Absalon

The Danes are a notoriously secular population, however this doesn’t stop them making full use of their churches. Nestled in the heart of the Vesterbro district in Copenhagen, Absalon is one example of an innovative use of space that could otherwise be left untouched….

Absalon is a church located on Sønder Boulevard in Vesterbro, a stone’s throw away from the Meatpacking District and Central Station. It is open every day with a huge range of activities to suit every interest.

Fleamarkets (or ‘loppemarked’ in Danish) are held on the weekends where you can pick up anything from a vintage jacket or a pair of Adidas trainers, to kitchen utensils and paintings.

There are a range of yoga classes including Vinyasa flow, Hatha and yoga for children, all held throughout the week with experienced teachers. You can even join a capoeira class or take part in a session of swing dancing. If sports are not your thing, there are also quizzes and board game evenings, sometimes accompanied by a live band! There is a bar where you can refuel with a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine depending on what time of day it is. There is no end to interesting and sociable events happening at Absalon every day.

However, I think one of the best parts of Absalon is the daily food on offer (dinner during the week, and brunch on Sundays) which are both affordable and delicious. Diners sit on long tables next to one another, emphasising the egalitarian and community-driven nature of Absalon.

The sentiment, “consider Absalon as an extension of your living room”, sums up the warm, inviting and sociable atmosphere that the team behind it has created. Whether you need a hungover Sunday morning brunch, or want to search for one-off finds in the fleamarket, I recommend this multi-functional church next time you find yourself in Vesterbro.


absaloncph.dk

www.facebook.com/absaloncph

Sønder Boulevard  73
1720 Copenhagen


Main photo by Tine Rosenkilde


George Street Canteen

To say I was pretty damn pleased when I first discovered the George Street Canteen would not be an exaggeration. As a long-time St Albanser, I was happy to see that a fashionable yet unpretentious and accessible socialising joint had opened in the centre’s midst. I’ve long been worried about this historic city losing its character, and the almost simultaneous openings of a Pret and a Costa – side by side on the main shopping street – a few years ago had only served to cement my negative feelings.

The George Street Canteen is everything Pret and Costa are not. It is family-run, characterful and hidden. A homely secret you’ll only know about if you look for it.

In summer, the courtyard is bustling with people and their dogs munching at the picnic tables. In the colder months, the courtyard is still sometimes bustling, thanks to a marquee with patio heaters. Inside, the Canteen is divided to a kitchen and room with a serving counter to the right, and a cosy dining room to the left. These multiple rooms give the place its homely and retro feel; the latter effect is multiplied by the peg walls and diner-style tables.

Food wise, you’re in for a treat whether you’re a meat eater, vegetarian, or gluten-free. Thanks to a previous visit before my vegetarian days, I can report that the ham-hock and wholegrain mustard sandwich, served on fluffy brown bread with crisps and coleslaw, is divine. My most recent visit involved a Mediterranean breakfast, but with the chorizo swapped for halloumi. The perfectly-cooked salty cheese and soft sweet potatoes provided a varied backdrop for bursting twin bubbles of poached eggs and juicy, roasted cherry tomatoes. These were served with a pot of avocado mash for good measure. This came in at £7.95 on its own, or £9.95 with fruit juice and a hot drink.

More importantly than anything, though, the home-made dog biscuits were absolutely delicious. Well, so my pooch’s face suggested.

Overall, the George Street Canteen does a great job at bringing a cosmopolitan but individual feel to a small city whose chain stores can sometimes make it feel like a smaller copycat of the ginormous capital city that is its neighbour. Considering how so many of its residents are commuters to the metropolis, the more places like this that St Albans can sprout, the more it will feel like a quirky and fashionable destination in its own right.


georgestreetcanteen.co.uk

9a George Street,
St. Albans
AL3 4ER
+44 1727 831540


Pinkmans Bakery

A fairly recent addition to the plethora of buzzing cafés and restaurants to grace Bristol’s Park Street, Pinkmans offers a huge variety of fresh food on a daily basis, as well as cocktails, beers and wines further into the evening.

Upon arriving, you’re instantly drawn to the incredible display of cakes, salads and jam-packed rolls on show in glass cabinets, and soon become part of the audience of admiring customers. Pinkmans, being primarily a bakery, also offers a vast array of freshly baked breads – as they say themselves, ‘Bread out the oven at 8am’. From a white sourdough to a more adventurous ‘walnut boule’ (toasted walnuts and black treacle), this truly is a baker’s heaven. Inside, the décor is simple and minimalist – with rows of filament bulbs and long benches making maximum use of the fairly small interior.

