Cafe’s just aren’t cafe’s anymore… and I LOVE it. Once upon a time, cafes were a place you’d run in, grab a dodgy coffee and more often than not, the beans were burnt by a poorly trained barista. That was when you didn’t drink coffee for the taste. Although they weren’t really baristas back then either. It was just a teenager who’d been trained to use a coffee machine with really no clue about the intricacies involved in making good coffee. How do I know this? Well, I used to be one of those teenagers.
Anyway, enough about my insalubrious youth…
I’ve trained for this mission my whole life. My body has been uniquely designed to cope with today’s climate of finely tuned Arabica and couture dessert. It is my passion, nay, my duty as God wills it, to use my gifts for the power of good and bring those hidden gems out into the light. The Lab on Payneham Road at Royston Park is one such gem, and as such, is a cut above.
It’s kind of ironic having worked in a scientific laboratory for 6 years creating safety measures to avoid such catastrophes, to now be drinking from a chemistry beaker was defiantly liberating. Hopefully, this innocuous looking clear liquid I’m being served is, in fact, pure H2O, but I needn’t have worried. The only chemistry going on here is the wild and exciting fusion of flavour.
The Lab doesn’t look like a cafe from the outside and you could be excused for thinking it’s a doctor’s surgery or an actual lab. But don’t let it’s clinical exterior put you off, let it excite you! There is a car park around the back, but keep an eye out because it’s quite well hidden and if you don’t know it’s there, numpties like me drive straight past.
It’s open, urban decor is warm and inviting, and sitting by the glass wall window with the sun streaming in over my shoulders was pure heaven. There’s eclectic art on the walls, and the staff go above and beyond to make it an all round satisfying and wonderful experience.
It’s not hard to tell that these guys have a passion for food and great coffee, and cleverly use chemistry to provide inspiration to create an experience not easily forgotten.
The waffles are no ordinary waffles. Freshly cooked, they are paired with candied mandarin and whipped ricotta, then dusted with freeze dried raspberry powder and raspberry coulis.
One of my strange idiosyncrasies and is that I believe there should be a perfect bite in a dish. To explain this strange phenomenon; it is the rare event where you take a portion of each element on the plate and eat them together in one mouthful. If the planets align and the chef knows how to put flavours together, it’s a feeling I can’t quite put into words. I don’t know about others, but I get a physical feeling of joy and eating that perfect meal will often be acccompanied by sound effects.
Everything on my plate with the exception, perhaps, of the waffle itself, is not something I thought I would enjoy, but, wow, this breakfast slash dessert floored me. With each mouthful of waffle, I combined a smattering of whipped ricotta and candied mandarin. The tartness of the candied mandarin combined with the smoothness of the ricotta, was just perfect. Then, that hit of freeze dried raspberry took me to my happy place and for that brief moment, everything was the right way up in my usually upside down life.
To have this spectacular dish paired with a beautiful mug of perfectly brewed cappuccino, The Lab has ignited a fire in me to step out of my comfort zone and try things I wouldn’t normally try and go for that lesser known and more exotic sounding plate. The guys here at The Lab know that it’s all not just about smacking a few ingredients on a plate or turning a few knobs on an espresso machine. It’s pure chemistry.