Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Modern Pantry - St John's Square EC1

An alumni of The Providores, Anna Hansen opened this little gem in Clerkenwell in 2008.  I love Clerkenwell in general but I am particulalry fond of St John's Square - the Modern Pantry sits opposite the Zetter Hotel (home of the much lauded Bistrot Bruno Loubet) and just around the corner from St John St so food lovers are spoilt for choice.  I had a really great breakfast there last weekend - anywhere that serves soft boiled eggs and vegemite soldiers is a winner in my book.  The coffee was decent, if a little weak (but hey, the majority of people seem to like it that way - sigh).  I had always wondered what the beautiful stone arch was in St John's Lane - across the other side of Clerkenwell Road and apparently it is the Museum of the Order of St John  - charting the history of the Order from the Hospitaller origins to the current day incarnation as St John's Ambulence.  I plan to go and check it out next time I'm over there.

Modern Pantry on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 February 2011

Hunterian Museum - Lincoln's Inn Fields WC2

I made the mistake of visiting the astounding Hunterian Museum before lunch - not a good idea.  Situated in the Royal College of Surgeons building in Lincoln's Inn Fields (I feel like LIF needs its own blog post - it is such a beautiful square), the Hunterian is focused mainly on the work and collection of John Hunter, eminent scientist and pioneer surgeon of the 18th century.  The thought of having to endure any sort of surgery back in those days is horrific but at least Hunter approached it from a position of expertise - as a result of amassing an impressive collection of anatomical specimens, human and animal and it is these that are on display.  This place is like a mad scientist's lair - jars of weird and wonderful objects stacked to the ceiling, ranging from armadillo fetuses to still born infants (I always find these a little disturbing), a "giant's" skeleton to human feet from an elephantitis sufferer.  It was when I found a series of jars containing the material scraped from the inside of subcutaneous abscesses that I felt the desire for lunch disappear, but having said that I found this place fascinating.  Not for the faint-hearted, the Hunterian is truly amazing and a relatively unknown gem.  While you are there - also have a look in the library on the same floor that is open to the public and looks out over Lincoln's Inn Fields.  One of those amazing 19th century reading rooms that makes you feel like you are in a Sherlock Holmes story or about to research an expedition to find the lost tribes of the Amazon (or maybe that's just me...)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Terroirs - William IV St WC2

As often happens (at least in terms of blogging about London restaurants) I am kinda late to the party - if you want the latest news and top notch reviews of where to eat well in this town then you should visit the excellent Greedy Diva or Gourmet Chick.  Having said that, my raison d'etre is to share with you the places in this town that I love - food, coffee, architecture, neighbourhoods, whatever really and with that in mind I just had to write about the wonderful, wonderful Terroirs.  Opened around 2 years ago, Terroirs is positioned as a wine bar with food and the wine list is certainly top notch (note picture of delicious Burgundy...) but the food was the highlight for me.  We sat upstairs where the modus operandi is small sharing plates - predominately French in nature but with other Mediterranean influences, including a plate of amazing Jamon de Teruel (from the charcuterie selection) which melted in the mouth.  The pork and pistachio terrrine was my highlight - meaty, vinegary and rich, I could have eaten two!  Other dishes included Potted Shrimps on Toast (amazing), a selection of three wonderful cheeses (including the creamiest goat's cheese I have had in a long time) and another highlight - Cantabrian Anchovies with finely sliced shallots, rustic bread and unsalted butter.  We shared two puddings and one of them was the only bum note for me - the floating island of panacotta, rhubarb and pistachio.  The other one was a perfect end to the meal though -  a wonderfully bitter dark chocolate pot.  We had a great bottle of red from the Languedoc and stumbled out of there with grins on our faces that can only come when all the elements align - food, place, wine and of course company.  A winner people, a winner.

