Sugar and spice ultimately saves Gerry Corner's Baltic grey day

THE Baltic Triangle. It sounds like a bleak graveyard for ships, but it’s the chips that have gone missing round here.

No chips at Unit 51 or the Baltic Bakehouse, nor anywhere to be seen at Coffee & Fandisha; perhaps the humble chip is not hip enough for this part of town, only recently declared one of the best places to live in the North West by the Sunday Times.

A blue cinnamon smoothie (£4.50) is the discovery of the day; blueberries, yoghurt, milk, honey and spice coming together like a journey on the Silk Road

Once upon a time the focus for the city’s working south docks, the Baltic Triangle is now a hub for independent minded entrepreneurs and, that very modern phenomenon, the “Creative”.

In Coffee & Fandisha, a yellow wall at one end is a space “solely for local creatives to display and exhibit unique pieces of artwork”.

While we were there, the wall was empty of artwork; perhaps the creatives have not been feeling very creative of late. I blame Brexit.

At least a couple of creatives were among the clientele, though, on each of two visits. They’re the ones with a laptop and a phone for company. 

Good vibes permeate an agreeable, if not wildly original, space – bare brick, bare Edison bulbs, upside down desk lamps mounted to the wall.

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Service is friendly, polite, helpful. They’ll go out of their way if you ask them to.

It’s all about lunching, snacking; an NYD pastrami sandwich, jerk chicken burger, salads, pancakes. Juices and smoothies abound, as does, obviously, coffee. 

Fandisha is Ethiopian for popcorn, and as is customary in that neck of the woods, is served in little bowls with your coffee. Here too, apparently, although the only sign we saw was packets of the stuff for sale on the counter.

“What’s it like,” I ask our self-appointed popcorn taster. He shrugs. “It’s just popcorn.”

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Ful medamus (£7), a popular dish through the Middle East and north Africa (spelling varies), here comprises Ethiopian refried beans enlivened with onions and spices and topped with egg slices. The beans are good but let down by a rough pile of undressed rocket and dry pitta.

The inclusion of balsamic roasted vegetable pasta (£6.95) in the “specials” proves somewhat inappropriate: the veg – mushroom, aubergine, carrot – is fine, but the pasta overcooked, the chilli excessive. “My mum would be sweating cobs,” my friend noted.

Chicken sausages (bought in, it turns out) are meaty and herby, on an onion chutney spiced up with chilli (they like their chilli). But served on an otherwise plain brioche bun, £5.50 does not feel like best value.

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But we go back and are rewarded with an excellent toasted granary bread sandwich of moist fajita-spiced chicken, mixed peppers and mature cheddar (£5.75), textures, flavours and proportions judged just right.

A blue cinnamon smoothie (£4.50) is the discovery of the day; blueberries, yoghurt, milk, honey and spice coming together like a journey on the Silk Road.

Vegetarian breakfast (£8.75) has scrambled free range eggs, crisp little fried potatoes, properly cooked mushrooms, fried halloumi that’s a little chewy, granary toast and a pot of mixed beans in richly spiced tomato sauce.

Superfood falafel salad (£7) proves challenging; the chickpea balls very coarse and lacking the crisp coating that is half the falafel’s charm, a truly vast heap of salad leaves dry but for a few drizzles of tahini. Not super food.

Coffee is mostly good: a latte (£2.80) with an extra shot is “potent” and “like a nice dessert”; an iced frappe (£3) is “mmmm!”; only a plain Americano (£2.70) needs a little more muscle. But the beans come from co-operative farms in Ethiopia so you can’t complain even though I think I just did.

Excellent Bakewell tart (£3) is home-made, as are all the cakes.

Pop in for a toastie with your bestie, a coffee with a co-worker, or a solo smoothie while you catch up on work without distractions, apart from the sad bastard photographing his food and preparing to disparage your latte and your laptop. Add cake and all will be well.

The place appears to tick over nicely: friends, couples, colleagues, nobody, but nobody over 30. Pleasant company excepted.

So, there are some good things to be found here, and some not so good things. As in life, as in Coffee & Fandisha.

Coffee & Fandisha,
5 Brick St,
Liverpool L1 0BL,
0151 708 6492.

  • Food 6/10

    Ful medames, 4/10; veggie pasta, 4/10; chicken sausages, 4.5/10; spiced chicken toastie 7.5/10; smoothie 9/10; vegetarian breakfast 5.5/10; falafel salad 3/10; latte 8/10; frappe 7.5/10; Americano 6/10; bakewell tart 8/10

  • Ambience 4/5

    Hipster cool

  • Service 4/5

    Friendly and helpful