Thursday, 20 March 2014

U Cerného Beránka Café, Mostecká, Malá Strana - Praha 1

At last I find a cosy café! Some of those accents above aren't right, I know, but U Cerného Beránka Café in Prague is just a few yards from the Charles Bridge on the Hradcany side of the city (where Prague Castle can be found). The castle, incidentally, is the official residence and office of the president of the Czech Republic.
A haven of cosy.

But that's enough tourism, let's get back to the caff. Indeed, the word 'caff' does this place no justice at all as it's a haven of cosy, for cosy people. I'd walked all the way from the other side of town as the light was beginning to fade, crossing the main square and then the famous Charles Bridge and, after some mooching about, decided to investigate.

Inside, there were sofas and normal wooden tables and chairs, the lighting was dark, almost festive as, indeed, is the whole of Prague, and there were half a dozen people relaxing. The serving counter was towards the back where I found a small display of cakes: chocolate cake, carrot cake, cheesecake and and a rather excellent-looking honey cake. The service was friendly and efficient.

I could have ordered a cup of English breakfast tea but was tempted instead by the fresh ginger tea and ordered that plus a slice of the honey cake.

The tea was wonderful, consisting of sliced chunks of fresh ginger and hot water (what else?). The ginger sat at the bottom of the cup and I gave it enough time to infuse with the water, making a perfect and very warming/comforting drink – something I must remember for when I get home. The combination of the ginger tea and the honey cake was perfect and I sat there looking out on the world. If only I'd had a book to read or a newspaper.

View from across the street. The Charles Bridge is to the right of the café.

The bill was a respectable 175 Czech Crowns, which is nothing at all, let's see, something like £3.50, no more.

Fresh ginger tea with a slice of honey cake – absolutely fantastic.

Feeling relaxed and chilled I headed back over the Charles Bridge and followed the cobbled streets to the square and beyond. The light was fading fast as I passed a busker playing Strauss on a collection of wine glasses filled with water. You wouldn't get such a cultured busker in chavvy England.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Safa Kahvesi, Gulhane, Istanbul, Turkey

There are plenty of caffs in Istanbul, but I was hoping to find one that was cosy and welcoming. It proved to be quite difficult.
Safa Kahvesi – a bit boring and not that friendly. It certainly wasn't cosy!

Sitting on a tram en route to a place called Kabatas (pronounced Kabatash) I was intrigued by an area of Istanbul (well, a tram stop to be more precise) call Gulhane. I say I was intrigued, it was only that there appeared to be some cosy-looking venues worthy of investigation so, when I had some free time, I walked to Gulhane from my hotel and checked out a couple of places.

The first place I stumbled across – the place I'd seen from the tram – didn't really fit the bill (it was licensed and it was a restaurant). The second was Safa Kahvesi, which, from the outside, looked cosy. It could have been cosy too, but there was something not quite right: it wasn't friendly. It wasn't unfriendly either, but there was something miserable about it that lingered and that meant that I wasn't going to stay too long.
Turkish tea – no milk, horrible.

Turkish tea. Something needs to be said. For a start is it really Turkish tea or is it just that the Turks drink their tea in a kind of egg timer glass without milk, but served with a couple of sugar cubes? In other words, is the tea inside the cup Lipton's or PG Tips? It would have been pointless asking anybody this question.

Anyway, I chose Safa Kahvesi, bowled in, took a pew and ordered some tea. Sure enough it arrived in one of those egg timer glasses and it was black tea, which, without milk, is terribly bitter and dries out the mouth. I can't say I was happy. There was little in the way of food available and when I asked for some they said I couldn't have any. Perhaps it was the wrong time of day, I don't know.

There were other customers but none of them appeared to be enjoying themselves or relaxing into their environment: this was a case of coming in, ordering, drinking and going.

There was a pleasant-looking display of Turkish sweets and delicacies and the woman behind the counter said it was alright when I asked if I could take a photograph, but there ended the experience.
Safa Kahvesi's sweets selection – I didn't buy any.

On offer was various coffees, espresso, cappuccino and tea, served as described above. The tea, it must be said, took a while to cool sufficiently before I could drink it (another bummer when you're in a hurry to escape). I suppose I could have just left it, but that would have been a waste of money.

Snacks were available, but not to me for some reason. They included kurabiye tabagi (translated to 'cookie plate') in small and large sizes.

Verdict? Not impressed. Unfriendly staff, I couldn't order food, the Turkish tea was bitter, there was no milk (and I knew that if I asked for milk they would have problems understanding me). It was time to leave, which I did, promptly.