CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Zefi's

Back Buzz - March 12, 2017

pumping heartZefi's Coffee Lounge, 22-24 Commonside, Walkley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

In Sheffield Commonside refers to a small strip of road which runs between Walkley and Crookes and skirts Crookesmoor. Over the years that I've lived in Sheffield the Commonside shops and establishments have gone through lots of changes. The Springvale pub, a French restaurant, an off-licence, a Chinese takeaway, and a barber shop have been the only constants, along with a fish and chips takeaway and an Indian restaurant more recently, while various businesses have appeared and disappeared such as a constantly rotating Indian restaurant, a hardware shop, a knitting shop, and the sadly fated news agent. At this point in time, along with previously mentioned constants, there is currently a dog butcher shop, a sham of a New York-style sandwich shop, a much better quality traditional sandwich shop, a ladies' salon, a pet groomer, a hot yoga place, and a mysterious sports shoes business. So basically, everything to suit your daily needs.

So I was surprised one day, while riding the bus home from work, to see the sudden appearance of a "coffee lounge". How exciting, I thought. But how will it compete in such a constantly evolving cluster of shops?

So one Wednesday morning I stopped in for a coffee before work. I was the only customer there, but I figured that was probably because it was 10:30am on a weekday, not a common time for the locals to be out drinking coffee. As I walked in I was greeted very warmly by the owner. The place seems to have an Italian emphasis, which I considered a good sign for good coffee. As it was my second coffee of the morning I ordered a double cappuccino without making any of my usual cappuccino specifications such as extra-dry and no chocolate. Still, I was surprised when he served my cappuccino covered with chocolate sprinkles, as I really didn't think that was the Italian way, and he sounded either Italian or like he'd at least spent some time in Italy. (Or was it simply the loud blasting of "Volare" on the stereo?) Nevertheless he took my drink away very graciously and quickly brought me a clean unchocolated cappuccino.

So have chocolate sprinkles become the normal Italian cappuccino style, or is this an adaptation for the average sugar-loving British consumer? Should I point out from now on that I'm not British?

My drink was served in a fairly large cappuccino cup with an intensely ample amount of milk. So I couldn't really tell what the coffee was like, although something tasted quite nice nestling underneath all the milk. Ah well, that was my fault. I'll definitely try a less milky macchiato here soon. The beans are from Caffe Vero.

The food menu offers breakfasts, pizzas, paninis, burgers, and pasta. It seems a great place for carnivores, as meats such as Italian cured Parma ham, mortadella, salami, and pancetta are featured. And there's even more meat on the menu: chicken wings, roast porkpie, lamb shank, etc. From what I recently read the head chef is himself Italian, and a lot of the ingredients are ordered in from Italy. As I don't eat meat myself I think I might be tempted try one of their pizzas instead. I do love an authentic Italian margarita -- the pizza, that is (although I'll happily have the drink as well).

The interior of the cafe is very clean and slick with a welcoming bar where the espresso machine and grinder are situated, and there are bags of coffee beans on the shelf behind. Brownies by the local company We Luv Brownies are available on the bar. By the table where I sat is an odd wall with horizontal wood slats and inset alcoves for pottery and various chatchkis.

Sadly every time I pass by on the bus and look, I don't see many people in the place. Perhaps it's just the time of day and not the curse of a Commonside location. Hopefully as people get to know there's a coffee house and Italian cafe in Commonside they'll come and check it out. I'm just relieved the spot didn't end up as just another Starbucks or Costa.

Speaking of ordering in supplies from abroad reminds me of a recent email conversation with my Bay Area friend on European produce shortages:

I just read that due to a crop shortage, supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons have declared a ban on customers buying more than 3 heads of iceberg lettuce at a time. Even my mother, back when she was obsessively buying 3 of everything (contributing to my Marmite Theory of Migratory Evolution), never bought more than 3 heads of iceberg lettuce. I can't help but wonder just what type of individual person would actually want to buy 4 heads of iceberg lettuce.

(Gives me something to think about other than politics...) Is there a shortage of iceberg in Europe in the middle of winter? Surely a sign of global climate change. How will people hosting disaster themed parties be able to make Titanic salad for a large gathering? Maybe through cooperation. You could enlist one of your mates to purchase another 3 heads for you, standing in a separate queue to avoid arousing suspicion.

As is often the case, just when I think I'm being creative, I Google to find that there are several actual recipes using iceberg lettuce fo make Titanic Salad. Not the large quantities that suggested the idea to me, though. I imagined a huge clear bowl half filled with chilled dressing (green goddess or thousand island would fit the bill) and at least five whole heads of iceberg, along with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and other vegetal debris floating & imperiling the scale model ocean liner.

Few people would actually want to eat it. It's a concept piece. Now I want to make a Titanic salad! My recipe will take some work carving little passengers and orchestra members out of radishes and potatoes, with mixed lettuce leaves for clothes, and the zucchini shortage means I might have to figure out a different vegetable for the lifeboats. Carrots would be good for the little violins, and maybe a little sprig of purple sprouting broccoli for a floating chandelier. What a great centrepiece for a 2017 Shipwreck-of-the-United-States-and-Britain party!