For breakfast, a range of meals, including smashed sweet chilli avocado and salsa on toast (£5.50) are available until midday, or til 2p.m. on weekends. Lunches include salads, ciabattas as well as more hearty tagines and hot dishes. Having been to Pinkmans a few times, I decided to branch out and try one of their sourdough pizzas, which you can see being prepared and baked in the ovens at the back of the café. I went for the artichoke pizza (£8.50) – with toppings of artichokes, garlic, pepper, pesto and ricotta. The sourdough base made for a delicious, chewy crust, complemented by the excellent mix of garnishes.

With something for everybody, Pinkmans stands out as a café which attempts and succeeds in providing their customers with fresh food and drinks, making for a relaxed but stylish dining experience.


85 Park Street, Bristol
BS1 5PJ
0117 403 2040


Tradewind Espresso

Whitewashed walls, hotchpotch furnishings and a counter teaming with dainty almond friands and hefty carrot cakes, Tradewind Espresso is an instagrammer’s dream. Occupying just a small footprint at the upper end of Whiteladies Road, with a little nifty design, owners Patrick and Tahi host seating for around 20 sippers and slurpers inside and another dozen or so in their wood-clad hidden garden.

Set up in September 2015 and business relation to Roasted Rituals, the Hengrove-based roastery, coffee is at the centre of this independent venture. With V60 filter methods and no paper French Press, you would be forgiven for feeling this is all a little too ‘on-trend’. Fear not, high chairs and local businessmen sit alongside the monochrome ‘straight out of Shoreditch’. Both beautiful and welcoming, this is style with substance.

Behind the perfectly scattered cushions and chunky wooden tables lies an unadulterated dedication to quality, the perfectly balanced coffee clearly benefits from their direct connection to source. Custom blends and single origin roasts vary on rotation, but you can be sure to rely on Highground, the house espresso blend offered year-round for its weight and complexity, versatile enough be supped alone or as part of a milkier creation.

Though their caffeinated offerings sit centre stage, the imaginative all-day brunch menu (available until 3pm) threatens to steal the show. Almost compulsory in Bristol these days, produce is sourced with attention to locality and seasonality, and everything that can be is made in house – nut milks, chutneys and cakes included. Sweet caramelised onions sit atop a pillowy soft rosemary focaccia, generously dolloped with peppery rocket pesto, spicy chorizo and oozy poached eggs (£9); an accomplished French toast (using house made brioche) provides the perfect sticky vehicle for cinnamon roast pears, a not overly sweet blackberry compote, creamy mascarpone and crunchy toasted buckwheat (£8); meanwhile the traditional Full English is lifted with smoky baked beans, wilted spring greens and slow roasted tomato.

With a well-priced menu of this calibre, Tradewind Espresso has firmly asserted its place on the teeming Bristol café scene.


www.tradewindespresso.com
118 Whiteladies Road
Bristol
BS8 2RP
0117 974 3477


Photos by Tradewind Espresso


Café Pushkin

Café Pushkin is found on a stretch of road in Leipzig with more independents than chains. But this café is different. To start with, the creeping vines over the golden and maroon exterior, at once warm and inviting, makes Pushkin frankly impossibly to miss. And yet inside, you are transported somewhere else entirely. The Slavic influenced interior and memorabilia on the walls gives a nod to the 19th Century Russian poet, the café’s namesake.

I first came here on a drab Monday morning and pushing back the heavy velvet curtains revealed a cosy and warm café – the perfect refuge from the rain.  As a big tea fan I was delighted to see their great selection of loose leaf teas. There are also thirteen different hot chocolates to choose from – all very authentic, consisting of melted chocolate in a mug.

The breakfasts are infamous, too. You can rely on getting a hearty breakfast here a ‘Bauernomelett’ (which translates as the farmer’s omelette) will set you back €7.50 but is guaranteed to fill you up until dinner. That’s if you can get a seat. By 10.30am on a Saturday they are usually full and customers stand hovering by the entrance waiting to catch the next available table. There are also lunch and dinner menus and some satirical titles, such as ‘Formidabel cheese’ (a huge cheese burger) and ‘Huhnululu’ (Hawain inspired ‘Huhn’ chicken dish) are both inventive and ‘punny’. Their burger menu, the ‘Burgeramt’, is another amusing play on words for Germans’ love of bureaucracy and burgers.

