Friday, 27 July 2012

Shrimpy's - Kings Cross Filling Station N1

I thought I'd have no problem finding Shrimpy's - back in the days when I was a regular on the dance-floors of The Cross and Bagleys I would often stop in at the petrol station at the turn off point from York Way, which led eager party people to the series of warehouses and railway buildings that were home to some mighty fine clubbing establishments.  But I had forgotten how much that area has changed, even though I had visited recently to check out Eat St - whilst some great old Victorian industrial buildings still exist, there is now a massive building site surrounded by hoardings plus all sorts of new buildings and it took a moment to get my bearings.  Anyway the other half and I finally found The Filling Station, home to Shrimpy's and met our friends Ben & Gen.  Shrimpy's has been getting good reviews from both bloggers and newspaper critics (even AA Gill was relatively positive) and is definitely a place du jour.  To get to Shrimpy's you have to walk through the forecourt al fresco diners, with Homeslice pizza providing the food
 and some pretty decent looking cocktails being served - but don't be waylaid, continue on into Shrimpy's and you enter a rather lovely space, crisp white table linen and top-end silver and glassware contrast with the graffiti-esque wall and the fact you are sitting in a converted petrol station.  The other half and I started with an off-menu whisky sour and it was by far and away the best we have had (and believe me, we've had a few...).  Ben & Gen had suitably colourful drinks (as you can see) that they also said were delicious. My starter of seabass ceviche with crispy plantains was fresh, zingy and  spot on.  For main course there was only one option for me, after having read so much about it I was always going to have the soft-shell crab burger and it did not disappoint.  Even though the other half was gagging at me chowing down on an intact crab (albeit battered) I tucked in with relish and absolutely loved every mouthful.  I also had some humita on the side - which I had never heard of and was sort of like posh creamed corn, but way more delicious.  My companions also loved their sweetcorn chowder and fried chicken so all in all some very happy diners.

Service was top notch and I loved the random design touches - like the pineapple lamp and silver pineapple bill holder (below) which all echo Shrimpy's logo.  Given Shrimpy's is the brainchild of Pablo Flack and David Waddington of Bistrotheque fame, it's no surprise that this place is such a winner.  I had heard that booking was tricky but we managed to get an early table for 4 on a Saturday night with no dramas and apparently they always save some bar places for walk-ins, so get yourselves down to Shrimpy's ASAP, it's ace.  And maybe if you listen carefully you will hear the ghostly echo of some thumping beats from times past at The Cross & Bagleys (if you've suddenly just had a wave of nostalgia, this article is a great reminder of what this area used to be all about...)

Shrimpy's on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Ginger & White - Silver Place W1

Coffee drinkers of leafy Hampstead (and now Belsize Park also) will be aware of Ginger & White, serving quality caffeine to NW3 for some years now.  Walking through Silver Place in Soho last week (taking the alleys and small streets as is my wont) I stumbled across the newest member of the Ginger & White stable, a rather lovely cafe in W1.  Staffed by a couple of friendly handsome chaps, the coffee was top notch, the vibe more relaxed than I remember from their super busy Hampstead cafe and the location spot on.  So if you have resisted dropping in to Fernandez & Wells or Flat White (depending on which direction you are coming from) then you could do a lot worse than drop in to this little gem.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ozone Coffee Roasters - Leonard St EC2

After hearing good things about the newly opened Ozone Coffee Roasters cafe, just off City Road in Shoreditch, I finally made it there as part of an East End coffee mission this past weekend (Salvation Jane was also on the agenda).  I have to say, the whole experience was absolutely lovely - it was one of those mornings where all just felt good with the world and from the moment I walked in the door at Ozone everything about my visit was spot on.  The first thing you notice is the space - in a huge old warehouse-like building, the inside has been cleverly

