The first of May ushered in a brave new dawn in more ways than one. As well as seeing the ascension to power of New Labour it also heralded the coming of age of a new café in Marchmont, Edinburgh.
Words: Jonathan Trew
'Where coffee is served there is grace and splendour, friendship and happiness,’ reads the legend along the bottom of Kaffe Politik’s menu. ’lt’s a place where you can discuss politics, religion and sex,’ says Alison Walker who, along with Emily Crighton, co- manages this new espresso and jUice bar. The two dictums sit well together: coffee and a blether have complemented one another ever since the first goatherd thought he’d brew up some beans and then couldn't stop talking until nightfall.
What Kaffe Politik does IS provide a pleasant space for a caffeine fix. Set in a converted bank, the cafe is decked out in minimalist black and white, which is offset by the warmth of the wooden floors and the light which streams through the huge Windows. Underlining the cafe's political theme, one wall is covered in pictures of this century’s greatest politicians, both the wise and the Wicked, and their most famous promises, lies and observations on the nature of power.
In the hysteria running up to the election, some people got a little confused and thought that there was a
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hidden agenda to Kaffe Politik, a suspicion that coffee wasn't all that they were promoting. One man, labouring under the misapprehension that former Tory MP Lord James Douglas Hamilton owned the venture, popped in to say that much as he liked the cafe he felt that he c0u|dn't patronise premises owned by an arch Tory. Complete nonsense of course. Still, rumours disappear like shadows in the post-election sunshine and Kaffe Politik can get on with the serious business of dispensing succour to the local business folk, students and that Edinburgh institution, the blue-rinsed scone set. The one thing that seems to attract these diverse groups to the cafe is its relaxed atmosphere; the surroundings are stylish but not conspicuously so and the ambience is young without being loud and brash. All the usual coffee-house synapse- snappers are on offer, from espressos to macchiatos, cortados and con pannas. The adventurous of palate can add flavoured syrups to their coffees. More unusually, Kaffe Politik does a mean line in fruit and vegetable juices and are open to suggestion — 'You name it, we'll juice it' being the management's motto. Experimentation seems to be the cornerstone of the Kaffe Politik ethos, with iced tea, smoothies and home-made limeade and lemonade all making recent appearances due to the seasonal
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The food menu is also in a constant state of flux, with daily specials joining the regulars. There's a definite Mediterranean bent to proceedings with gourmet sandwiches filled with the likes of warm goat’s cheese, pastrami and roasted vegetables. Blue cheese and bacon salads are finished off with walnuts and croutons while bagels come with cinnamon-dusted cream cheese and maple Syrup. At weekends, an additional brunch menu comes into play offering a similar mix of the hearty and the health-conscious. Food is available lOam—lOpm and there is talk of trying to obtain a table Hcense.
A final inducement to pay a visit and sample the coffee comes from Claudia Ronen's book Coffee: A Connoisseur’s Companion. She relates the tale of the Swedish king Gustav III who, in the 18th century, condemned identical twins to death for murder. Gustav commuted their sentences to life imprisonment on condition that one twin be given a large daily dose of tea and the other of coffee. The tea drinker died first at the less than tender age of 83, Today, the Swedes are among the biggest coffee drinkers in the world. That’s settled then.
Kaffe Politik, 146/148 Marchmont Road, Marchmont, Edinburgh, 446 9873.
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