Saturday, 25 February 2012

Sacred - Westfield W12

The jury is still out for me on the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherds Bush (or SheBu if you prefer).  On the one hand, there are some really great places to eat (Pho, Byron & Comptoir Libonais to name a few) and there are some cool shops there.  On the other's kinda hideous.  As much as it's a vast barn of a place, I find it stifling and after about half an hour I really need to get out into fresh air and normality.  It certainly does brighten up SheBu though - as much as I am all for preserving gritty London and keeping it real, I don't think anyone would say that this part of London was better pre-Westfield.  And it gives the poor old BBC staff somewhere nice to spend their lunch hour.  Anyway - this is not a post about Westfield, it's a post about Sacred cafe which serves mighty fine coffee inside the shopping centre.  I have written about Sacred before - the original cafe is in Ganton St, off Carnaby St and five other outlets have popped up including this one.  The flat whites are strong and made with their own brand beans.  Tasty cakes and sandwiches are also on offer and all their cafes have that slightly rough 'n ready Kiwi charm to them - know what I mean bro?  Anyway - if you do find yourself wandering around Westfield in a cold sweat like me then take a moment, visit Sacred, calm yourself by staring at the big gold angel and sip a primo flattie - I promise you'll feel much better.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

More Georgian Soho W1

Readers of this blog know my obsession with Georgian Soho - wandering down Broadwick, Dean, Meard, Greek, Frith or Wardour Streets I am always struck at how well preserved the buildings of that period are.  As well as the typical flat fronted houses, there are some other fantastic decorative reminders of times past - this original shop-front is right on my doorstep and has just recently been  restored.  Operating now as a newsagent - I would love to know more about this building and what sort of shop it was when it was built - so if anyone knows the history please fill me in.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Barbecoa Butchery - EC4

In my lovely walk around the City yesterday (love the City on weekends - so peaceful and so much to see when you're rambling rather than dodging stressed out bankers) the last thing I expected to do was buy bacon.  I had been on the hoof for some time (failed mission to find the mouth of the Fleet River at Blackfriars Bridge - high tide d'oh! - and then successful mission to locate the London Stone) and I really needed caffeinating so was heading to Bea's in One New Change, when I stumbled across this crazy but kinda wonderful butcher's.  Linked to Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa restaurant (to which I haven't been and which has had a bit of a critical pasting) this is the sort of butcher's shop you wish was in your neighbourhood - old school in totally modern surroundings.  All gleaming glass and steel contrasted with hanging carcasses and cuts of meat straight out of Smithfields Market.  I couldn't resist some plump bangers and some smoked bacon (had them for breakfast this morning - lovely) and as always I ended up with stuff that looked good but that I didn't really need (in this case an overpriced jar of raspberry jam and a copy of Jamie's mag).  If I worked in the City this place would be a regular stop-in for me - so much nicer to buy the protein for your evening meal from a butcher's shop than a supermarket.  I did wonder how much business they do but even on a lonely Sunday there were three other customers in there with me so I imagine during the week they must do a healthy trade.  Oh yeah and of course the coffee and red velvet cupcake at Bea's next door was just what the doctor ordered.

The London Stone - Cannon St EC4

This rather unobtrusive grille covers an object that some consider to safeguard London itself.  Given the protective glass in front of it and my crappy photo, you can't actually see it - but let me assure you that within resides the London Stone.  Linked to all manner of legend - Brutus of Troy in 1,000 BC, an ancient stone circle on Ludgate Hill, even the mythical stone from which Excalibur was pulled by King Arthur - the stone is first referred to in 10th century Saxon records.  Once much larger and up until the 18th century, located in the middle of the road that eventually became Cannon Street in the City, the London Stone has been moved several times - including being set into the wall of St Swithin's Church.  In smaller form, but still to many containing all the mythical power that its name conveys, the stone ended up in its current home in 1962.  It really is a bit "blink and you'll miss it" , but take the time to seek it out, stop and read the plaque, crouch down and gaze at one of the most fascinating (at least in my mind) London landmarks and give thanks (just in case) to the stone that keeps us all safe.