‘Das Chillum’, which roughly translates as the ‘chill lounge’, is where the shisha-bar can be found, with countless numbers of cocktails and great music. Having been to Pushkin at various times of day for food and drink, I look forward to trying their evening set up.


www.cafepuschkin.de

Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 74,
04275 Leipzig
 +49 341 3910105 


Photo by Bethan Donaghey


Toma Café

This intimate little café is tucked away in one of Madrid’s small and winding backstreets in the trendy and pretty Malasaña district. Serving up excellent iced coffees in cool aluminium cups, the cafe provides a relaxing retreat from the intense heat of the day in the Spanish capital.

Toma Café is one of plenty of small, new independent businesses springing up in the city as it continues to forge its identity one of Europe’s coolest capitals. My recent visit to the city made me wonder why it remains so underrated as a holiday spot- particularly in relation to it’s beachside competitor, Barcelona. The city is fun and lively and full of young people (and not too many tourists!) and Toma Café is reflective of this.

With fast and friendly staff and a selection of delicious cakes, including chocolate and Guinness cake which I didn’t manage to try, but heard it is amazing, Toma Café is a great spot to grab brunch or relax with a coffee and watch hip young locals wander in and out (sometimes with their adorable dogs, see gallery below).


http://www.tomacafe.es/

Calle de la Palma, 49,
28004 Madrid
+34 917 02 56 20


Mr. Vertigo

Mr.Vertigo is a relaxed and friendly cafe/restaurant in the North-Western part of Mitte in Berlin. Fresh salads, sandwiches and Mediterranean themed dishes are to be expected.

Unlike most other city areas of this description, that being those also brimming with museums and grand government facades, here, in the North-West Mitte area of Berlin there is a serious lack of good independent munch. Walking down the wide, outstretched roads, the lightly scattered food and beverage establishments are few and far in between, often weighed down by their mass market name tag or limited opening hours. An unfortunate factor if you fall out of the usual meal-time patterns, something not difficult to do in Berlin.

Varied, creative and healthy options are even harder to come by. Germany understandably runs a booming bread-based business machine, which is admirable, but again can also be a limiting factor for last-minute, light-weight meal options.

However then, there is Mister Vertigo. Despite arriving at four in the afternoon, there was still enough choice for us to request more time before placing our order. Exciting salads, made fresh every day range in colour and taste, to be eaten in or to be taken away (5-7€). Baked potatoes (5-6€), omelettes (5-6€), Paninis (3-4€) or hotter, slightly larger meals are also on the cards.

What I would 100% recommend here are the refreshing home brewed smoothies and juices – nothing better to quench the thirst on a hot summer’s day. We opted for pineapple and mint, and something with a strawberry flavor – perfectly pure & simple.

Seats can be found outside as well as in, depending on the weather. You will find yourself on a main road, but like much of the German Capital, roads are fairly empty in comparison to their European counterparts.

The owner and chef, Tarek Al Hussein caters mainly for the daytime and business trade. However, the average Businessman’s lunch price tag is not something you will find here. The food is not only accompanied with friendly and efficient service, but with an affordable price tag too. I hear the English breakfast is also something of a Berlin attraction, but on this occasion, as an English woman I had to at least try and avoid the stereotype, my attempt to somewhat integrate a bit more into German culture. However, if you do give it a go… report back with your thoughts!


http://www.mistervertigo.de/
17 Chaussestraße
10115, Berlin
+49 163 6010110


Vetro

Le Serre dei Giardini is Bologna’s metropolitan hub for innovation and promotion of start-up culture, managed by the Kilowatt association. Its main aim is to serve as a space for incubating start-up companies, and providing them with shared offices, services and events. The hub is located in Bologna’s largest park, the Margherita gardens, which becomes lively with picnic blankets, bicycles and outdoor sports whenever the sun is shining. The Serre’s main building has a glass greenhouse-shaped wing attached to it, the hub’s own restaurant and café, called Vetro after the material it is made out of.

