Thursday, 24 June 2010

Lj Coffeehouse - Winnett St W1

For some reason I had never noticed this lovely little cafe, or even heard of it.  Maybe because Winnett St is one of those streets that I rarely walk down or maybe because when I am in that area with coffee on my mind I am usually heading purposefully to Brewed Boy (just round the corner in Rupert St).  Anyway the important thing is that I have discovered Lj Coffeehouse now, because it's a gem.  I had a flat white there this morning and I have to say it's a long time since I have seen someone make a coffee with such love - the care with which the friendly chap who served me ground the beans, packed the portafilter and steamed the milk was really great to see.  And the result was excellent.  They use Union beans, which I was unsure about but actually tasted really good.  There were some delicious homemade cakes on display and the breakfast menu looked mighty tasty.  I actually went back there this afternoon because I had a major vanilla milkshake craving (hey, I went to the gym today, I deserve a freakin milkshake, don't judge) because I had noticed that they offered a "vanilla bean shake".  Oh man, it was goooood - pretty much like drinking liquefied ultra vanilla beany ice-cream which I know probably makes it a calorie bomb, but who cares.  It was amazing.  So check out this little winner of a cafe - friendly, good coffee, superb milkshakes and (by the looks of it) great food.  What's not to like?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Gelupo - Archer St W1

Those of you who are fans of Bocca di Lupo (and I am one) may have noticed the familiar wolf-branding appearing on the other side of Archer Street recently.  Their new venture is called Gelupo and is the closest you'll get to an Italian gelato parlour in London, which in my book is wonderful news.  With the sun out (at least for now) thoughts turn to ice-cream of all sorts and so anywhere that is serving the primo variety is bound to be a winner.  They offer creamy gelato as well as sorbets and granitas.  I sampled blood orange granita which was refreshing and delicious, as well as creamy coffee, honey & ricotta gelato (and yes it was as amazing as it sounds) and coconut sorbet (ice cream perfection).  The chocolate gelato, which I did not try, looked spectacular.  They also serve coffee (I had a macchiato which was quite good - but this place is about the ice-cream, if I want coffee Brewed Boy is just around the corner) and a selection of foccacias.  Apparently when their "doughnut sign" is up they will be serving freshly fried bombe calde – doughnuts filled with chocolate...excuse me I just passed out...  At the back are Italian groceries for sale, as well as frozen pastas, sauces and sausages from Bocca di Lupo (how cool is that?).  I am so excited about this place - I predict I will be spending a lot of time here over what is hopefully going to be a long, hot Summer.

Gelupo on Urbanspoon

Scandinavian Kitchen - W1

I had walked past the Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield St many times (often after having an excellent flat white at Kaffeine) and wondered what it was like.  Well, yesterday I went there for lunch and found out - and the verdict?  Me likee.  I have to admit I am a bit of a fan of the Scandi - love Scandi design, love the countries themselves (Copenhagen is right up there as one of my favourite cities) and love the whole ethos (or at least my perhaps naive assumption of what that is).  Anyway, my first impressions of the Scandi Kitchen were good - yummy looking food on display, plus a sort of mini Scandi supermarket going on, with all sorts of tasty looking products, rye crispbreads, chocolate, pickled herrings, roe, squeeze bottles of funky mayonnaise etc.  I am a sucker for foreign sweets - preferably with weird, retro looking wrappers and there were plenty on offer here, however I am trying to seriously reduce my chocolate/sugar intake so I just looked.  When it's time for a binge though I will be back!  The deal for lunch is that you can choose either 3 (£5.75) or 5 (£8.25) items from the smorgasbord - it was a little bare when I got there (must have been rush hour) and I noticed several other tasty treats as I left so I will need to return to try some of the things I missed.  Having said that I had three really great dishes - a carrot, red cabbage, sultana & citrus dressed salad, "pizzasalad" of white cabbage with an oregano vinaigrette and some rare roast beef on dark rye bread with crispy onions & horseradish.  It felt quite healthy but was also full of flavour.  The tables were a little crowded together - this place is obviously popular so they are trying to cram in as many punters as possible.  Overall I really liked this place and it slots neatly into my rose-tinted view of all things Scandi.

