Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Cafe’

My Travel Sketchbook: View from the Hotel Gatto Bianco

I laboured long and hard over choices of where to stay in Capri. It wasn’t that the choice was overwhelming – far from it. Being small, Capri has a more limited stock of good hotels, and with even the cheapest threatening to implode the most generous of budgets, finding something of a deal was always going to be difficult. In the end, I went for the Hotel Gatto Bianco, something of an institution in Capri, which has long been a staple and celebrity haunt (aren’t they all!) thanks to its excellent position in the centre of Capri Town and, in some rooms at least, the most ravishing views over the Town and the island beyond.

We were lucky enough to enjoy one such view, and upon first encounter of our balcony, its floor delightfully tiled with multi-coloured majolica, and its railings filled to bursting with vibrant pink bougainvillea, I didn’t know where to begin in capturing it artistically. In the end, I opted to work on both views, turning inland towards the steep house-covered hillside with my sketchbook, and swiveling 180 degrees seawards for a gouache painting (yet to be revealed… coming soon!).

El Gatto Bianco

View from Room 210 of the Hotel Gatto Bianco (©2019 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

So here is the result. It’s a jam-packed image, and appropriately so, as Capri is something of a populated place, despite its innate exclusivity. But even despite the squeeze, given the stunning scenery and views to die for at every turn, I can well imagine that any one of the many houses captured in this sketch would be well worth the having. One day maybe…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit 

My Travel Sketchbook: Castello Aragonese

I knew I would have to sketch the Castello Aragonese. Its mighty imposing mass, looming over the town of Ischia Ponte makes the islet and fortress the undisputable icon of the beautiful volcanic island of Ischia. It was only a question of angle.

The answer came from a cafe perfectly placed on the quayside, almost inline with the narrow causeway which leads triumphantly to the castle entrance. However, the location also provided some interest to the composition in the form of both a distant and foreground cafe structure.  And better still, taking a seat in the cafe terrace provided us with the perfect excuse to enjoy a coffee and a pastry, while before us one of Ischia’s most ravishing views unravelled, for the hungry movements of my sketch pens to devour.

Castello Aragonese

Coffee in front of the Castello Aragonese (©2019 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit 

Marrakech on Paper: Tea at the Café de France

As The Daily Norm’s great Marrakech series continues, I am feeling as inspired to create artwork reflecting the trip as I am to share those special holiday moments with you on this blog. Looking back to one of my earliest posts, you will remember me telling you about our very fortuitous tea at the emblematic Cafe de France; fortuitous because of the luck we had in arriving just as the best corner table became free with its perfect view of the bustling Jeema el Fna square. Having since painted one of my favourite afternoon spots – the terrace at the Riad 19 La Ksour – it was perhaps inevitable that I would follow it with a depiction of that other great afternoon experience at the Cafe de France. After all, with its amazing sun set view, its charismatic zig zag floor and tiled walls, and the sun blinds up ahead creating cosiness to its well-appointed terrace, there were plenty of details at the Cafe de France to capture as I went about immortalising the occasion.

Cafe de France FINAL

Tea at the Café de France, Marrakech (2017 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

The result is rather complex for a collection of gouache paintings otherwise characterised by their relative simplicity, but it makes for a fine addition to my collection of holiday illustrations, and another way in which our Marrakech trip will be long rooted in the forefront of my imagination.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit 

Marrakech Moments: Tea at the Café de France

Every city has an iconic café. It’s not always the fanciest, or the most expensive or the most beautiful, but it will be the place with history, with a notorious clientele, and a spot beloved by locals and tourists alike. In Marrakech, that place is the Café de France. Located at the bustling heart of the Jemaa El Fna, the iconic market square at the centre of Marrakech, it is simply the perfect ambience to take a Moroccan mint tea and watch the world go by.


