Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Market Coffee House

I had entirely too much caffeine today. I'm sure that's why my stomach was acting up during dance class. Shortly after waking up, P. called to ask if I'd like a coffee, so off we went to Market Coffee House as that was the only non-chain coffee shop I could think of which also had decent seats. Given my new phone, I, naturally had to take a photo of my large cappuccino (£2.20, eating in), in a style I've come to think of as the eggsbaconchipsandbeans shot.

P., rather surprisingly, opted to eat breakfast in the form of a bagel. This was unusual on two counts: P. does not usually eat breakfast, but I guess that's his post-interview reflex, while mine is just to go shopping, and, secondly, he's not a sandwich kind of guy, whereas I am. In any case, I had made myself bircher muesli for the week as part of my *cough* diet so I wasn't going to eat anything.

While there, in between the barista's rather aggressive banging of that little coffee scoop which I don't have the technical name for, and his valiant attempts at singing, I noticed that they, too, had a La Marcozzo machine, and a considerably older and more weathered version than the one at Bea's. I just had to take a photo... just for the heck of it.

This was my third time in Market Coffee House, and I've always found the place rather cosy, and the service decent. There's even a little board near the counter where people can advertise, which is something I like to look at just to learn about the area. I feel it also makes the cafe a little more communal. I don't quite know what I'm trying to get at here. I guess it's just a neighbourly sort of place, kind of like Central Perk in Friends.


Later on in the day, I found myself in the vicinity of Soho and decided to check out Princi, Alan Yau's new budget informal joint venture with Milan gourmet baker Rocco Princi. I was rather hungry as it was close to 4 pm and I hadn't had lunch yet, and acutely aware that I was still economising, so I opted for a greche (italian bread with olive and tomatoes), a selvanera (a chocolate sponge cake) and a cappuccino. I know I'd already had my one coffee for the day, but how could you go into an Italian cafe/restaurant/anything and not drink coffee? And all this for just £6.50!

Princi's quite a bit like Cha Cha Moon was. It's unexpectedly cheap in spite of its central location, and, yet, the restaurant looks anything but cheap. Princi has a rather classy layout even though customers do share tables. It's because of the mood lighting, liberal use of glass and the presence of a fountain by the side of the restaurant. I guess this is where Alan Yau's influence has come in as I doubt you'll find any feng shui elements in the original Milanese outlets!

Service can be a little erratic. There's no queueing system; you just walk up to the part of the counter which has the stuff you want, and walk along the rest of the way, getting everything else you want. This resulted in my standing helplessly at the counter for some time before getting someone's attention, even though the place seemed a little overstaffed, with eight people behind the counter (though they were walking in and out of the kitchen as well) and two customers including myself. It reminded me of Mangiare, which seems to suffer from the same overstaffing problem. Maybe it's an Italian thing.

The food was okay, just so you know. The bread was too salty, while the cake wasn't chocolate-y enough. The cappuccino also tasted a little too milky. I guess that might be why I didn't feel too comfortable later in the evening. Maybe it was just too much caffeine or lactose for my system to take.

Still, I'm not sure if I tried anything worthwhile. I didn't try any pizzas or salads, so perhaps those are better options. If the pizzas are as good as Mangiare's, then I'll definitely return to try it one day. I'm rather doubtful about this though, because a) I know Mangiare's pizzas are good and b) I now know that their portions are larger and cheaper than Princi's. In any case, if Rocco Princi is a gourmet baker, then surely the baked goods I chose should be good as well? I guess one can't complain if it's that affordable and right smack in the middle of central London!

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