After dinner on our first night in Vienna, we went for a little stroll in the centre, making the most of the long summer day. When it started to get too dark, we went off in search of Café Hawelka; in hindsight, this was probably my main objective for the night! After a bit of a search (I had accidentally mixed up Dorotheerstrasse with Dorotheergasse), we made it and settled into our table in this lovely, bohemian-looking café close to 10pm.

The very short menu is scratched onto a tiny chalkboard on the wall. We skipped the caffeine so late at night and instead had an Almdudler and an apfelschorle (apple juice and sparkling water – it’s very refreshing). We ordered a slice of apfelstrudel and their famous buchteln; our waiter told us that it would be about 5 minutes till the buchteln would be ready and we munched on the delicious strudel with its crispy pastry while we waited.

Drinks

Apfelstrudel

At about 5 past 10, the waiters rushed out from the back with numerous plates balanced on their arms, plates piled high with buchteln dusted with powdered sugar, looking like snow topped hills. They were hot from the oven and it took restraint to not bite immediately through the crisp buttery crust into the soft, brioche-like interior and spill the molten hot powidl (a plum conserve) filling onto your chin. We stayed and lingered – the place is open until 2am most days – and so ended our first night in Vienna.

Warm Buchteln

Café Hawelka
Dorotheergasse 6
1010 Wien

And that started our love affair with the Viennese café – this first experience coupled with the not-so-hot weather during our visit had us cancel plans to visit any palaces and instead make time for even more cafés!

I’ve put the photos from Café Sacher at the Sacher Hotel here as it is technically a cafe, albeit a very touristy one. Saturday morning we were there, of course, for the Original Sacher-Torte, with its two layers of apricot jam, a chocolate sponge and thick layer of chocolate icing; it’s a little dry on its own and so needs that side of whipped cream. But first a bit of something savoury as it was near lunchtime; we chose to have our lunches in cafés too. We shared a pair of Sacherwürstel served with mustard and freshly grated horseradish; there’s only one in the photo as the other is kept warm for you and the eagle-eyed waiter whisks it over when he sees that you’re about to finish your first.

Original Sacherwürstel

I also had an einspänner (literally a one person carriage), the name for a large coffee with whipped cream – turns out I love whipped cream with coffee. I think Blai had another Almdudler.

Einspänner

Original Sacher-Torte mit Schlag

It’s certainly very touristy but it’s still a lovely café and is the place to try a slice of Sacher-Torte.

Café Sacher
Philharmonikerstrasse 4
A-1010 Vienna

Café Sperl, which we visited on Saturday afternoon after seeing Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze at the Secession, was probably my favourite of the traditional Kaffeehäuser we visited, with its friendly host, stern waitresses and gorgeous room. There are newspapers to browse and billiard tables at which to play.

Café Sperl

It’s larger than Café Hawelka and had a larger menu to match – it’s possible to have a full meal here. We were here for just coffee and cake – a hot chocolate for Blai and a melange (similar to a cappuccino) for me and I went up to their little display of cakes to choose our sweet. One particular slice was moving quickly and I pointed at that one; it turned out I’d chosen what must have been one of their specials – the Sperlschnitte, a slice of thin hazelnut sponge covered in a chocolate ganache.

Eine Heisse Schokolade und eine Melange

Sperlschnitte

Inside

Café Sperl
Gumpendorferstraße 11
1060 Wien

On Saturday night (yes, Saturday was a very café heavy day), we headed for Café Mozart but didn’t linger long there. Their Mozarttorte was fine though nothing spectacular and though the room is very pretty, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was quite touristy. The café is run by the Querfeld family, who also run a number of cafés in Vienna, including the famed Café Landtmann and Café Museum.

Mozarttorte

Late Night Treats

Café Mozart
Albertinaplatz 2
1010 Wien

And finally a modern cafe – Café Leopold at the Leopold Museum in the MuseumsQuartier. We had just come out of the Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente on Sunday afternoon and we were starting to flag. A couple of juices and a Toast mit schinken und käse, pikante paradeissauce (toast with ham and cheese with a spicy paradise sauce, which was tomato based) here gave us enough energy to visit the museum. It doesn’t feel like one to linger at though as space is quite tight but we were never rushed.

