing so slowly they might STOP makes me faint. As in, keel over and black out.

I suspect it’s because I have an attention span that’s about as long as a slice of triple-layer strawberry vanilla cream cake – but not quite as high.

Ok enough with the segues. Let’s talk about Sugarplum Cake Shop.

It’s on Rue de Cardinal Lemoine – conveniently close to the Place de la Contrescapes should you fancy a pression in Orwell’s hood after tea time. And it’s manned by ‘Sugarplums’ who create heart-stopping deliciousness and friendly natter in equal measure.

If the Alice in Wonderland-esque wedding cake displays won’t lure you in, maybe the thought of free wifi, free filter coffee refills and these lathers of frosting will?

Sure the Peanut Butter Yummy Things are tasty, but it’s Sugarplum’s good old fashioned cheer that makes it so appealing.  You know… The fifty centimes discount because the cake was sliced a bit wonkily. The stacks of dog-eared recipe books lying on the communal table. The noisy greetings to the exchange students as they wander through the door in a fug of subjunctive conjugations.

A counter piled high with giant muffins, creamy cupcakes, hearty pumpkin pie slices and a custom-made cheesecake means this is not a place for the faint-hearted.

But the good news? There’s not a slowdeler in sight.

Sugarplum Coffee Shop
68 rue du Cardinal Lemoine

75005 Paris

Top image from Break Into Paris
Bottom image from Hello It’s Valentine

L’Arbre à Cannelle

2 Nov

In a city where the most prestigious and talked-about award of the year is for the best baguette, where people forge whole careers sculpting with sugar, and where companies ENFORCE two hour lunch breaks, it seems petty to take issue with anything even remotely food-related.

But despite my penchant for Pastis en terrasse, my fondness for bistros, and my affinity for a three course meal, lately I’ve been hankering for something a bit more low-key: the humble cafe.

Entrez:  L’Arbre à Cannelle.

Just around the corner from the toddler-strewn Jardin des Plantes, L’Arbre à Cannelle is a haven of blonde wood, heavy tea pots and, ah oui, cake.

L’Arbre CALLS itself a salon de thé, but a curious absence of patisseries and a chalkboard full of smoothie suggestions gives it the aroma of a full-blown, meet-your-mum-for-a-quick-coffee-and-a-chat kinda place.

By all reports the food here is hot-to-trot, but the café gourmand offering is worth the trip alone. France’s answer to high tea, a café gourmand is, typically, a cheerful congregation of sweet treats and an espresso, all on the one lavish plate.

At L’Arbre though, the café gourmand pairs a not-too-smooshy berry crumble with a warm slab of chocolate “brownie”, drizzles them both with thick crème anglaise and tops it all off with a piping hot allongée.

It’s not French and it’s not fancy, but for an autumnal sunset snack, c’est parfait.

L’Arbre à Cannelle
14, rue Linné – 75005 PARIS

First image courtesy of L’Arbre à Cannelle


10 Jun

Is it ok to write about a place when you’ve only tried one, very delicious item from their menu?


What if it’s the cheapest thing in the whole place?

Definitely not.


Well… maybe.  But only if you’ve eaten it twice.  No, THREE TIMES. No, three times in THREE DAYS.

In that case, shut up.  Pop’s is the best vendor of BLTs in the whole land.  Yes, I’ve tried the BLTs at Redleaf.  And the ones at the Russian River Microbrewery – I think the river views might have made the bacon seem juicier there, by the way.  I hear a place in Port Douglas does a brilliant crispy-bacon version too.  But I’m just going to say it: Pop’s BLTs are better than the ones mum used to make for the F1 final.  (That’s a normal family tradition, right?)

As we all know, BLTS are the easy lover you can call on day or night and, seemingly, there’s not a lot more to the acronym than meets the eye.  But to explain the culinary genius behind Pop’s creation is to diminish it, and so I won’t.  All I’ll say is: chipotle mayonaise. It’s so good it’ll make you want to have imaginary conversations with yourself.

To get your hands on one of these tasty, meal time bridge-gappers, it’s imperative to ignore the nerdy, bearded white guys awkwardly bopping to the (admittedly kind of cool) beats oozing from their customized playlists — they might put you off your food.  Keep your eye on the bacon, my friend.  It’s worth it.

Pop’s has other stuff on the chalkboard too like chilli dogs and cheese fries and hefty angus burgers.  But for a sensual $2.75, why would anyone stray from the BLT?  It’ll love you back.  Thrice over.

Pop’s, 167 North 8th Street, Brooklyn.  (718-486-3663)
BLT image from Good Magazine

Nita Nita

6 Jun

Phew. For Nita Nita I can be totally well brought-up and only say nice things.

Anyone who brings me a warm bowl of smashed sweet potato with tiny chunks of hot chorizo stirred through it gooely is going to be my friend.  But someone bringing that to me while I’m sipping a g&t in a big courtyard – that feels more garden than court – with loops of fairy lights blinking quietly in the trees could well be my soulmate.  Well, maybe.

Perhaps we should introduce ourselves.

I’m Caroline.  And Nita Nita is smack bang on the corner of Wythe and North 8th in Williamsburg.  Somehow it feels properly hidden – maybe because the streetfront looks like the entrance to a seedy, don’t-tell-your-dad-you-were-here type bistro.  Inside everything’s neat and tidy in that endearingly shabby way. (Like the pair of runners you’ve had since high school, but a touch more aromatic.)

