Last Visited: January 2012
On a whim and spurred on by a few drinks the night before, we hobbled into George Street in Hove. Strangely enough even though a few of us live in the area we couldn't think of any cafes to try out. In the end it was left to Count Cumberland to find our breakfast treat for the day.
Meeting Count Cumberland outside Cafe Bar Italia where he was enjoying a cup of tea, I wasn't sure that I wanted to try this place out. I don't know the cafes of the road that well and the name wasn't inspiring much confidence, especially with "bar" in the name. Having spent 2 weeks in Italy last year eating anything ending in a vowel, I was worried that it would be a half hearted attempt at adding some Italian flavour to the English greasy spoon.
Much to my surprise the owners seem to have worked some magic. A bustling place filled with what can only be described as a uniquely Italian essence. The counter is filled with delicious looking vegetable dishes and sandwiches ready for the panini machine, reminding me of the first little "trattoria" we stepped into in Venice.
Finding our seats towards the back I was a bit let down by the short breakfast menu, each not offering much variation from the other but sticking to different combinations of scrambled eggs and pancetta. With our drinks in front of us we all went for the cafe's namesake dish; the "Caffe Italia" and I prepared myself for disappointment.
Flavours abound! The pancetta is a slap to the face with a peppery aroma and hints of aniseed, easily the most flavourful I have tasted in the UK so far. On any other plate it may have been a step too far but it's calmed with a loving stroke by the wonderfully cooked scrambled eggs. The button mushrooms; sweated down slowly with garlic and herbs are almost as pokey as the pancetta but again perfectly balanced by the fresh tomato and mozarella.
The toast, described as "Italian breads" appeared to be just slices of brown and white bread but the rest of the meal was so punchy and flavoursome that it didn't need to do much more. By the end of the meal we all agreed that just about everything hit the spot. What initially seemed like a high price at £6.50 reflected the quality of the ingredients and care that went into the dish. A real surprise and I've already pointed people in the direction of the Cafe as a quintessentially Italian way to start the day.
While enjoying the company of a cup of tea sitting outside on a cold clear January morning , I was joined by Mr & Mrs Chipolata. We moved inside and managed to find a table just as hope was fading. The atmosphere inside was the good side of busy & noisy, reassuringly peppered with bursts of Italian between the serving staff and kitchen, adding character to the bustle.
We sat down and whilst perusing the menu, our drinks orders were taken (another tea and two cappuccinos, one with soya milk please!). The drinks arrived promptly and we began the task of picking a breakfast. Maybe there was something in the air that day, we all ended up picking the same thing, the signature dish; pancetta, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and Italian toast.
The portion size was decent and although initially it looked heavy on the toast, in fact it worked out well as an accompaniment to the strong flavours of the other elements. The pancetta was wonderfully meaty and had a nice spiced taste working alongside the beautifully creamy and light scrambled eggs. The textures also counter balanced each other with the smoothness of the eggs and the crispness of the pancetta.
Then there were the other supporting acts - the tomatoes were nice and juicy, the melted mozzarella being a nice touch. Mushrooms were also surprisingly flavoursome.
Price seemed a bit on the high side but in the end I think it was deserved for a delicious breakfast.
N.B. - Unfortunately the camera was nowhere to be found once we got here so our smartphones had to get the job done. We all thought it was a breakfast worthy of mention though so we decided to put the review up, warts and all! Enjoy!