Scandinavian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

BT Tower - Fitzrovia W1

I was really upset about the demolition of the Middlesex Hospital in Mortimer St - it was such a great building and the fact it was demolished as part of a Candy & Candy project wankily called "Noho" (*vomit*) which has now stalled made me even more mad.  Anyway, on to more positive things - the whopping great hole left by the demolition offers an amazing and virtually uninterrupted view of the BT Tower in all its phallic glory.  I have always loved this building, maybe because it appeared in episodes of my two favourite childhood shows - Dr Who and The Goodies (we didn't have that much local TV in Australia in the 70s!) but also just because it looks cool and whenever I catch a glimpse of it from other parts of London it grounds me to Fitzrovia and provides a sort of giant drawing pin in the landscape of this city.  I finally got to go up it last year and the views are amazing - I am very excited that the restaurant at the top is going to once again be open to the public (or so I'm told).  So hooray for the BT Tower, a funky optimistic bit of 60s swagger that has become London's Eiffel Tower of sorts.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Gwilym's Coffee Cart - Whitecross St Market EC1

I had wanted to try out this coffee cart for ages, not least because one of my favourite bloggers Tom rates it so highly and today I finally made it there.  Luckily my nephew Ben works nearby so it was a good excuse to visit him and try some primo caffeine.  I love the area around the Old Street roundabout and the fact that the relentless gentrification of the inner city still has some way to go here (although I was amazed at the huge new apartment buildings that confront you as you come out of the tube - where did they come from?).  And how cool is Whitecross St market?  The food options were amazing - we settled for a chicken burger, which was sensational and like good Aussies we had a lamington with our coffee - life felt pretty good.  Gwilym was not manning the cart but the barista on duty poured me an absolutely sensational flat white (pictured) - it actually made me realise that some of the coffees I have had recently from some of my W1 regular hangouts (I refuse to name names) have been a bit below par.  This was strong, creamy goodness - just the way it should be.  I think I'll be having lunch with Ben more regularly..

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Doukan - Old York Rd SW18

In in the interests of full disclosure - you should know that Doukan is one of my locals, so I am biased.  However I do think it's a restaurant that anyone would love to have nearby.  It is on Old York Road, the cute shopping strip to your right as you come out of Wandsworth Town station.  This area is called "The Tonsleys" and is a prime example of how crazy London real estate can be - it is only a few blocks but house prices here are nuts (unfortunately our place is not within this grid of streets...we call ourselves the "Tonsley borders", which doesn't seem to be catching on).  Anyway - back to Doukan.  There are some really good places to eat in this small street - The Pantry is great for breakfast, Brady's does good fish and chips and there is a decent Thai and a Pizza Express (which has its place in the world).  Doukan was a welcome addition - it serves really great Moroccan food at all times of the day.  Their breakfasts are really inventive and a change from the standard fry-up fare - I particularly like the toasted muesli, yoghurt, honey and poached fruits, full of cinammony Moorish flavours.  We had a great dinner there this week - we shared a chicken bastilla to start which was amazing.  I had eaten these tasty parcels in Marrakesh but there they were called pastillas - so which is it, bastilla or pastilla?  Anyway it doesn't really matter what it is called, it was delicious - the combination of the savoury filling, the golden crispy pastry and the sweet dusting of sugar and spices is right up my street.  I had sea bass for main, which was pan fried with a crispy, herby crust and sat on a nutty chick-pea pancake thing with two little nuggets of spicy sausage sitting on top - how interesting does that sound?  It was super tasty and I wolfed down every mouthful.  The waitress (who is a legend) tried in vain to get us to order the bread and butter pudding made with croissants and white chocolate (we just weren't in the mood - but we will definitely be back for it) so we shared a chocolate truffle tart instead (which was divine).  According to their website Doukan has been on Gordon Ramsay's F-Word - I missed that, mainly because I went off Gordon's TV shows quite a while ago.  So all in all Doukan is a gem of a neighbourhood restaurant but also a truly excellent restaurant in its own right - so if your travels ever take you to SW18 (don't make that face you north Londoners) then check it out.

