The coffee bean and tea leaf, along with the British Council library has given people a choice to devour to their heart desire; either food or books or both. The cafe-library which was recently opened at the Orion City, facing the Baseline road, is the first of its kind in the country.

Anybody could just walk in, grab a book and a drink, go to a corner and be deaf to the rest of the world. It is the perfect lair for all the book worms out there, who wants to enjoy their books and snacks, without disturbance. The somewhat off the radar location makes it an ideal hideaway, especially considering the time taken to get there. But, this could also be the one hitch in the singularly well managed library-cafe.

The library cafe has two distinct sides. The library side and the cafe side. The library is more relaxed and comfortable than your average library. It is stacked with an extensive collection of books, including children’s books, fiction, academic books, biographies, comics and information guides. This provides an ideal haunt for writers and poets to unleash their imagination and sense of adventure in fantasy lands, perhaps cradling a coffee in hand.

This part of the restaurant has comfortable sofas and chairs as well as traditional high backed chairs, so the choice is all yours. However, if you want to take the book home and finish it off, the membership of the British Council library is required. There is a playstation, available free of charge to anybody who walks in, with bean bags one could sink into for long hours. The more old fashioned gamers could break out the board games; Snakes and ladders and the like. The range of academic books includ volumes of marketing, management and IT books. I spied work from Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse, Christopher Paolini, Harry Potter collection, Shopaholic collection and Heroes of Olympus series among the rest.

The cafe side is your typical Cofeebean, again with an assortment of high backed chairs, high chairs and more comfortable cushioned seating. It is ideal for working or studying. The noise level is very decent. It is difficult to hear even a hum, undoubtedly due to the spacious setting of the restaurant. Background music is very gentle and soothing. There are plug points all over the place to plug in laptops and free WiFi is available. The place has daylight pouring in from all sides, the result of its glass walls.

I curled up on an extremely comfortable chair, on the library side, with Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebook in hand. Service was fast and the food and coffee arrived as soon as I ordered. The pizza, which arrived last, took only 10 minutes. The thin bread pizza does not come round at Coffeebean. Instead, it’s a rectangle which is served in six two by two inch cut squares. The shape makes it ideal for munching on, along with a book. It is less messy than a wedge and there is less chance of getting the grease on books.

Thandoori chicken pizza was warm, juicy and crispy at the same time. It had the right balance between the spices. Slightly oily because of the cheese, but the tomato, thandoori chicken and bell pepper blended in harmony bring out a delicious aromatic flavor. A distinct oregano flavor surfaced from time to time, challenging the taste buds. Tomato added a bit of sweetness here and there. The chicken pizza was a good balance between meat and vegetables. Despite the cheese, the pizza is light and gentle on the digestive system. While reading the book, I finished off the major part it, without even realizing.

Swedish berry iced tea is served with sugar syrup that comes separately; a wise choice considering the different sugar preferences of different individuals. The drink is chilled and when I tasted it without sugar first, it was more like inhaling the berry flavor rather than tasting. A very refreshing drink that would compliment any book, regardless its genre. It stimulated all the sensory receptors in the nose and mouth. This is a definite recommendation for those who want to watch their sugar intake. After adding about two tablespoons of the sugar syrup, the tongue could actually taste the Swedish berry flavor, due to the sweet flavor acting as an enhancer. It was still lightly sweet and pleasant.

Iced Hazelnut latte was simply delicious. The ice blended drink wafted an aromatic fragrance that was sweetly seductive.

The coffee flavor is dominant at first sip. Then it slowly surrenders to a much sweeter milky and hazelnut flavor. It is a light drink with less sugar, an ideal companion for reading or writing. It does not dehydrate afterwards, a definite plus.

Blueberry cheesecake was one of the best I have ever tasted. The thick layer of blueberry topping, with real blueberries floating on the top makes the mouth water, even before the actual tasting takes place. The thick and creamy texture of rich cheese slowly melts in the mouth. The vanilla and blueberry flavors complement each other. It is slightly sour and not too sweet, but very heavy and filling. It is ideal to keep with you the whole time you are at the library-cafe and munch from time to time while reading. It would certainly enhance the flavor of the book you are devouring.

There is also a small meeting room, which could house about ten people comfortably at any one time. It comes with a screen for presentations. The adjoining outdoor sitting area has sun shades on top and a row of beautiful green trees on a side, including bamboo. It could be used as a smoking area.

My one worry was spilling something on the books. When I inquired Ashani Perera, the Assistant Manager of British Council library, she shared that it was one risk they had to take with the concept. The place was haunted by young tech savvy crowd from Orion City. Few elderly ladies were hanging out, chatting between coffee and magazines. However, the café welcomes people of all ages. It is accessible to those in wheel chairs as well. The adjoining washroom is clean, a must for those who hang around for long hours. The place is open from 7.00 am to 9.00 pm and anyone can walk in. There is no need for reservations and parking is available at all times. I failed to find a single thing wrong with the restaurant, a first, so cheers to the whole concept of a library-café.

It provides food for the mind and the stomach under one roof. Daniel Halpern, publisher of Ecco Press, USA, once commented, “The passion my generation felt about poetry and fiction has gone into food.” So maybe the passion for books would be re-kindled at the
library-café, when the younger generation realizes that food and books aren’t always mutually exclusive.

sipping coffee (1) sipping coffee (2)