But as with all such iconic places – we’re talking the level of Florian’s in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Caffé Greco in Rome – the best tables are hard to get. When we arrived in Marrakech, a very friendly steward in our Riad told us that the most sought after table was the one up on the first floor terrace of the Café in the most south western corner, with a perfect view of the Koutoubia Mosque at sunset. When we arrived at the Café de France, it was so crowded that we would have been lucky to get a table at all, let alone get the table most coveted of all. But suddenly, as if by magic, and at the precise moment when the lingering clouds of the afternoon cleared and sun rays flooded the terrace of the café, the very same corner table became free and we swiftly occupied it, and soaked in its very enticing view.


The recommendation was correct. It really was the best table. From there we could enjoy the sunset, the Koutoubia tower, and the bustling Jemaa El Fna square at this time when it transformed from day time market place to a huge open air eatery and evening performance venue. There is where the stories of ancient sand dunes and shifting deserts are told, where serpents uncoil out of baskets and monkeys are trained to dance. This exotic space is the centre of the city for a reason, and we had the very best view of it, from above.  Determined to enjoy the table, we took endless photos, reflected upon the ever changing view, sat back, read, and enjoyed a perfectly fresh mint tea. An iconic moment fit only for the café of all Marrakech cafés.


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Lunch in the Café Eiles (Vienna Muse)

There are times in life when a single moment gains more clarity than the thousand moments before and after; when the significant size of a city space shrinks in the coincidence of two people meeting again and again, quite unplanned, as though destiny had it all preemptively narrated. Such were the moments in Vienna when I, previously untouched by the poetic force of a female muse, found myself repeatedly captivated by a mysterious, delicate girl.

It was a fascination which might not have been so fortified were it not for the repetition of the first encounter. I first saw my muse in the elegant cafeteria of the Kunsthistoriches Museum. Dominik and I had both marked her out, quite independently of one another. We were struck by the purity of her face, quite devoid of artificial make up but alive with a natural innocence, and by her clothing which was different. Her outfit looked almost home-made, but betrayed a feminine elegance in each of its carefully combined components.

I might not have thought of her again, had it not been for the coincidence of a second encounter the following day, some kilometres away on the other side of Vienna, in the Café Eiles. Unable to believe the coincidence of quite independently finding the same girl who had so captivated me in the art museum the day before, my interest peaked and I found myself utterly enraptured by this girl. Again she betrayed characteristic elegance as she went about sipping a tea while writing what looked like a journal, and knitting a rather complex scarf.

Vienna Muse FINAL

Lunch at the Café Eiles (Vienna Muse) (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

By this point I knew that the girl was becoming something of an inspiration to me, and like paparazzi I grabbed for my camera, desperate to capture the sight of this girl who I was sure I would never see again. It’s just that the following day a third encounter, in the same café, occurred. No longer a coincidence of place, but of timing. Another encounter which appeared to defy chance and confirmed to me that the paths of this girl and I were meant to cross. That she was my muse and that I must paint her.

As soon as I saw my muse on that second encounter this painting formed in my head. Now I have created it, complete with the lunch we ate in the cosy Café Eiles as I sat, captivated by my muse, I feel somehow satisfied that my muse has been set down on paper. But I can’t help but feel sad that even now, after three coincidental encounters I know nothing more about the girl who ensnared me. Neither her name, nor her voice, nor even a single thing about her. I just know that to me she was very special. Maybe one day we’ll meet again.

Vienna Muse DETAIL

Lunch at the Café Eiles (Vienna Muse) detail, 2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

Enjoying the Viennese Coffee House

Along with the waltz, the Danube, Klimt and the Wein Schnitzel, Vienna can count its famous coffee houses amongst those icons which have come to characterise the city. Dating as far back as the 17th century, and reaching their popular height in the 19th century, the cafes have long been the focus of Viennese society, as a place to read the paper, take a strudel, dig into a plate of sausages and of course enjoy a coffee. And of the latter, a fair number of Viennese specialities have developed alongside the historical cafes, including the Brauner (coffee with milk), the Melange (blended coffee and hot milk), the Kurz (extra strong), Obers (with cream), Kapuziner (double mokka with a hood of cream) and the Schwarzer (black) to name but a few.

