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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Kwak – A Fine Belgian Beer

February 9, 2009 4 comments

Considering how much time I’m spending here in Brussels (and Belgium in general), it makes sense for me to post about some of the things I like/love here. Eventually I will do the whole top 5 posts for things like beers and cafes, but those will come at the end of the trip… in the meantime, one beer that has attracted my attention is the Kwak

 

Kwak is brewed by the family-run brewery named Brewery Bosteels in Buggenhout, Belgium. The same brewery also brews another Belgian beer that I happen to like called “Tripel Karmeliet“. Having read a few Beer review websites its disappointing that Kwak only gets a B from them, but hey, I’m no coinnoseur and have no idea about half the crap that they’re talking about. All I know is that I like Kwak and can’t describe the taste much unfortunately apart from that it’s full-bodied, sweet and coloured a medium amber. It doesn’t have much bitterness and is a very pleasant beer to drink any time of year.

 

The other cool thing about Kwak that tourists here in Brussels love is the unique glass that it is served in. It is a round-bottomed, hourglass shaped glass which is held upright in a wooden stand. I was typically confused by this contraption and opted, at first, to take the glass out of the stand and drink it, for fear of spilling it. On later attempts I grew more emboldened and actually gripped the stand by the wooden handle and drank it that way, this proved to be, for some reason or other, a lot more satisfying. Beer is beer you say, and perhaps it is, but I am also a sucker for interesting design. So here’s to Kwak, one of my favourite Belgian beers.

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Categories: Europe, Food & Drink Tags: , , ,

5 Cool Cafes in Europe

February 5, 2009 6 comments

The reason why this blog has been so quiet of late is that I’ve been travelling. I recently returned from a 2 week trip to various European cities including: Cologne, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Bonn (Germany), Prague (Czech Republic) and Ljubljana (Slovenia).

Normally people blog about their travels which seems to make sense and I felt the best topic to blog about would be cafes, seeing as that occupies the bulk of my time when I travel. That’s right ladies & gents, I’m not much of a sight seer. A normal days travelling goes like this. Wake up in hotel room at around 1pm (12pm if I’m lucky) and proceed to grumble & complain about having to wake up, consider going to a major sight/main attraction. Shelve that and head for the nearest cafe. Spend around 2 hours sitting there reading a book, the paper or my reader items (if the place has wi-fi and I have a laptop). Possibly eat something by way of breakfast (or whatever you’d call a meal at that time) and then grudgingly head out to catch something important in the dying light of the day. Spend 5 minutes at said attraction marvelling at how old, big and beautiful it is, take a photo or several and then head back to the cafe (or a new cafe) for more relaxation.

So thus, of course, the first & most important blog post I could write about travelling is going to be about cafes. Here are 5 cool ones that I happened to come across on my recent travels, in no particular order.

1. Cafe Slavia, Prague, Czech Republic

Smetanovo nábřeží 2
110 00 Praha 1, Praha, Czech Republic
+420 224 218 493

Although I mentioned that these cafes appear in no particular order, I have to say that this was probably my favourite cafe of the past 2 weeks’ travels. Prague is rich with cafes and it was my absolute favourite thing about the city, and the reason why I extended my stay here to 6 days. Many of the cafes have a rich history, having originated in the time of the Austrian Empire and none carry a richer history than Cafe Slavia.

The cafe is quite large and located across from the Narodi Divadlo (National Theatre) of Prague, right on the banks of the mighty River Vltava. It has a grand history – opened in 1881, the same year as the Theatre and became a meeting place of artists & intellectuals, including former president Václav Havel, who was a frequent visitor during his dissident years.

The place is brimming with character, on the wall you will find Czech painter Viktor Oliva‘s most famous painting “Piják absintu (Absinthe Drinker)” and it is staffed by very polite (something I’m told that is not normally characteristic of Prague service) waiters in uniforms, containing an ample smoking section for the nicotine-addicted among us, the Slavia is a perfect place to relax any time of the day (it is open quite late until 11pm). You can get a cup of decent coffee here, sit by the huge windows admiring either the Vltava or the busy Narodni Street and simply read a book or perhaps do some writing. There is also a wi-fi connection, a live pianist in the evenings, and a very decent menu including sweet and savoury crepes and some excellent Czech foods (the Prague goulash is recommended).