Fernandez & Wells - Somerset House WC2

I am a big fan of Fernandez & Wells, particularly the Lexington St store, selling delicious charcuterie, cheese and sherry (which is my idea of food perfection) so I was super excited to check out their latest outpost in beautiful Somerset House.  I actually went over the Christmas break, so the courtyard of Somerset House looked lovely with the giant Christmas tree as well as the ice skating rink in full flow (full skate?).  F&W have an amazing space on the left as you walk in from the Strand - with an open space in front that will apparently have tables as the weather gets warmer.  The inside is vast and seems to keep going on, room after room - I really like the first room as you walk in, with the main counter.  As
always the flat whites are great but for me the special thing about these guys is their sandwiches - they have sandwich making down to a fine art - their grilled cheese version is to die for but I could happily eat my way through the entire selection.  The only downside is that I never have room for one of their "pastel de natas" (Portugese custard tarts to the rest of us). I can't wait to hang out here in summer - there is always fun stuff going on in the courtyard at Somerset House during the summer months and I can't think of any better precursor than a tasty treat and a drink at the wonderful Fernandez & Wells.

Fernandez & Wells on Urbanspoon

Friday, 17 February 2012

Aperture - Rathbone Place W1

Ah Fitzrovia, my beloved Fitzrovia - one of my favourite London neighbourhoods and luckily also where I work, so I get to hang out there at least 5 days a week.  I used to think of Rathbone Place as my quickest route from Charlotte Street and also as the location of the Jerusalem bar which was a bit of a dot-com/Millennium hangout.  The huge Royal Mail delivery & distribution centre dominates the western side of the street - but not for long as Royal Mail has sold it off and the last I heard it was going to be a major development called Newman Place (as the building runs through to Newman St).  Over the last couple of years Rathbone Place has definitely poshed up - but in a good way.  Tapped & Packed brought top quality caffeinated beverages in April 2010 and since then we have seen the opening of  a Lazarides gallery, Byron Burgers (in the old Black Horse pub) and East Street, a vast pan Asian eatery (which I must say is a tad style over substance).  Whilst some may see the last two openings as a sign that Rathbone Place is getting bland and chainy - be heartened by the opening this week of the second Aperture shop - what a gem.  Selling beautiful old cameras (lots of Leicas that I covet like anything) and developing film, this beautifully set out and peaceful shop also has a charming tea area at the back where you can discuss white balance and focal length with your fellow camera-geeks.  The original shop is in Museum St (in my other equal favourite London area, Bloomsbury) and I love the fact that such a unique, specialised shop has chosen to open an outpost in Fitzrovia.  If you are in the market for a classic camera, or you want some film developed or indeed if you just want to relax over a cuppa - be sure to go and visit Aperture.

BanhMi11 stall - Berwick St Soho W1

I am one happy luncher - finally I can get banh-mi in Soho again!  For those of you who have not experienced the deliciousness of banh-mi - they are Vietnamese sandwiches, served in crusty French baguettes but filled with all manner of spicy, tasty Vietnamese ingredients like pork belly, herbs, chilli and pickled vegetables.  One of the things I love about banh-mi is the contrast between the outside and inside of the sandwich - taste and texture.  Broadway market regulars may have sampled Banhmi11 sanwiches at the CapheVn stall (which I have written about before) and if you get the banh-mi bug like me I would also suggest a visit to the sublime City Caphe near Bank tube.  The Berwick Street market and in fact Berwick St itself is one of my favourite Soho places so the fact that I can now buy delicious bahn-mi there makes me very happy.  So check out Banhmi11 - I promise you'll be hooked.

