On a late Friday afternoon, when the dedicated are ringing out their last ounce of enthusiasm at their desks and the work shy are hot footing it to the nearest public house, Lantana is a tranquil space to enjoy a rich cup of coffee and a cake. There's a steady stream of chatter and the hiss of the espresso machine; a great setting for a spot of pre-weekend escapism.
I first heard about Lantana from a friend who's boyfriend is Australian. They raved about the lazy brunch they'd shared which had been accompanied by a "proper Aussie" coffee or three. I've always loved the concept of breakfast or brunch somewhere further than my front door but my morning appetite precludes this. Very frustrating. Maybe one day I'll manage to keep my rumbly tummy in check with a sneaky slice of toast before heading out for a some maple french toast with bacon, bananas and candied pecans (oh lordy) or baked eggs with roasted mushrooms. That's if I can drag myself out from the cocoon of my duvet in time for breakfast (heck, it's a wrench during the week, let alone at the weekend).
Anyhow, I found myself at a loose end during the long final hours of the working week and decided that a hot drink and cake was in order before I embarked on my habitual weekend train journey. I was lead to a table with a prime view of the serving counter (all the better to see frothy latte art being churned out) and ordered a hot chocolate and a charming little friand cake. It's worth keeping in mind that the kitchen closes at 3pm but fear not as coffee, cake and gravity-defying sub sandwiches are available until closing time.
The hot chocolate (£2.50) was sweet and creamy, a nice change from the powdery, bland imitations that I've seen masquerading as hot chocolate of late. I sipped from my glass (rather than a mug, strangely satisfying) and cast my eye of the menu boards. They had some truly delicious sounding salads chalked up - will have to return for a little more sustinence next time. They have links with the lovely Gail's bakery who supply them with their fantastic sour dough. A match made in heaven!
The friand (£1.90) was fantastic too - a soft, moist almond cake with a lovely sticky crumb and warming marzipan flavour. Mine had a generous slice of juicy apricot baked into the top which equally complimented and contrasted the richness of the almonds. A real winner and just the right size to knock back hunger without making me feel absolutely stuffed.
The proprietors of Lantana opened with the aim of bringing a cup of Australian café culture to London and you can definitely feel the Aussie influence as you take a seat. I can't quite put my finger on what it is exactly; maybe it's the cute, genuine human staff or their mean flat white coffees or the huge jar of Vegemite displayed proudly on the counter... The atmosphere is relaxed, laid back but not sloppy. The guy working the espresso machine really knew his stuff and everything was spick and span without feeling sterile. The toilets were clean and tidy (a rare and precious thing in central London) and they even have free secure wifi for all the techies out there.
It's a stones throw from Tottenham Court Road so it's an ideal spot to hide away from the maddening shopping crowds. It's a pretty small establishment - seating thirty at most - but if it's packed, you can make a bee-line for their takeaway outlet next door. I have to go back; if not for breakfast then for their take on the English BLT, the BRAT (bacon, rocket, avocado and tomato).
Lantana can be found at 13 Charlotte Place, London, W1T 1SN. Tel: 020 7637 3347. Nearest Tube: Goodge Street.