“A heavenly calming oasis that I could waste hours in”
As I walk through the streets of Brighton and Hove, I sometimes think I am the only person in this city who has never really got into the whole café culture scene. The whole 90’s coffee shop revolution passed me by entirely and I am much more likely to head to the Rover’s Return than Central Perk. Personally, I have never really enjoyed coffee enough to bother with it. It is not that I entirely dislike coffee, it has its uses after all. I just find most cafes to be a bit hectic, or pretentious, or both, and I resent paying £7.50 for an average brew. However a recent jaunt to Kemptown to meet an old chum in Coffeetzar gave me an experience which has changed my perception entirely.
It is Monday morning on a particularly dreary, albeit fairly warm day and the exterior of Coffeetzar manages to shine to me like a beacon, with its bright white tasteful patio furniture. A handful of locals are even sitting outside, despite the threat of the heavens opening any minute. I imagine it to be quite a suntrap during summer months. We opt to sit inside however and are warmly greeted by owner Idon, who shows us to our table and beckons a member of his friendly team to serve us.
I am surprised to find that there is something about this place that instantly makes me feel relaxed, which is completely the opposite to the way I usually feel in coffee shops. I am not sure if it the beautiful pristine Mediterranean style décor, the comfy furniture with brightly coloured cushions scattered about the place, the lovely warm glow emanating from the ceiling lamps, or Idon himself, who is both witty and charming. I suspect it might even be the mouth-watering mountain of beautifully presented, sweet and savoury delicacies which adorn the counter, all looking and smelling incredible. I have only recently had breakfast, but a hunger has been awakened in me which I do not think I will be able to ignore for long.
Idon himself seems to be part of the package here. Having spent forty years in the service industry in restaurants, bars and clubs all over Brighton and London, he certainly knows how to treat his guests and make them feel welcome. I get the impression he has some very interesting stories to tell from his experiences over the years, and I already look forward to our next visit and having a proper chat over a brew. He tells us you will often find him front of house either here or in his flagship branch on Trafalgar Street, as he loves chatting to people and putting smiles on his customer’s faces. Idon’s girlfriend is from Greece and is the interior designer of this tranquil haven, as well as the inspiration behind the shops signature halloumi and feta cheese filled pastries, salads and wraps.
The rest of the staff are all lovely, relaxed and sociable too. There is a definite family feeling and the banter between Idon and his team is friendly and refreshing to hear. The drinks menu is clear as day, adorning the far wall and I am surprised to find all the drinks are very reasonably priced, with all hot drinks under £3.00 a cup. The menu also boasts an impressive range of soft-drinks including freshly squeezed juices, healthy smoothies and not so healthy creamy milkshakes. My companion seems to know his stuff when it comes to coffee and immediately orders a flat white. I opt for a slightly weaker latte, being the inexperienced coffee drinker that I am. We both give in to temptation and order a Cheese Puff Pastry and Spinach and Feta Pie between us.
Our coffee arrives and even I can tell it is something special. The aroma is intoxicating and the flavour is intense, yet silky smooth. Apparently Coffeetzar is the only place in Brighton that serves coffee made from specially selected Cuban beans which are much smoother than the Brazilian kind you find in a lot of places. You can literally taste the quality! If tea is more your bag they have an impressive selection of hand-picked teas from around the world on display behind the counter. Our pies are delivered alongside and are just sublime. The Spinach and Feta Pie is light and fluffy, crisp and flaky and oozing with savoury cheesiness. The Cheese Puff is just plain decadent, with golden puff pastry that crumbles to reveal gooey cheese that is smooth and buttery and very naughty indeed. All food is made fresh on-site each day from only the best locally sauced ingredients, which amazes me considering the massive choice of quality sweet and savoury dishes available.
We are having such a relaxed and lovely time that a couple of hours fly by. In that time we order another coffee each and share a frosted raspberry and almond cake with a fresh yoghurt filling. It was wonderfully light and moist and each bite came with a sweet burst of fresh berries. If I hadn’t been convinced before, I certainly was now. I would recommend Coffeetzar to anyone, especially if they, like me, have any doubts about frequenting coffee shops. Everything here from the food, to the colours and design of the décor is done with such love and attention to detail. They offer discounts for students and downstairs boasts a lovely serene space, perfect for small functions and where they regularly host coffee mornings for local groups.
They cater for every dietary requirement and the vegan and gluten free offerings on display looked out of this world delicious. I was seriously eyeing up the GF peanut butter cookies but decided to save them for my next visit. Coffeetzar is a heavenly calming oasis that I could waste hours in. An incredibly well thought out, innovative and varied brunch menu is served at weekends with a view to expanding this to weekdays in the future. With dishes such as black eye bean hummus tacos with artichokes and lime salad, and roast figs with halloumi, lambs lettuce and honey mustard on the menu I will be rushing back very soon. Tony Shattell