Of the many cafes which have come and gone over the centuries, a renowned few have retained their standing as icons of the city, including the Central, the Ministerium, the Museum, the Frauenhuber, the Raimund, the Eiles, the Schwarzenberg and the Zartl. All are unique, but share common trends: a cosy interior with comfortable booths and little armchairs; smoky ageing mirrors, brass lamps and dark wooden furniture; and of course the all important display case in which the famous Viennese cakes are given the attention they deserve.

The famous Cafe Central, and the impressive cafe in the Kunsthistoriches museum

Cafe Centralviennese pastriesimage5

And whichever of the iconic cafes you choose to venture into, the formal etiquette tends to remain the same. Each coffee is served on a small silver tray with an accompanying glass of water. The waiters will most likely be tuxedoed, and it is generally anticipated that you will linger in the cosy surroundings with a paper or a book, long after the last dregs of coffee have been enjoyed.

With ferociously cold temperatures keeping us from the streets, my partner and I were often to be found in a coffee house in Vienna, lured by the cosy interiors and the traditional elegance which each exuded. We never quite made it to the famous Cafe Central, since the queues which seemed to perpetually form outside somewhat defeated the object of venturing to escape the cold. But we did make it into the Cafe Museum and, our favourite of all, the Cafe Eiles.

Enjoying the Eiles


With its eclectic mix of clientele, from the students of the local university to the lawyers and civil servants of the government buildings nearby, we immediately felt completely at home in the Eiles (having personal experience of both sides of the client mix). Its little curved sofa-booths, old fashioned brass lamps and a cream and brown interior felt perfectly traditional, and after several visits we soon got to know that it was the very best place to sample the famous Wein schnitzel, and a range of cakes to match.Best of all, with the accompanying mood of permitted languor, it felt like the best place in which to rest after the mass of museums on offer in the city, to people watch, to warm up, and of course enjoy the coffee.


Photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Miro’s Chocolateria: the C’an Joan de S’Aigo

If it was good enough for Joan Miro, then it is certainly good enough for me… For the C’an Joan de S’Aigo is a café with a venerable history and a list of clientele past and present so long that it can probably count all of Mallorca’s most famous residents among its number, including the great artist Miro himself. Nestled within the maze of nostalgic alleyways which make up the oldest core of Palma’s centre, the C’an Joan de S’Aigo was founded in 1700 and as such is Palma’s oldest eatery. Founded when the cafe’s namesake had the idea of bringing down ice from the Tramuntana mountains and serving it richly flavoured in the earliest form of ice cream, the C’an Joan de S’Aigo is today equally famous for its rich pickings of local pastries and steaming hot chocolate.

DSC00626 DSC00624 DSC00606 DSC00605 DSC00603 DSC00599 DSC00595 DSC00591

Despite the age of this quaint faded café, the locals of Palma have never allowed it to go out of fashion: When we sampled the café after our dip in the sea last weekend, it came after several failed attempts to visit previously – for each time we have been along, the place has heaved with locals who head to the café at the traditional merienda hour to sample ice cream piled high from small glasses and creamy indulgent hot chocolate. But it was worth the wait. Sat amongst the traditional interiors packed with blue and white ceramics, colourful glass chandeliers, copper kettles, filigree vases and wooden thrones, we feasted greedily on a sampling of the cafe’s local pastries, all of which tasted all the better when coated with a velvety layer of that legendary hot chocolate.

For Dominik, a sweet bun made, surprisingly, of potatoes (coca de patata) was a light and fluffy counter to the liquid silk of chocolate steaming in a cup before him. For me, a richer, creamier ensaïmada – the local specialist pastry which you can find all over town and which tourists buy in their plenty in what resemble giant hat boxes. Made in Mallorca even before the C’an Joan de S’Aigo was founded, the ensaïmada is made from dough which has been repeatedly folded with pork fat – much like puff pastry – and then either served sprinkled with sugar, or filled with other such goodies. And my filling of cold custard oozed and melted as it dipped into the hot chocolate with as much unctuous delight as melted butter on a warm crumpet. 

