Saturday, 31 March 2012

Browns of Brockley SE4

Last weekend we finally made it to Brockley Market (awesome and the subject of another post) but we were also keen to check out local cafe extraordinaire, Browns of Brockley (Twitter feed here).  Unmissable when you come out of Brockley overground station, Browns is an absolute gem.  How I wish these guys would consider opening an exact replica in my neck of the woods (it's not that much of a leap from SE4 to SW18 right?) - if they did I could promise them that I would be there every morning for breakfast and they wouldn't be able to get rid of me on the weekends.  What can I say - amazing looking food (which we had to resist because we had come to Brockley to eat food at the market), perfectly made flat whites (using Square Mile beans) and a laid back vibe that positively encourages long, lazy sessions with a book and multiple coffees.  Top that all off with super friendly service and you can probably see why I fell in love with this place.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Delaunay - Aldwych WC2

The Wolseley is one of my favourite places to eat in London, especially for breakfast, so I was super excited when I heard the team behind The Wolseley were planning a new "grand central European style cafe" in Aldwych called The Delaunay.   Having back-packed through Europe as a fluffy-haired 21 year old (many, many years ago...sob) I have fond memories of taking a break from the baguettes and cheese and canned ravioli and treating myself to coffee and cake at a grand cafe in cities like Vienna or Salzburg.  The Delaunay definitely has the feel of one of these cafes but without the genteel shabbiness that the century old European versions have acquired through time.  All in all though this is a gem and the breakfast the other half and I had this morning was fantastic.  Starting with a good strong latte (pictured) and a cute basket of perfect mini pastries, we followed up with a perfectly cooked omelette filled with ham, mushrooms, tomato and Gruyere.  The Wolseley's omelettes are the best I've ever had and so this one didn't quite measure up but it was still bloody good.  Even though we were full up, we also shovelled in some lovely toasted sourdough toast with delicious strawberry jam and washed it all down with another coffee.  We lingered over our food and it was all very relaxed - as it should be in a place like this.  The Delaunay also has a smaller, more casual cafe and take away space called "The Counter" - we went and had a sticky beak and it looks great.  I can see myself spending a lot of time in both the large, grand main room and this smaller space.  Also they have milkshakes on their menu - I am constantly on the search for the perfect vanilla milkshake so that is my next mission!  I loved The Delaunay - so get down there and fall in love with this grand dame yourself.

The Delaunay on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Flat Cap - St Giles WC2

As London enjoys the plethora of great coffee options now available (remember those times when it was Monmouth or nothing people - it ain't that long ago!) we need to take some time to give a nod to the people that have helped this happy state of affairs occur.  In my mind, one who deserves special attention is Fabio Ferreira - from the first Flat Cap cart in Strutton Ground, SW1 - Fabio's coffee outlets have put a smile on my face.  Typified by good service, great coffee (made with Square Mile beans) and a whole lotta class, all of Fabio's locations are great.  Notes Music & Coffee on St Martin's Lane is something really special and marked Fabio's move from cart to cafe.  The follow up Notes in Covent Garden is just as good and the other Flat Cap carts are worthy additions to the fold.  I still haven't visited the Borough cart (although I plan to soon) but I was an early visitor to the Fleet St one (thanks to my friend Gen - who alerted me to the very first Flat Cap cart as well) and I am delighted to welcome the latest, Flat Cap St Giles, which (joy of joys) happens to be directly across the road from the building my company is moving into in April.  Not good news for the surrounding cafes however as it's unlikely I will feel the need to look further afield, when I have a Flat Cap cart on my doorstep - hurrah!

ADDENDUM: Alerted by a helpful commenter on this blog post, it appears I am only up with half the story and should have also given a shout out to Fabio's business partner, Rob Robinson as well.  Certainly was not meaning to exclude Rob - so big up to him too.  Thanks for the (continuing) service to London's caffeine-starved population.  You guys rock!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Foxcroft & Ginger - BOXPARK, Shoreditch E1

These days it seems to be all about pop-ups, whether it's restaurants, cafes, galleries, clothes shops or bars so I suppose it was only a matter of time before pop-ups got super-sized and we got a pop-up mall.  Strictly speaking though BOXPARK is not really a pop up, as I think it will be in place for 5 years and in the fickle world of hipster tastes that's more like two normal retail lifetimes.  A collection of various brands housed in old shipping containers over two levels, BOXPARK kinda won me over - I was prepared to be sceptical but I actually really liked it.  There are some cool shops here and I found myself getting caught up in the retail vibe, so much so that I bought a pair of jeans that are arguably way too skinny for my 40 year old self...anyway.  Upstairs on the second level is the new outpost of one of my favourite Soho coffee joints, Foxcroft & Ginger.  F&G offers what I consider to be Soho's best breakfast - ham & cheese brioche French toast drizzled with maple syrup and for that I will love them forever.  This new location is very different to the Berwick St branch but is really cool and serves the same great coffee made with Monmouth beans and a yummy selection of food, the BOXPARK (you like how I am buying into the capitalised thing?) branch is a great place to re-fuel in between buying your Kangol hat or your Vans trainers.  And I cannot recommend that French toast too highly - it ROCKS (and that capitalisation is totally justified).

