Espresso Library is a brand new addition to the list of Cambridge independent cafés. Well, it’s more than just a café (see my blog post). Apart from their amazing coffee (sourced by The Coffee Officina), rotating art exhibitions (Loukas Morley is currently the featured artist) and bright, functional space complete with Cycloc bike storage… their delicious breakfast and lunch menus are developed in collaboration with Stella Pereira, a very talented lady who approaches cooking and baking with an artist’s eye. Stella has hosted supper clubs and her culinary creations are a feast for the eyes and palate. I was lucky enough to attend her À Mesa Supper Club last year, which you can read about here.
Espresso Library was the perfect venue for Stella’s “Twelve at EL” brunch this past Sunday. Paulo and I were thrilled to be two of the twelve people included in this very first one. It was nice to reconnect with some of the other food bloggers, namely Bone White China’s Alex and Sian, as well as Nazima and Pierre of Franglais Kitchen (with their two adorable kids in tow). I also got to meet Alan, the man behind the voice at Flavour (Cambridge 105’s radio show dedicated to Cambridge food and drink) and his lovely wife Helen. There were other great people there too, all of whom are fans of Stella’s creations, just like me! Some of the dishes included in her four-course brunch menu had a Portuguese twist and all featured tasty seasonal ingredients.
A simple but welcoming table was laid out for us and Espresso Library’s large windows let in the sunshine on this glorious Sunday. We were served a welcome drink… a vibrant orange and carrot juice bursting with freshness.
The first course was a veritable explosion of sweet flavours and crispy textures. The pears, poached in blood orange and blackberry, were surrounded by honey glazed seeds, bits of almond meringue and buckwheat crunch. The pears sat on a layer of labneh (a yogurt with a thicker consistency) and were topped with a croissant slice. The juices of the blood orange and blackberry were drizzled beautifully around the plate.
The bacalhau (salt cod) was a bit of a surprise in the second course. The shreds of salted cod peeked out beneath carrot strips with orange dressing, micro parsley, olives and mixed leaves. I’m not a big salt cod fan but Stella had already won me over with her bacalhau dish at her supper club and this time was no exception.
The third course consisted of a sweet potato muffin layered with estufado (braised) beef, dressed wilted spinach, a fried egg and finely shredded potatoes. A drizzle of port ketchup surrounded this beautiful stack. Stella has a way of enhancing her creations with a slight touch of alcohol, such as the triple chocolate brownies with port and raspberries she makes for Espresso Library.
The fourth course was a delicious dessert featuring two small ricotta spelt cakes, accompanied by a chia chocolate sauce and blood orange curd. The earthy flavour of the chia seeds went really well with the chocolate sauce, which was originally conceived as ice cream. Chocolate and orange are a classic combination so all of the flavours complemented each other quite nicely.
Stella made an appearance at the end of the meal to chat with every single one of us and explain the inspiration behind each dish in her own humble way. It’s always a privilege to hear directly from the artist!
I’d also like to give kudos to Stella’s husband Carlos and the Espresso Library team, including the waiters who served us so professionally whilst they were also managing a very busy Sunday crowd.
The next “Twelve at Espresso Library” is planned for the subsequent change of season, as Stella’s focus is on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Keep an eye on Stella’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook as well as #TwelveAtEL.
Stella Pereira and Espresso Library were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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