Toast mit schinken und käse, pikante paradeissauce

Café Leopold
Museumsplatz 1
1070 Wien

A summary? I wish we had time to visit all Vienna’s cafés! If you’re wondering about prices, well, coffees and cakes don’t come cheap (each café visit cost us between €10-20)  but consider that you’re paying for your seat and no one would ever think of rushing you from your table. Take your time, read a newspaper, relax…

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Hooray! The Richmond-Stratford overground line is running on Sundays again! We celebrated this last Sunday by hopping a train to Dalston; we were in search of Turkish food for brunch. I already had a place in mind – Evin Cafe, where fresh gözleme could be found, a Turkish filled flatbread I’d been wanting to try. It’s difficult to miss on Kingsland High Street – we found this sight in their window.

Making Gözleme

We entered the restaurant and were surpised to find quite a large space with lots of seating. After making ourselves comfortable at a table at the back, we ordered a range of the Turkish dishes that were listed on the breakfast menu and all turned out to be winners in my book! As you can imagine, a gözleme was part of the order.

First up was a sucuklu menemen (£5.75), a mixture of green pepper, onion, tomato, special garlic sausage (the sucuk) all bound together with scrambled egg. It may not look like much but it was fresh and delicious all scooped up with the basket of sesame-studded Turkish bread that came with our food. The sucuk tasted quite like a Spanish chorizo.

Sucuklu Menemen

Turkish Bread Olives

The günün çorbasi (soup of the day – £3.50) was lentil that Sunday and I had to have it, having heard great things about Turkish lentil soups. A big bowl was set in front of me and I dipped my spoon in: it was quite homogenous in colour save for the occasional speckle of green and red. It was thinner than I expected but this in no way was a bad thing. In fact, this was the loveliest, full of flavour red lentil soup we’d had in a while and I cannot wait to try to recreate it at home.

Lentil Soup

Last to arrive from the front of the restaurant was our cheese and spinach gözleme (£2.50); it was bigger than we both expected with its ends falling off the plate. This was just gorgeous – a soft, freshly made flatbread sandwiching crumbled mild feta cheese and lightly cooked fresh spinach.

Cheese and Spinach Gözleme

Look at the fresh spinach in there!

Inside the Gözleme

I can’t wait to try one with potato – the last filling that’s offered (Josh of Cooking the Books says it’s a spicy and minty potato mix).

With a freshly squeezed orange juice and a can of Coke, our bill came to £15. You lucky, lucky people of Dalston; I wish I had a local place like this (but really, now I can get here in half an hour!). Service was good and you’re never put under pressure to vacate your table – I saw a couple people set up their laptops. It’s definitely worth a trip out here – we spent the afternoon exploring the local shops too and went home with quite a lovely box of baklava (including a fabulous chocolate and pistachio one).

Evin Cafe
115 Kingsland High St
London E8 2PB

Evin Cafe on Urbanspoon

This past weekend saw us girls have a picnic along the Thames in Richmond. The weather was gorgeous, wasn’t it? All that sun and warmth sure seems like a long time ago… Mirna, our friend who is Hong Kong bound, had recently returned to London from her native Croatia and had packed her suitcase full of food for our planned picnic – I think she packed half the shop in there!

The Spread

That afternoon, while waiting for a tardy picnicker, we paid heed to the rumblings of our tummies and started by tucking into these rich salty flaky pastries called čvarkuše. They’re traditionally drinking snacks (salty salty!) though I could have them anyday! Though flaky, they’re much denser than puff pastry and scattered throughout the insides are bits of pork scratchings. We were too nice – we saved one piece for the latecomer!

Porky Pastries

When the trio finally came together, we selected a nice grassy spot by the river and laid out our things. And what wonderful things emerged from Mirna’s bag! She’d brought burek, a pastry similar to phyllo but thicker wrapped around a filling and baked. We tasted three kinds: meat, cheese (made with a fresh farmers cheese) and zeljanica (cheese and spinach). My favourite was the meat, but perhaps mainly because there was cheese in almost everything we’d sample that day and I was getting a bit cheesed out. From that Wikipedia article, it seems that this burek shape originates from Bosnia.

Bureks

Another similar dish we tried was her mother’s homemade štrukli, a layered cheese and pastry dish (the leftmost container in the top photo). I do believe the cheese is mixed with egg and some cream too which again makes for a very rich dish! We added to that richness still by eating it and the bureks with dollops of creme fraiche.

Apart from these pastries, there was also a platter of cheese and meat that Mirna had lovingly put together that morning. There was a dry sheep’s milk cheese, paški sir, that reminded us of pecorino romano. There was a smoked cheese, dimsi, that was my favourite – very eatable in large quantities. The meat was a cured pork loin, pečenica, that was very lean and full of meaty flavour; it’s not dissimilar to the cured loin in Spanish cuisine.

Croatian Cheese and Meat Platter

A wild boar pate rounded out these cold treats – a most delicious spread that resembled pork rillettes.