Doukan Deli, Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Penny University - E1

UPDATE - Penny University is no longer.  Sad news - wish it could have kept going... The folks at Square Mile roast amazing coffee and their beans are ground and brewed in some of my all time favourite coffee spots around town (including Milk Bar and Brewed Boy).   Their latest venture is Penny University in Redchurch St in Shoreditch - which as well as being a retail outlet for delicious Square Mile beans is also a sort of temple to coffee.  Friendly and expert baristas will brew the day's selection of beans in various weird and wonderful ways - including siphons and "wood-necks".  I had never heard of a wood-neck but that's what my lovely la Linda coffee was made with - it looked like something from a science lab with a wooden collar between the two chambers to make holding and pouring easier.  Coffee is filtered through a sort of hessian sieve - as you can see it all looks most impressive!
The La Linda was from a farm of the same name in Colombia and was a really lovely coffee to drink.  The first cup went down really quickly (I always drink brewed coffee way too fast) so it wasn't until the second, slightly cooler cup that I took note of the flavours - slightly sharp, treacly and rich were what I wrote down at the time and overall my recollection is of a supremely drinkable brew.  I really liked this place - I liked the somewhat hushed atmosphere and the ceremony of it all, although I do think there are some coffee drinkers out there who are WAY too earnest about all this.  At the point where enjoyment becomes academic I think you have lost the whole point - luckily the Square Mile folk are all about making this a pleasant and inclusive experience so make sure you go and visit them and stock up on some of their primo beans whilst you're at it!  (BTW - if you're interested, "Penny University" is a term used to describe 18th century coffee houses in London and referred to the practise of charging a penny for entry - patrons could then drink coffee, converse and generally have the 18th century equivalent of a flat white at Lantana with some mates.  Nice.)

Penny University on Urbanspoon

Victoria & Albert Museum - SW7

Ahh - the V&A.  My favourite I think of the London museums - mainly because I still don't really know what it is, what it's raison d'etre is if you will.  I just love the fact that you can go there and look at over the top statuary, medieval pottery, browse an old fashioned library of art books or listen to a DJ in the wonderful central courtyard.  When I went on the weekend it was to the Horace Walpole/Strawberry Hill exhibition - which was a classic.  It was me and lots of very posh looking pensioners and I loved every minute of it.  There was also a Quilts exhibition (which I did not go to) and a grace Kelly exhibition (which I may visit at a later date).  The main seating area of the cafe is such a beautiful room and if it's sunny (as it was on the weekend) you can sit outside in aforementioned courtyard.  All in all the V&A makes me happy even if I'm not sure why.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

St John Bread & Wine - E1

Sister restaurant to the lauded St John in Smithfield EC1 (familiar to those fans of "nose to tail" - I have eaten bone marrow salad there and whilst it was tasty, half way through I got a bit queasy...) St John Bread & Wine is bang opposite the increasingly bland (sob) Spitalfields on Commercial Street.  When it opened it's fair to say this area was a bit of a restaurant wasteland but now St John B&W stands out as a jewel amongst the rapidly encroaching chains (I really need to stop being such a grumpy old man, but seriously do we really need a Giraffe in Spitalfields?).  I love the fact that their menu is changeable by time, so depending on when you arrive, you are presented with a time-appropriate selection including the option of having seed cake and Madeira late morning.  I was only after a light lunch today so I opted for broad bean soup.  Oh man - it was good.  It was served only slightly warm, coolish in fact and somehow that was the perfect temperature to appreciate the flavour of the new season broad beans.  The first thing that struck me was the colour - the most beautiful light green, something that would look horribly 70s as a bathroom suite but was just gorgeous in a bowl in front of me.  The soup was thick and creamy but velvety smooth - I know this doesn't sound particularly appetising, but it had the consistency of paint, thick and viscous.  Let me try and improve my descriptions when it comes to the taste - creamy, comforting but really fresh, with the odd soft, halved, sweet broad bean hiding in the bowl.  I just loved it - and the yeasty, malty St John brown bread was the perfect accompaniment (smothered with top quality butter of course!)  To drink I had an old fashioned ginger beer and I finished the meal with the back of my throat slightly burning (in a good way) and my stomach full of wonderful artisan bread and thick, fresh, green broad bean soup - emerging on to Commercial Street a very happy man!