So skip the polished wooden tables tucked under the back window and sneak your way outside.  Grab that table where the people are drinking ice and looking packy-uppy.  Probably order that Southampton IPA because it sounds fancy and is only five bucks.  Try to eavesdrop on those French chicks.  See how there’s a baby here, but only ONE baby?  That’s a good sign: only hip mommas drink here.

But stop, more about the food.  Like the perfectly rare slices of spiced Asian beef – so juicy and garnished with just enough pickled chilli to make you want to suck all the flavour inside out.  Or the hefty cheese boards with hunks of creamy, oozey, stinkily perfect camembert.

Yeah it’s a tapas bar but they make the rules: and so mac cheese gets a look-in.  It’s smooshed into a cutesy individual terracotta bowl though and actually smells like quite delicious food.

I heard a rumour that they do a killer hangover breakfast as well.  Just in case you need an excuse for another drink tonight – and fancy meeting your potential soul mate in the morning.

Just saying.

Nita Nita, 146 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn 11211. (388-5328)

Image courtesy of Eater.

Oslo Coffee Roasters

5 Jun

Is there anything to hate about a cafe with this on the wall?

Not really.   This little number is called ‘1000 paper hearts for Japan’ and was created by the people of Williamsburg North School. The short ones I mean. The ones that are about four years old.

It’s on the back wall at Oslo Coffee Roasters which is where my stylish friend Average Folk goes every weekend for his coffee.  Both days. It’s that good.

I joined a Sunday expedition to the Northside store on Roebling Street and I was the tiniest bit sceptical, given that some of the fancy coffee in Williamsburg actually tastes like tomato soup.  And also because Oslo is ugly orange brick and concrete outside and it was  sweating-under-your-sunglasses-rims hot.

But here’s what the coffee was: DELICIOUS.  And here’s what it was like inside:  LOVELY.

Probably the best thing about Oslo is that they’re not pretentious about their coffee, even though they roast it themselves and it’s socially and economically sustainable and buzzword buzzword buzzword.  The house blend, Thor, is solid and kind of tabacco-bitter but in a really soft drink-me-slowly way.  I had it on ice with milk and slurped it through a straw outside in the sunshine.

Average Folk had a cup of steaming hot Odin espresso blend.  Ballsy.

They have little pastry treats to nibble if you’re so inclined, but most people are in-and-out of here en route to the subway.  (The navy and white cups strewn all over Bedford station: testament.)

On an inside day you could sit around the wooden communal table and argue about the crossword. If you were alone you could press your nose against the giant windows and admire the people not curbing their dogs outside. Or admire the inside artwork like this.

It’s cool to be four.

Oslo Coffee Roasters, 133B Roebling Street, Brooklyn

Tea Spot

30 May

Sure it looks blurry, but this is just about the second coolest place I’ve been to in New York.  (More on the first tomorrow.)  Beleaguered by unemployment woes and cabin fever, we braved the rain and the lunch-time buskers on the L line for a soothing pot of everything-will-be-ok at Tea Spot.  And it was so much more than ok.

This is not a fancy tea house.  The floors are polished but worn.  A jazz station crackles gently on the stereo.  Rows of shiny tins of loose leaf tea stand to attention, their faded labels peeling off.  The air is pungent.  And the NUTELLA CHEESECAKE…To avoid superlatives, I have never had a more pure slice of cheesecake heaven.*

While there didn’t seem to be an old person in sight (this is Greenwich, after all), Tea Spot is so cosy that one feels there SHOULD be.   There are 80 high-end teas to choose from and the staff are crazy knowledgable.  My strict instructions to steep my Rooibos chai for six minutes resulted in one of the richest, most deliciously aromatic experiences of my life.

If you fancy your body as some kind of place of worship, get involved with the HealthTEA selection.  There’s a hot, caffeineted drink for every affliction it seems.

If that’s not enough: the wifi is free, and you can swig on something harder downstairs at Wine Spot.  But that deserves a separate post.  (And a second slice of cheesecake.)

Tea Spot

127 MacDougal Street, New York, NY 10012. P: 212 505-0969

* Think: layer of not-too-crumbly and pleasingly moist biscuit base.  Add a whole mouthful of just-firm nutella.  Then top it off with perfectly light baked cheesecake and a smoosh of cream.  If you’re not weeping with joy, we won’t be friends.

1000 Pound Bend

8 Apr

Perhaps I’m just not innately curious.  Perhaps that’s why I didn’t ask what the £1000 were about.

Maybe it’s because you’ll gain about that much weight if you order a skinny latte here because, no honey, they don’t serve skim milk. (What’s not to love?)

But say you wanted a home-made passion fruit yo-yo, or to perve on some of those skinny macbook types (free wifi baby), or to sneak around the street art exhibition like a totes rad homie, then yes, these guys will help.

They hosted the Sweet Streets exhibition in their paint-chipped gallery space, and you could buy tickets to Laneway there too.  Get it yet?

Upstairs there’s a beanbag slash milk crate studded cinema-ette, if you will.  Here you can watch edgy designy films about bikes or chill out with your new friends from the Melbourne Horror Film Society.  They like scaring themselves here and maybe you will too.

The furniture situation is that thing that everyone in Bondi does, where you garner a motley collection of vintage 50s chairs and plush sofas covered in those 70s rainbow crotched blankets.

You probably don’t have to actually OWN a fixie to come here but it’d help.  Come to think of it you could just hire one of theirs.


1000 Pound Bend, 361 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (0450 258 730)