Saturday, 30 April 2011

Piccadilly Arcade - SW1

Somewhat over-shadowed by the flashier Burlington Arcade across the road, I prefer the Piccadilly Arcade, running south from Piccadilly towards Jermyn Street.  As well as some very grand outfitters (this is the perfect arcade to go to if you are looking for hunting gear or a silk dressing you do) there are some wonderful little shops here - my favourites are Iconastas - specialising in Russian art, from the ancient icons that give the shop its name to more contemporary Soviet era pieces; and St James Art Books - which despite its name is not a book shop, but instead a rather lovely shop selling original artworks that are pricey but fascinating (and we can all dream right?).  Weirdly there's a bit of a focus on Soviet painters of the 50s and 60s - not sure why this rather grand St James Arcade has a recurring Russian theme, maybe there's a story behind it.  Anyway - if like me, you are fond of an old fashioned arcade (which I think stems from my Melbourne heritage - we do a mighty fine arcade there) then make sure to visit this one, perhaps after stopping off for a browse at Fortnums or buying some books at the lovely Hatchards.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Riding House Cafe - W1

I have a new favourite place - the Riding House Cafe on the corner of Great Titchfield Street (home to my faves Kaffeine and Scandi Kitchen) and surprise, surprise Riding House Street.  It's a big old place (the photo doesn't do it justice) and I seem to remember it being some sort of run of the mill cafe/restaurant before - but perhaps not the whole space.  I went there once for a work lunch for a job I had briefly many years ago at a really crappy TV company.  Anyway I digress - whatever was there before, the entire block is now the wonderful Riding House Cafe and you just have to go!  The decor is brilliant - I do love a Frenchy, New Yorky, quirky brasserie feel and this place has it down pat - great wooden panelling, really cool lighting (including some fantastic wall lights that incorporate stuffed squirrels), a fantastic bar that just begs to be sat at for long cocktail-soaked evenings and wonderful leather banquette seating.  And the food - well my friends, prepare to be delighted - the other half and I shared a selection of small dishes that were all delicious, try this on for size - beetroot carpaccio with sheep's ricotta and a merlot vinaigrette; chicory with pear, radish and gorgonzola; goats curd, figs and honey; veal & pork sausage with lentils, mustard & sage; sea bass ceviche with lime & chili; and a lovely fresh chopped salad with avocado and palm hearts.  And it all tasted as good as it sounds.  Plus we finished off with a really top notch flat white.  This is the latest opening from the team behind Village East and The Garrison in wonderful Bermondsey so they know what they're doing.  I can't wait to get back here and have breakfast (I'm thinking I will make it a weekly thing given how close this is to my office), eat many more lunches and dinners, settle in for evening cocktail sessions and hang out at the aforementioned bar and just generally make this place my local.  Hip hip hooray for the Riding House Cafe.

The Riding House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, 18 April 2011

St Ali EC1

So finally the long awaited London opening of Melbourne's much loved St Ali has happened.  I went along to their opening party at 27 Clerkenwell Road and whilst my friends Gen and Rosie guzzled the free champas I was determined to sample their coffee - the pictured flattie was perfect and I will definitely be back for more.  It is a huge space (check out the always excellent photos on Gourmet Chick's blog), with their own roastery plus upstairs eating space which apparently will also be a late night venue so lots to check out here - which dear readers, I will endeavour to do on your behalf!

J P Guivier - Mortimer St W1

I don't play the violin or in fact any stringed instrument but I have a fascination and a fondness for England's oldest violin dealer - J P Guivier on Mortimer Street.  I love the jaunty window display, the sense of calm that seems to reside inside and just the fact that here in busy central London there is a shop wholly dedicated to selling violins, violas and cellos.  Anyone who has read Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question (and if you haven't you should - it's great) will recognise Guivier's as the location of the main character's mugging.  But don't let that put you off - I have stood and stared into this wonderful shop many a time without being assaulted (at least to date).  It seems as though shops like this are increasingly rare in central London - perhaps driven out by high rents or the demand for a new Pret or Starbucks so I feel particularly protective of them.  So if you are in the market for a violin, please buy it here!  Otherwise, give yourself a moment of calm in your busy west end day and spend some time, just like Finkler, staring in at one of central London's loveliest shops.

Scandinavian Kitchen W1 - revisited

I have already written about the wonderful Scandinavian Kitchen but after attending their bloggers' night a few weeks ago I decided that they were worthy of another shout-out.  Why?  Let me count the ways - (1) The food is delicious - if you haven't tried Scandi open sandwiches (known as smorgasbord) then you need to rectify that situation and fast.  Plus these guys have amazing cakes and all sorts of other goodies.  (2) I love love love the Scandi groceries they sell - I am a sucker for foreign supermarkets and products so this sort of shop was always going to appeal to me but beyond the funky packaging and snigger-inducing names (try asking for Plopp or Spunk with a straight face) there are some delicious Scandi goodies for sale - my new favourite breakfast is dark crispbread with delicious Danish cheese and organic raspberry and blueberry jam, all bought from the Scandi Kitchen. (3) These guys are just really lovely people - Jonas and Bronte put so much love into this place and that was evident at their bloggers' night.  They are passionate about their region's food and keen to pass on that passion to the people of London.  It was so refreshing to see their approach - it was actually a marked contrast to another event I went to the following week (which shall remain nameless...) where it felt super corporate and you really got a sense of the money men behind the scenes.  Long live the Scandi Kitchen way of doing things.  Anyway - this is a super cool place with great food in a really cool part of London - Great Titchfield Street in Fitzrovia has become a real food/coffee destination with Scandi Kitchen, Kaffeine and now the Riding House Cafe all in close proximity.  Have I convinced you yet?  Get down there!