Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hawksmoor - Spitalfields E1

I seem to have been ticking off a few places from my "need to go" list lately and Hawksmoor has been on there for ages.  Not that I am endorsing heavy drinking, but we were a little hungover on Sunday and as such were in desperate need of a tasty brunch and some strong coffee.  Hawksmoor delivered on both counts - I had what can only be described as a posh sausage and egg mcmuffin and it was delicious.  Obviously these guys only use the best ingredients and the sausage part of the "HkMuffin" comes from the wonderful Ginger Pig farm so was bound to be good.  The coffee (strong latte) was top notch also and the whole vibe of the place suited our slightly worse-for-wear mood.  I want to come back really soon and have a burger and try their steak - as they have opened a new outpost in Seven Dials, that will now be a whole lot easier to do.

Hawksmoor on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 October 2010

Taste of Bitter Love - E2

Finally!  This was my third attempt to sample the coffee at Taste of Bitter Love and I finally succeeded.  Tucked away on an unlovely stretch of Hackney Road, just round the corner from Columbia Road, it is a good alternative to the scrum around Gwilym's coffee cart on market day.  The flat whites we had were impeccable and the place itself is cool, although really dinky so take away is the more likely option.  They had some tasty looking sandwiches but as we had just pigged out at Hawksmoor (more on that later) we couldn't cram in any more food just then.  I am jealous of East London - they have so many good coffee places, I feel a little caffeine-starved down south.  So any aspiring baristas out there - go SW, preferably Wandsworth!

Taste of Bitter Love on Urbanspoon

Arnold Circus - E2

Whenever I am walking from Spitalfields to Columbia Road I try and cut through the back-streets and it was on one such journey a few years ago that I stumbled upon the lovely Arnold Circus.  Arnold Circus is a circular road in Shoreditch on which stands the Boundary Estate - which must be one of London's handsomest social housing schemes, built around 1900.  If only they kept building them like that...  In the middle of Arnold Circus is a wonderful park, with a mound (created from the rubble of the slum that the Boundary Estate replaced - how cool is that?) and a bandstand.  What is extra cool about this is that the locals have a really strong community spirit and formed The Friends of Arnold Circus in 2004 to make sure the park lived up to its potential as a public space and not just a junkie-hangout.  Boy did they succeed - take note Boris, take note Dave C, this is community and the "big society" working as it should.  All power to them and long live Arnold Circus.

Polpo - Beak St W1

So I finally got to Polpo after having wanted to go for months - I had a lovely birthday lunch with some work buds, who also paid so it was doubly good!  Polpo did not disappoint - I loved the look of the place (as supposedly did Cannaletto), the staff were super friendly and the food was a perfect comfort-foil to the growing chill in the air outside.  Every dish was delicious - I won't bother detailing them (mainly because I've forgotten) but just go, take an appetite and order big here.  The only thing I was mildly disappointed in was the dessert but I think that's because the waitress said it was "just like homemade Toblerone" and it really wasn't.  So next time I go I will eschew the sweetness and concentrate on stuffing my face with "cicheti" and "small plates", scoffing some fine Italian red and day-dreaming about being in Venice.

Polpo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

St Mary-le-Bow dragon - Cheapside EC2

OK so I have to admit about having a thing about dragons (**cue remaining 10 readers of blog closing browser and deleting bookmark...**) - stay with me here, not in a Dungeons and Dragons way (not that there is anything wrong with that) although I did read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books when I was a youngster (stop judging!).  If you take the time to look around, particularly in the City there are dragons everywhere (check out this guy's site - he knows what I'm talkin' about).  Obviously crazy conspiracy theorists believe there is some sort of symbolism in all these dragons and that people in power around the world are actually reptilian overlords in human disguise - I wouldn't go that far, but try dragon spotting in the City sometime, you'll be amazed.  In fact I am going to do a series of my favourite London dragons - so I thought I would start with my absolute favourite, the nine-foot long golden dragon weather-vane on top of the Wren church of St Mary-le-Bow on Cheapside.  Dating from the late 1600s this weather- vane looks enormous, even from street level and I love seeing it from a distance and from different angles - you can actually see the fiery jet coming out of its mouth from a long way away.  Just to show you how obsessed I am about this dragon, I actually wrote a short story which featured it - before you ask, I will not be posting the story on this blog.  Anyway - next time you are stomping down Cheapside, perhaps heading for City Caphe and a super-tasty bahn-mi take a moment, look up and admire London's coolest dragon.

