Amar Café: Phone A Brownie

Brownie Basics

Amar Café is a small coffee chain operating out of four phone boxes (yes) around England. The Greenwich one, if not the others, has a brownie for sale.

I still can’t photograph brownies on white plates without them looking wrong.

Brownie Backstory

In the West we’ve been living with covid-19 for less than a year now, although personally it feels like it’s been several decades. WordPress also tells me it’s only actually been six months since I last blogged about a brownie, which similarly is less time than I thought while also being quite a long time. I found a post in my drafts about the Nando’s brownie from August, which I guess I’ll need to revisit at some point as well. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t that great, but I think I need to wait until I have another Nando’s in order to give it a fair and accurate score, what a shame.)

Anyway here in the UK, when the first lockdown began to lift and we started to venture outside again, rediscovering the joys of takeaway coffee was one of the things that kept me going. SE London has its fair share of options, even if it feels a bit thin on the ground compared to my SW London experiences – I find myself missing Brickwood a lot, for example. Then again, I find myself missing anything that reminds me of a time before the world was covered in death.

Amar Café has four branches: three in London, and one in Stratford-upon-Avon (currently closed due to the everything). I only learned this recently in casual conversation with one of the baristas in the Greenwich branch, which is the one most local to me and so the one I have visited. When restrictions were less strict, I’d generally take a walk into Greenwich around lunchtime, buy lunch, buy coffee from Amar Café, walk home and eat/drink during the next in my incessant meeting schedule. Now that you’re only supposed to leave home for essential shopping and for exercise, my visits are less frequent, but I’m still sometimes minded to walk through Greenwich and just so happen to buy a coffee during my exercise.

The coffee at Amar Café is excellent, and bear in mind I’m saying this after a year where my regular coffee consumption has gone from “pop to Costa in Southend every so often” to “make my own V60 brews at home using the finest mail-order coffee blends”. It’s certainly some of the best I’ve had in the area, and I have sampled a lot of the (takeaway) coffee options in this part of London. The baristas are all very friendly and personable, and if we’re honest, have been the source of most of my conversation in the past year. Since they literally operate out of a phone box, there’s not a huge amount of scope for sandwiches or snacks or cakes, but there is always a cute little bell jar with a two-tier arrangement of salted caramel brownies, handmade by (so I am told) one of the barista’s partners. What I’m saying is, I really like this place.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve eaten one of their brownies if I’m honest – the gap since last posting means I’ve eaten quite a few brownies and not written them up. Starting afresh this year, I’m hoping to get back into trying more brownies out and blogging about them (always a difficult hobby to balance with losing weight and becoming fitter… but I’ll see what I can do), especially since I moved to SE London over a year ago now and have had depressingly little opportunity to explore the local(ish) brownie scene. Anyway, I had a few brownie scores scribbled down on my phone’s notes app, but they’d all sat there long enough that I didn’t feel I could do those brownies proper justice on this blog! So today on my daily walk outside I paused briefly at the phone box for coffee, and decided to take the plunge and finally give their brownie a proper review.

Brownie Points

Taste: Long term readers will know I am not the biggest fan of salted caramel but that I have greatly enjoyed some brownies which feature it. This is a pretty good use of salted caramel in a brownie to enhance both flavour and texture. It’s very sweet, not quite too sweet, but there’s just about enough chocolate flavour underneath. 8/10

Texture: This brownie has a thicker crust than you might expect on top, giving it almost a cakey layer on top of a very nice fudgey brownie layer. It’s a dangerous texture combination (and if we’re honest, possibly not 100% deliberate) but the fudgey brownie still dominates. In addition, this brownie had a significant amount of pooled and hardened caramel along one edge, which I actually found a pretty pleasant addition. 7/10

Presentation: There’s nothing wrong with the brownie’s appearance, but it isn’t the sort of thing I can give high marks for. I’ve pushed it up past 50% (i.e. to a 3) on the grounds of the aforementioned cute bell jar display. 3/5

Value: Lawd, you can tell it’s been too long since I used to go to coffee shops and order brownies, because who even knows what value is these days? According to my notes, this brownie is effectively £2.70 if you get it with a coffee and take advantage of the combination deal. However these notes are from months ago and I didn’t take notice today of whether I was getting such a deal. Looking at my Monzo, I still seem to have paid £2.70 for the brownie so I guess so…? I don’t know what the brownie would cost if you bought it on its own, but I also don’t understand why you would go to Amar Café and not buy a coffee. I’m happy to treat this brownie as costing £2.70, which is pretty okay. I’m giving a little bit of consideration to the fact that you can only possibly get it for takeaway (okay, there is a table and two chairs by the phone box, but even in non-covid times this isn’t really an eat-in café). 7/10

Fudge Factor: I very much like Amar Café and am honestly considering some day returning to Stratford-upon-Avon partly so I can support phonebox cafés outside of London. 4/5

What’s In The Phonebox: 29

Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?

I’ll put it a slightly different way: if you like great coffee, you should get some great coffee from Amar Café (you know, when the opportunity arises). If you like that great coffee, you could certainly pair it with a pretty good brownie. (If you don’t like coffee, the place whose name is literally “To Love Coffee” may not be for you.)

Closing Thoughts

Well, who wants to take bets on how many months it takes before this year starts to get any better?

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