DSC00610 DSC00594 DSC00621 DSC00588 DSC00590

Thoroughly disgusted by our self-indulgence, but rather rewarded by our dip into local culture, we swiftly decided that a visit to C’an Joan de S’Aigo must become a weekly tradition. How else can one become integrated into Mallorquin society?

The C’an Joan de S’Aigo café can be found hidden away just off from the church of Santa Eulalia on the Carrer Can Sanc 10. It’s open daily 8am-9pm except Tuesdays.

Aix: City of a Thousand Fountains

After a week of “sneak peeks” via my delacybrownart twitter feed, I am delighted to be able to share with you the final and complete image of my major new oil painting on canvas – Aix: City of a Thousand Fountains. Started shortly after I returned from my first visit to the stunning Provençal city last summer, I set out to capture something of the sun drenched joie de vivre which  Aix excuses by the bucket in a work which eventually took me 7 months to complete.

As the painting’s title suggests, the work plays on a well known descriptive adage which notes that the city is one of “a thousand fountains”. While that may be something of an exaggeration, the motivation behind the statement can be well understood – one of the most notable features of the city is indeed its plentiful and elaborate fountains, one situated in what seems to be every square and street, in the middle of junctions and on street corners. It really is a city where water flourishes; where splashing running currents sparkle playfully in the sun.

But in choosing to symbolise several of these many fountains, I decided to play with the themes somewhat, combining those fountains with the very predominant cafe culture which is an integral aspect of the city’s character, and which fills it’s many multi-coloured shuttered squares with life. It is in one such square that my work is set, a square which also plays host to a series of Provençal shops and peeling old vintage adverts upon the walls. And there, on the typically dressed chequered tablecloths of cafe tables, my fountains, rather than plates, are the dish of the day.

Aix: City of a Thousand Fountains (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Aix: City of a Thousand Fountains (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Meanwhile no painting of Aix-en-Provence could be complete without a reference to the magnificent Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain which so seduced and fascinated the artist Cézanne for years (resulting in a series of canvases which continue to be his most enduring works) and which features monumentally in my work, dominating the upper half of the canvas. I remember so well that moment when, last summer, my partner and I climbed up the steep hills north of the city to the exact place where Cézanne used to paint the view of the mountain which obsessed him the most – and turning to see that same breathtaking visage which had so captivated this master of modern painting. It was at that moment that I knew I had to make my own homage to that incredible view, and that brilliant artist – and it was at that time when this painting was born.

The keen-eyed amongst you may also notice that I have included a further homage to Cézanne, by featuring his famous card players sat at one of my café tables, as well as a whole host of other details which I now share with you in the gallery of details featured below. Hopefully you will enjoy looking at the individual aspects of this painting as much as I enjoyed painting them. It was, with every brush stroke, like revisiting my holiday to Aix afresh, and for that reason alone, it was surely worth the 7 months slog to complete it.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

Elegance overflowing: Ladurée Covent Garden

For those of you who have been reading my blog since its inception, you’ll know that I am unashamedly obsessed with all things Ladurée. Not only is the café/salon/patisserie emblematic of all things Parisienne, it is also the height of elegance wherever it is situated (apart from the rather aberrant gold cave-like cacophony that is the Mayfair branch). There I was in December freezing my you-know-whats off in a huge queue for the Champs-Elysees branch in the heart of Paris, when all the time I had no idea that a spectacular new branch of the macaroon masters had opened up almost on my doorstep in London’s Covent Garden. And what a branch it is – large outdoor terrace on the cobbles made famous by My Fair Lady, a retail shop which glistens like the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and an upstairs salon of which Marie Antoinette herself would have been proud. To top it off, there’s even a small roof terrace overlooking Covent Garden’s market and plaza – the perfect view of street entertainers and the continental café culture underneath. All hail Covent Garden’s Ladurée!! It is a joyous thing for all us Londoners, and finally, a well needed injection of elegance has come to CG. And Ladurée is not alone. Joining it are new branches of Ralph Lauren, Burberry and the huge new glitsy Apple store which is for Guggenheim architectural contemporary glitz what Ladurée is for Louis XV glamour.