Everything we ate with a corn bread (kukuruzni kruh) she’d also trucked back in her check-in luggage – that’s determination! This bread is entirely unlike the cake-like American dish of the same name – this is just a bread made of ground corn flour. That corn gives the bread a pleasing yellow tinge and tasted fantastic and not at all like maize. What a great picnic that was – thanks again, Mirna.

Corn Bread

But wait, that’s not all! Mirna has brought other treats from home in the past – all of which I’ve wanted to blog but just never got round to it. One was this chocolate/hazelnut sweet called Bajadera, made by Kras. It just melts in your mouth and reminds me of a cross between Nutella and a ganache – lovely stuff. I was quite pleased and surprised to find it recently at my local Middle Eastern shop too. Kras’ biscuits are equally excellent – there must be crack in them or something; I polished off half a bag in under 10 minutes once.

Bajadera

And how can I forget this fantastic dried fig and orange jam?! She’s never without a jar for us when she comes back from her trips home and I can eat this out of a jar with a spoon. So good. You’ve got the crunch from the fig seeds, the sweetness of the figs and a slight tanginess from the orange; this is seriously gorgeous stuff. If you do come across it, I’d seriously recommend you pick up a jar (there are other brands apart from this one, I think).

Dried Fig and Orange Jam

And about a month or two ago, Blai and I tried a little cafe in Acton that serves food from the Balkan region – Cafe Vardar. It’s not really a place you’d run into as though it’s on the main Uxbridge Road, it’s a little far off from any of the main shopping areas and is actually situated inside a pub building. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Anyway, we got in and ordered cevapi and sarma, all the while texting Mirna with updates and advice. Cevapi is their word for kebabs (cevapcici is the diminutive) and what came out was a small pile of extremely meaty small kebabs (like skinless sausages?) served with ajvar (I blogged about that here before) and chopped onions. Oh yes, it was good. We must’ve had gloriously oniony, meaty breaths after this lunch and I’m looking forward to ordering it again but with a side of chips! I’ve also been told to try the cevapi at Mugi in Ealing Common so watch this space.

Cevapi with Ajvar and Onions

The sarma turned out to be huge cabbage rolls, filled with meat and rice – tasty but very heavy things. Unfortunately, they got a thumbs down from Mirna when she saw the photos as there was too much of the rice filler. Homemade ones are mainly filled with lots of meat and very little rice. Still, they were cheap! This and the cevapi and two drinks came to only £13.

Sarma

Thanks again, Mirna, for all you’ve taught me about Croatian food. Something tells me I have lots more to taste!

Cafe Vardar
King’s Arms
The Vale, Acton
(corner of The Vale and E. Acton Lane)
London W3 7JT

Last Saturday, we found ourselves in Kew and I dragged us over to Newens on Kew Road (just a short walk from the main entrance of Kew Gardens), keen to revisit this quaint little cafe after a long while. It really is quite an adorable little place; the building is only about 120 years old but the business was around for a little longer and then there are the Tudor origins of their most famous treats: maids of honour. The cafe is always packed at lunchtimes on the weekends (I’ve never visited on a weekday) with locals and tourists out west to visit the Gardens but it’s easy to nab a table after 2 or 3pm, just after the rush.

Newens - The Original Maids of Honour

Inside

It’s impossible to visit a place like this and not have tea; we chose a pot of assam and then got to work choosing from the lovely treats on display.

Pot of Tea

After admiring the range of meat and vegetable pies in the display case, we opted for a slice of their chicken and ham pie. Our very patient waitress realised we were sharing and kindly gave us two smaller slices instead of the usual thick one. Big chunks of chicken and ham sit in a mosaic held together by a savoury jelly in a thick shortcrust pastry – a good start to this tea.

Slices of Chicken and Ham Pie

I was awed by the look of the sugar bun, a big choux puff filled with very lightly sweetened coffee cream and topped with coffee icing. I think I ate my cream quota for the year in my half of this bun and it was actually very very good that the cream was hardly sweetened at all. It had the right balance of sweet and creamy and puffiness – a good choice.

A Maid of Honour and a Sugar Bun

Inside the Sugar Bun

Finally, a maid of honour. Actually, make that two. These little sweet tarts are the bakery’s most famous product with even a plaque outside commemorating them. I may be incredibly wrong about this but they appear to have puff pastry bases, a layer of curd and then a final topping of cheese (that’s what the textures feel like). It’s easy to see the Tudor history (or at least influence) of these little treats in the combination of sweet and almost savoury (the cheese is reminiscent of cheddar); they are incredibly moreish and worth the trip there. Their fame is deserved!

