Friday, 26 November 2010

Wild Honey - St George St W1

I am a big fan of Arbutus (the best tarte tatin ever) and had been curious to try it's posh sister, Wild Honey in Mayfair.  I finally got to go this week for a very pleasant lunch.  First impressions were that the room was a bit hushed and restrained, but as it filled up that improved.  It is a great looking space - there is some lovely wood panelling (love a good panel I do) and we sat in a nice private booth (also fond of a booth).  It was very "Mayfair" and there was a disproportionate number of suity hedge-fundy looking dudes, but that shouldn't put you off.  The food was really good - I started with a personal favourite of mine, a beetroot salad - I just love seeing the different types of beets and this one was really beautiful to look at.  Luckily it was also beautiful to eat - combined with creamy goat's curd and a yummy sweet, lemony dressing, this was delicate, tasty and just enough to get the tastebuds going.  My main on the other hand, whilst also being delicious, filled me up to that "I'm a bit uncomfortable" stage, mainly because it had risotto as a side dish, which I always find odd (albeit tasty).  I had misread the menu item and thought it was going to be chicken risotto, however it was a plate of perfectly cooked, crispy skinned roast chicken pieces with the aforementioned side pot of risotto.  Of course me being the glutton I am, I polished off the whole pot which I really shouldn't have.  Anyway it was great.  The only let down was a pretty uninspiring carafe of Russian River chardonnay - I just can't seem to get Californian wine right.  So overall I was impressed with Wild Honey - I'll be back when I'm in a Mayfair state of mind.

Wild Honey on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Cheapside Plane Tree - EC2

Standing on the corner of Cheapside and Wood Street in the City (actually just down from the corner) is a beautiful plane tree.  It used to stand in the churchyard of St Peter Cheap, a church that was destroyed in the great fire of 1666 but what I can never quite work out is whether the tree existed prior to this or was planted post fire.  At the very least the tree is around 250 years old and is said to have survived a direct hit by a WWII bomb.  Apparently the tree also inspired Wordsworth to pen a poem (to a thrush) which is kinda cool.  Anyway I love this tree - I feel a bit like it's an ent, ancient and wise but rapidly being overtaken by the modern world.  I find it peaceful just to be near it, which is always a bonus in a big city.  So next time you are wandering down Cheapside, perhaps heading for a tasty bahn-mi at City Caphe (yum) take a moment to pay your respects to the plane tree.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Kati Roll Company - Poland St W1

Sauntering (actually it was probably more like "walking briskly to keep warm") down Poland Street last week I noticed a new (at least to me) addition to the eateries thereon - "The Kati Roll Company" which intrigued me with it's old-fashioned, faux-serious Indian vibe.  This is continued inside (just check out the Matrix poster in the photo - love it) and on their website and all adds to what is a really cool place.  They have branches in both London and New York - and they claim that the kati roll craze has taken over the latter city.  I can see why - these things are super tasty and a perfect lunch-time option.  Basically the kati rolls are wraps made of warm paratha bread around various combos of meat, egg, vegetables and cheese.  I had the Shami Kabab roll which contained spicy, herby, wonderful minced lamb.  You can order one for £3.75 or two for £7 and after I had got back to my desk and scoffed my single I really wished I'd gone the double option (not that I wasn't full - it was just SO good).  I can't wait to go back and try the other varieties - especially the Unda (egg) rolls - the Unda Shami (egg and lamb) sounds amazing.

Kati Roll company on Urbanspoon

Monday, 22 November 2010

Coffee@33 - Brighton

OK OK I know - this blog is meant to be about London but hey, some would say Brighton is "London by sea" (oh how true Brighton-ites will hate that!).  Anyway in the interests of making sure you always have access to premium coffee and tasty treats I thought I would alert you to a fantastic cafe we stumbled upon (literally, those pavements in Brighton need some work...) a few weekends ago.  Coffee@33 has that pared down Fernandez and Wells-ish look that works so well for this sort of place and on a chilly Brighton Saturday it was really warm and welcoming.  They use Square Mile beans and made tip-top flat whites and cortados (I sampled both, several times over the weekend) plus their snacks were amazing including a sort of coconuty jammy thing that had that wonderful childhood-familiarity that makes eating cakes such a primal experience (well for me at least).  So if ever you are in the vicinity of the train station, about 5 minutes walk down Trafalgar Street to be exact then definitely make sure you visit these guys - this place rocks.

RIBA - Portland Place W1

If it wasn't for this really dull two day work pow-wow I wouldn't have ever seen inside the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) building on Portland Place, so as annoying as those two days were I am really glad I attended.  I had seen the building from the outside and thought the classic imposing art-deco facade was cool.  Inside is even better and the good news is that you don't have to be a RIBA member to go inside, in fact they encourage it.  There is a cool cafe and restaurant and a bookshop for those of you that like architecture-porn.  This is going to sound kinda dodgy but I also really like the toilets - they are downstairs and are like a time-warp from the 30s, I'm sure they must have been used in lots of movies or TV shows, particularly if a cottaging scene was involved... I should clarify that whenever I have used them they were empty so I actually took loads of pictures of the taps and fittings, which may also be kinda weird so I'll just stop now...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Store Street Espresso - WC1

