I don't cafe rotate very often. In fact, these days, I rarely do it at all. I find my 'spot' and it stays my spot until it stops being awesome, gets infiltrated by hipsters, or I just get sick of the menu...That generally takes a devilishly long time, by the way. I'm a creature of habit.
This morning I give to you, Left Bower. Tucked away in a side street of the ultra chic (*cough) Sutherland, lies this little gem of mismatched, organic, caravan-y goodness. No seriously, it's kitted out with decor that has legitimately been thieved from unsuspecting travelers holidaying in caravans (*that bit may or may not be true). On the shelves you'll find weathered scrabble sets (ready to be played over a big pot of tea and home made cake), picnic rugs, fiddle sticks, jars of marbles and little sets of your Nanna's favourite cups and saucers. Kitsch without being tacky and making my eyeballs hurt.
On the (seasonal) menu you'll find delights such as 'Green Eggs & Ham' - a heavenly little stack of sourdough toast, award winning shaved leg ham, smashed eggs, aioli, warrigal greens, vintage cheddar and a drizzle of pesto; 'Avocado mole´' - house made cornbread with the most amazing beans, fried eggs, a whole avocado and a smattering of greenery, freshened up with lime juice and herbs; 'Salad' - poached chicken breast with chicory, pea tendrils, grapefruit segments, and other delicious bits and pieces I can't quite remember. The list goes on, but you get the drift - it's all really really good. I believe most of the produce is also organic and locally sourced. Love that!
The cawffee is excellent and the beans are Australian-grown, which I very much appreciate, though I must admit I only go there to drink the chai. It's a fragrant tea blend with whole cardamon pods scattered throughout that I take piping hot and brewed with soy milk. Heaven. Someone behind the counter always has a chuckle as they exclaim that I'm ingesting "the most expensive drink on the menu!".
I feel at home every time I walk into Left Bower, which is everything I want in a cafe and more. You could sit there for three hours with a book and no one would give you shifty eyes from behind the counter. Be warned though, they may offer you a hefty slice of cream cheese-frosted cake...and refusing that my friends, can get very difficult.
3, 45 East Parade
Almost twenty years on, I still fantasise daily about the moment I secure my breakout role in a Funny Girl equivalent. A film that brings back the class, the elegance, the romance and the thrill of those golden days. I imagine the pain of being sewn into my heavily beaded costumes, the wind in my hair as I drive a vintage Chevvy along the coast, the rush as my devastatingly handsome co-star spins me around a ballroom before snatching me away and madly kissing me in the fairy-lit gardens of his mansion, the relentless takes of singing and dancing over and over again, and I am happy...Truly, truly happy.
Until then, I will relish every moment I'm given permission to pretend I am more graceful, glamorous and charming than I actually am.
Here's something I prepared earlier...*cue orchestra and velvet curtains
Candles, cuddles, cups of tea, artsy films about cute kids and long soaks in deep baths...
That's my kind of winter.
That's my kind of winter.
Head to my website emmabirdsall.com.au or soundcloud.com/emma-birdsall to hear the first taste of my upcoming album...
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
- Lord Byron
Coffee plus Food (5630 Melrose Avenue) - This is one of my favourite spots to sit quietly, write in my journal and eat delicious food. I'm pretty sure I ate the same thing everytime I went there - a warm vegan (lentil and bean) patty with avocado salsa and a side of their shredded kale salad. The corn fritters are amazing too...and their house-made granola. Oh, and if you're home sick, they have VEGEMITE! This is definitely the spot to go if you're longing to hear an Australian accent, whilst munching on a piece of toast, smothered in that iconic, salty spread. Their coffee is also really good (compared to the other sub-standard hot beverages you're bound to find on every other corner in LA).
Larchmont Bungalow (107 N Larchmont Blvd) - Two words: Iced coffee. One of the best. A pleasant spot to sit outside and people-watch too...I didn't spend much time exploring the menu, but I've heard that their pancakes and french toast are outrageously good.
Lemonade (There's a few of these around LA, but the two I went to regularly are at 626 N Larchmont Blvd, Mid-Wilshire and 1661 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice): If you want healthy, fresh food when you're on the go, this is the place to hit up. It's set up kind of like a canteen, where you can mix and match gourmet salads (think raw beetroot; lentils; roast carrot, sesame seed and nori; shredded cabbage and kale etc.) with home-style hot dishes, rice and various proteins (the roast salmon is amazing). Also, just once, try their home-made lemonade. Thank me later...