 converted to focus on what look like original features but are actually spot-on reproductions (the magnificent windows being one example).  The cafe space is really big - a large bar in the middle splits the back boothed area from the front counter and window seats (where I perched myself).  Originally established in New Zealand (of course!) the Ozone guys have apparently been roasting beans in NZ since the late 90s but this is their first
 UK cafe/retail space.  The flat white I sampled was top notch, smooth and creamy whilst being nice and strong.  Even though I had had an early morning breakfast at home I decided to sample something off the menu and went all antipodean by ordering tomato and avocado ("avo" to you Aussies) on toast.  As you can see from the photo this was simple food done well and I happily munched away whilst slurping on my flat white (must have been nice for those around
 me).  Actually thinking about it, the fact I had a "second breakfast" at Kiwi outpost Ozone was quite appropriate (that's a reference only fellow Lord of the Rings geeks will get - stay with me you others...).  I checked out the downstairs roastery before I left.  It was impressive and looked the business (not that I could tell either way).  There is more seating downstairs and what looks like a private room that my friend (and nephew) Ben tells me can be hired out for meetings - which is a great idea.  The staff are super friendly and informative on the origins of the beans and such stuff.  So if you are in the environs of the Old Street roundabout get yourselves down to Ozone, it's really really good.

Ozone Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 July 2012

Wesley's House & Chapel - City Rd EC1

Why, in 13 years of living in London, had I never stumbled across the lovely Wesley's Chapel in City Road?  It was only after leaving Salvation Jane and deciding I fancied a meander through the City (I love the City on weekends - no people!) that I found it.  A statue of John Wesley guards the entrance and behind it is the imposing Chapel.  I had a look inside and it was all very grand and Georgian.  I felt bad skipping the museum (the rather earnest woman on duty
 did look a little disappointed) but I spent some time looking round the grounds and as a big fan of Georgian architecture, I was particularly taken with this fine specimen to the right of the Chapel entrance.  I realised I knew very little about John Wesley and to be honest, having skipped the museum I didn't know much more when I left but my post visit research has told me that in the 18th century, John Wesley was an Anglican evangelist who eventually led the split from the Anglicans to form the Methodist Church.  You can read more about him and the Chapel, Museum and Wesley's House here if you are so inclined.  Exiting the Chapel ground and heading across the road I discovered another hitherto unknown (to me at least) gem, Bunhill Fields, a rather lovely old cemetery, used to bury "Non-conformists" (not only non Christians but at that time, also non-Anglicans, like our friends across the road) from the late 17th to the middle of the 19th Century.  On a sunny Saturday, Bunhill Fields was a calm oasis from the rather unlovely City Road and I was treated to several colourful jays flying around (one pictured below) and possibly the most confident and pushy squirrel I have ever encountered.  I'm sure during the week this place must be a popular lunch spot for nearby workers, but on this visit I had it almost to myself and it felt quite special.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Salvation Jane - City Rd EC1

I have always been a big fan of Lantana - I remember thinking that I had finally found somewhere in London that did breakfasts like I remembered from Melbourne.  The fact that I only worked round the corner was an added bonus and I have bought a lot of coffee, many breakfasts and way too many blondies from Lantana.  So I was delighted when I heard that Shelagh, owner of Lantana, was planning to open a sister cafe in Shoreditch and have been hanging

 to check it out.  As an aside, for some reason whenever I talk about Salvation Jane, I keep referring to it as Proud Mary, not quite sure why....  Anyway I finally made it there yesterday - I had a lovely Saturday East End coffee adventure (more to come on that) and made sure that Salvation Jane was on the itinerary.  Situated just where the East End morphs into the City, this is a really different location for the Lantana crew and the interior is also very different from what regulars are used to in Charlotte Place.  It is much more industrial and modern than the mothership - but it kind of fits into the locale.  I perched myself up
 at the bar and ordered a flat white and a blueberry friand.  I was presented with this rather fine specimen
with an expertly poured swan on top - the coffee is of the same quality as Lantana and I loved my flattie made with Square Mile beans.  I am a late convert to the friand but have taken to them with gusto and this blueberry version was a perfect sidekick to my coffee.  So nice one Shelagh - you've opened a really cool cafe to your (hopefully) expanding empire, long may you thrive.

Salvation Jane on Urbanspoon