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

St Alban, Wood St EC2

I am having a bit of a love-moment for the City of London right now - not during the week when the suited and booted City folk bustle around deciding how to spend their million pound bonuses, but on the weekends when it is deserted and lovely and you can stumble across hidden gems like the lone tower of St Alban in Wood St.  Nestled in between modern buildings, all that remains of this 17th Century church is the tower, now apparently a private residence (how cool is that?).  If you believe Wikipedia, there may have been a church on this site since the 8th century but there are definitive records going back to the 10th.  As with many (in fact most) of the churches within the City of London, St Alban was destroyed completely in the Great Fire of 1666 and then, again like most City churches, was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th Century.  Restored in the late 19th century, the body of the church was pretty much destroyed in the Blitz in 1940 although it took until 1965 for it to be demolished.  I'm glad they left the tower though - it's  a reminder of something that has stood here for longer than any of the buildings around it and seen the London centuries come and go.  Plus it's the coolest traffic island I've ever seen.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Full Stop - Brick Lane E1

My friend Rob, who works near Edgeware Road (in that sort of no-mans land that isn't St John's Wood, isn't Marylebone and isn't Paddington) is still sad about the departure of Peter Duggan's Indie Coffee cart.  I'm sure there are many workers and residents of NW8 who feel the same sense of loss.  Conversely, there must be lots of E1 folk who love the fact that Peter upped sticks and found a permanent home on Brick Lane, called Full Stop.  As a fan of Indie Coffee's flat whites, I was keen to check out Full Stop but it has taken me a while to get there - first impressions were that this was a really cool space, it reminded me of bars/cafes from my home town of Melbourne, with that old sofa, booth kind of vibe.  I ordered a flat white and a ham & cheese sandwich and both were great.  Peter is definitely a master of the bean and the combination of his skill and Square Mile's finest, meant my flat white was mighty fine (as you can see).  Brick Lane was
pretty quiet on Saturday morning so the whole experience was really relaxing - I imagine when Spitalfields and Brick Lane are in full force, it is probably more hectic but there is plenty of seating here, so I can highly recommend Full Stop as a the perfect pit-stop during your market trawling.  There were all sorts of tasty treats on display and the service is great - as you can probably tell, I'm a fan, NW8's loss is definitely E1's gain.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Yum Bun @ Eat St, King's Cross N1

Up until today, for me the area behind King's Cross station was all about my days (or more accurately nights) of dancing my little heart out at Bagleys or The Cross.  Ah, those were the days... *memories*.  Now the area is one big construction zone, with old warehouses demolished to make way for the "new Kings Cross" (can you tell I hate that idea?  Give me dilapidated Victorian rail sheds and amazing clubs any day).  Anyway after today, that area will now be all about Yum Bun.  Habitues of Broadway Market in Hackney may have already sampled the incredible deliciousness that is the steamed pork bun from Yum Bun but now on Fridays, as part of the Eat St initiative the rest of us can get them in the King's Cross vicinity .  Eat St is a bit of a weird one - a handful of really cool food stalls in the afore-mentioned construction zone behind Kings Cross station, including Big Apple Hot Dogs, Kimchi Cult, Yum Bun and others - you can check out which stalls are operating here (it alternates on different days).  It is a bit sparse - not sure why they don't just get all the food vendors together on one day but the few on offer today all looked great.  I also sampled coffee from Bean & Gone today and I will definitely be back at Eat St over the coming weeks to sample many more food offerings.  I have to say though, if Yum Bun is in residence I will find it really hard to go past their fluffy, genuinely friggin' delicious pork buns - I mean look at them people, what's not to love?  And they taste better than they look.  In fact I want more - right now.

Bean & Gone - King's Cross N1

Part of the Eat St crew, located behind King's Cross station - this cute little coffee cart, Bean & Gone is the first Eat St vendor you'll find if you are coming from the back of the station (rather than the York Way way...way way?)  Using Monmouth beans and also I believe a Monmouth veteran, the super friendly proprietor (pictured) serves decent flat whites and delicious gluten free triple-choc brownies (what a combo eh?) so make sure to go and say hi and satisfy your caffeine urges before checking out the rest of the Eat St food on offer.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Pizza Pilgrims - Berwick Street Market W1

I was first alerted to the existence of Pizza Pilgrims by a tweet from the lovely Chloe, otherwise known as The Faerietale Foodie.  The thought of authentic Neopolitan pizza being produced in a bespoke converted Robin Reliant van sounded really cool to me so I was keen to check it out.  The back-story is that two brothers and a friend, inspired by Italian pizza decided to buy the afore-mentioned Robin Reliant, pick it up in southern Italy and drive it back to the UK, sampling pizza along the way.  The Pilgrims have set up their van in one of my favourite streets in Soho, Berwick St (alongside BahnMi11) and are concentrating on selling a small number of quality pizzas - on my first visit today I had a delicious "Nduja" which had spicy tomato sauce, chorizo and broccoli
added.  I have been bemoaning the lack of decent pizza in London recently so the Pilgrims version I had today made me really happy - if I had one criticism it is that, to me, truly great pizza always has a really thin base and the Pizza Pilgrims' version is quite doughy round the edges.  But hey, it's a small gripe and overall this was definitely the best pizza I'd had for a long while.  So check out the Pizza Pilgrims (you can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter).  I am loving the street food vibe that is coming to London, loving Berwick Street more every day and loving the fact I now know where to go when that pizza craving comes on.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Victoria Embankment Dragons - EC4

I have written before about some of the (many) dragons in the City of London - my favourite being the amazing weather vane on top of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside.  Once you start looking for dragon imagery in the square mile it seems to be everywhere - but the dragons you certainly can't miss are those welcoming you (or warning you not to enter?) at the boundaries of the City of Westminster and the City of London.  These two magnificent specimens are located on the Victoria Embankment and once guarded the entrance to the Coal Exchange in Lower Thames Street.  I am seriously thinking about creating a dragon walking tour of London and I think these two fellas would be a good place to start.