St John Bread & Wine on Urbanspoon

Fournier Street - E1

Fournier Street is without doubt one of my favourite London streets - although I am a bit concerned that the relentless gentrification of the Spitalfields area (there's a freakin' Strada on Commercial St!) will start to edge in.  I was disturbed today to see a Timberland shop next to the Ten Bells pub and then I got sucked in by some cool old fashioned shoes they were selling and realised I was perpetuating a common inner urban experience - the areas you loved for their mix of coolness and edginess start to attract big name brands, you hate it but you like the fact you don't have to go into the West End so you start to spend, more brands move in....before you know it the area you loved is a carbon copy of every bland High St.  Sigh - I suppose you can't stop progress but part of the charm of Fournier Street when I first fell in love with it and when I lived just round the corner, was that several of the houses looked derelict and so you really did feel as though you were in an older, darker London.  Anyway - enough doom and gloom - it's still a wonderful street and an almost perfect example of an early 18th century Georgian Huguenot street.  It is home to Gilbert & George (which was how I first heard of it and had written it on my "things to see when I arrive in London look") - I would sometimes see them at their front door as I walked past.  I was tempted to offer my bodily fluids for their artwork but perhaps wisely, never did.  The start of the street is flanked by the wonderful Christ Church Spitalfields and the Ripper-famous Ten Bells pub.  At the other end of this shortish street is Brick Lane.  And in between is a little slice of Georgian London that makes me very happy.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

WeanieBeans - Saturdays in Barnes SW13

Thanks to the excellent Beanhunter site I discovered the WeanieBeans coffee stand at Barnes Farmers Market.  I'll be honest - I had planned an East London mission today but I was too lazy to haul my arse across the river and so, like a lot of SW Londoners I stayed within a 2 mile radius of where I live and headed to Barnes instead.  I have already blogged about the wonderful farmers market and inside is a gem of a coffee stand - manned by the lovely Adeline (pictured).  WeanieBeans is her company and via their website you can buy coffee beans and coffee paraphernalia amongst other things. She also sells expertly brewed caffeine from her stand, which appears at various locations around town.
The Barnes gig is every Saturday but you can find her as far afield as Islington, Chiswick and Uxbridge.  I had a flat white (hey - I'm a predictable guy) and as you can see from the picture it was very pretty to look at.  It tasted good too - using Climpsons beans and poured with perfectly steamed milk.  If I had to give any constructive criticism I would say that the milk was a tad too hot for my tastes but it didn't take away from the flavour and enjoyment of my flattie.  So go and visit Adeline and sample her fine coffee - she was also selling Anzac biscuits so all  your needs are covered.

Whoopie Pies!

So - apparently whoopie pies are the new "it" cake in London, unseating cupcakes, eclairs and macaroons for this title.  Well - I'm not convinced.  I bought two today at Barnes Farmers Market from a very nice woman selling delicious looking cakes (their brownies looked amazing) - one vanilla and one chocolate with some sort of berry cream filling.  I was quite excited to taste them and even though the photo above looks a bit unappetising, these seemed like fine specimens.  Maybe my expectations were too high because I can sum up my reaction to my first whoopie pie as...underwhelmed.  It's not that they tasted fact they pretty much tasted like eating pure sugar (which is not a bad thing sometimes) - it was just they didn't taste amazing and to be crowned as the pastry of the moment you need to taste amazing.  So give me a red velvet cupcake or a piece of carrot cake or a blondie from Bea's of Bloomsbury any day!

Barnes Farmers Market - SW13

Ahh Barnes - what a lovely corner of London.  I know the air traffic noise is an issue, I know some people think it's horribly twee and painfully posh but I say go there on a lovely London Summer's day, take the train to Barnes station (one of London's prettiest station buildings), walk along Station Road through lovely Barnes Common, then down Cedars Road to the pond and then tell me what's not to like.  Barnes is like a Utopian vision of London - green spaces, charming Victorian red brick houses, the sound of a cricket ball being thwacked nearby, children watching ducks floating on a pond...OK now I'm beginning to sound twee, sorry...  Anyway on Saturdays if you veer left at the pond you'll see the Barnes Farmers Market at the Essex House Surgery.  It is a small but perfectly formed farmers market - great bread stalls, a fishmongers, fruit & veg, organic meat & eggs, amazing pre-cooked food (French, Moroccan & south east Asian amongst others), cake stalls and a top notch coffee stand (but more about that in another post).  This market just added to my "why I want to live in Barnes" list.  It was hard to capture the charm in a picture and the best one I got has a slightly pissed off teenager in it - so you'll just have to go and see for yourselves.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Profile - Wardour St W1

