Monday, November 23, 2009

Cruisin' Cafes: London, England

I was given a task back in the first grade. At the mere age of six or seven, I, along with my classmates, was instructed by my somewhat feared teacher Miss Cullen to draw a picture of a place I wanted to visit more than any other. There were two ground rules: one, we could not select another planet; two, it had to be outside of the United States. Given my frequent viewings of Superman, and adoring the premise of stepping into a cherry red telephone booth to transform into someone with amazing powers, I chose London, England – after all, the one thing I knew about the country was that those very same phone booths were everywhere. Fast forward fifteen years, and I am still obsessed with “the Queen’s little place in the country.” Thus the reason why our second café journey is to London, England!

Maison Bertaux I’ve always wanted to be Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I have worshipped her for many, many years – aspiring to hold fast to her wide-eyed innocence, and jumble of thrill and surprise that seemingly overwhelms her when introduced to something new. Stepping one foot into Maison Bertaux, and you can’t help but feel like the golden-haired girl with imagination galore; for one moment you’re on a gritty Soho street, the next you’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole into a glorious little gem of a café which doubles as a quirky cake and pastry shop that would make Marie Antoinette herself giddy.

Founded in 1871, the true charm and enchantment of Maison Bertaux is in its aesthetic. Dainty china, pink shabby chic décor, and Parisian patisserie influences converge as one to create a cozy little nook which features an upstairs tea room for savoring warm drinks on blustery rainy days, and a slightly cramped – yet over the top quaint – downstairs sitting area should you feel the desire to gaze upon the pretty pastries being crafted on premises. Have a Coconut Macaroon or two for me, s’il vous plait! 28 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 5DD.

The Coffee Cup Perhaps I’m fazed by the history that Hampstead’s The Coffee Cup harbors – since it’s opening in 1951, its doorway has been graced by Paul McCartney, Sting, Emma Thompson, and Betty Grable. But I like to attribute my adoration of the spot to the cramped, run down style which wraps you up in the type of warmth synonymous with a snuggly scarf or plaid blanket huddled under in front of the fireplace as you slowly sip steaming coffee out of oversized mugs.

Inside, there is a rustic, log cabin type of cultivation courtesy of the wood paneled walls, out of sight cubbyholes perfect for curling up with a good book, and retro stools, all of which serve to create a noir-influenced elegance not often seen in more recently built establishments; while outside sits a handful of outdoor tables perfect for people watching as you down cup after cup of scrummy cappuccino. Just don’t forget to couple it with carrot cake topped with ice cream – the ideal complement to your toasty drink. 74 Hampstead High Street, Hampstead, London, NW3 1QX.

Poetry Café It is not surprising I should find myself head over heels with Covent Garden’s Poetry Café; after all, it is like a little slice of New York City’s Greenwich Village extracted and plunked down in the middle of London.

Poetry Café is a true-life version of the coffee shops that manage to pop up in literature all the time, but rarely appear in reality. It is a beatnik location that poses as a simple café and bar organized for people to shoot the breeze with strangers over wicked brews concocted right before your eyes in the mornings and afternoons; then, just before an event begins in the evening, everything changes. Seats are vacated and crowds of people shuffle down to the basement, cappuccinos and warm brownies in hand, and cozy up to plush sofas as various London-based artists take the stage. It’s a jazzy little place brimming with nostalgia; you’ll never want to leave! 22 Betterton St., London, WC2H 9BX.

Which of these London cafes would you like to cruise?

Fashionably yours!

Thanks to We ♥ It for the pictures.

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