Terroirs on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 February 2011

Leila's Shop & Deli - Calvert Avenue E2

I have already blogged about how much I love Arnold Circus in Shoreditch (I have this Utopian fantasy about all my friends living round the Circus and meeting for a chat at the bandstand in the middle...) but I am also a fan of the surrounding streets, in particular Calvert Avenue which radiates from Arnold Circus towards Shoreditch High Street.  There are some cool shops and a fantastic deli and cafe called Leila's which would be a gem in any neighbourhood but luckily for local residents is bang in the middle of this oh so groovy corner of East London.  The delicatessen is full of amazing produce but I have to mention one thing, amongst all the wonderful fruit and veg and generally healthy stuff, that stood out for me - dark chocolate covered clementines.  At the risk of sounding like an SMS from Paris Hilton - OMG, they are amazing.  Some people don't like the chocolate/orange pairing but I definitely do and this is the ultimate, nay the zenith of that particular taste combination.  I will dream about it until my next visit...  Anyway on to the cafe next door - bustling and full of 30+ hipsters we had a lovely late breakfast with decent coffee (although you're better off going round the corner to Allpress or Prufrock if caffeine is your mission).  I had a sizzling plate of ham and eggs, served in a cute little skillet with fantastic rustic bread and proper butter.  the cakes looked amazing but as I had already had a pain au chocolat earlier in the day and I'd just scoffed the aforementoined choc clementine I nobly abstained.  Next time I am definitely going for one of the brownies.  This is a really great place in a really great neighbourhood and I will most certainly be back.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Allpress Espresso - Redchurch St E2

I had a very nice meander around the Spitalfields/Shoreditch area today - kinda nice to go there when the market is not on and the tourist hordes are elsewhere (probably at Borough).  I had heard about Allpress Espresso and wanted to check it out so persuaded my friend Rob to accompany me on my caffeine mission.  Allpress originates from Kiwi-land and you can read their story here.  They have broadened their NZ/Aussie operations to include this outpost in Redchurch Street (the street on which the much missed Penny University used to be located - sniff).  It is a really cool space - housing their roastery as well as the cafe.  We had exceptional flat whites and I had a perfect pain au chocolat. I was enviously eyeing up the next door table's avocado and tomato on toast - that is definitely ear-marked for next time.  I really liked this place and will definitely be back.  It is amazing how widespread this coffee revolution has become, we are truly spoilt for choice in London.  Turn the clock back even 3 years and it was a very different story.  My Central London Coffee Survival Guide Map is getting crowded (I just wish there were more pins in south-west London).

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Giaconda Dining Room - Denmark St WC2

I have written about Denmark Street before - one of my favourite streets in central London, partly due to the heritage but also due to its rough and ready charm, despite being somewhat past its heyday.  It's hard to escape the looming Central St Giles development when you enter Denmark St from Charing Cross Road these days - but in a weird way it kinda works, a crazy multi-coloured lego palace at the end of this quirky little street that is still half living in the swinging 60s.  Anyway this post is not a further paean to Denmark St, it's an acknowledgment of what I think is one of the best restaurants in London, The Giaconda Dining Room.  I love the fact that this place is out of the way, I love the fact that the room is marginally bigger than the average living room, I love the service (the Aussie waitress is absolutely top of her game - I wish she would run a master class for other London waiting staff and pass on her considerable skill) but most of all I love the grub.  I have been several times over the last couple of years but have never got around to writing about it (not sure why) so I was determined to rectify that today.  I had the most amazing grilled brill in a wonderful buttery sauce with string fried potatoes and a watercress salad - it was nothing short of superb.  I succumbed to their amazing pudding selection and had Eton mess, which was spot on and not as sickly sweet as it can sometimes be.  My macchiato to finish was perfectly made and topped off one of the nicest meals I have had in a long time.  I have never been here in the evening - I imagine it would be super cosy, particularly at this time of year.  If I had to level any criticism it would be that when the room is full it's a tad hard to hear - but that could be more to do with my advancing years than the acoustics.  Anyway, this place is sensational - if you haven't been already, just go.

Giaconda Dining Room on Urbanspoon

3 Little Pigs at Black Truffle - Warren St W1

Warren St is a funny one - kind of at the arse end of Fitzrovia, best know for a particularly unlovely tube station, but just round the corner from the oh so lovely Fitzroy Square.  There are also some funky shops around here and Black Truffle is definitely one of them.  After starting in Broadway Market, these guys opened their Warren St outpost, selling shoes, bags and other stuff.  More interesting to me is that they are now serving coffee from a dinky little concession just inside the shop - called 3 Little Pigs, they use Nude Espresso beans and the flat white I had there today was really good.  Not super fancy in terms of latte art, but a nice strong drink with well steamed milk.  Plus they serve piccolos, which is always a plus in my book.  So if you are languishing in the coffee wasteland of north Fitzrovia ("NoFo"?) then pay the 3 Little Pigs a visit.