Ladurée's Covent Garden branch: the elegant retail counter

Ladurée's Covent Garden branch: upstairs salon

Ladurée Covent Garden - roof terrace

I visited this luscious Ladurée a few days ago. I had seen the shop and the outside terrace, but I had no idea what gems lay in store upstairs. There in the little salon, small Parisian-pavement style tables are matched with elegant velvet armchairs, small sofas, and even a chaise longue  topped by a four-postered curtained canopy. Meanwhile on the walls, elegant swept frames surround antique portraits of landed gentry, reminding those supping upon coffee and macaroons that they are in the company of the upper echelons.

Ladurée: Present indulgence in Past elegance (pen on paper, 2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Saint Honoré

So what did I partake of on this auspicious occasion? Well, it was a Saint Honoré pastry for me, although the choice was overwhelming and all-tempting, a rather shoddy iphone picture of which I enclose. This was theatre on a plate. One choux pastry dome surrounded by several miniature renderings, all filled with and surrounded by a delicate cream imbued with the subtle elegant perfume of rose, balanced with deliciously sweet sharp raspberries and an indulgent raspberry icing. It was phenomenally delicious, and while it doesn’t come cheap (£6 for the cake alone), it’s an incentive for any eater to sit up straight, mind their Ps and Qs, and hark back to the sophisticated society of a more dignified past.

Talking of dignified, the staff were fastidious in their approach, refined in their perfect appearance, and charming in their manner. And when they speak French to one another, I could so easily be back in the 1eme Arrondissement in Paris that I would consider moving into the café full time, except it would probably bankrupt me in about a week.

This Ladurée, in fact any Ladurée, is a must for all champions of tasteful pursuits. All that remains now is to recreate the patisseries themselves at home… I have the book, I have the ground almonds, the eggs, and I have the icing bags… I think, with some trepidation, I’m going to try my first macaroons this weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes…

À bientôt!

Paris v London: What ever happened to British Café Culture?

I was reading the post of one of my favourite Paris-based bloggers, Becoming Madame, the other day which described a truly resonant and idyllic scene which she witnessed when sitting inside a Parisian café. Like many of the readers who commented on the post, I was struck by how easily one can be drawn into the romanticised ideal of the Parisian café. It was the same when I was there two weeks ago: There’s something about Parisian cafes which exudes effortless elegance. Some of them are tatty, have tired looking waiters who have been doing the same job for years, browning mirrors and horrible toilets. But there’s something about them, with their hand-written blackboards, mirrored walls, wicker chairs and round tables squeezed outside, and cosy booths inside set amongst an array of old posters and photographs, that just IS romantic and offers us  the very epitome of café culture. This quintessential idyllic view of the French café was very much indulged in my favourite film of all time, Amélie, and yet, despite the cinematic interpretation, the quirky little cafe  captured in than film is wholly representative of reality.

My queuing experience in Starbucks yesterday

So all of this got me thinking (while stood in a massive queue in Starbucks yesterday), while the streets of Paris are literally dotted all over with cafés and brasseries on every corner, each inviting us to indulge with its cherry red awnings and cosy pavement heaters, why is it that in London, the best we can manage is a starbucks or a Cafe Nero every 100 metres? What happened to the Lyons Teahouses which were at the centre of polite society? Or the little privately run café to which everyone would flock for a gossip? In Paris you sit down and are greeted (not always immediately, warranted) by the friendly(ish) face of a smart French waiter. You order your coffee, you sit back, and you indulge in the sweet pleasure that is people watching. In London you queue for a coffee for what seems like an age. You can attempt to sit down, but most of the cafes are turned over to the takeaway trade, so seating is both limited and purposefully uncomfortable so that the turnaround is quick and no one stays too long. Because of the people rushing in and out, the doors are always open. Your experience is cold and drafty and usually, because of lack of accommodation you have to leave with coffee in a paper cup, the small hole in the lid badly designed for sipping so that generally you get half of the scalding liquid down your face before you’ve managed to sit down and enjoy it. And yet the thing is, these cafés are always full, and you get the feeling that in London there really is a growing coffee culture. So why can’t we have the relaxed café culture of Paris?

Read more