IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT FOOD AND DRINK, IS IT?

Quote: “I went to Brighton and all I got was the most useless ice cream cone ever.”

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Brighton, famous for lots of things which I am not going to list because frankly if you don’t know then you have been hiding under a rock (not an edible one either).   So I will leave you to visit, explore and have your senses excited.  Whether you believe me or not, visiting Brighton is a multi-sensory experience and one I’ll never forget.

Strolling through the park and hearing the children playing, venturing through a maze of traffic crossings and the constant, fumy cars which filled the streets lead us to the buzzing Brighton seafront.  Food, glorious food was the overwhelming scent.  Mixtures of vinegar, fried food and sugary doughnuts fill the nostrils.  A limited banana breakfast left me shakily craving all types of usually unpermitted food stuffs.  “Fish and chips later?” I hopefully asked my Partner

“Yup,” he said.  Easy peasy, I thought.

People everywhere were sitting and experiencing pebbly bottom syndrome; screams from the funfair on the heaving, creaking pier, and crowds of all sorts of people made me think it was a Saturday but it’s only a Friday.  Popular destination I thought.  I have been to Brighton but I have only seen the Pavilion and the pier before.  My Partner is (brace yourselves) from the north so he was very excited about his southerly adventure.  We were told that there are some backstreets to explore so after a brief sunny spell of the typical south coast beach, away from the water we head.

As we nestle into Brighton’s back streets we see why it is popular.  Maybe it’s not just about the ice-cream and fish and chips.  Quaint streets filled with shops marketed perfectly for tourists, jewellery, quirky goods and restaurants.  Ohh, I think as I see a café, that looks good.  Intrigued now by what Brighton may have to offer in the way of coffee and cake I take out my camera and have my beany eye on red alert.  The further away from the beach you go the more you find.  Snap, snap, snap.  Get your head out of my photo.

I take photos of a bubble tea café, vegetarian and vegan cafés and a seaside themed cupcake shop.  The best thing is the variety and the lack of chains.  Brighton seemed to cater for every need and want.  London named streets nearly had me forgetting where I was until I hear a chip stealing gull screeching overhead to jolt me back to the fact that I am one of those people, yes, I am a tourist.

In my tourist, photo joy I thought, well, it’s only an hour or so from London to Brighton, maybe I could see how good the cafés really are.  I could bring my laptop down and put them to the artycappuccino test.  Before getting carried away by such a fabulous selection of treats for me to test I decide that I should be sensible, I almost choked on that word, and keep my search local, the travel costs may damage my writers pocket a little too much.

One thing that won’t is an ice-cream.  I suggest this to my Partner and cross my fingers that our current dieting may have slipped his mind.  He loves food too, easy target.

“I’m ok, unless you want one,” he said. What? Ohh, the old, turn around the question trick.  Now I am done for, he knows I will feel too guilty to say yes, especially as we will be chowing down on chips soon.

“I’m good, just thought that if you wanted one we could get one.” I say as casual and as off the cuff as I could make it sound.  Damn it!  Then, in a moment that seemed like the best dream ever something catches my eye: a giant, gold ice-cream cone being carried onto the beach.  No, I look closer, that would be useless: look at all of those holes, the ice-cream has slipped out of it already, rubbish.  “That’s an Olympic Torch,” I gasp as I point with realisation, “let’s go.”  I had heard about this torch bearer from a friend and had meant to search him out but for some reason it had slipped my mind.  He used to work on the lifeboats and ran with the torch on his birthday and now he let people have a picture with the torch asking only for a donation towards the Lifeboat charity.

My Partner and I hold the torch aloft and revel in the Lifeboatman’s glory and obvious, well deserved, pride.  In our excitement we had overlooked where the torch bearer worked: an ice-cream shop.   Thanking the generous Lifeboat/Ice-cream man and giving him a donation, we decide that this cone was the best ice-cream cone we have ever had.Image

For more Brighton pics visit http://pinterest.com/artycappuccino/

MY BEDTIME BEAN CHAT.

Quote: “A monkey ate a coffee bean, crapped it out, then someone made a drink of coffee out of it and Rick Stein drank it.”

Taken from a late night conversation with my Partner, a sober conversation…I think.   Whether the content of this quote are true or not I have no idea, it probably holds some truth somewhere in the history of coffee making and TV viewing but don’t quote me on that.

Now it appears that, if this quote does have dabblings in the truth, that Rick will go some lengths to get a great coffee or someone, somewhere thought it would be an extreme, if not cruel, joke.  This led me to think about the coffee that I consumed and the lengths that I go too to get a good one.

Extreme search attempt 1:  I went to Italy.

My bar is set at a height of a one euro cappuccino that I had in Sienna a few years ago. I start on a high: It was perfection, one which is yet to be surpassed.  Hot but drinkable, two thirds milk to one third foam and a great taste, not too sweet and not too bitter, maybe because it was not burnt or maybe they just have a better bean.  Who knows?  I am not coffee expert just an expert coffee drinker.

An eccellente begining.

Extreme search attempt 2:  Ouch!