Joan's On Third (8350 West 3rd St) - I became slightly obsessed with Joan's after an LA friend strongly recommended I go there one morning. Between seeing Javier Bardem walk through the door (at least, I think it was him) and me taking the first mouthful of my Southwest salad, I was very quickly roped in to the Joan's culture. I literally ended up there four days in a row within my first week in Hollywood. It's a bustling cafe/deli/gourmet grocer with seriously good food (go for an egg white omelette and grapefruit juice at breakfast or a crusty baguette apres-midi) and lots of interesting people to watch. You can also pick up essentials like an Ottolenghi cookbook (*drooling), a fresh loaf of bread, home-made ravioli, quality oils, vinegars, artisan chocolate and a bottle of prosecco (you'll need it after eavesdropping on some obnoxious 'Hollywood-esque' conversations, trust me).
Food Plus Lab (7253 Santa Monica Blvd) - Go for the chicken and rocket salad with mandarin segments and candied pecans...and the iced tea (think white tea with pomegranate or chilled earl grey with lavender). The vegan sandwich with grilled vegetables and pesto is also really good.
Cafe Gratitude (639 N Larchmont Blvd, Mid-Wilshire or 512 Rose Avenue, Venice) - This is where you go when you want to sit amongst fascinating people and eat delicious (albeit a bit wanky) vegan, raw, gluten-free food. I'm not the first to say it, but Cafe Gratitude certainly knows how to make vegetables interesting, though you can't help but chuckle at how funny the whole culture of the cafe is when reading their menu. The dishes are named things like "I am happy" "I am nourished" "I am alive"...how on earth the kitchen handles dockets like that is beyond me. I had a green juice (only for the brave) and this amazing sun-dried tomato/flax wrap with 'live' falafels and raw vegetables. Definitely worth visiting...I'm still dreaming about their vegan pancakes.
Gjelina (1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd) - I'm really not sure where to start with Gjelina (pron. jew-leen-ah as far as I'm concerned). This is the BEST food I ate in the US. It's simple, seasonal and wholesome food done exceptionally well. It is essential that you try the wood-fired pizza (even if it's just a slice of someone else's), the grilled asparagus with romesco, tuscan kale salad and the slow-cooked lamb if you're there for dinner. Just EAT IT ALL (and make sure you book, unless you're having an early dinner). If you don't want to wait for a table, go next door to their hole-in-the-wall pizza joint 'GTA', eat your pizza (or salad) on a milk crate and enjoy watching the crazies walk past, high as kites (them, not you, of course)...
TOMS (1344 Abbot Kinney Blvd) - Sooo, I may or may not be directing you to a cafe that just happens to shell shoes in the same space that it serves coffee and delicious, spicy chai lattes in large, hipster-ish glass jars. That being said, buying a pair of TOMS shoes (or sunglasses) means you're supporting an amazing cause through their One For One program. You buy a pair, a child in need somewhere in the world gets a pair of kicks (or a sight-saving operation on their eyes) too - simple, no? Makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Comfy couches covered in cushions (wow, that was too much alliteration), an open-air courtyard and free WiFi makes this a perfect spot to sit and wile your afternoons away...Eat a gluten-free cookie as large as your head.
3 Square Cafe + Bakery (1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd) - Full of sun in the mornings for a late breakfast (the omelette specials are always good) or early lunch. Eat the Mediterranean salad (grilled chicken skewers with hummus, crusty bread and a massive pile of witlof with tangy dressing) and admire the attractive waiters...
Honourable mentions in five words or less (i.e can't be bothered writing any more):
Forage (3823 W Sunset Blvd, Silverlake) - Colombian iced coffee; quiche; kale.
Whole Foods (You'll find one within a 5km radius of wherever you are) - DIY ORGANIC SALAD BAR. AMAZING.
Intelligentsia (3922 W Sunset Blvd, Silverlake) (Literally across the road from Forage) or (1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd) - Coffeeeeee. Good looking baristas in hats.
Magnolia Bakery (W 3rd St, Hollywood...just down the road from Joan's) - Coconut cake with meringue frosting. I have memories of it so fond I could cry.
I could go on forever, but I'm going to stop before my eyes go square and my neck-ache becomes unbearable. Probably should've picked a better place than the floor to type this out...
P.S If you see a food truck on Abbot Kinney Blvd that has Korean/Mexican food - EAT IT. The tacos I mean, don't eat the truck...It's there most weekend evenings, as far as I know and the vegetarian tacos with some kind of sriracha sauce are stupidly good. I've heard the pulled pork goes down a treat too, if you're into that kind of thing.