FreeState Coffee – Holborn

Reviewed on March 8th, 2015 by Dina

On the outside of the quaint Sicilian Avenue is FreeState Coffee. There is a good buzz and a relaxed atmosphere with this coffee shop.

Wooden tables and chairs, a bit like Victorian school desks are inside and there are also benches for the outdoor seating. The tables are decorated with green foliage and berries in vases. Lots of natural light comes through into the seating area.

The staff are friendly and give service with a smile. They make you feel like a valued customer. There is a counter near the entrance where you place your coffee and food order. Once your order has been made, your name is called out and you go and collect it.

An additional counter is where the V60 Drip Coffee is made. V60 Drip Coffee is a manual style of coffee brewing where the coffee flows through a cone straight into your cup.

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At the moment, my coffee of choice seems to be the Americano. The popular Latte has become too heavy and milky for my liking. It is guaranteed that at some point my drink preference will change, maybe with the change of seasons.

As FreeState only do caffeinated coffee, a Flat White soya coffee was had this time. It came in a small green cup. It was a really smooth rounded coffee. There are guest espressos and a daily brew available. On this particular day, the special brew was Caravan roasted Ethiopian and Kenyan coffee.

A perfect treat with the coffee was the Pastel de Nata. Sweet, creamy filling encased by the flaky pastry was delicious. The staff were accommodating when we asked if we could have the pastries that had not been on display. They gave us them from the fridge behind the counter.

All of the croissants, muffins and pastries are baked daily on site. There are also freshly made sandwiches, soups and salads. It is a shame that all of the baked goods and the sandwiches are on open display where the customers queue. It would have been better for the items to be displayed behind the counter or at least with covers. The food looked of a high quality. There was an interesting soup of the day, Kale and Quinoa.

FreeState is a wonderful place and it feels like a “proper” coffee shop with its quality coffee, friendly staff and a good place to come and relax!

FreeState Coffee, 23 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 5HA

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Hiba Express – Holborn

Reviewed on September 15th, 2013 by Dina

Hiba Express always seemed to me that it was a takeaway place. This is the impression that I got from its name or maybe because at a quick glance, it looks like a really small eatery. But this is definitely not the case. It is a proper restaurant and it also does takeaways.

There is some cordoned off seating by the entrance and inside the restaurant it is a lot bigger than first expected. All the food is cooked fresh and I got the impression that it would be fairly busy at lunchtimes for takeaways, as there were dedicated order points and collection points. At the back of the Hiba Express, was a colourful display of all the fresh fruits that would be used for the fresh juices and for desserts!

A selection of hot and cold mezze were ordered. You can never go wrong with the classic Moutabal Baba Ghanouj with its creamy consistency of the puree of the grilled aubergine with sesame paste and lemon juice. It was topped with the red jewels of pomegranate!  Another favourite was the Grilled Halloumi Cheese. There is the option to have it as a fried dish if that takes your liking!

Hiba ExpressHiba Express InteriorHiba Express Interior 2Hiba Express Grilled Halloumi CheeseHiba Express MezzeHiba Express Bammieh B’ZeitHiba Express Fresh JuiceHiba Express Fruit PlatterHiba Express Mint Tea

The Batata Harara were cubes of sauteed potatoes with garlic, coriander and red pepper strips. The mezze was completed with the Loubieh B’Zeit French beans cooked with tomatoes and onions. It all came with a basket of warm flatbread. The dishes were delicious and very filling so much so that we were not sure if we would be able to manage the main course.

Big chunks of okra in a tomato and onion based sauce made up the Bammieh B’Zeit. It was served with a dish of vermicelli rice. The main course had a lot of flavour to it and it is always nice to have the different type of rice combined with the noodles.

The food at Hiba Express was cooked fresh and there were fairly big portions. The main course was served while we were still having our mezze, so we asked the staff if they could keep it warm until we were ready for it. They kept it covered with foil and on their hot plate until we had finished the starters.

To finish the meal and to have something a little palate cleansing, the Fresh Fruit Platter was chosen. This was a selection of sliced banana, melon, pineapple and orange. It was nice that we could see the staff preparing the fruit at the fruit counter.

For drinks, it had to be one of the fresh juices and the combination chosen was mango and pineapple. Another good drink to end the meal was the mint tea, which was served by the pot!

Hiba Express gave us good service and quality food in a relaxed environment! It will be tempting to go back there for a takeaway meal. One thing to note is that it is open until the late hours!

Hiba Express, 113 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6JQ

Rating: ★★★★☆

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The French Kitchen – Holborn

Reviewed on April 14th, 2012 by Dina

The French Kitchen has a real rustic, country like feel to it with its pine chairs and tables. The dining area is separated by the counter and till area. There is a small food store section near the entrance. The long bar area makes up one end of the interior and there is an open kitchen at the back section of the restaurant.

The kitchen has a lot of character too! There are wicker baskets displaying lemons, tomatoes, bread and garlic. A cake stand at the kitchen counter displayed the scones and fruit tarts.

For a light lunch, the starter of oyster and field mushrooms on toasted sourdough bread was just right. The mushrooms were cooked with cream, white wine and tarragon. The mushrooms and the sauce complimented each other. The sourdough bread slices were fresh.

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To drink, I was craving a cup of tea, but then decided to end the meal with the tea. Just before I ordered my tea, my friend pointed out the cream tea option on the dessert menu. The combination of a pot of tea, scone, jam and clotted cream was difficult to resist! So both my friend and I decided to indulge and go for the cream tea.

The Earl Grey tea was lovely and just what I needed. The scone was fairly big and fresh and it was served warm. The little dishes contained the clotted cream and blackberry jam. There was plenty of jam and cream for the scone.

The staff were so lovely at The French Kitchen! While I was waiting for my friend, several members of staff came to me to ask if I was ok and if I’d like a drink while I waited. But they weren’t pushy in any sort of a way. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the place had a good vibe to it. The lighting was quite soft, even in the daytime.

In our time at this restaurant, several dishes passed by our table! All of the food looked really nice and well presented.

The French Kitchen, 95-97 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6LF

Rating: ★★★★★

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