Tuesday, December 29, 2009
  Update on my SBL Hotel and
Just a quick update on my fiasco of a booking for SBL, Visa have come through and refunded the money. That recourse is one of the reasons I prefer payingb with credit card. I strongly advise no one to use, and if you are using a new (to you) booking company online to check them out on Google, if I had not been in a hurry and had done that I'd not have used them in the first place.

By contrast, we have so far had a good experience with Hotels in New Orleans (cheaper, better location and fine if a little run down), and Bangkok have worked out fine. They did not find anything cheap enough for us in Chiang Rai, 2,000 Baht was the cheapest, which by Thai standards seems quite a bit, so we are in a place we found from Lonely Planet. The Akha River House, fairly basic, but fairly comfortable, with an ensuite western-style toilet and hot Thai-style shower and a pleasant garden for 300 Baht per night. We are about to head up into the hills for their Akha Hill House for a few more days R & R :)

In Chiang Rai I can recommend the coffee in Doi Chaang, and the Saturday "Walking market" was great fun, for even more touristy stuff there is also a daily "Night Market" like Chiang Mai's but much quieter with a great food court, though with less stuff than in the bigger city.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008
  Auckland cafe reviews and coffee in NZ
As well as mine, Rhett has just started a series of Auckland Cafe reviews, since he covers a totally different part of the town if you like my reviews you will want to read his, though not in this case follow in his footsteps :( Esquires seems as bad as the name suggests!

On the other hand, if you wonder how I can be as hard on the coffees we've had, please be aware that the supplier we usually use for our beans at home: Zeke's Serious Coffee, is not only shade grown, fair trade and organic, nor merely got a regular annual string of bronze and silvers at the NZ Coffee Festival but this year added the Gold award for best NZ Espresso for the Howler Monkey (the blend we buy). Coffee that does not rip off the producers just tastes better!

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Saturday, August 18, 2007
  Return to Okra
Okra Espresso Lounge was the first of my cafe reviews, back in March (was it only five months ago!?) then we felt it deserved its proudly displayed Metro 2006 award. Much has not changed. It is still:
a narrow fronted corner shop on Sandringham Road. The menu is as narrow as the shop-front...
Someone should tell the kitchen firmly that basil pesto does not enhance delicate flavours like smoked salmon!
My Eggs Royale (poached on toasted bread, with spinach and smoked salmon) came with a "hash brown" actually a mashed potato croquette - but the mash was fresh and lightly spiced (corriander and cumin I think) the frying crisped the outside nicely. Yum.
Today the Eggs Royale (chosen without peeking at the first review - I am SO consistent, about some things!) still come with a potato croquette (alias hash brown) but sadly it was soggy not crisp and the spicy fragrance was heavy handed, worse the eggs and smoked salmon were accompanied by a hefty dose of strong basil and pine nut pesto. I managed to leave most of mine, but the first taste had done its worst to tie my tastebuds into a hammer lock, unready to appreciate the delicacy of eggs and salmon. Though that may have been as well, since the salmon though once cold smoked was cooked through waiting for the eggs to solidify.

So this time: Food: average - poor (Last time "Good")

Coffee: very good but not quite up to the excellent of the last visit (a slight hint of bitterness to the black).

Service: excellent we were asked what we wanted, and assisted as needed (like spotting we needed a third water glass and bringing it).

I suspect this means that in small local cafes the quality of the food and coffee depends a lot on who is on duty when you go. Though the quality of Okra was hinted at today in the service and smoothly running busy little cafe, the food did not deliver.

Okra Espresso Lounge
161 Sandringham Rd
Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 846 6662

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Saturday, August 11, 2007
  Deve: Auckland Cafe review
Deve looks good. The kitchen and bar jut into the cafe at an angle which has the air of being efficient, breaks the seating onto two somewhat separate and so more intimate spaces. The light shades are printed with photos that are also displayed on the wall, an interesting feature and nice touch. The design of the bar shows many "nice touches".

It is not really a breakfast place, so from 9-9:30am we had it almost to ourselves. We both had Spinach Potato Cakes – served with poached eggs and topped with a mustard lime hollandaise and your choice of the following:
Honey cured Bacon: $14.50
Cold Smoked salmon: $15.50
I had salmon and Barbara bacon.

The presentation was superb, a fine looking stack, with a delicate ring of concentrated fruit syrup round the plate and Italian Parsley to decorate the stack. I so much prefer edible garnishes! However, the Spinach Potato Cakes were too ambitious, the moisture from the spinach caused the potato to become a soft mash, little of the nice crisp outside. It would have been better to do hash browns with a layer of spinach. And (at least for the smoked salmon) the fruit syrup did not quite "go" with the delicacy of the salmon, which anyway was half cooked from the hot potato and spinach under it.

So: Food, taste only OK but presentation excellent.

The coffee was fine, Barbara enjoyed the Moccachino, except the chocolate powder had settled Memo to barristas, do NOT assume all customers will add sugar and so stir the mix themselves! to the bottom. My long black was good and strong, made with a dark roast so full of flavour. But looses "points" for making it "long" by simply leaving the cup under the head till it was nearly full. This results in a slightly bitter brew, even if you can't bear to serve the extra water in a little jug - and I imagine a tray of them takes up space behind the bar and in the dishwasher - at least add it after you have brewed the coffee!

Coffee: could do better.

Overall: The food and coffee did not live up to the ambiance and thoughtful touches. Though maybe their most experienced staff are not on to serve the early customers, so maybe someone who has tried them during the rush hour and let me know...

Deve Bar & Brasserie
460 New North Rd
Region: Auckland

Phone: 09-846 9997

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Saturday, June 16, 2007
  Columbus: Onehunga

Once the Blue Strawberry (go figure!) now part of the Columbus Coffee franchise chain, this is a big busy shopping mall cafe. It does the job well with plenty of efficient waitstaff. The menu is small and conventional, but backed up by a good selection in the cold cabinet.

Coffee: Pretty Good - Good Barbara pronounced the Mochaccino good and not too sweet <aside> </aside> The long black was tasty, not bitter but with a smooth bite, but too "long". <aside>

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