A great coffee in Milan.

It shouldn’t be hard. It should be a cake walk. The Starbucks creation fable tells us the vibrant Milanese espresso scene was what originally inspired Howard Schultz. Yet not all the coffee that you’ll find in Milan is good. In fact some of it is downright dreckish. Beans that had been harshly roasted and hastily muddled milk slopped into a cup was pretty standard in our time in this most fashionable of cities.

When researching coffee in Milan most online message boards will eventually decline into a tedious debate of ‘tourists will have no problem finding decent coffee in Milan, it’s part of the Italian culture, but don’t expect Starbucks/Costa/insert-shlocky-brand-name-experience here’.

Duh. When I travel I don’t want a coffee the size of a of a sandcastle with a made up word for its size. And similarly, I don’t want just anything hot and bitter in a cup. I want something that’s good.

It can be the difference between a nice day and a great one.

One suggestion passed via twitter of where to get find good espresso in Milan was conveniently in the centre of the glorious Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the domed glass vaulted arcade that links La Scala and the Duomo.

So while some people covet the idea of breakfast at Tiffany’s, on our second morning in Milan we had brunch at Gucci.

The Gucci cafe is an excellent spot for people watching. There are white rose buds on the tables.  The laminated menu includes espressos from a variety of origins.

Their morning cappuccino (€5) was functional; decent flavour, nicely textured milk, but rather cold.  What was not serviceable was the food. The ‘meat quiche’ (€7) was one of two savoury options available. Both the flavour and presentation were a little….underwhelming.

And the cutlery was one of the more comedic thing I’ve encountered in recent times at a table.  Yes, on the plate there is a forknife. Not a spork but a fork and a knife melded into one. Not to go camping with. To eat quiche. And leaves. At Gucci. Potentially over the top of a shirt that you’ve bought from inside the adjacent boutique. A shirt that probably costs a week’s wages.

It is not functional for anything except ridicule.

If you’re in the centre of town shopping up a storm and in need of some caffeine or somewhere to rest your insteps Gucci is one option (and I’m guessing most of the patrons who frequent Gucci  don’t really eat so much anyway). But if you’re after brunch, lunch, gelato, dinner and or just want to combine caffeine with something to eat, then Biancolatte is where you need to be.

Cappuccino at Biancolatte

From the front entrance on Via Filippo Turati Biancolatte’s biscuit hued awning presents itself as yet another gelato store.

And yes, there is gelato, in pillowy mounds of pastels under lightly frosted glass at the front.

But behind that the space opens to reveal a modern, light, warm and white dining room. There are wooden floor boards  underfoot and two dining rooms set with square tables with brown paper place mats.  There are seats along a bar.  There’s an open kitchen where chefs are preparing piadinas and platters of cheese and cured ham, flanked by baskets of fresh green leaves and balls of buffalo mozzarella, bouncing in ghostly hued water. The clean dairy-style design reminds me of ‘La Fruiterie’ in Val d’Isere and Australia’s Jones the Grocer.

All around us are well behaved young children and ladies-who lunch.  Baskets of warm bread comes as soon as we sit down.

There are options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus beer and wine. The all Italian menu includes fresh pastas, from potato gnocchi with Sicilian tomatoes through to antipasto platters, carpaccios, and salads.

A wafting collection of prosciutto di parma and buffalo mozzarella (€13.50) pairs nicely with the bread basket, olive oil, balsamic and fresh pepper on the table.  

A piadina (€8.5) is  a crepe like flat bread, scorched on the outside and pliable and oozy with melted cheese swaddled in the centre. It comes with the choice of crisps or salad on the side.

And the coffee is good. The house blend is created by their own Tuscan bean grinding facility.

A ‘cappuccino scuro’ (€3) would be our suggestion of what to order, a touch stronger than the standard cappuccino. There’s some art that comes in these cups. To me and The Hungry Ones those shapes aren’t just for novelty, but a way of quickly clocking that a barista can texture their milk.

The cakes and pastries on display at Biancolatte are all home made, but if you’re after something sweet difficult to go past combining the twin joys of gelato and espresso in an affogato (€5).

Biancolatte is a charming smart but casual spot that’s open from 8 am until late.  We only locked onto it an hour before we were due to leave Milan and drive to meet friends in Lake Como. We delayed our departure to linger, eat and drink some more. If we’d stayed in Milan for one more day there’s every chance that at least one meal and two more coffees would have been consumed there.

If you find yourself in Milan, I suggest you do the same.

Biancolatte
Open: 8 am- Midnight Saturday, Sunday
Via Filippo Turati, 30 20121
Milan, Italy02 62086177
www.biancolatte.it

Hints and tips

Biancolatte doesn’t ‘t take bookings and was full for lunch by 1.15pm on a Saturday.
Biancolatte is a 15 minute walk from the Duomo but still close to the central shopping district. 
We stayed at the Westin Palace, which was 10 minutes walk down Via Filippo Turati in the opposite direction from Biancolatte and the Duoma. The Westin was a solid option to stay in, particularly if you need to park a car while you’re in Milan.