2. Einstein Cafe, Bonn, Germany

Am Hof 2653113 Bonn 
+49 228 9459145

Thanks to flickr user JochenThe first and most important thing that struck me about this cafe upon entry was the gleaming La Marzocco machine sitting on the counter top. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had arrived (thanks to the recommendation of a friend). I knew I was finally going to get a good, satisfying cup of coffee. Now those of you that have travelled in the part of the world known as Benelux and Germany will know that a good cup of coffee is not easy to come by, nay, it is certainly not the specialty of this region. You can get a fantastic beer in any dive bar in town but a good cup of espresso is as rare as hen’s teeth.

The design and interior of the cafe itself is largely unremarkable. It is done up in the common modern style of many cafe chains around the world, all soft colours and square objects. One cool addition is that you can sit on small square cushions placed strategically along the huge windowsills upstairs, meaning you can sit directly in the window giving you a good view of goings on in the street below. The music is likewise unremarkable, they were playing generic chill out music during my whole time there.

The coffee, on the other hand, was remarkable indeed. Though nothing of Brother Baba Budan standards, it was by far and wide the best cappuccino I had had since leaving Melbourne on November 29th.  The froth was perfect, the espresso extracted to perfection and coming through fantastically, it was super duper awesome. A quick browse of their website shows that they have other locations around Germany (rejoice!) and they are also a micro-roaster (explains the quality of the coffee). These people know what they’re doing. If you need a good cup of coffee in Europe, go to Cafe Einstein.

3. Kavarna Meduza, Prague, Czech Republic

Belgická 17, Prague, Praha 2

222-515-107

Kavarna Meduza is one of those cafes that feels like somebody’s living room. Old bric-a-brac furniture, lamps and old carpet are the adornments here but if you look a little harder, many of the pictures on the walls are, in fact, not random at all but part of a gallery featuring photographs and paintings of mostly Czech artists.

This Kavarna was very close to my hotel so I ended up coming here almost every night for around an hour before they shut, it was a perfect respite from the day’s events, to be able to just sit and read a book or write in my journal. The place feels very welcoming, nobody judges you and you are free to do whatever you feel like pretty much. The beer was cheep and plentiful and so the cafe comes with a high recommendation.

4. Thalia, Dresden, Germany

Görlitzer Strasse 6, 01099 Dresden

0351 / 6524703

Thalia is in fact a very small arthouse cinema with only one cinema hall that fits only 75 people. We, unfortunately, weren’t able to actually watch a movie here, although we really wanted to, but we did hang out in its superb cafe for a few hours. Firstly, the tagline is “Cinema. Coffee & Cigarettes”, which should tell you enough about the place really. While many celebrate the rise of the anti-smoking culture, and of course it makes absolutely perfect sense, it is hard not to love the old film noir charm of the old cancer stick. Those of us that are still fighting our nicotine addiction can at least come to a place like this and get some respite from the anti-smoking propaganda that surrounds us elsewhere.

The place has some history, originally opened in 1889 under the “Apollotheater” name, renamed “Thalia” in 1911, it was completely destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in 1945, and has since been restored under another guise.

The place itself is also very pleasant, the girl who was staffing the place was extremely friendly and helpful, the coffee was pretty good and the ambiance very conducive to reading, writing and chatter. The bohemian vibe of the place is created by the dim lighting, photographs of artful nudes coquettishly holding cigarettes, and the intelligentsia-type clientele all sitting enjoying their fags and conversations about this, that & the other.

5. Le Petit Cafe, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Trg francoske revolucije 4, Ljubljana

+386 (0)1 2512575

This packed and popular Old Town cafe in sleepy Ljubljana is one of those see and be seen places, it seems. The exposed brick walls, and artificially (but tastefully) frayed vintage French posters spill across two large rooms and onto an outside terrace. The coffee selection is varied and decent, as is the food (good sandwiches). The place is obviously inspired French Bohemian, possibly taking its cues from Montmarte. Everything from the menu, to the decor, to the ambiance, to the location (French Revolution Square) is nicely (but not arrogantly) French. 

So that’s 5 cool cafes to track down if you’re visiting the above parts of Europe, all come with hearty recommendations. It should also be noted that, apart from cafe, they all serve food and, with the exception of Einstein, they also all serve alcohol (if you are in need of an alcoholic beverage). Enjoy and let me know if you’ve been to any of them and agree or disagree with my sentiments.