Murat organised a surprise outing to the West End on the cusp of spring. The sky was high and clear and for the first time since winter shrouded the city some months ago, I felt excited about venturing further than the comforts of our usual Harringay hang-outs.
‘Remember that cafe we used to go to in Istanbul?’
‘The one with the chocolate tea spoons?’ My mind wanders to the trendy roof-top cafe overlooking the City of Dreams.
‘Exactly.. Well take a look.’
Surrounded by the grandeur of Piccadilly’s stone architecture, I looked around trying to understand why we were here. Then a familiar brown logo caught my eye ‘Kahve Dunyasi‘. The Istanbul coffee institution had landed in the centre of London! I think I actually jumped for joy.
My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and feasted on a colourful counter piled high with daintily packed goodies. The place was teeming with people, so much so that we had to wait 15 minutes for a table. Luckily our eagerness was appeased by samples of chocolate on the counter behind us and as we sampled the chocolatey delights I scanned the menu. To my relief its exactly the same as the one in Istanbul. Turkish coffee with mastic, chocolate fondue, fresh minty lemonade – it’s all there and fairly priced.
Good looking waiters juggle trays and seem to bend and flex to avoid people traffic. Apart from the expected passing trade omnipresent in all of Piccadilly’s eateries, tables home groups of trendy / professional Turkish folk. Some read each other’s coffee fortunes, others are simply people watching.
And then we were shown to a table and waited upon. A small dish of chocolate covered coffee beans was laid on the table and our order swiftly taken. You see this isn’t Starbucks or Costa Coffee. Kahve Dunyasi is a proper coffee house with table service and in true Turkish tradition where hospitality is everything, you’re made to feel very welcome.
A mix of Turkish and Western pop songs accompany chatter and mixed with the modern dark interior and traditional Turkish touches, I think this is perhaps my favorite find of the year so far – and that’s even before the food and drink arrive.
We decided to order in two parts to stagger our visit.
First savoury: A little plate of mixed cheese and aubergine Boreks and tangy lemonade; both were delicious and I didn’t expect otherwise. Murat also ordered a hefty beef and pickle sandwich.
For afters? Chocolate fondue and Turkish coffee with mastic gum (resin from the Mastic tree which adds a menthol flavour) – a little piece of chocolate covered pistachio Turkish delight is also offered. Murat ordered fondue too and a latte which came with a solid chocolate spoon. I finished my glorious fondue and felt slighty sick although I didn’t admit it, Murat only finished half of his – perhaps one portion will do for two people. Perhaps one portion IS meant for for two people – oops! Despite the chocolate overload I still felt a pang of jealousy when a portion of Chocolate and Pistachio ‘Mosaic’ cake arrived at the table next to ours. Oh well, there’s always next time!
Kahve Dunyasi translates as Coffee World – and that it is. When you enter you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Willy Wonka’s home. But this Willy Wonka is cool, and Turkish. It takes the tradition of ‘going for a coffee’ and delivers it with flair offering something entirely new to London’s tired coffee scene. I only wish they’ll open more cafes. Maybe in South Kensington? Hint hint!
As we left on that spring afternoon we stopped at the counter to buy chocolate covered chestnuts and orange peel – my two absolute favorite goodies which I’ve really struggled to find in the UK. I felt the start of something new. We’ll come back here for absolute certain and make sure we share the experience with the people we love the best. From Istanbul with love.