A while ago someone sent me a message recommending Casa de Castro and I replied, ‘I’ve been there before actually and I love it there.’ So, it’s a surprise that it has taken me this long to review the quaint, French inspired coffee shop.
This café can easily be ignored amongst all the chaos and colour on Albert Road. Quietly tucked away, flower boxes with pink flowers flourish outside and as you peer through the window, you are welcomed by fresh pastries and cakes. They boast almonds and berries to tempt any traveller inside.
It’s small inside and on a busy day, it can become a challenge to join the queue and squeeze pass people. Although, on this occasion, on a Tuesday afternoon, it was quiet and I ogled the cakes and ordered with ease. The server, and owner, was friendly and smiley. As far as I’m aware he runs the café, makes all the food and acts as a waiter himself which I admire. What’s more is, as a French man, he makes authentic French food and has a lovely, soothing accent.
There was a large range of cakes, quiches and pastries on display including a Raspberry Danish, a gooey Chocolate Cake and a Blackberry Frangipane. I ordered myself a slab of the Chocolate Cake that glistened in the fridge, calling to me. How could I refuse? They had a few toasties too so I ordered a ham and cheese one and a mug of tea. There were not many meals to have at Casa de Castro. Other than the toasties and quiches, there little to fill you up so if you ravenous appetite it might not be best for you. But for a light lunch or snack, it is ideal for any time of the day.
The prices are average and there are different costs for both take out and eat in. So, if you wanted, you could quickly grab yourself a treat if you are in a hurry. To take out the cakes are £2.80 and £3.20 to eat in. These aren’t the cheapest cakes around however we can all agree that high quality and authentic food is priceless.
Before sitting down, I grabbed some sugar and milk that was on the side and took in the setting of Casa de Castro. There was gentle jazz music playing, artwork hanging from the walls and flowers in small vases on the tables. I had a wave of nostalgia and I was taken back to last January when I visited Paris for my birthday. I had visited the Notre Dame and found a quaint café on the river bank. I ordered a ‘Croque Monsieur’ in my terrible French accent and sat inside where the same jazz music played.
Outside, there is a secret garden which I made my way to. It is beautiful with arches overhead and large pots full of vibrant flowers. They have ornate metal tables and chairs and a few people were sat down reading and writing. I could imagine how perfect it would have been if the sun was out.
‘At least it’s not raining,’ I thought as I turned my gaze to my cake. The top was gooey with a thick chocolate sauce and had a delicate pattern drawn into. A dollop of whipped cream was put on the side and as I tried the sponge, I knew I was addicted. It was moist and gorgeous and worth every single penny.
Just as I had started licking the plate my toastie was brought out to me. It was an unconventional shape – a large thin triangle- with some salad leaves on the side and an unidentified dollop of something. The ham was thick inside and the cheese was melted thoroughly, oozing out from the sides. Ham and cheese toasties are nothing special but for some reason this one was. Maybe Casa de Castro had perfected the art of sandwich toasting or my wave of nostalgia had a bigger role to play than I thought. Either way, I was enjoying myself, even when I ate the mysterious blob on the side which turned out to be creamy potato.
I stayed in the garden for some time after I had finished my food. It was such a lovely atmosphere and I regretted not bringing a book with me. It was the perfect place to have a break from busy life, have a drink and just relax. Regardless of the criticisms, the atmosphere was what really made that little French café.
Casa de Castro is something special with their authentic cakes, pastries and atmosphere. The staff is friendly and their garden is a little sanctuary from stressful everyday life. It’s a perfect pit stop but I wouldn’t visit if I was after a wholesome meal. I would suggest to them to add more food options but I liked it how it was. Not every place has to be the same and fit into a strict set of rules of what does and doesn’t make a good eatery. At the end of the day it boils down to the food and ambiance for me and Casa de Castro was high quality in both aspects. What it has, it has done incredibly well and is a key example of quality over quantity.