on a delightful weekend of renewed friendships, tentative springs and big steps forward, m and i found ourselves in hyde park on a chilly sunday morning in need of a warm refuge that would welcome us for a couple of hours of reading, writing and obviously chatting. being in an exploring mood, we decided to wander about the fairly unfamiliar bayswater area until we came across something appealing. our choice was the cosy charlotte, a dim-lighted café with wooden tables and low couches by the window.
the smell of traditional, greasy english breakfast which overpowered us as soon as we stepped in clashed a bit with the superficially sophisticated look of the café, but we decided to give charlotte a second chance. we sat down and ordered reasonable coffees, surprised to discover that the main item on the menu, the apparently popular “brunch buffet”, did not include drinks.
after indulging in the pleasure of the observer food monthly, i gave in to my hunger and headed to the appealing buffet while m sat back with her reservations. the warm options, pale scrambled eggs, tinned baked beans and a suspicious mix of sausages and onions threatened to kill my appetite, so i went straight to the next table, offering a selection of savouries. i picked a few slices of ham, a selection of cheese cubes, a slice of onion tart, a sample of egg-tuna-mayo and an inviting muffin. the overall result was not a complete disappointment, but far from exciting. the muffin was a dry affair which only tasted of fennel seeds. ham and cheeses were clearly taken out of a plastic tray, but the egg and mayo salads were somewhat innovative and the onion tart reminded me of home-cooked meals.
a short pause occupied by a debate about the most appropriate side of the nose for a piercing led me to a new trip to the buffet, this time to its sweet side. i picked and mixed two or three of the loaves on the table and i toasted the unexciting brown bread twice with little success due to a completely inefficient toaster. surely, for over nine pounds a head, there had to be something more tempting than nutella on toast in that buffet! the chocolate cake turned out to be dry and i couldn't even figure out what the main ingredients of the other slices were. the only, at that point unexpected, joy came from a soft, moist and flavourful slice of saffron cake. being a great fan of saffron, i had never thought of using it for a loaf and i now wonder why. it was a true revelation.
the saffron surprise and the comfy couches, however, could not make up for the rest of the food, highly uninspiring and overpriced, the lack of choice on the menu beyond the buffet or, to be honest, the unorthodox flushing method in the toilet. the great thing about exploring is the possibility of uncovering hidden gems in this ever-changing city. charlotte was, unfortunately, not one of them.