It’s better on the inside
One of the best things about our little hobby here is when we discover a place that truly surprises us. Such was the case with our recent visit to La Isla Café. This small coffee shop is both hidden – tucked away on Prideaux Street behind the fire station – and a gem, in that the food, service, décor, and prices are all quite nice.
The café’s austere grey exterior might be a turnoff to passers-by, but walking in you’ll be surprised at just how contemporary and comfortable the shop is. The café has plenty of seating, a barista station, a cooler for cakes, displays for baked goods, and a coffee bar. They’ve also smartly left plenty of room in the centre for queueing and for take out customers so none of that disrupts the dine-in patrons.
In addition to the standard array of baked goods (muffins, scones, Nanaimo bars, etc.) this café has a few Indian items on the menu. It’s not quite as exotic a menu offering as we’d hoped based on their motto (“foods from cultures near and far“) but it’s still different enough to be compelling. The promise of different daily entrée specials intrigues too.
For our visit, we were looking for a large lunch and some coffee to perk us up. We asked for the butter chicken; the daily special, which was a roasted veg bowl with kale and brown rice; a spinach and feta muffin from their case, and a couple of drip coffees.
The coffee was good but nothing special and there were plenty of options at the coffee bar to customize as needed. The muffin was – wow – the muffin was super, super delicious. In fact, it was so good that we both 1) burned our mouths a bit because we just couldn’t stop eating, and 2) forgot to take a picture. After, we confirmed that all of La Isla’s baked goods were made on site. Hats off to the baker.
Our entrees were served to our table shortly after the muffin massacre. The butter chicken came with spiced rice and a generous piece of buttered naan bread. The butter chicken recipe they’re using is stellar. There’s tanginess up front, followed by richness, and finishing with a slight zing of spice. The meat was quite tender too. The side of rice was fine, though maybe a bit bland, and a touch on the dry side, like it had been reheated. Overall this was a great meal despite the rice being slightly weak.
The special we ordered was a “veggie roasted Fall bowl”. We weren’t sure what “roasted Fall” was but wanted to try it anyway. 😉 This dish was essentially a kale salad served on rice, with a few roasted veggies thrown in. The salad itself was great and we particularly liked the dressing. As with the other entrée, though, the rice was a bit on the dry side.
All of this came to $40, including tax and a modest tip. For us, this is right on the line between cheap and not cheap for a café lunch, so we suppose that means La Isla has priced their menu just right. Strangely, there is one item on the menu which struck us as a steal – the no carb breakfast for $5. We saw another customer order this while we were there. It’s basically a two-egg McMuffin without the English muffin. Good deal.
La Isla Café was a pleasant surprise. While it might not look like much from outside, the café has good food, good prices and a pleasant atmosphere. The menu items are just varied enough to be interesting and we expect that aspect of the business to improve as they settle in. We suggest you give it a shot and let them know we sent you!