Satisfaction in Simplicity

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I went on a great road-trip this weekend with my boyfriend and our two good kiwi friends. We ended up in Brighton! What a fantastic, exciting place. The sun was shining and it was so much warmer than it has been in London lately! Before spending hard earned pennies in the amusements on the pier, (literally pennies, on the coin pushing games), we decided to grab something to eat, so we visited Café Rococo on St. James’s Street.

It was a very quaint little café. Minimalistic but cosy, simple yet satisfying (sounds like a line from Lion King!) and an all round nice place to ‘chill’ out. As it was early, we managed to get the sofa seats, (a prerequisite for my café) and settled in with a couple of newspapers, sipping and nibbling away at four delicious coffees and snacks.

My girlfriend ordered a skinny latte and a raisin scone. I ordered a flat white and a DELICIOUS tuna melt Panini. Since moving to London, I have started quite an illicit love affair with these sandwiches – who doesn’t love tuna, cheese and red onion all mixed together between two pieces of warm, toasted bread? My friend was also very appreciative of her scone, however it was served with jam and butter, when we all know the best way to eat a scone is with jam and cream!

As for the boys? A large mochaccino, flat white and two sausage sannies – drowned in tomato sauce, of course. They sang the praises of their meals as well. So all in all, the perfect choice when all we wanted was a good cup of coffee, and some wholesome, basic, filling food. Also, the prices were very commendable – always makes the food taste better when you haven’t forked out a fortune for it!

So this got me thinking – again about food. I can hear my Mum chuckling and saying “so what’s new?” My last post was discussing where I would source my food from – but snuggling into the sofa at the Café Rococo, with a good read and a hot cup of coffee, brought forth a question which I didn’t think I would ever consider: is the more basic, the better? By this, I mean am I looking at this business venture through the wrong tinted glasses? In my head I have always imagined a full on, bustling kitchen, with a chef (or even two!) serving proper menu meals, along with a Barista making drinks and wait staff serving with a smile – quite a busy, frantic, but fun, atmosphere.

But is this the ideal situation? Sitting in Café Rococo really made me appreciate the satisfaction that comes with simplicity. There was nothing complicated about the whole environment. The atmosphere was relaxing – the same experience like watching a mind numbing, American television programme, which you find yourself so engrossed in, you forget everything else happening around you and all the stresses in life are put on hold for that 60 minute stint in time. Basically, you can zone out in that café kind of atmosphere – an atmosphere I very much appreciate and enjoy. Would I be better opting for a single cabinet full of basic, yet tasty food, and focus on quality in simplicity rather than a place full of hustle and bustle?

I believe when I begin travelling the world on my way back to NZ and experience the café culture in different countries, I will be able to define exactly the atmosphere I want to establish in my café – but fear not! Throughout my travels, the blogs will continue, with my documenting of these experiences…I can hear the sighs of relief from here.

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6 responses »

  1. Your observation is a good one Kelly. We always say the best food and cafe experience is good simple food done well. There is nothing worse than going out for a meal and anticapating the chosen item on the menu to find that you could have made that yourself at home….. and better. I think the defination comes between a chef and a cook. Myself I prefer cafes that have a cook who to repeat myself does simple food well.
    Annabel Langbien has a new book out – my guru as you know, its called simple pleasures her catch phase with it … the best things in life are simple. Simple ingrediants, simple food all done perfectly.
    Yes a cafe to relax destress and read the paper and enjoy a hot coffee and good food iis heaven,
    Lets see what experience the next one brings you 🙂

    • Hey Heather.

      I like that ‘between a chef and a cook’ comment. I think you are completely right! I think in the future I would rather a cook than a chef, as I believe a cook will be more along the lines of the food I would prefer served, rather than the chef.

  2. I think there is a lot to be said for the simplistic approach…..keep it uncomplicated and spend more time on making the little on offer perfect in every way. Instead of the big menu…keep changing a smaller list of fare so that the regular punters never get bored and never know exactly what will be in that cabinet on any given week. Obviously out and out favourites would stay as resident members of your menu list. The thought of being able to relax in your establishment with moody music playing and the time to read my book or newspaper or just people watch is very very appealing. Perhaps more upbeat events could be staged in evenings for a bit of variety. PS I think you write brilliantly about this (perhaps a tad biased). I look forward to reading all your contributions as you travel across the globe.

    • I really like your idea of a small-ish menu but one that changes! I remember at the first stand alone cafe I worked at, the menu was small, and stayed exactly the same the whole time I worked there! Even the salads in the cabinet never changed. I will be sure to keep it fresh and original! And having events in the evening is a good idea as well – although I know to get trading licenses and things like that is quite a mission!

  3. Simple food done well is always good. However, I think it would be a mistake not to offer a breakfast & lunch menu. I totally agree with Pippa Bowen with regard to changing the food selection reasonably often. It is very unexciting to find the same old, same old on offer. I often wonder why The Hardware is such a popular place compared to all the other cafe choices in Titirangi. Their coffee is really good but their food isn’t crash hot and their rating is only a B.
    It seems to appeal to all ages & all walks of life!

    • I too think a separate breakfast and lunch menu is the way to go. The cafes in Titirangi are often too tied down to just one menu for both meals of the day – and it is a widely known joke that eggs take up half the menu! But it is true! I think the Hardware has done well in determining itself as a brand. So, when new people walk past and it is packed with people, they think ‘well that’s obviously THE place to go/hang out.’ So they join the crowds, and the circle continues. I too wasn’t a fan of their food and I think their prices are WAY to high for what they serve. But they have established themselves as a cool, funky place to meet – so a tip to remember for the future!

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