Monthly Archives: March 2012

Leo’s Beanery

I got really excited about this place; a true gem I found by chance.

Having visited Stockbridge for a cup of coffee at a recommended cafe (review coming soon) I was making my way back thinking of anything else but another beverage. I was looking at the clear blue skies above (not a common scene in Edinburgh recently), not at the little shops dotted on Howe Street I was passing by. Yet, I glanced at an A-board outside one of these venues; handwritten “coffee” brought me back to earth and made me stop in my ways. A second to rationalise about what I was about to do – two coffees in the space of an hour? That’s surely not a good idea! But the place was pulling me like a magnet, and I felt like a treasure seeker who spotted a chest buried in the sand.

It’s not hard to miss Leo’s Beanery, as it’s one of those Stockbridge/New Town businesses located on the basement level; if not for the A-board AND the chattering of a few happy people enjoying their coffee and sun combination outside, I would have probably obliviously walked past it. Thank goodness for weather-miracles in Scotland!

Inside Leo's Beanery

Inside felt bright, fresh and inviting; centrally located till looked like its purpose was just to be a surface from which the barista would pick up a beverage or a cake to serve it to a customer – not a barrier separating the cafe and the “staff only zone”. Right by it, a barista was busy making coffees, unobstructed by walls or equipment, exposed to all visitors, who could freely observe his every move (thanks to which I could change my milk choice to soy in the last minute, before he started steaming the whole one). The cake choices were intriguing and tempting (I would sure like to try the toasted coconut loaf next time), and the coffee menu – abundant and fairly priced. And the staff? Friendly, helpful and very understanding, considering that I was a bit of a pain. My change of milk request wasn’t met with any kind of annoyance, and the barista even bothered to rinse the jug to prep it for soya.

Soy Mocha at Leo's Beanery

These surroundings were simply a prelude to a great cup of mocha.Dense and creamy, perfect temperature and with a bit of latte art on top, which can be tricky using soy milk. And although it was Alpro Soya Original (the sweetened variety), the sweetness of the coffee itself was not overwhelming but pleasantly satisfying. A piece that truly makes you sad to see the bottom of the cup.

Leo’s Beanery was established in 2010 by a couple: Joe and Marie. They wanted to set up a community coffee shop that would cater for the locals, but it feels more than that. As an outsider, I felt at home in this spacious, kind of a modern-rustic interior, which somehow conveys their Artisan Roast pride and in a way resembles the Fairtrade advocates Urban Angel a few blocks away (I have no personal views on Fairtrade and rather mixed experiences of Angel’s food; I did like, however, their simplistic decor and the atmosphere of relaxed professionalism about the place).

Although whatever lies on this side of Queen Street seems to miss out on the weekly invasion of hungry and thirsty New Town clientele (ending their search in better or worse George Street venues), I certainly think that at Leo’s crossing that road will be highly rewarding. Enjoy the tranquillity before the word spreads!

http://www.leosbeanery.co.uk/ (coming soon)

Categories: Cafes, Edinburgh, Hidden, UK | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Falko

They say the best pastries come from France, and the best chocolate from Belgium. But there’s another player on the Kuchen scene, and a strong competitor too, that is: Germany.

Bruntsfield Place once again proves its worth on the Edinburgh coffee arena with this Artisan gem. Not to be confused with Artisan Roast, the Falko Konditorei prides itself in mastering the traditional skills of bread and cake baking, and shares the results of its work with the locals.

Mocha and apple strudel at Falko

I’m not particularly savvy on German sweet produce, apart from strudels and Stollen cake, yet, the moment I saw the little bakery tucked at the very end of the line of shops on the corner of Bruntsfield Place, I knew I could not give that one a miss: original signage in the mother language and golden loaves on wire shelves in the window promised an experience from the heart of Europe (I reckon, a crispy, freshly baked bread is something not many Brits can truly appreciate). But having hardly been to Germany in my caffeine-conscious life, I didn’t know what to expect from their coffee.

Inside did not disappoint: a shaded yet somehow luminous interior invited to sit down with a newspaper and a sweet bun; and so did a bar-lady in an unmistakable strong accent. I ordered a mocha, of course, and a cinnamon swirl, which in the last minute I changed to an apple strudel; after all, not every day do I have an opportunity to try an authentic bake at the base. And when I saw the other table receive their teas with lemon squeezers sitting on top of the cups, my excitement doubled.

I have to say, I was rather anxious taking my first sip of that coffee; but that one sip put a huge smile on my face and made me relax in my chair, despite having to be somewhere else ten minutes later. This was a worthy, although unexpected challenger to the excellence of Project Coffee, just across the road; and to my taste, it passed the test.

Although the chocolate was Swiss, not German, the coffee was nothing short of a Konditormeister perfection. Smooth, dense and sweet, but on the dark cocoa side. The apple strudel was a bit disappointing, however; I think that if it had been warmed in an oven, and not a microwave, the pastry would have got back its crispness, lost whilst sitting in the pastry case. Despite that, it was mouth watering, rich in apples and raisins (spiked with rum!), and fitted my coffee just right.

As to the staff, they were professional and helpful; when it turned out I had to run to a cash machine for change to pay, I was let go without a blink of an eye or a funny look.

I think it is no news that foreign signature venues are always worthy exploring; although there is no rule that will grant a satisfying visit, Falke for sure is one of those places that encourages me to discover German cuisine further; let me know if you share the same sentiment.

http://www.falko.co.uk/

Categories: Cafes, Edinburgh, Local, UK | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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