Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Brunswick Centre - WC1

Regular readers of this blog (are there any?) will know that I love Bloomsbury, some may say that I am in love with Bloomsbury - which is not far from the truth.  I find it such an amazing mix of architectural styles, as well as a location for some of my favourite coffee places, shops and restaurants.  On the architectural front - it's hard to beat the Brunswick Centre for impact.  It's another love it or hate it scenario - those who love the Barbican and Southbank are going to be on the love side, then there are those who hear the word "modernist" and gag.  I love the Brunswick Centre - although I loved it more before it got all snazzed up - the shops are just a little too high-streety for me and the whole branding thing (check out their website) is a bit OTT for me.  However I don't want to be the Grinch - it is great that this amazing piece of modernist vision is in good shape and has the necessary investment to stop it turning into a wreck - and if that requires there to be a River Island and a Vodafone store then so be it.  One thing that remains fairly much unchanged is the Renoir cinema, one of my favourite London cinemas.  I have had some memorable film viewings here - when I took my friend Rob and his new girlfriend to a French film that was bordering on soft porn (first penis viewing at around minute 10 I think) and the amazing Allen Ginsberg documentary I saw one grey windy weekend - which reminded me of all those dreams I had of being part of the "second Beat generation" (OK, OK a boy can dream).  It's just one of those cinemas that lends itself to arthouse or off the wall movies - the antithesis of a multiplex.  Long may it survive.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Chipotle - Charing Cross Road W1

I admit to being a little bemused by all the fuss some of my North American colleagues were making about the fact Chipotle was opening its first outlet in London.  I like Mexican food but I don't crave it and I had never been to Chipotle in the States so I had nothing to get excited about really - except my workmates' mounting frenzy as the opening day approached was infectious and I found myself really looking forward to my first genuine (as in genuine US interpretation of Mexican) burrito.  The good news is it didn't disappoint - I loved it.  I did feel a little over-full afterwards but burritos always have that affect on me.  A couple of peppermint teas later and I was back to my normal hungry self.  Anyway back to Chipotle - on the recommendation of my burrito-veteran friend Ryan I had the Barbacoa burrito (shredded beef,with cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano) with hot sauce.  It was super tasty and just hot enough - I was sweating slightly as I ploughed my way through but in kind of a good way (that sounds gross but you know what I mean).  We also had some corn chips and delicious salsa.  There was still the slightly chaotic feeling of a new opening and they are still ironing out a few kinks service wise but overall the vibe was pretty cool.  Apparently the US outlets are better - a bigger variety of add-ons and free corn chips (here you have to pay for them) - I plan to check one out next time I am Stateside.  They also serve Negra Modelo - which is one of my favourite beers (brings back memories of a really great trip to Central America 10 years ago).  Anyway - I will definitely be going back to Chipotle.  My advice is go early like we did - by the time we had our food and had grabbed a seat the queue was almost out the door - nothing like a tasty burrito to bring in the punters.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Reynolds - Eastcastle Street W1

It is so easy to fall into the Pret/EAT/[insert chain store name here] trap when you work in Soho - basically there is a chain on each corner selling pre-packaged sandwiches, salads, soups etc.  To be fair they are not bad - fresh ingredients, relatively healthy etc but there's something depressing about eating the same thing week in/week out.  I have tried going to small independent sandwich shops but with a few exceptions they are pretty average in central London - I can't stand those bowls full of coronation chicken mush or dried out escalopes slapped between stale sliced bread and slathered with cheap mayo - vomit.  The great coffee places often come with good food - so yes, you can get a great lunch at Fernandez & Wells or Lantana or Kaffeine - but they don't have the quick fix/ in and out in 5 minutes convenience of Pret etc.  So you can imagine how happy was I to discover Reynolds - there are now two outlets within close proximity to my work (I suppose that sort of makes them a chain - but only a small one...)  All the things that the chain sandwich shops do wrong, Reynolds gets right - their philosophy is to eat "little and often" hence their motto "Let's Graze".  Given I love eating I am all for this way of life because it basically means you can forget structured meal times and simply shove food in your face all day long.  In moderation of course (I haven't quite got that bit right yet).  I love their chicken and sweet potato wrap and the goats cheese, beetroot and puy lentil salad.  And guess what - they do a pretty good flat white, in an 8 oz cup.  Even better you can accompany it with a Borough Market chocolate brownie.  Have I got you interested yet?  I really like this place - in particular the Eastcastle Street branch.  The big boys could learn a lot from Reynolds...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


I am loving the elephants dotted around town - think I may love them more than the cows, or indeed the bears that used to be in Berlin.  I particularly like this mixed up genetic specimen.  Thanks to my friend Rachel for pointing these out - amazing how you can walk around a city every day and not notice the painted elephant right in front of you...