The best thing about Vetro is its unusual outdoor seating, consisting of wooden tables in booths among the vegetable garden’s herbs and vegetables. The menu includes a brunch option, a trend that new eateries in Bologna like to adopt, breaking with the traditional Italian eating times. The food is composed of natural and healthy ingredients, with a lot of fruit and vegetables chosen according to the season. However, please take note that they do not offer special vegan or gluten-free options! The brunch menu comes to 15€, and includes two ‘sandwiches’ with roasted vegetables and fish, bread and jam (the texture of which was more like jelly), yogurt, fruit, juice and coffee. There are also smaller options if you’re not feeling that hungry, and a cappuccino is only 1,10€ for those looking for a good cup of coffee. On the other side of the central outdoor seating area is a bar, offering a great setup for a drink on summer evenings, decorated with fairy lights and accompanied with events such as film screenings or concerts. In winter months the bar is closed but the restaurant, which also has plenty of indoor seating, stays open.

This brand new meeting place is great for escaping the city’s busy streets at the weekend. The Margherita gardens are one of Bologna’s most beautiful sights, and only a short walk away from the city centre. So instead of having to bring a picnic to spend the day enjoying the green open space, when tummies start to rumble Vetro is perfect for a refreshing meal among the mint, lettuce and tomatoes.


Homepage

Via Castiglione,
134, 40136
Bologna,
Italy


Le Sésame

Hoping to show off the charms of Canal Saint Martin to my mum, whose “beloved Paris” really only includes the Haussman boulevards and cobbled streets of the centre, I wanted to take her to a lunch spot right on the banks of the canal.

A quick Google search later, and we were on our way to Le Sésame. It was everything I had hoped for and more. A cheerful little place with coral awning outside and light blue walls inside, it was the perfect refuge from the rain. We certainly felt a lot more cheerful ourselves when we emerged an hour later.

The menu offers a tempting selection of simple but filling dishes. A large portion of these are available as either a small (around €7) or large plate (around €13), meaning the menu is flexible for whatever levels of hunger. I opted for the vegetable curry and rice: a thick orangey number with aubergines and red peppers which was absolutely delicious. A homemade honey and ginger lemonade provided a refreshing accompaniment.

Mum’s flavoursome vegetable soup came with two little slices of crusty fried bread, and her Cobb salad was judged “top notch”. Next time, I plan to dig into one of the thickly packed, seeded bagels that I spotted being delivered to the table next to us.

As well as the individual options, the team au Sésame  create a whole menu out of the set menus themselves. There are two to choose from at breakfast (€7-12); three at lunch (€8-15); some tasting menus; some apéro deals, plus a brunch ‘formule’. This café-restaurant really does cover all bases.

Beyond the trusty food choices, Sésame regularly holds ‘vernissages’ (art previews) as well as more permanent exhibitions. A programme on their website also suggests they occasionally host live bands too.

Another insight provided by the website was that, for a large part, the café is run by a team of girlfriends. A video montage showing them preparing drinks and sandwiches whilst smiling and hugging each other, to the soundtrack of ‘More Than a Woman’ by the Bee Gees, almost had me running out the office of my internship to hand in my CV…

Above all, Le Sésame says ‘fresh’. Opting to ditch the bare light bulbs sported by so many hipster establishments these days, in favour of the colourful décor and star-shaped night lights, it’s obvious these girls aren’t trying to be anything they’re not.


www.au-sesame.com

 

51 Quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris

 

+33 1 42 49 03 21


La Bicicleta Cycling Café and Workplace

Oozing a laid-back atmosphere during the day, La Bicicleta serves as a perfect workplace thanks to its ambient music, streams of natural light, and of course not to mention the all-essential speedy wifi. The large communal tables and cosy worn-out leather arm chairs make it all the easier to chat to the healthy mix of locals and travellers who frequent the joint whilst enjoying a hot drink, natural juice or bite to eat.

La Bicicleta Cycling Café and Workplace serves the classic smashed avocado and poached egg on rye toast, as well as a healthy array of other brunch options, delicious baked goods and sweet treats (all come in hearty portions, may I add!)

If that is not enough for it to qualify at the ultimate hipster temple, by night the space transforms into a bustling bar that serves a mean G&T. And being located in the centre of lively plaza, it is in the perfect location for enjoying a couple of drinks before heading on to one of the many clubs that Malasaña has to offer.