Am I wrong in thinking that Profile is in the same location as Freedom used to be?  If so - I have had many a drunken night here and thrown some very dodgy shapes.  Anyway - I was looking for somewhere to lunch with two work buddies and we fell for the bright yellow diner look of Profile.  Unfortunately for Profile we seemed to be in the minority as it was pretty empty even though everywhere else we had walked past was packed.  Maybe it's fairly new - because based on my lunch experience this place is a total winner.  I have to admit, they played to one of my big weaknesses straight up - by delivering to me possibly the best vanilla milkshake I have ever had.  It was SO good - there are times during my life where I just need a vanilla milkshake, times where nothing else will bring me back from the edge...and now I know where to go.  We all opted for the chicken fajitas and they were exemplary - moist tasty chicken, good onion and pepper mix, soft floury tortillas and excellent sides - guacamole, salsa, sour cream and grated cheese.  Admittedly it's hard to f*ck up a fajita but these were super tasty.  Not the healthiest of places to eat - it's very much on the burger vibe but there are some days you can skip the salad and head for the fajitas.

UPDATE: Profile is not in fact on the Freedom site and Freedom is still there - although looks quite different to back in "my day".  Plus Anthony from Blue was queueing to get in as I walked past yesterday - what does that say?

Profile on Urbanspoon

Support Children with Leukaemia - and hang with Heston

I'm a sucker for a good cause and this one seems like just that.  If you go to you can buy £10 raffle tickets and go in the draw to win prizes like a cooking lesson with Marcus Wareing or dinner with Marco Pierre White (scary!).  So if you are into the whole celeb chef thing and you want to show some support for the charity "Children With Leukaemia" check this out.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Old London

Seeing this great old sign on the side of a building on Wandsworth Road in Battersea (we were heading to The Roastery - south London's best primo coffee stop!) reminded me of one of my favourite London blogs and I wanted to post the link.  It is called Faded London and it is dedicated to those bits of the past that are still visible, sometimes only just, in our 21st century city.  I love seeing old painted signs like this one (a personal favourite is the Peterkin Custard sign on Wandsworth High St) as well as street signs, lamp-posts, watering troughs - what always amazes me when I am walking to work along horrendous Oxford Street is when I look up and see these magnificent old buildings which once must have been so grand and now have to suffer the indignity of a tacky tourist shop down below, blasting cheesy Euro-house.  So next time you are walking around your part of London, look a little closer, notice the remnants of the past and if you find a good one, photograph it and send it to Faded London.  One of the things that always makes me sad and nostalgic as well (I am a sucker for nostalgia) is the closing down of old shops - thank God there are still amazing shops like James Smith & Sons on New Oxford St, but for every one of these there are five that have closed down.  I bought a fantastic book the other day that is all about just that - this guy went around in the 70s and 80s taking photos of old shops, mainly in London and recording the stories of the people that owned them or worked there.  It is just brilliant and I'm not ashamed to say it brought a tear to my eye!  It's called "Shutting up Shop" by John Londei.  OK enough about the past - time I started blogging about "now".

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Cortado vs Flat White

Apologies for the lack of posts - I have been on the road, including Spain, this past week and I am heading back to London having consumed many cafe cortados.  Which gets me to thinking - maybe I can cut down on the amount of milk I drink each day (given I consume at least 4 flat whites before 5pm) by swapping out a FW for a cortado now and then, or a stumpy (in Fernandez & Wells land).  What a gem of a coffee a cortado is - I always find a macchiatto to be little more than a frothy espresso (so why not have an espresso I ask myself...) but a cortado has just enough milk to take the edge of the shot but not so much that you feel the dairy overload.  Anyway, just a thought - don´t howl me down too quickly macchiatto fans!