Maid of Honour

I couldn’t help myself and also had two hot cross buns and a loaf of fruit cake packed up to take away. The hot cross buns were packed full of fruit (always a win in my book!) and excellent, though a little denser than what I’m used to. The fruit cake was much lighter than we expected and again packed full of fruit and topped with sliced almonds. And it was absolutely beautiful – one of the best fruity cakes (hard to compare it to a traditional fruitcake) I’ve had.

Hot Cross Bun

Fruit Cake

Everything (takeaway things included) came to a total of about £20. Service was fabulous – we were even thrilled to catch a glimpse of the current owner, John Newens, the 5th generation of Newens to run the place. Why didn’t I come back sooner?! I love this place! All their menus are available on their website but you’ll have to visit to see all their cakes.

Newens – The Original Maids of Honour
288 Kew Road
Kew Gardens
Surrey TW9 3DU

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Xocolata? Yes, please! I always try to fit in one cup of thick hot chocolate on each visit to Barcelona. After a short day trip to chilly Girona (very cute and worth a visit), we made it back to Barcelona in the early evening and decided to brave the rain to find a granja that Blai had remembered passing. He normally brings me to the ones on c/Petritxol (like Granja La Pallaresa) but he’d seen another with a long queue and we went off in search of it in El Raval, a now quite hip area of the city after years of being, well….an area you wouldn’t go to alone.

The granja turned out to be Granja M. Viader, the oldest granja in Barcelona, dating back to 1870. And yes, it was packed though without a queue; we were able to secure a table quite quickly (don’t wait to be seated – grab that empty table!). Unlike the other granges I’ve visited, this one has menus on the table – very useful if you’re not sure what to have. It was from this menu that Blai ordered a Cacaolat amb Nata (Cacaolat with cream), eschewing his usual order of a suís, and quite enjoyed this new treat. Cacaolat is a chocolate milk drink popular in Spain and invented in 1931 (or was it trademarked in that year?) at this granja. His glass of it was topped by a good dollop of cream whipped thick enough on which to stand. All around us, children were sipping from their individual bottles of Cacaolat. (Of course, when his brother found out about this order, all he could give Blai was a pitying look.)

Cacaolat amb Nata

I went for my usual order of a small suís. First impressions were that their xocolata was much sweeter than those on c/Petritxol and had a different, gloopier texture too. The whipped cream was excellent: thick, creamy, unsweetened and so paired well with the sweeter hot chocolate.

My Suís

Xocolata

To go with it, I asked for xurros but was told they didn’t have any. Oh really? Wow, this place is very Catalan! I decided to be Catalan too and asked for melindros – big, wide, simple sponge fingers that are perfect for dunking into and scooping up the thick chocolate.

Melindros

Overall, not a bad place for xocolata and their menu lists other foods too if you’re looking for a slightly more substantial bite. And it’s a really good place to take picky kids; I mean, who doesn’t like a good chocolate milk? But personally, for xocolata, I think I still prefer La Pallaresa.

Granja M. Viader
c/Xuclà, 4 i 6
Barcelona, Spain

And that brings to an end my very short Barcelona series. Though I had over a week there, I didn’t do very much, spending most of the time strolling about and relaxing (though there was a trip to the Museu d’Història de Catalunya as well as that daytrip to Girona). All the photos from my trip (including all the food I ate and cooked and came across!) can be found in this Flickr photostream.

A few days after our wedding, I met my good friend Sarah from Vancouver and her husband Kevin for tea. I was told to pick the location and as it usually does, I was all nerves as I wanted to get this choice right! I opted to meet them at Piccadilly Circus with a few ideas on my mind. After learning that Kevin was a bit of a chocoholic, I knew where we’d go – La Maison du Chocolat.

My treats from this most Parisian of chocolate shops have always been takeaway – chocolates, cakes, even their divine hot chocolate. However, I noticed that they’d put in a little cafe corner in the shop a while ago but I’d not had a chance to try it out. All the tables were full when we arrived at a little past 3pm on a Sunday but a couple had just finished and we got a table after a little wait. Throughout our time there though, many other tables freed up and then stayed empty…shame as the little place is great! After choosing from the menu, the waitress came back with three glasses of tap water for us – a nice touch and quite forward looking as we really did need this to wash down all that chocolatey goodness.

