Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beautiful Cakes and Strange Lemonade at Bel Cafe

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After a somewhat disappointing dinner at Section(3) on Friday night, my dining companion and I zipped over to Bel Cafe at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia for a civilized and decadent dessert.

Many years ago, when there was still the mainstay jazz venue The Georgia Street Bar and Grill, there was a patisserie (?) here as well, but with much less seating and long counters filled with goodies -- operating mostly as a take-out place. Can't even remember the name now, honestly. Now there's maybe a third of the selection but much more seating. The walls are lined with cushioned seating and the space between the tables is very generous. The space in front of the counter, however, is squashy and has to be shared with kitchen staff coming and going. Still, it's a fair enough compromise if one is aiming for business-class patron seating rather than a table arrangement where you're walking sideways to get anywhere between tables.

You can order and pay at the counter, of course, but there's actually full service if you eat in house. I was so surprised when our order came with proper cloth napkins and a very polite server (who, at that hour in the night, was also the cashier behind the counter).

The selection is, compared to a larger establishment, rather small. There are, however, quite a few macarons to be had, though at $2 to even $2.70 a piece. (In case you didn't know, macarons are actually quite hard and time-consuming to make, hence the price).

We settled on a White Chocolate, Kalamanzi, Coconut cake and a Dark Chocolate, Raspberry, Vanilla cake. They were about the size of a half can of Campbell's soup.

The richness of the chocolate and creams here isn't as tiring to devour as the near-solid masses of chocolate you might end up with at Giovane, so one can easily handle a full cake without having to share to avoid sugar fatigue. I'll leave that up to you whether it's a good thing or not. Overall, there's a lighter feel to the desserts, which I thought was very nice.

The Dark Chocolate, Raspberry, Vanilla cake was very strong on the raspberry flavour and the softness was complemented by a crunchiness from what may have been a wafer at the bottom and the sprinkling of fine chips at the base.

The White Chocolate had a nice citrus taste from the Kalamanzi (a type of orange), so you got chocolate plus a refreshing feel. I highly recommend this as a way to finish off a meal on a lighter note.

There were also bottles of lemonade in the counter with a cute dog picture on them: Fentiman's Victorian Lemonade. It's supposedly non-alcoholic, but there is an alcohol-like taste from the fermented lemons. The flavour is strong and sharp and definitely wakes you up if you're into that sort of thing. Not super-pucker-inducing in sourness. I don't drink at all, so the alcohol-like taste was a turn-off for me. And though the alcohol content is tiny (~0.5%), this British drink has sparked controvery over it, apparently.

My dining companion generously insisted on picking up the bill, which came to just over $13 after tax, if I remember correctly.

While you're at the Bel Cafe, I definitely recommend sneaking out the back way into the Rosewood Hotel Georgia if you've never been there. It's a beautiful dimly-lit dark-wood space that affords a certain amount of privacy even in plain sight; there's an eye-bending 3D portrait on the wall that's a neat conversation piece if nothing else; and on December 31st there was a grand piano in the lobby -- something I hope they'll keep around if just for the ambiance.

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