Time to write about one of my favourite cafés in Brussels: Aksum. Their great coffee, sprinkled with nutmeg, is hardly a secret, and housed in a small venue decked out with vintage ethiopian furniture, they are often busy. Their hot chocolate is perfect, standing strong against the stiff competition in Brussels. But for me, the true star of this café is a cake – the passionfruit dacquoise. A thin layer of crème brûlée makes it perfectly crispy on top, which is followed by a velvety, intense passion fruit cream inside, and finished with a soft and chewy bottom of almond meringue. I cannot get enough of it. This beauty is actually not made by Aksum, but sourced from a local Marolles patisserie called Secret Gourmand (a hidden gem for ordering whole cakes). Apart from the delicious passionfruit dacquiose, they also serve pistachio and cherry cake, lime and almond cake, and a chocolate cake I never had the pleasure to try. But these cakes, coupled with the friendly service, delicious coffee and nice venue, makes it a good place for a Sunday treat.
Should you be heavily into coffee, Aksum is also a good place to shop – they import coffee beans from around the world, which is ground in a lovely old school grinder by the door. If you want to take some home, they have a selection of different beans and ways of grinding them. The Finnish owner gives clear advice about the best kind of coffee (and takes the time to answer emails about it). Finally, a little trivia for the Swedophiles: you might think of Italians first when listing coffee drinking nations, but people in the Nordics are even more crazy about their caffeine.
Settling into my new home in “Highbury approach” (aka Holloway road…), I’ve already found a little gem worth some extra attention: The Acoustic cafe, serving up Mediterranean (mainly Turkish) cuisine with some bits of British tucked in. Whilst not unknown to locals, its humble outside doesn’t draw as much attention from North London c-list celebs as The Blue Legume does. However, dare I say it, the breakfast here is more fusionesque and adventurous, and actually better (and being a longtime fan of the mediterranean breakfast at the Blue Legume, that’s a harsh statement coming from me).
On the day we went, Mr Meatball had the Bubble breakfast treat, which was a rather British plate with grilled tomato, fried field mushrooms, bacon and sausage as well as a little hill of potato bubble and poached eggs with hollandaise sauce on top. At £5.95 this is a filling, creamy option for a tender hungover stomach.
I had the classic mediterranean breakfast with amazing spicy lamb chipolatas (best chipolatas I’ve ever had), perfect buttery scrambled eggs, grilled halloumi, round pieces of grilled bread and a salad of grilled artichokes, olives, tomato and avocado. This was lovely and since I’m a massive artichoke love the £6.95 I had to trade for it didn’t feel very expensive. And those sausages! They were just sublime. I’m going to inquire about their sources next time I go.
To this little feast we also had freshly squeezed orange juice and grapefruit juice which were just as refreshing as they should be. It took a while for our water to arrive but it was sunny and busy on the day of our visit, and the service was very nice overall. It’s got a lovely spot next to Newington Green to sit and watch people, but sadly you don’t have the view of weddings found outside Islington town hall that the Blue Legume does (surely weddings are the ultimate people watching?). Nevertheless, The Acoustic Café is awarded 8 meatballs out of 10.
Another good reason to go here is that it’s in crawling distance to Newington Green Fruit and Veg, also known as The Best Greengrocers Ever, which is always worth a visit. Acoustic cafe is walking distance from both Highbury & Islington and Dalston Kingsland, and can be found here on the map:
(photo from the Delaunay website)
Since we are students we have not amassed the funds necessary to review the newly opened Delaunay restaurant yet (a relative to the widely respected fancy eatery The Wolseley), but its separate counter is a student-friendly, surprisingly cheap slice of central European café decadence. The Delaunay serves German/central European/Austrian food with a hint of New York, and since Meatball and Salted Cod are convinced that German food is underestimated this is most likely our new hangout around LSE.
