Monday, 30 January 2012

Meat Liquor - Welbeck St W1

I finally made it to Meat Liquor on Saturday after several tries when I just couldn't face the queue - and before you judge me people, the other half and I waited 2 hours for a burger at #Meateasy so back in your box.  Man, this place is a total headf*ck - perhaps because I was jet-lagged, perhaps because I was a little drunk, perhaps because I had just eaten a burger so dirty and downright frigging delicious as well as some equally dirtily delectable chili cheese fries, I started to feel a little crazy in Meat Liquor.  Helped by the low lighting, hillbilly soundtrack and frankly scary graffiti art (my friend Ryan said it looked like somewhere you'd find a trussed up body hanging from a meat hook) - I actually needed to get out of there in the end and breath some non meaty air.  But hey, this is seriously good food and if you want to surrender yourself to the vibe, fortified by the equally superior cocktail list then you could lose your mind quite enjoyably in Meat Liquor.  You may just wake up the next morning in some abandoned warehouse, reeking of burgers and feeling violated but happy though - I warn you.

MEATliquor on Urbanspoon

Sensory Lab - Wigmore St W1

I really miss the Penny University  - which existed briefly but beautifully in Redchurch St in Shoreditch and was run by the Square Mile guys.  It was all about the coffee and focused on brewed coffee in lots of weird and wonderful (at the time - now every joker (i.e. me) has a an Aeropress) ways.  So I was really excited to check out  Sensory Lab - opened by the St Ali folk from Clerkenwell (and originally my home town of Melbourne).  Sensibly adding espresso to the line up, which makes this place a bit more accessible than Penny University (although not quite as ascetic and pure), this place is still ALL about the coffee - I didn't see any food on offer.  The other half had a pretty decent flat white and I had a really delicious and unusual Rwandan brewed coffee (in the aforementioned Aeropress) which was all citrusy and complex and stuff and made me feel like a true coffee connoisseur.  I love the fact that London is so into coffee now that places like Sensory Lab can open and exist - and on Wigmore St of all places.  Nice one - we've come a long way folks.

Sensory Lab on Urbanspoon

The Earlsfield Deli - SW18

OK so bear with me now - I know The Earlsfield Deli is in deepest, darkest SW18 but hey, it's my 'hood and I am super excited that there is somewhere serving really good coffee just near my house (finally an entry on my Central London Coffee Survival Guide map that I can walk to on weekends).  And you know what - you should make the trip to Earlsfield because it's great.  So there.  Anyway (*deep breath*) this is a really lovely little deli.  Behind the jaunty blue facade, there is a great selection of breads, produce, meats, cheese, cakes, the usual deli fare as well as delicious sandwiches and (here's the best bit) really great coffee made with Nude Espresso beans.  These guys have been trained up in the art of espresso making by the Nudists themselves and also sell their beans.  Without the fancy latte-art for now, these are still top notch flat whites.  Their plan is also to open later and serve wine and nibbles - which I am looking forward to.  Top this all off with friendly service and I think, even if this was not a hop, skip and a jump from my front door, I'd still love it.  So come south my friends and fortify yourselves with coffee and a sanga (as we say in my native country) at the Earslfield Deli.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Salt - Great Queen St WC2

I had heard about Salt but was not really sure exactly where it was so thanks to Rebecca for alerting me pre Christmas exactly where to find this little gem of a cafe.  For those fans of 32 Great Queen Street (and I am definitely one) Salt is a few doors down.  You can sit outside and stare at the slightly spooky grandeur of the Masonic "United Grand Lodge" (you feeling the Da Vinci code vibe yet?) opposite.  Inside, this dinky cafe serves top notch flat whites made with Square Mile beans and also offers a selection of really lovely looking food.  My friend Rob and I shared a delicious chocolate brownie - we would have eaten more but we'd just pigged out at Fernandez & Wells at Somerset House (review to come).  This is a long, thin cafe (no sniggers please) with more seating out the back when you tire of staring at the Masons.  I really like this cafe and this area - so check it out.

Monday, 2 January 2012

My Top 3 Cafes of 2011

Firstly, apologies for my blogging slackness in the last months of 2011 - one of my New Year's resolutions is regular blog updating.  This post should really have come a few days ago but before embarking in 2012 I just wanted to give a shout out to my top 3 cafes of 2011.  It's always a tough one because I love them all really - I am just so stoked at how amazing the London coffee scene is these days.  For those of you like me that have been here for over a decade, just cast your mind back to the coffee wasteland that was London post Millennium. Groups of desperate, hollow-eyed Antipodeans would huddle round an espresso at Bar Italia in Frith St, dreaming (in my case) of places like Mario's in Brunswick St in Melbourne and wondering if tea could be a good substitute.  Fast forward a decade and things were completely different and now going into 2012 we are almost spoilt for choice and what a great problem that is to have.  So I suppose what I'm saying is, if you're not one of my top 3 for 2011 it's not because I don't think you're awesome, it's just because there are so many great places now that you can actually single out 3 amazing cafes and by doing so leave out another 10 just as amazing ones.  Anyway, here they are, my Top 3 in 2011 - based on quality of coffee (of course - for me, this is most often a flat white) but importantly also the vibe, the friendliness and the overall feeling I get when I sit in.  The reason some of my old favourites have slipped off this list is the latter considerations - whilst the coffee quality remains high, I have felt less welcome in some of these places, as they become more popular the service slips (I suppose inevitably) and in a few cases, a smidgen of attitude creeps in.  Anyway not at these places:

  • Nude Espresso - Soho Square W1.  Given its proximity to where I work, this has become my go to cafe and as well as top notch flat whites, I just love the vibe here.  So friendly and so laid back - I often wish I could just spend the morning hanging out in Nude, Soho Square, shooting the breeze.  Plus their beans are our home brewing coffee of choice right now.
  • Speakeasy - Lowndes Court, W1.  The streets off and parallel to Carnaby St are much cooler than Carnaby St itself and the arrival of Speakeasy on tiny Lowndes Court backs up that assertion.  Small but perfectly formed, this is a really great addition to the London coffee scene.  Sister cafe to the wonderful Department of Coffee & Social Affairs in Leather Lane, these guys make great flat whites using Coffeesmiths beans.  Still haven't visited the Brew Bar downstairs but plan to do that early in the new year!
  • Birdhouse - St John's Hill SW11.  Anyone who lives in SW London will appreciate the joy at a new cafe serving good coffee (those spoilt brats in East London have had it all their way for too long).  Still buzzing from the news that Brewed Boy would be located at the lovely Ben's Canteen, I couldn't believe the news that another coffee destination would be opening on the same street.  Owned and run by two top fellas, Cameron & Alexei, as well as serving top notch flat whites (Climpsons beans) this has to be the best fit out of 2011.  I just love the way this place looks - every time I go I see something else to make me smile.  This cafe would be great anywhere in London but the fact it is my neck of the woods makes it even better!