‘But where does the cycling come into play?’ I hear you cry! La Bicicleta boasts a large selection of cycling-specific books, as well as holding regular talks and events related to the two-wheeled world. Enthusiasts can also head downstairs to the workshop where they can store and repair their bikes using the free tool bank.

La Bicicleta also hosts the weekly language exchange called ‘After Lingual’ (every Wednesday from 8.30pm). This allows visitors to practice Spanish (or whatsoever desired language) in a chilled environment.

Madrid’s first (self-proclaimed) cycling café is a social hub not to be missed. And although not the cheapest in the area, the cool décor and unique vibe are well worth the extra couple of euros.


www.labicicletacafe.com

 

Plaza de San Ildefonso 9, Malasaña 28004, Madrid

 

+34 915 32 97 42


Anna Blume

Situated in one of the prettier parts of Berlin, surrounded by boutique shops, colourful buildings, and tall trees, Anna Blume sits on the corner of a wide Prenzlauer berg avenue, taking pride of place as a café, restaurant and, uniquely, florist.

Despite the floral accompaniment, it isn’t the smell of fresh flowers that hits you when you first walk in the door, but the sight of huge, homemade cakes displayed within the service counter. Immediately appealing to that ‘eyes are bigger than your belly’ problem; alongside the impressive cakes, the Anna Blume menu has a lot to offer and we tried and tested a fair amount of it. Our order included toasted cheese croissants, chicken and mushroom ragu, Orrecchiette pasta, and even their specialty brunch tier stand, which is fit genuinely for royalty. Drinks also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with recommendations of the cold chocolate milkshake, frothy hot choc, and house beer.

Anna Blume has a wide and heavily decked out terrace with chairs and tables at the front for warmer days, or for those who are willing to brave the Berlin chill during the winter months, there are various patio heaters to huddle around.

Although we were a group of seven arriving at a very busy time, they didn’t turn us away and tried to accommodate us as quickly as possible. It must be said that service was friendly and at their best attentive throughout. However, if a larger group… I’d advise booking (see number below).

Later on the Anna Blume café turns into a nonchalant and easy-going evening bar, with a visibly increased uptake of their extensive drinks list. Warm or cold cakes and food are available until 10pm.

It is also worth noting that cakes can also be ordered for events or special occasions.

Enjoy!


www.cafe-anna-blume.de

Kollwitzstraße 83
10435 Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg

+49 30 440 487 49


La Bellevilloise

As officially my favourite place in the whole of Paris, La Bellevilloise has turned my current career prospects upside down. Forget journalism, now the plan is to start a place exactly like it in Bristol or London. One day, one day.

Why? Firstly, having restored and reopened it in 2005, the three actors who run it have established it as a real artistic hub in the very cool area that is Belleville. I get the feeling it very much contributes to the spirit of the neighbourhood.

Secondly, the setting is unique. Built in 1877 by 20 labourers as the first cooperative in Paris, it feels like an old warehouse space. The main focal point of La Bellevilloise is the signature ‘Halle aux Oliviers’. This giant room with its hangar-height corrugated plastic roof (which lets in the sunlight), mezzanine, bar, and tables set round olive trees, is where most of the restaurant-related activity takes place.

Add to this the club room, the courtyard, the exhibition hall, and the upstairs terrace, and you’ve got a veritable citadel of fun.

Thirdly, due to this diverse setting, the aforementioned fun on offer really covers all grounds. The weekly jazz buffet brunch – so popular you have to book in advance – is hands down the best possible way to spend a Sunday morning. I’ve been twice now, so impressed was I by the unlimited eggs, sausages, curly chips, salmon fillets, smoked salmon, mediterranean salad, cured meats, tomato salad, waffles, brownies, crepes, île-flottant, fruit salad, juice, hot drinks… plus a live jazz band.

Gilles Peterson does a regular ‘tea-time’ Sunday DJ set in the club room; Stormzy played his first gig in France there in 2016; there are sometimes bigger all-night events. The exhibition hall holds a regular affordable art fair; the upstairs terrace is home to yoga classes in summer. I’ve been told the Sunday salsa evenings are also unmissable.

I do have a tendency to exaggerate everything and call every place ‘my favourite’, but hopefully by now, I have justified myself. This really is my favourite.


www.labellevilloise.com

 19-21 Rue Boyer, 75020 Paris
+33 46 36 07 07