Monday, 6 June 2011

Cafe Review: Coffee Cake // Crouch End

“We have been open about seven/eight years now”, my waiter informs me. Why on earth have I left it until now to walk in? Coffee Cake is owned by chef Ali Benammar and serves a mixture of continental French and North African cuisine. For a while I have eaten in below par coffee shops in my north London neighbourhood, finding them either too expensive, of poor quality, or both.

‘Coffee Cake’, proudly displays the history and flavour notes behind the beans they are using, on a chalk board above the kitchen. The furniture is well spaced and modern, with wooden flooring contrasting exposed brickwork on the walls. As you walk into the space, you can see and smell the menu all around you. Meringues in the window, cake lined tables, tarts and quiches in open top fridges. Anything you can’t see is displayed on the specials board.

I loved the feel of the place and hoped the staff would be as welcoming. My waiter walked me through all the patisserie and savouries with a good explanation of each. The interactivity of being surrounded by the menu was refreshing; as opposed to a filled counter that divides staff and customers. Everything looked great and the colours were vibrant. My crayfish and tomato tart was like a tall, opened sided quiche. Served hot and with a well dressed salad, it was a steal at £3.50. My chocolate cheesecake that accompanied my cappuccino was buttery, soft and moist, the coffee, equally good.

The service was friendly, efficient and unfussy. You’re in good hands. I grabbed an apple, pear and ginger smoothie to take away. This was made with pure juiced fruit, no additives. A nice touch was that these smoothie’s are customisable, using a variation of any in-house fruit.

Ali Benammar is part of a patisserie revolution in this country, one of the many great benefits of multi-cultural London. Let’s be honest, it’s an area we needed a bit of help in. However, there are even more coffee shops than baby bumps in Crouch End these days, but I am confident that where the others fall down in their infancy, coffee cake will hold its own.

2-Course lunch (exc. drinks) for two at Coffee Cake: £20
Crouch End
28 Broadway Parade
N8 9D8
020 8342 8989

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Product Article: Flavoured Balsamic Vinegars from South Africa

This weekend I got talking to a market stall owner near the Saatchi gallery, in Chelsea. Her name was Stefania Cuda. On the day, Stefania was selling Balsamic Vinegar which is produced by the gruenard family in Stellenbosh, South Africa.

This was the usual ‘condiment grade’ of vinegar, made with white grapes, minus the caramelised sugar which darkens the product. 

Single herbs are introduced before the vinegar and before fermentation. One with dill, one with lemon thyme and so on. No herbs were visible in the bottle, just a clean hue of white grape. I expected the usual low hum of herb that you might find in a flavoured olive oil, which I always find quite unimpressive. What hit me instantly was fresh dill. Bang, right there on the front of my tongue, follow by a rounded, crisp tang from the vinegar. I could see possibilities with this stuff instantly. A fillet of bass finished with this dill vinegar would not be out of place on a menu of gastronomy, both confusing and delighting the diners.

I could pontificate for a good few more paragraphs, but I will leave you to decide the uses of this great product.

56 Penywern Road
+44 7963 599 958