Bánhmì11 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Meard St, Soho W1

I love Soho in general but I particularly love the relatively untouched Georgian facade and street-scapes that are still quite prevalent (I have previously written about Broadwick St).  It's unbelievable to think that in the early 70s the majority of Soho was earmarked for demolition and redevelopment (read about it here) - the recent Crossrail activities are a bitter taste of what could have been much larger scale destruction of one of London's most interesting neighbourhoods.  In terms of Georgian Soho, Meard St (yes - like anyone else with a smattering of French, it makes me snigger, despite the different spelling) is one of the best examples.  Running between Dean St and Wardour St, Meard St is an absolute gem.  Famous more recently as the address of Soho
dandy Sebastian Horsley, Meard St began its life in the early 18th century and much of it was built by John Meard Junior and his father (and as such was originally called Meard's Street).  I have always hankered to live in one of the flat fronted, wooden-shuttered Georgian terraces but these days you probably need a cool £2m+ (maybe I should start putting ads on the blog....).  So in your wanderings around Soho, make sure you take a stroll down Meard St - as well as a great east to west shortcut it's a truly lovely reminder of the Soho of old.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Mishkin's - Catherine St WC2

This has been a week of awesome sandwiches for me, starting with a mouth watering pulled pork bun at Pitt Cue in Soho and finishing with a sensational Reuben sandwich at Mishkin's in Covent Garden.  I am a big Russell Norman fan, especially Polpo and Spuntino, so I already knew there was a good chance I would like Mishkin's.  I love the way they describe themselves as a "kind-of Jewish deli with cocktails" - given I have always loved traditionally Jewish food (load me up on the pastrami, bagels, challah bread, soup with matzah balls etc) and I am also rather fond of cocktails, this also boded well. My friend Ryan and I went there for lunch today - unsurprisingly, given the fantastic venues Russell has fitted out to date, Mishkin's looks fab, outside and in.  The menu is great - whilst we wanted to try as much as possible, both Ryan and I could not go past the traditional Reuben
sandwich.  Made with corned beef, toasted rye bread and melted Swiss cheese, this is a mighty fine sandwich at the best of times but Mishkin's version was amazing.  With some pickles on the side and with sharing plates of slaw and fries/onion rings in front of us (the latter called "Half & Half") we were two happy lunchers.  Ryan is a bad influence and guilted me (calories wise) out of having a malted shake and instead forced me (so hard to twist my rubbery arm...) to have a cocktail.  I went for the gin rickey (basically gin and lime) and it was great - I felt very "Mad Men"  drinking gin at lunchtime.  I can't wait to go back to Mishkin's and try other things on the menu and hammer those gin rickeys again - this is a really great place and may even become my favourite in the Russell Norman stable.  So bubbalas, don't be schmucks, ignore the kvetching from some well known food critics and go check out Mishkin's, it's ace.

Mishkin's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Pitt Cue Co. - Newburgh St W1

Oh my, oh my oh my oh my - I have tasted sandwich perfection and its name is the pulled pork bun from Pitt Cue Co.  OK, let me mop up the drool and take a step back.  For those of you who hung out at Southbank in the Summer (I am a total Southbank junkie - not literally, I mean I just like the place a whole lot...) the name Pitt Cue Co will conjure up a cute food van, under the Hungerford bridge serving delicious BBQ meats with equally delicious and dangerously strong cocktails.  Sadly as the long warm days drew to a close, so did the era of the funky Pitt Cue truck.  So it was with great delight and aforementioned drool that I read about Pitt Cue opening a permanent location in one of my favourite Soho streets, Newburgh St.  Some of you may remember Canela that was in this spot before - I didn't mind it but I'm really glad they moved on and made space for Pitt Cue Co (sorry Canela!).  This is a really dinky space and there is a no booking policy, but there are stools at the bar and around the window so be patient.  I was on a bit of a rushed lunch time so I chose the take away option and went for the pulled pork bun.  I couldn't wait to get back to my desk to eat
this baby - and here it is in all its glory.  I literally let out an orgasmic groan as I took my first bite - it was that good.  The tender meat, the perfect glazed, charred bun and the crunchy slaw inside - it was just perfect.  I am going to eat many of these buns - I'm telling you now and I will be back to Pitt Cue Co to sit in and enjoy some of their fine alcoholic beverages.  So if you find yourself in the charming cobbled enclave of Newburgh and Ganton streets then do yourself a huge favour and walk in the door of Pitt Cue Co for some pulled pork magic.

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon