A Guide To A Good Life

I’ll have a regular coffee, please

Coffee… some say when you drink it, it’s like flogging a tired horse. Sometimes you need to do that — you need to push yourself a bit further and get that day’s work done. And sometimes you just want to savor a well-made cup of coffee. It’s a bit like meditation. You focus on one thing while you let the world flow around you.

It’s getting harder to find good coffee on the go in Romania. I used to get an espresso now and then, especially when driving at night. That was till I got tired of espressos that were too bitter, too bland or tasted like motor oil. It used to be you’d rarely find an espresso back in 2008 and 2009. Now everyone, including the random roadside stand, has an espresso machine and most taste terrible. To date, the best espresso I’ve had was at a little hotel on the beach in Ladispoli, Italy, back in 2009, and that says something about the quality of the espressos if in more than three years nothing even came close.

The thing about the espresso is that if you want a good one, you have to have a good espresso machine. And that machine has to be serviced regularly and constantly calibrated. You have to put in quality coffee in the right amount. But most restaurants and hotels forget these other things. They think that if they’ve got an espresso machine, they’re good to go. No, no, no. Not unless you want to sell crappy espressos.

So I’m not drinking espressos anymore. I’ve switched back to regular coffee. To my dismay, I’ve found out that most places don’t have filter coffee anymore. In the short span of three years, they’ve all stocked up on espresso machines and forgotten about regular coffee. Stop at any place in Romania but a five-star hotel and ask for it. You know what they’ll say? “Sorry, we don’t have any. But we can serve espressos. Would you like one?” To which my answer is easily guessed.

Given my experiences, I was pleasantly surprised when I had breakfast at a Swiss hotel next to Hanul lui Manuc in Bucharest, where I had what was quite possibly the best cup of filter coffee ever. Just as I was thinking it, my dad, with whom we were dining, exclaimed: “Wow, this is very good coffee!” I sure wish I could remember the name of the place but you can’t miss it, it’s right next to Hanul lui Manuc, the great historic inn, which by the way, doesn’t serve filter coffee or turkish coffee, only espresso, as if the espresso existed in the 1800s.

To make sure, we went back there just last week to have breakfast and sure enough, the coffee was just as delicious: perfectly flavored, not bitter, not watery, the right aftertaste, went down easy and made you want more. I called the waiter over, complimented them on their coffee and asked how they made it. In case you’d like to follow the same recipe, here it is: ground Lavazza coffee, 6 grams per 50 ml of water. They run it through a regular coffee maker, albeit a big one. That’s it. It’s so simple. Why aren’t others doing it?

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A Guide To A Good Life

While in Bucharest on a day filled with meetings and traffic, we stopped at the Ramada Majestic Hotel to relax and have a couple of drinks at the bar. Ligia had a hot chocolate, and I had an espresso.

The espresso was pretty good. It had the right aroma, though it was a bit on the bitter side, and there wasn’t enough crema. The aftertaste was about right.

The bar was a welcome break from the stress of the day. I loved their large couches. I sunk into one and didn’t move for 15 minutes. When we got up, we were ready to take on the town again.

Espresso at the Ramada Majestic Hotel in Bucharest

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A Guide To A Good Life

The Office Lounge is a restaurant and night club in Predeal, Romania. Its location is amazing. It sits on top of a mountain peak which overlooks an idyllic meadow and valley. Other mountain peaks frame the view all around.

The restaurant has indoor space, but it also has a beautiful terrace where you can truly enjoy the view.

The espresso is good. It could even be called great, but let’s not get carried away… It has a well-balanced taste: not too bitter, not too watery, not too chocolatey. It’s good. And when you sit on the terrace and look at that gorgeous view, it somehow tastes even better.

We also had some very tasty “clatite” — a Romanian dessert that’s similar to French crepes and to British (not American) pancakes, according to one of my readers.

The place is a nightclub — and we’re not much into nightclubs. We went there during the day, to enjoy the beautiful view. If you’re interested in going there for a morning coffee, don’t — they open around 11 am or noon, because they close in the early hours of the morning.

Here is a map.

Espresso at the Office Lounge

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Places

We stopped at Pizzeria New Croco in Cluj-Napoca last night, around midnight. Among other things, I ordered my usual espresso. It had a strong taste, the right aroma, a bit on the bitter side, but it was what I needed to keep me awake for a night trip that would last another few hours.

Taste-wise, this espresso ranks right up there with some of the best I’ve had in recent years. It may have been a little bitter, but it was its strong character that set it apart from some of the swill I’ve tasted at times.

Here’s a map of the restaurant’s location. They have a website as well, but it’s done in Flash, it takes forever to load, and you can’t shut off the annoying music that starts playing as soon as the site opens up.

Espresso at Pizzeria New Croco

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Places

Espresso at Pensiunea Stejarul

A few days ago, on Tuesday, we’d woken up early to drive to Cluj, and we were passing a place I’d often wanted to stop at, but never found the time. The place is called Pensiunea Stejarul, and they’re open 24/7. The setting for this restaurant is quite beautiful. It’s high up on the tallest hill outside the city of Tarnaveni, in the middle of an oak forest.

That day, we had the time. It was freezing outside, it was snowing slowly, we were driving slowly, and wanted to stop and take in the scenery for a bit. So we did. I had an espresso, and Ligia had a tea. My N95 refused to focus properly, and all the photos I got were rubbish. This was the best of the lot.

The espresso was almost great. Much better than this one, but not among the best I’ve ever had.

This is what the restaurant looks like from above, courtesy of Google Maps. And this is their exact location.

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Places

Espresso at Hotel As

The photo you see below doesn’t tell the whole story, but I like photographing espresso cups, what can I say…

It was a little past 6 o’clock in the morning this past Thursday, we’d been driving all night, it was snowing and freezing outside, there was black ice on the road, and we needed some warm breakfast. We stopped at a hotel/restaurant called Hotel As, on E60, between the villages of Tureni and Copaceni, north of Turda, in Transilvania, Romania.

We had scrambled eggs, I had the espresso, Ligia had a tea, and we walked around the restaurant looking at the beautiful paintings they had on the walls, depicting quaint medieval streets and buildings. Unfortunately the waiter couldn’t tell me who the artist was, and didn’t have any contact information for him/her. We wanted to buy one of the paintings.

I suppose I need to rate the espresso: it was barely decent — nothing special, but at least it had a modicum of caffeine to keep me awake. Got a screenshot of the hotel from Google Maps below, and this is their exact location. We’ll probably stop there again at some point in the future — if for no other reason than to look at the paintings once more.

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