Beautiful furniture, amazing art on the walls, great music playing not too loud, fill your own cup... Even friendly and smiling staff who honestly seemed to enjoy what they were doing and always had time for a chat.
This was a decade ago. Oh, how Starbucks has changed since.
Catty raving about their baked eggs (my and W's favourite breakfast), the Australian owner (my Aussie friends keep going on about the great coffee and breakfasts that you "just can't experience outside Melbourne and Brisbane") and the blog about the place clearly showing a lot of thought and care going into creating this tiny caff at Charlotte Place.
Check out a video interview that Catty made with the owner Shelagh Ryan to see some of that personality shine through. Yes, Catty does seem to have a bit of fetish for this hip but cosy little cafe...
Upon arrival I immediately got confirmation that this is a popular place as a poor soul apparently was so adamant to get his flat white fix that he was sitting outside in the extreme chill...
Outside looking in, does that look warm and welcoming or what?
Originally uploaded by Manne.
Luckily for me, as I stepped through the door, a couple got up from their table and I could sit down. Immediately the girl in the bar looked at me and shouted she'd be over with a menu, which made me hopeful I'd get served quickly despite the place being crowded. Hungry, see.
As I looked around the room I thought back to that first Starbucks experience, and was surprised how similar this was. Similar in a good way, with more authenticity and personality. Beautiful interior, exciting suppliers of food and drink (Monmouth for coffee, the excellent HG Walter who Ing still misses from her days living in Baron's Court for sausages, cheese from La Fromagerie...), lots and lots of originality and creativity.
The place is quite small, with a row of tables down one side and a small elevated bar like seating arrangement facing the street. They told me they have a big table seating ten in the basement, and for lunch this is available to diners, communal style.
Buzzing around me, audible over the excellent selection of eclectic music, were conversations hinting at a crowd of IT professionals and online creatives. "Yeah, Facebook Connect lets you build a community around your own site..." "I met with Google last week and they are really excited about our product..." "You really should tell them you need a pay rise with that added responsibility, that is just not on..."
I liked it. I felt at home.
Ordered my flat white (first one ever) and started eyeballing the menu to see what goodness Australian breakfast culture has to offer. Seems to me the Aussies take this thing about breakfast being the most important meal of the day very seriously.
While goodies like marinated tofu with portobello mushrooms and grilled halloumi with herb pesto definitely caught my eye, I zoomed in on the Spanish style baked eggs with field mushrooms and chorizo.
Tried to make eye contact with the very busy girl who greeted me to see if I could add that to my order of flat white which had not yet arrived but she was completely unreachable. And no wonder, by now people were queuing out the door. I must have arrived at a really lucky moment.
Coffee took far too long to arrive, to be honest, but once that and my food finally was on the table all was forgiven. Supreme coffee with a beautiful pattern. Lovely plate of food from which aromatic scents of tomato and spice enticingly rose as I pierced the baked eggs with my fork. Happy.
Sunny start of a really good day, any day of the week...
Originally uploaded by Manne.
I would have liked my yolks a little bit more runny, but this was a very satisfying dish. Even better than what W makes for us, I must admit. Sorry W! Then again, anything with chorizo in it has an automatic advantage!
After I finished my baked eggs I wanted to try out the breakfast sausages from HG Walter as the dishes delivered to the people next to me looked amazing. By then service had gone over to lunch though and the sausages were no longer available. Oh well. I guess I simply have to come back, a trip I won't mind at all.
Lantana is a flower. Sometimes it is called "Ham n' Eggs" due to its combinations of colours. Lantana flowers is a symbol of Florida landscaping. How fitting for this review, on so many levels.