It was a hot day and I wanted some ice cream. La Maison has ice creams and sorbets in little tubs but I had my eye on their verrines – layered ice cream desserts in a glass. Of those available, I chose la Verrine Pistache Framboise Chocolat – a layered dessert with a fresh raspberry sorbet, a rich and sticky chocolate ganache, creamy pistachio ice cream and topped with a candied pistachio “gravel”. With a long teaspoon, I was able to dig through all the layers and then … swoon as the combination hit my tongue. (I hope I find some time to go back again this summer while the ice creams are still available.)

Verrine Pistache Framboise Chocolat

I can’t remember what the name of this pastry was (Sarah and Kevin split this) but there was chocolate, passion fruit, banana and coconut all combined inside. We noted that the orange square on top looked disturbingly like a Kraft single – not to worry: it was coloured white chocolate. Actually, a Flickr search brings up a possibility of a name – Ile de Maracuja. It went down very well with the two of them.

Ile de Maracuja

Kevin went all out and had one of their fantastic hot chocolates (made with a fabulously ludicrous chocolate to milk ratio – it’s almost like drinking pure melted chocolate) to drink while we girls stuck with tea. These were not the cheapest teas by any means (I see from my photo that it’s a Dammann Frères tea) but the blow was lessened when each drink (only the teas and coffees) came with one of their lovely chocolates (we had raspberry).

Earl Grey Tea

The total came to £20 for the three of us (I think most of that was my verrine!). Sure it’s not a budget cafe but the pastries here are far better than your average tea shop and I’m happy to splash out a bit for a treat once in a while and especially if you’ve got friends visiting! Thank you for tea that day, Sarah and Kevin, and it was so nice to see you guys again! I miss you both!

La Maison du Chocolat
45-46 Piccadilly
London W1J 0DS

If I’ve seemed distracted from my food blog, it’s because I am. There’s craziness at work (taking up most of my time), two big upcoming events with which to deal, a couple of birthdays and most distracting of all – a new bicycle! There’s also the matter of saving some money which is why I’ve not visited the restaurants on my very long list of places to eat. But really, it’s mostly that bicycle on weekends (a retro folder if you’re interested!). I’ve been perusing more cycle chic than food blogs lately – don’t worry, my heart is still with my food!

For the past few weekends, we’ve taken to our bikes, cycling about and discovering our area – quiet places where public transport won’t take us and far enough that walking won’t get us there. We’ve explored Chiswick and the neighbourhoods around Shepherd’s Bush and last weekend, we cycled down to Kew and along the river. Of course, all that cycling does build up a hearty appetite.

Piazza Seating

We parked our bikes near Kew Station and had a little wander before we settled down at an outdoor table at the Kew Greenhouse Cafe. If you’ve ever visited Kew Gardens via the tube/train station, you’ll know the place – it’s sitting at the corner and you’ll pass it on your way to the botanical gardens. Assuming you visited on a nice day, it’s the place with lovely terrace seating outside. So, we grabbed our table and then I went inside to order. Perusing the display cases inside caused me to change my order a few times!

Iced Lemon Tea

There was a bit of a wait for everything but they’d warned us this would be the case since they were very busy (as I’m sure most cafes with outdoor seating must be when the weather is fine). After about 10 minutes, our drinks arrive – an iced lemon tea (strangely made with cinnamon – I didn’t like it but Blai did) and just some sparkling water. My slice of cake also arrived – a lemon florentine cake, a lemon cake topped with nuts and candied fruit, just like on top of Florentines. We started nibbling on this gorgeous sticky slice while waiting for the rest of our food.

Lemon Florentine Cake

It all came another 10-15 minutes later. To “balance” my slice of cake, I ordered something “light” – a cheese and chive croissant served with salad. It wasn’t particularly light. The croissant was stuffed full of a cheese mixture that was heated before serving. When cut, a molten cheesey lava flowed from the centre. This and the cake would have been the perfect sized lunch for just me (assuming that I was trying not to be too gluttonous – I mean, I really could have fit in another slice of cake). However, since I was with Blai, we split our meals.

Croissant with Cheese and Chives

Blai’s huge slice of steak and Guiness pie was served with a variety of vegetables, both boiled and salady. The meaty filling was quite good and tasted homemade – shame about the use of frozen carrots in there though. It was a very generous serving, however, and filled us up well. We had to do a lot of cycling to burn it off!

Beef and Guinness Pie with Salad

Our meals cost £20 total, including the drinks. For a lovely, relaxed homemade meal out on an airy terrace for an unlimited amount of time, I reckon that’s a bargain! I liked the atmosphere of the place too – it’s a good mixture of both locals and tourists, all enjoying their very British fare.

Kew Greenhouse Cafe
1 Station Parade
Kew, Surrey
TW9 3PS

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