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Coffee by the lake

F inding a decent cup of coffee in Yan-gon isn’t all that easy, despite the ubiquity of tea-houses, where invari-ably the coffee served is the three-in-one va-riety or the equally insipid instant powdered kind.

Despite Myanmar being a major grower of coffee beans, real coffee hasn’t really reached the street yet. But, like everything in Myana-mar, things are changing. The Nervin Café on Kandawgi Lake is an exception to the rule; it’s a little oasis of rustic and tranquil ambience serving an extensive range of cof-fees, drinks and excellent café/bistro food. Situated on the eastern shore of the lake, the café is in the Kandawgi ‘Nature’ Park. At the entrance you’ll be changed a nominal K200 on entering the park and recently, even a sleeping child in a buggy didn’t escape the diligent sentries there. If may go some way to explaining why the Nervin café isn’t inundat-ed which it should be. The best way to find it is to follow the lake towards the floating Karaweik Palace and you’ll find the café on your right.

The building is part of a small complex of heritage wooden buildings and has two wide wooden verandahs where you can sit back and relax and look out on the lake and trees. There’s also one or two enclosed rooms for – popular in these parts – private dining. But I prefer the verandah with its beautiful wood-en furnishings, no uncomfortable chromium chairs here, just wood and a light breeze from the lake to get the appetite going. Ye Naing Wynn the owner, is both unassuming and wears his deep knowledgeable about coffee and food very lightly. He’s a veteran and a passionate advocate of coffee culture and was the first to introduce espresso coffee to Myanmar under the Café Aroma outlets which were a familiar sight up to 2004.

After a hiatus of six years of ‘retirement’, Ye travelled to Turin where he trained and qualified as an advanced certified barista. He has no single ideal of how a café should look and feel but has drawn his inspiration from many individual family cafés. And while he admires the ways brands like Starbucks have marketed themselves, he too has set up a chain with outlets of Nervin now in Nay Pyi Taw (Ocean Supercentre) and Dagon Centre 2. He has plans to open others in the Yankin Cente Plazza, downtown Yangon near the Sule Pagoda and in Mandalay.

The name Nervin and the logo attests to a substance that acts as a tonic to the nerves and good coffee certainly does that. There’s an extensive variety of coffees and drinks available from espresso to café speciales to Nervin’s Signature Mocha Glacier; a frozen mocha blended and served with a scoop of chocolate gelato. As well as Crema Freddas and Café Frappes there’s artisan teas like Marrakesh Mint, Hanami a Japanese sencha with cherry blossom. But I broke with tradi-tion and started with a non-alcoholic, it was rather early in the day, Mojito of lime juice, mint leaves, mint syrup and sparking soda which was sensational and an excellent pal-ate cleanser.

The food menu is as extensive as the drinks while keeping closely to café options with a Mediterranean influence so the fare was appetizers like Tomato Brushetta (K4000), salads, soups, burgers (K7500), sandwich-es, Club Sandwich (K6500) grilled Paninis, pasta and pizza.

Bread is baked in-house and I choose a rustic Bacon and Cheese Panini with salad and it was superb combination, done to perfection. My two friends had the Chicken Burger and Barbecued Chicken, both were delicious and the chicken on skewers was coated with a delicious piquant sauce. We topped this off with Tiramisu gelato and of course coffees. I’m old fashioned in my coffee and like it black and sugarless but it was excellent and rich and Arabica, I presume. Nervin is much more than a café and given it’s ambience on the lake and its extensive and delicious menu could just as easily be a very popular dinner destination, one thing is for certain, anytime of the day it’s worth a visit and it’s an excel-lent place to conduct business, meet friends or family.

Address: Nervin Café, Karaweik Oo-Yin Kabar, Kandawgyi Nature Park, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Tsp., Yangon.