Walking down Piccadilly in central London, words that don’t tend to spring to mind are “calm”, “relaxing”, “oasis” and yet, when you step through the doors of Maison Assouline’s flagship store, that is precisely the feeling.
This is a little hideaway for literature lovers and cocktail enthusiasts. With the feeling of an old library that any book lover will immediately fall for, coupled with a modern and sophisticated approach, I could happily end any working day here. The walls are covered with the most stunning books, spanning across food & drink, travel and many more lifestyle areas. In short, if you’re looking for a beautiful coffee book or a thoughtful gift for a book fanatic, this should be your one and only stop.
And if that wasn’t enough, the team has recently revamped the Swans Bar. A small and unassuming cocktail bar nestled in amongst the books that would be a beautiful work meeting spot or an impressive first date suggestion. The cocktails have been crafted to rival even the most special of their books, and it’s clear to see the time and care that has been poured into writing a considered menu featuring only the best spirits.
Recently, Maison Assouline unveiled two stunning books all embedded in Saudi Arabian culture: Saudi Coffee: The Culture of Hospitality and Saudi Dates: A Portrait of the Sacred Fruit.
Not doing anything by halves, the team launched these with an elegant breakfast developed by Saudi Arabian Chef Maria Alkhalaf. Listening to Maria talk through the cultural importance of coffee and dates in her home country was spellbinding and the dishes she prepared were nothing short of spectacular. Maria gifted us with the opportunity to taste breakfast dishes prepared with dates at the heart, the kinds of which you’d never get to try outside of Saudi Arabia.
And the books themselves are breathtaking. Walking through the history and significance of coffee and dates within Saudi Arabia, with a pure intent to bridge cultures and bring understanding through the power of food. In Saudi Arabia, coffee is more than a start to the day, it’s a symbol of hospitality and pride. Homegrown in the country itself, coffee is created and produced all within Saudi borders, and is not served lightly. With a long history of tradition and hospitality behind it, there’s a revered respect that comes from sharing a coffee with a guest in Saudi Arabia.
When it comes to dates, the palms frame the landscape of Saudi Arabia, and Chef Maria spoke fondly of how these sacred fruits formed a part of her childhood. Within Saudi, date palms are considered sacred and a source of life and power. Further to spiritual connotations, the date palm oasis in Saudi Arabia is actually recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site. This is about cultural pride for Saudi Arabia, and the perfect pairing with a cup of coffee, enjoyed slowly.
Both of these special books are available now, eu.assouline.com, RRP £91.00.
[Items in this article may have been gifted to Chatting Food. No financial payment has been made to feature in this article, and entries to the feature are made independently by members of the Editorial Team. This page contains affiliate links and we may receive a small commission for purchases] Chatting Food contributor: Lucie Rhoades is a freelance food & drink copywriter, with a passion for cocktails. Find her @ScenicSipping.