Cafe Bellissimo

In life, you come across groups or entities that you seem to have an affinity for, for just one thing. No matter how diverse they are. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you and I may differ as to just what we see as being done best by that group or entity. Take, for example, a heavy metal band; I may love their soft rock ballads that only seem to be an excuse for an extended guitar solo, while you may enjoy the screaming chainsaw sound of their heavier material. Or the car manufacturer that I appreciate for their luxo-barges, but you may appreciate for their rugged SUV’s.

And the list goes on… Does a particular IT manufacturer make great personal computers, or great phones? As King Mongkut of Siam once said “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…”

For the past couple of years I have gone to Café Bellissimo at the Jape Homemaker Village for one thing. French toast.

Well, two things… if you count their coffee as well.

And so it was that recently hunger set in around lunch time while I was in the area and I wasn’t quite ready for a full savoury meal. Fortunately the day’s special was a Summer Berry French Toast. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what one was likely to encounter on the dish, leaving the question to be answered as to how well would they execute the dish. With that in mind I just had to find out. With the French Toast special I also ordered a skinny flat white coffee.

The menu is the usual standard café fare, with a reasonable pricing structure. Typically you pick up a menu from the order counter, find a numbered table, mull over the menu and then try to remember your table number as you head back to the mid-store counters and pay on order. The staff are that familiar with the table plan that you often don’t need your table number; they just know. And despite the typical café menu, there are a couple of signature dishes that I consider Cafe Bellissimo famous for. All based on French Toast.

I have never been to Italy, or Europe for that matter, however I get a sense of what a Roman café must be like each time I visit Cafe Bellissimo. You walk into the café either from the street side, or from a furniture showroom on the other. There are two ordering counters in the middle of the store – galley style. I have never worked out what I am meant to order from either one, but it doesn’t seem to matter as the staff are friendly on both sides. And like other Mediterranean inspired cafes there is a gelato cabinet along with the usual cakes and slices. The coffee here is rich, strong and robust. The full body, slightly bitter, flavour cuts right through anything else added to it. One of my top five favourite coffees.

The dining area isn’t that big and has a wonderfully panoramic view out of one wall entirely made from concertina windows. It is a crying shame that Cafe Bellissimo don’t open the windows to allow the inside and outside environments to mix and interact more often. Despite the interior decor consisting of ceramic tiles, glass and other hard surfaces, the café is not particularly loud. I think the greenery within the café, the fact that the kitchen is not fronting the dining space, and that one side of the café is open to a furniture store all serve to dampen the sound.

Todays French toast was promptly served by a friendly sever who had a small chat while placing the meal on the table. The toast arrived golden brown and smelling heavenly. The egg wash was even over the two slices of bread, fried ever so gently and leaving the bread still with a springy rebound when prodded. There was a scattering of fresh berries across the toast – sliced strawberries , blueberries, and blackberries – and underneath the berries a heavy drizzle of berry syrup. On the side was a small pot of raspberry compote. On top of all of this was a light snow of icing sugar and a colourful flourish of flower petals to complete the seasonal imagery. As if this wasn’t enough, there was also a side serving of maple syrup.

The colours dancing on my plate were spectacular. My phone camera would not have done it justice had I taken a photo. The hues of reds and blues of the berries contrasted with the yellows, lilacs, and blues of the flower petals. The icing sugar visually tied everything together and the maple syrup served to enhance the taste experience. Two large café slices of bread were ample to make this a satisfying light snack. There was plenty of maple syrup served on the side, and the final morsel of toast was used to wipe the plate clean of any remaining icing sugar and maple syrup.

With my meal so obviously finished my server promptly cleared away the plate and left me with the dregs of my coffee.

There are many other items on the menu that I could have selected from. Some I have tried before, most I haven’t. The French Toast is one thing that is quite unique to Café Bellissimo and is done so well that I return to it time and time again. Just as Joe Jackson has moved so proficiently from swing jazz, to pop, to orchestra and numerous other musical styles in between, I must remember that Café Bellissimo is more than just fine French Toast.

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