I have always like Store Street in Bloomsbury (and as readers of this blog will know I love Bloomsbury in general) - when I first arrived in London in 1999 a good friend Beth worked at this groovy place called Imagination (which is still there I think) who had offices on the semi-circular part of Store St near TCR.  I used to visit her there and hang out in their cool staff caf/bar and it all felt very millennium/dot com/cool Britannia, or at least I thought it did.  Anyway...I was excited to hear about a new coffee place that had opened on Store St, at the Gower St end.  I have been trying to stick to this crazy diet plan - where for 3 days you eat nothing but protein.  3 days I thought - how hard can it be?  Well, friggin' hard actually - by 11am today (less than 36 hours in) I was going loopy, had a splitting headache and felt like I was on speed - so I decided I needed to ditch the diet and have something completely unhealthy and cake-ish.  So off I trundled to Store St Espresso - which I am happy to report is lovely.  I had 2 immaculate flat whites (in fact the best I've had in a while) and carbo-loaded on a flapjack AND a muffin (so screw you protein-only diet) which were both great.  There are lots of places to sit, nicely spread out and so the vibe is not as frenetic as some central London coffee places (yes Flat White I mean you).  The staff were lovely and kind of Arts-studenty (in a good way) so all in all I walked out a much happier and carb-rich person.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Maison Bertaux - Greek St W1

There are a number of places that define Soho - pubs like the French House and the Coach and Horses, restaurants like Vasco and Piero's Pavilion, streets like Old Compton Street and of course the wonderful Maison Bertaux cake shop.  I can never walk down Greek St without drooling at the cakes in the window and there is something about the jaunty blue and white stripes that make you feel like a kid again.  Of course the delights in the window are chock full of whipped cream, custard, pastry and all that other stuff that we're meant to stay away from these days but screw it, sometimes the only thing that will do is a strong cup of tea and a whopping great piece of cream-cake at Maison Bertaux.  What sets MB apart from somewhere like Patisserie Valerie round the corner is that it has a louche edge to it - the art gallery upstairs helps (currently show-casing really cool stuff from wonderfully nutty Noel Fielding...which sort of makes him sound like a cake, most appropriate) plus the clientele often looks like they are either lining their stomachs for, or recovering from, a binge session at the Coach next door.  This place is an institution and rightly so.

Maison Bertaux on Urbanspoon

Notes Music & Coffee - WC2

My friend Gen alerted me to the opening of Notes in St Martins Lane - a new cafe from the Flat Cap coffee team.  So when my stupid Northern Line train was held at Charing Cross this morning I decided to abandon ship and wander up St Martins Lane and see what this Notes Music & Coffee place was all about.  It turned out to be Day Two so they were still working out the till and how much things cost etc but it was all kind of endearing and you could tell there was a real passion for what they were doing.  The place looks amazing - a huge room with a vaulted glass ceiling up the back through which you catch a glimpse of the cool spinning globe on top of the neighbouring Coliseum Theatre.  As well as coffee and food (and more on that later) these guys have a really cool selection of CDs and DVDs for sale - classical, jazz and world music as well as the more art-house end of the DVD spectrum, plus some DVDs of opera, ballet etc.  Obviously as this place is new there was lots of space so it felt incredibly peaceful - there's no doubt that's going to change but as well as small tables along the side there is a massive communal table up the back so I'm sure this place will handle the inevitable crowds.  I actually went back to Notes for lunch and that probably tells you something.  The two flat whites I had were really great - they use Square Mile beans for their milky coffees and combined with impeccably steamed milk the results were spot on.  This morning I had a super tasty warm pesto scroll thing and for lunch the other half and I shared a delicious salami sandwich.  The staff are really lovely and the whole vibe here is really great - so if you are wandering in theatre land or want to escape the crowds of Trafalgar Square then head to Notes, it is a brilliant new addition to the coffee scene in central London.

Notes Music & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Friday, 5 November 2010

Hawksmoor Part 2 - Seven Dials WC2

Had a lovely dinner at the new Hawksmoor branch in Langley St in Seven Dials last night.  It's a big space - just down the road from Pineapple Dance Studios so you can dance off your meat-fest after dinner.  There is a cool bar as you come down the stairs with a decent cocktail list and the main room is cavernous.  Last night (as I'm sure is the case on most nights) the crowd was very guy-heavy with some tables whooping it up a storm - I suppose guys and steak will always be a winning combo.  For you lassies out there, please don't be put off by this, this place is way too good to leave to the fellas.  Man - the chateaubriand was sensational, in fact as I am writing this I am struggling not to drool on the keyboard.  It was the best steak I have had in a long long time.  The other half and I shared an 850g version, which was the smallest on offer by the time we ate at 9.30pm.  It was just slightly too much meat but we still ate it all natch.  It was meltingly tender and perfectly seasoned - super super tasty.  Apparently some greedy patrons polish off the 900g and 1kg version all by themselves - which is kinda gross.  There is a full range of steak options - the aforementioned chateau plus fillet, porterhouse, rib-eye, rump, sirloin etc etc.  We accompanied our steak with a perfect bearnaise sauce (friggin' YUM), triple-cooked chips (friigin' double YUM) and some spinach to be healthy (boo).  Washed down with a rather pleasant South African shiraz this was a great, great meal (have I said that already?) - as you can tell I love this place, in fact each time I visit Hawksmoor I love it more - next trip will involve sampling their legendary burger.  Can't wait.

Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon