No one can accuse Cafe Zoe of being easy to locate. Embedded deep in the heart of Mathuradas Mills, the entrance tucked out of sight behind parked cars and the local omelette-pao place, Zoe tries very hard to be a 'find'. And succeeds.
Push past the large door, and you are suddenly transported into a cool, minimalist world of comfortable spaces and calm furniture. The ceiling soars, the sunlight pours in, colourful sofas invite you to laze about and widely space blondewood tables seem meant for gossip. Bunches of bare bulbs hang from unconcealed cables, the bar is made of old crates, a long bare brick wall adds to a carefully cultivated sense of industrial clutter. Cutlery comes in glass tumblers, water and gazpacho in glass milk bottles, salads in tall glass containers that look just like plastic till you touch them. This could be New York – a bistro in LES one of those cool Brooklyn places that have sprung out of gentrification, men in suits mingled with tousled female hair and hippe jeans.
The food is quintessentially bistro – competent and comforting rather than spectacular. Having run through nearly the entire menu in three visits, I find a good deal to be satisfied with. The melon gazpacho is definitely one of the hits, the salads quite worth trying, the truffle cappelini delectable, the pastas properly toothsome and the desserts (with the exception of a poorly set panna cotta) satisfying. Even the bread is satisfyingly hardcrust.
Go, 'find' it.