The Fat Deli, Balham: not quite Tuscany more nappy valley with the yummy mummy crowd and toppy but tasty food.  This should do a good coffee I thought.  Wrong!  Lava in a cardboard disguise is one description.  Still, in my desperation for caffeine I carried this coffee for fifteen minutes hoping it would cool quickly.  I wasn’t sure whether the coffee would cool before my skin became part of the cup forever.  The first part-human part-takeaway cup; like Robocop for the coffee world. I took a chance, I had too: there was caffeine in here.   Persistent, stubborn or caffeine deficient… possibly even all three. I waited until finally my ‘drink’ was cool enough to drink.  I could swallow.  The desperation to drink my cappuccino gave me false hope.  It was burnt and therefore bitter.  In annoyance and in full swing of caffeine withdrawal after now a third of an hour clutching an unpalatable coffee, I ditched it.  Is there a store that sells monkeys here?

Extreme search attempt 3:  What does that button do again?

Continuing my quest for the ring, sorry, a good coffee; I bought a coffee machine, a midrange one.  Should save me a bit of cash in the long run; maybe I will become so adept at coffee making people will flock from all over SW London to savour my aromatic flavours.  I bought it two years ago. Still can’t use it.  Oh well, money down the drain a little like where that burnt takeaway should have immediately gone.

Well my search continues, hence this blog.  It’s not that I haven’t found any good coffees in London, I have:  my favourite being a little coffee van in Balham.  Once run by a Brazilian now by a Peruvian.  Takeaways only though, which is not handy for a writer who would like to sit down to scribble.  Girasole in Teddington does good ‘drink in’ coffee (Girasole will appear in a future blog, I imagine, as it is often frequented).  But, like the intrepid Rick and his friend, the monkey feeder, I want perfection; I want it all, as always.  I want the perfect coffee with super service in a suitably writerly setting.  Maybe if I adhere to the teachings of my parents and say ‘I would like’ or ‘please may I’ I might be more successful.  What do you think Monkeybaby?

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THE DAY I VISITED SWEET REVENGE CUPCAKE BAKERY

Customer Quote: “I’m sorry, I can’t decide, there’s too much choice.”

It’s a good job that I took the forty minute stroll along the stunning Thames footpath from Teddington to Kingston to reach heaven.  Why? I hear you cry.  The clue is in the title of this perfectly named cupcake café: Sweet Revenge.  The cakes are having their revenge on me after years of no carbs, no dairy, and saying no anything that looked vaguely scrummy.

ImageAs I walked by this pretty (tempting) shop I stood at the dual aspect window with my mouth open. Probably salivating a little but that’s not an appetising image so erase that from your mind.  What were those spongy looking things on pedestals?  What was that gooey stuff that topped them?  My Partner, sensing my confusion answered my questions.

“Do you want a cupcake?”

“Cupcake,” I said.  I remember now, yes, the things of childhood.  Were they now made for adults too?  I thought.

As we approached the door my face went tight and I caught my reflection in the window.  I was smiling.  Was that me, deliriously happy at the impending possibility of eating the devil’s food?

“I want the pink one, no, the yellow, oooh what’s that with the creamy topping and red dusting on top?”  I was literally like a child in a sweet shop.  I had deprived myself for years.  No more.  They were mine, all mine.  I think I may have even rubbed my hands together.

After my delirium settled, I became nervous, not at the calories or even the choice I was about to make, but how to choose?  My nervousness was about the perfect accompaniment: coffee, for me a skinny cappuccino.  I know, why have skinny when you are eating cake?  But by my reckoning it allows me to eat the cake.  I am going to frustrate you more.  I also have one sweetener plopped in too; every little helps right?  Yes the cappuccino was larger than say a traditional one in Italy, but it was a good temperature and left me with no blister on my lip or bitter taste in my mouth, it also had a creamy froth and a sprinkling of the good stuff on top.  It was only the lack of cappuccino art on top that let it down: I like a heart or a feather.  Creativity for the coffee as you do for the cakes please.

A walnut chocolate brownie and skinny cappuccino later I was in trouble.  This place was good, so indulgent.  I began chatting to the owner: a lovely Lebanese man, whose wife had the idea, gotta love her.  Damn it, the service was good too.  I would have to return.

The brownie was just the beginning, but one I return to again and again as, after all, it is brownie perfection.  It is a good size with a light crisp top, but soft and sticky inside whilst remaining firm enough to retain its shape as it is attacked with a fork.  Walnuts on top look nice too.  Not too bitter not too sweet, as Goldilocks would say, just right.

Other goodies include the mouth-watering, ultra-moist red velvet and the zesty lemon cupcakes. There are sixteen other varieties to sample, so if you want to try some and rate them too, then together we can scoop out the cream of the crop.  A difficult task but someone’s got to do it. There are also gluten free and wheat free ranges as well as larger cakes for parties and weddings.

For little people with little mouths there are mini cupcakes too.  All cakes are baked fresh and are handmade.  Although they cannot count as one of your five a day, unfortunately, you can be satisfied knowing that they are made with free range eggs and natural food colouring.

Prices are £2.50 for a regular cupcake or a slice.

The perfect accompaniment comes in at £2.25.

As an aside, there are three sandwiches on the menu and cold drinks including fresh fruit smoothies for those who still have a little guilt inside.

See www.sweetrevengelondon.com for more details on cakes and courses.

Overall: simple, pretty style and lip-smacking execution.

Rating: C cup.

E cup = Espresso: poor  A cup=Americano: average  C cup=Cappuccino: good

For more pics visit http://pinterest.com/artycappuccino/