A Café in Sheep’s Clothing

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Again, this could be because of New Zealand’s plentiful offering of establishments, of which I think are worthy of the name ‘Café,’ but I struggle to stumble upon such places here in London. I know if I searched, I would find what I was looking for (and probably more!) but when the act of going for a coffee is on a whim, I end up disappointed in what I settle for.

Don’t know what I am rambling on about? Well, basically, my boyfriend and I were bravely battling the hordes of Christmas shoppers on Oxford St on Sunday, when we decided we needed refueling if we were going to make it through the afternoon. “Let’s go for a coffee and a little somethin’ somethin’,” said my boyfriend – which means a slice of cake, muffin etc. So we decided to venture down a side street, as we didn’t want the typical chain-café experience that was offered on the main street.

So we explored down side streets, found ourselves back on the main road again, turned down more side streets – basically trying to get lost, so we could find a hidden away, secret local cafe – but to no avail. Since moving to London, this has happened to me on several occasions. All we want is a nice café, with the simple, ‘cakes and slices’ cabinet food, and maybe even a menu board with some wholesome food on offer. But do you think we could find such a place? Every shop that had ‘café’ within its name was a lie. They entice you with the name at first, then you gaze through the window and notice a few people enjoying a hot cup-of-something, and you think great! But no – it’s a front. Just before resigning to spending your hard earned cash there, you notice the 8-page menu outside! It’s not a café. It is an imposter. A restaurant in sheep’s clothing. Not the café kind of atmosphere we were looking for.

Does this happen to anyone else? If I don’t research the café I want, there is no easy way of stumbling upon it.

Anyway – about 30 seconds before I thought my feet were going to fall off, we found it. The Café Inn in West End, Mayfair. It was exactly what we were looking for. Simple setting, good coffee and delicious cabinet food. While we only ordered a coffee and cake, the menu looked very delicious. It was wholesome looking and had a creative edge to hoist the Café Inn to restaurant-food standard, but with the warm, local café setting. And from reviews I have read online, the menu food is worth paying for.

There are two tips I took away from the Café Inn; 1. The Carrot Cake and 2. The wall art. If and when (make that when) I set up my own café, a classic, to-die-for Carrot Cake it a prerequisite. This cake is huge in New Zealand. I think it is in every cabinet, of every café I have ever been in. But that’s not to say it is always good. But the Café Inn’s was. Not too heavy, but still moist, with delicious cream-cheese icing. It could have been a little more lemon-zesty for my taste, but scrumptious all the same. Then there was the wall art – or rather photography. Whilst I wasn’t blown away by the pictures, the concept itself is one I hope to adapt into my establishment. I have the idea of gathering local NZ art (and photography), displaying them in my café, and also offering them for sale. Now this isn’t an original idea, but it is one hammered home by the Cafe Inn’s black and white framed photographs. I think any kind of art would give character to a coffee house, but to support the local community at the same time would be just that extra bit better.

So this blog is beginning to pay off already. Two documented tips, and loads more to go hopefully! I’m sorry there were no pictures to compliment this piece. I did take some, but my rubbish phone didn’t save them. Let’s hope Santa reads this.

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