City Caphe - Part 2

Following my late arrival last time, I made it back to City Caphe nice and early so I didn't miss out on the bahn mi. I had the classic pork sandwich with an iced Viet Coffee and both were brilliant. The bitter coffee, sweet condensed milk and ice combo took me back to younger, more carefree days back-packing in Laos, I could have doubled up but thought that was greedy. The bahn-mi was perfect, sticky pork, chilli bite, chewy slightly toasted baguette. The people that work at City Caphe are really lovely also and the place is really cool - but for some reason it's plonked right in the middle of the City.  Oh man - why is there not a City Caphe in Soho? They need to open one - I may start a petition.

City Càphê on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

City Caphe - EC2V

So I made the trek to the City to check out the appropriately named City Caphe on Ironmonger Lane. I had heard and read good things and I love me a banh mi (whatever the hell happened to Viet Baguette??). Anyway, with my head full of the deliciousness of a Vietnamese pork baguette I had lost track of time and it was after 3pm by the time I got there and they had completely sold out of banh mi. Cursing the hungry and discerning city types under my breath I settled for some classic spring rolls (cuon) and took them plus the tasty nuoc cham dipping sauce to the quiet courtyard of St Olaves, also on Ironmonger Lane. Man.  Oh man - they were so tasty, this bodes well for my return visit for the main event. Plus I will be having some Vietnamese coffee - so stay tuned.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Indie Coffee Cart - Church St NW8


I love a coffee cart and so was keen to check out Indie Coffee, on the recommendation of my friend Rob who works around Edgware Road.  He had raved about how good this cart was and how it kept him sane during his full-on working week.  So on our trip to Alfies on the weekend, the other half and I sampled Indie's wares.  First impressions were that this must be the coolest looking coffee cart ever - part organ grinder, part Diagon Alley (did I just out myself as a Harry Potter fan...eek), this is a thing of a beauty, particularly wedged in the middle of the Church St market.  And the coffee?  Sensational (so much so that the other half had two in quick succession, on top of the two we had made ourselves that morning at home - caffeine overload).  Brewed with Square Mile beans and poured by an expert, this is top notch stuff.  So hooray for another entry on my Central London Coffee Survival Guide map and long live Indie Coffee.

Indie Coffee (Coffee Cart) on Urbanspoon

Monday, 4 October 2010

Alfies Antique Market - Church St NW8

Ah Alfies - what a wonderful place.  I hadn't been there for years - in fact since I lived just round the corner near Sea Shells (London's "best fish & chips restaurant" - yeah right...*cough*...).  The first thing I noticed on the walk from Marylebone tube was that Lisson Grove had snazzed up a bit since I lived there.  The Church Street market was pretty unchanged (except for a great coffee cart...more to come on that) but there seemed to be more swish furniture/antiques stores than I remembered.  Alfie's was pretty unchanged - three floors of amazing vintage/antique/retro (take your pick) furniture, glassware, jewellery, paintings, homewares and general stuff.  I could seriously spend hours there - it's a treasure trove.  We bought a cool 60s stainless steel set with toast rack, teapot, milk jog, sugar bowl etc. all for £20 from a lovely fella on the 3rd floor who specialises in 50s and some 60s stuff, he also looks the part, quiff included.  I also bought an old 60s school book on ancient Britain (don't judge me - it is really interesting).  The only bum note and the one thing that did not live up to my memories of Alfies was the cafe - still has the very cool roof terrace but gone was the trippy piano player and the food and service was pretty dire.  I just love this place though - if you have never been, make it a priority this weekend, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Alfies Antique Market

London Restaurant Festival 4/10 to 18/10

I never get organised enough to particpate in these sorts of things but this looks quite cool - especially as the LRF food market at Spitalfields has coffee from the wonderful Caravan.  So check it out: http://www.visitlondon.com/londonrestaurantfestival/