Another of many non-British coffee shops on Leith Walk, Gaia is primarily and Italian deli. Indeed, full of non-perishable foods for sale, such as dry pastas, fresh meats and biscotti, it certainly is the place to stock up on authentic Italian goods; not so much if you’re after authentic (read: best) Italian coffee – but it’s definitely worth a visit.
I walk past this place virtually every day on my way to town, and although it certainly caught my eye – the outer walls painted bright orange – I never thought much of it, especially not in terms of a coffee shop, despite the two give away tables outside where on any non-rainy day there would be someone sipping a cuppa. The other day I stepped in following a recommendation, and although I tried to keep my mind open, I went in with high hopes for a taste of Italy.
On the deli side this place probably doesn’t disappoint – probably, as personally I never sought any specific Italian produce and I cannot say that this place stocks it. There are, however, many items to choose from, including fresh sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and cheeses, all on display in the glass cases, as they are also used to compose a salad or sandwich of one’s choice right on the spot.
On the cafe side, well, the first thing my greedy self noted was that there weren’t many pastries available, although a bun studded with grapes stood out among the other few rolls. I stuck to the coffee, which here is called a mocchacino. I took a seat on the sofa by the window and waited for the coffee to be delivered to the table by a smiling Italian chef/waiter. There was Italian pop music on and a drawing of Sicily on the wall; the customers also looked Italian; but I didn’t feel the Mediterranean spirit as I did in Sprio.
The soya mocchacino was good; slightly on the hotter side and the foam on top was quite thick, but it was certainly of nicer texture than the coffee at Word of Mouth. It had pleasant sweetness to it to the last drop and the layers of coffee and foam worked well together. Some thick chocolate residue on the bottom suggested use of good quality cocoa – or some effort on the part of the barista to dissolve it. A nice surprise was that there was no surcharge for soy milk – and the coffee was surprisingly cheap.
Overall, Gaia Delicatessen is a place to stop by when you’re looking for a quiet retreat or a take-away beverage of better quality than your average grab-and-go stop; it’s much more value for your pocket money.
Verdict justification: Good quality coffee – but not the Italian dream I hoped for
Gaia Delicatessen, 32 Crighton Place, Edinburgh, 0131 553 7333
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