Their sachertorte at £4.50 is according to Timeout the best sachertorte in London, and after a try we can confirm that it is perfectly soft and velvety, not too sweet, with an apple streak in the middle for perfect tangyness. Chocolate bliss for us who are a little dazed by the current trend of incredibly sweet and large American bakery. In fact, it might be best chocolate cake ever eaten by a meatball.
Their apple and poppyseed cake at £3 goes along the same trend of tasty while not too heavily reliant on sugar, and it is also amazing. It incorporates good and generous use of poppyseed, and the apple sauce really tasted of apple and not of artificial flavouring.
Their noisette at £1.90 and Melange £2.10 feel like the best coffees around Holborn, and as you can see from the photo, they are very beautiful too. Very mild, without even a bitter or sour tone.
The picture at the top of this entry is their salt beef pretzel. Whilst £6.50 is not exactly a student price for something the size of a sandwich, it comes with a side of creamy potato salad and is made up delicate, juicy beef, mustard (although not enough according to Mr Meatball) and gherkin. A nice lunch if you are treating yourself.
They have a cheaper lunch option in their hotdog which is £4. It comes with sauerkraut which is salty, sweet and tangy, and not too sour. Whilst I added more mustard to that as well, it tasted just like my childhood Swedish hotdogs (that might of course be an insult, but for me its a good thing).
The only minus for this place (and unfortunately it is a rather big one), is the service. Two of the three times we’ve visited it has bordered on rude, and it is not made better by the confusing counter system of large trays that you carry to your own table, only for it to be picked up by one of the waiters in the middle of you eating your food. It is rather disruptive of the otherwise lovely Delaunay experience. 7 meatballs out of 10 (with good service this would definitely be an 8.5/10).
Window view from the Delaunay. Salted cod in the foreground.
The Delaunay Counter, 55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB
Me and Miss salted cod are today reviewing one of the uni hangouts, the 4th floor café in the old building. A favourite among many because of its comfy chairs, old photos of 1920s LSE students and deli sandwich bar, it is arguably one of the best places for lunch on campus. But don’t get carried away – that is in comparison with other uni outlets, which, in all honesty, hardly send us through the roof.
Their americano is decent and studently priced at 1.20 (admittedly 70p more than the canteen coffee, but I still feel a bit nauseous after having one of those yesterday) and the deli sandwich bar has a nice chicken tikka filling which, whilst on the pricier side, is nicer than anything we’ve so far tasted in the canteen opposite of the café. Remember to go for the speciality bread because the normal is disappointingly small.
The queue system is painstakingly slow as no one really knows how the ordering at the deli bar works, so avoid going here ten minutes after the end of any lunch time lecture. Their cakes always look inviting but beware: the lemon drizzle is nice and zesty but the coffee and walnut – for all it’s glorious frosting – it’s not very walnutty and too sweet. Massive minus for the fact that they chanrge you 20p for a glass of water. 4.5 meatballs out of 10.
Troy is a quirky Turkish café along the Vietnamese belt on the bottom Kingsland road, notable for its walls covered in photos of muscular and oily wrestlers, as well as an odd but homely collection of art and miniature sculptures. Its atmosphere is friendly and familiar, with the owners greeting regulars with an handshake and (delicious) coffee on the house.
It has a generous salad buffe of hot and warm side-dishes, which you can pick and mix next to your main as much as you want. Highlights on the day we were there included savoury taramasalata (a pink mediterranean creamy sauce made with fish roe), Turkish pickles and boiled potatoes with mashed eggs and coriander. The Dürüm (like a wrap with skewered bits of minced lamb and salad) which I had was surprisingly filling and came down well with the home-made tsatsiki. Mr Meatball had a grilled panini with mozzarella, chicken escalope and grilled vegetables which was very good value. My wrap was perhaps on the pricier side for a student eater at £5,40, but it was herby and savoury enough to justify itself. When you are in the neighbourhood, this is a friendly haven with good street views to stare at the Hoxton crowd: granting it 7,5 meatballs out of 10 (secretly 8.5 for the lovely owners).
Troy, 124 Kingsland road, E2 8DP London