Thursday, 28 July 2011
Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Tapped & Packed in Rathbone Place has been like my mistress. Let me explain - I was married to Milk Bar and I was very much in love, sure I cheated now and again but I always came back to my main love and I never wanted to stray far or for long. Then a sexy newcomer entered my life, just that little bit closer to where I worked and I found myself spending more time with them and then one week I realised I hadn't been to Milk Bar at all that week. After the flood of guilt, the recriminations, the soul searching I decided that that's life - sometimes you meet someone and it is for ever, other times you have an intense, wonderful year or two and then you realise that actually you are better off as friends - catching up with them now and again, always pleased to see them, a touch of poignancy about those heady days when you were lovers... OK now I've got that off my chest, back to Tapped & Packed, that saucy minx who won my heart. The combination of excellent coffee, great staff, cool premises and delicious food makes the original Tapped & Packed a winner so hooray that they have decided to replicate this formula at the unlovely end of Tottenham Court Road. With a great corner location and a more spacious feel than the original, this Tapped & Packed is sure to be a winner - my coffee was totally up to Rathbone Place standards and the same excellent food selection is avaiable. There was even a face from the mother-ship there to make it all feel very familiar. So lucky you if you work around Warren St - you just got a new hang-out.
Smithfield Market is not full of chi-chi clothing stalls or organic chocolate brownies - but is rather a working wholesale meat market. Hopefully when they get there though, they end up loving this area as much as I do. Whilst the current market building is a magnificent Victorian structure, its stands on a site that has seen the meat trade being plied for over 800 years. In the days when London was a walled city, Smithfield lay just outside the city wall on the banks of the River Fleet and as such was perfect grazing land for livestock gathered for sale. Also used as site for public gatherings and more gruesomely executions (Smithfield saw the demise of William Wallace - and the less you think about how he died the better...ouch) the area around the market is so dense with London history it's almost palpable. As well as the heritage of this place and the wonderful architecture (market buildings and associated structures included) it is also home to one of my favourite caffeine-refuelling stations, Dose Espresso (now in larger premises), plus great restaurants and of course a short walk to the wonderful Barbican Centre. I had a brief and fairly uninspiring stint at a new media agency nearby and I used to tube it to Farringdon and walk through Smithfield every morning when the traders were sluicing out the blood from their stalls - quite a way to start a working day (and to be honest probably the high point). I have always loved Farringdon and Clerkenwell and the area is getting better by the day - particularly around the junction of St John St and Clerkenwell Road (I give you the Modern Pantry, St Ali and the Zetter Townhouse to name but three must-visit spots). For those of you of the clubby persuasion in the early 2000's (and beyond) you will have seen this area at all hours whilst stumbling in or out of Fabric (I may have thrown a shape or two there myself...). I always loved the proximity of this establishment to the meat market - maybe it was because it gave it a 1980's New York vibe. As always in a big city, some of the wonderful market buildings have been threatened with demolition by *gnashes teeth* property developers, especially given the proximity to the ever encroaching City, but fingers crossed it looks like the threat has been averted - except for the demolition of some buildings in the cause of f*cking Crossrail (go here for further rants). Anyway - if you haven't been to Smithfield or Farringdon, do yourself a favour and head there this weekend, take the time to wander around the beautiful main market building, make sure you check out the church of St Batholomew the Great (which has existed here in some form since the 12th century) and just take a moment to think of all that has gone on in this particular pocket of this amazing city.
Monday, 18 July 2011
Have I mentioned before how much I love Southbank? I did? Well I'll say it again - I LOVE Southbank and last Sunday was one of those prefect Southbank days. I had been wanting to try out the Pitt Cue Co. BBQ truck under Hungerford Bridge for ages and in fact I had gone down there last week but was too early so this was my second mission (the first time the ever generous Pitt Cue crew gave me a couple of pieces of tasty brisket and some confit onions from their "crew lunch" to keep me happy - how cool is that?). I couldn't believe it when the other half and I got there at 1pm a couple of Sunday's ago and the guys at Pitt Cue told me they had been caught in a traffic jam on the way to set up so were running late - I felt like the fates were trying to stop me sampling that BBQ loveliness. Luckily the guys from Milk & Honey had set up a cocktail stall next door (the cocktails were actually raising money for Pitt Cue to buy a new smoker) so we sampled some mighty fine gin based beverages while we waited for Pitt Cue to get going. We got a little squiffy on the delicious cocktails and just in time Pitt Cue began serving their amazing BBQ goodness - the pulled pork is their signature dish and it comes with black beans, homemade crunchy coleslaw and the aforementioned confit onions. This is seriously good food - in fact it's groan out loud good (although that could have been the cocktails talking). Trust me on this - if you are in the vicinity of Waterloo, just GO!
Monday, 11 July 2011
City Caphe near Bank tube (if you haven't been there - go, it rocks) but now I have an equal favourite, the lovely CaPheVn stall at Broadway Market. I love Broadway Market - any food and/or coffee lover has to love Broadway Market - but I had never tried the bahn-mi from CaPheVn. The first thing you notice is what a cool stall this is - with outdoor deck chairs and umbrellas galore, this is a place that feels so welcoming and the people on duty at the stall back this up. I felt good just being there but boy did I feel better once I took the first bite of my classic signature bahn-mi (take a look at the little beauty below). The secret is definitely the baguette (which is one of the reasons why, despite visiting I have not blogged about either Keu in Old St or Bahn Mi Bay in Theobold's Road - although I plan to give them both a second chance) but I think part of the reason that City Caphe and CaPheVn's bahn-mi are so good is that they are lovingly put together. Nothing compliments a bahn-mi better than a sweet Vietnamese coffee, made with strong black coffee and sweet condensed milk - this time I had it poured over ice and it was sen-fucking-sational! I still hold out hope that someone will open a bahn-mi shop in Soho - for a while we had Viet Baguette but then that closed and never re-opened. C'mon City Caphe and CaPheVn - pool your resources and open a bahn-mi shop in W1 - I promise I'll visit at least 3 times a week.
Mouse & de Lotz for a while but as it's in the wilds of Hackney, I always felt it required planning, which lately I can't seem to manage. Luckily it turns out that it's actually right across the road from my good friend Doug's place so I could combine a visit to him with a caffeinated beverage from M & DL. And as for the "wilds of Hackney" bit - well I also discovered that the under-rated London Overground trains go directly from Clapham Junction (in my neck of the woods) to Dalston Kingsland. Admittedly on a Saturday these trains only go every 45 minutes so you need to plan a bit - which obviously meant that I missed the train I needed but even so, it was super easy to get there via SW Trains, the Victoria Line and the last bit of the London Overground from Highbury & Islington to Dalston Kingsland. Anyway - at the risk of becoming a London transport bore, back to Mouse & De Lotz. Super cute, this place would be a winner for any neighbourhood, but of course it's the hipster East Londoners who get it (don't you have enough people - we need more of this stuff in SW London...). The flat white was spot on, the fruit loaf was super tasty and sitting outside with Doug (you can spot him in the picture) I was very content. So if you live around here or indeed if, like me, you have discovered speedy routes from your part of London to Hipster Central then make sure you check out this great little cafe serving really good coffee.