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Come on…chop chop

My friend Owen recently accused me of neglecting the, let’s say, ‘less posh’ eateries of London on my blog. I tried to assure him that I still regularly frequent aforementioned venues but probably too frequently to be able to keep up with blogging them all! 

However, I thought I would pander to him on this occassion, especially as he was the instigator of our foray into the world of Shepherds Bush’s noodle bars.

So…if you’re ever short on time before a gig at Shepherds Bush Empire, which is exactly the situation we found ourselves in on Tuesday, I highly recomend a visit to Chop Chop. Just minutes away from the Empire, behind a pretty generic looking shopfront lies bowl upon bowl of steaming, tasty noodles and soups and…most of them are under £4!! bargain!

I’ve actually been hankering after noodles for a good few weeks (mostly when hungover) but have been lured away from them in favour of other food genre’s so I was glad to finally get my way.

The Chop Chop menu was pretty extensive, which is always problematic for me and my indecisiveness, but the minute I saw that they did kway teow I had to have it! I have very fond memories of it as my favoured dish when travelling through South East Asia a few years back. A plate piled high with flat, juicy rice noodles, crunchy beansprouts, pieces of pork and chicken and ginormous king prawns mmm….

Owen had the Laksa, which apparently he always has when he visits Chop Chop and only falls slightly short of the BEST, which he told me he tasted in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo…praise indeed I reckon!…

The king prawn noodle soup looked pretty impressive too…

and rest assured…all of the above were eaten with extremely hygienic chopsticks :)…

and washed down with some tasty Tsingtao beer.

I’ve been told good things about the Kings Cross branch too so come on…Chop Chop!

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Tea at Bea’s

Bea’s of Bloomsbury has been on my list of ‘must visit’ café’s for ages so when my friend’s Japanese girlfriend mentioned that she’d love to experience a traditional English afternoon tea I knew exactly where to take her. I gathered together a motley, cake eating crew and we headed on down to Bloomsbury to the cake haven that is Bea’s…

The shop front is quite understated and if I hadn’t been purposefully going there I think I would have walked straight past completely oblivious to the amazing cake-like goodies awaiting me inside…

We had to wait a few minutes for our table to be vacated and relaid, which wasn’t a problem as I had the cake display to keep me occupied…

The staff were really friendly and very accommodating when 2 extra friends came along as late entries to join our table. 

Once settled, we were asked to choose from the tea menu…

I went for the vanilla black, which was delicious and fragrant and the perfect accompaniment to the afternoon tea, which consisted of a scone with jam and clotted cream, a cupcake, a mini valrhona brownie, a mini belgian blondie, a mini meringue and a home made marshmallow…

The scones were my favourite part, they were so moist, light and mouthwatering-ly delicious (even more so when piled high with strawberry jam and lashings of clotted cream)…

There were a few varieties of cupcakes on our stand, the choice was tough but in the end I opted for this one…

I didn’t sample them all but I was reliably informed by my friends that they were all delicious. Both the sponge and the frosting were extremely light and I loved the fact that although sweet they weren’t too sickly, plus they were beautiful…

We made a valiant effort to do as we were instructed on the cake stand…

but in the end we were beaten by cake (I never thought I would see the day) and had to leave a few lonely morsels amongst out afternoon tea aftermath…

Our Bea’s experience was lovely…totally unpretentious, delicious and such a bargain at only £9.90!

I was very excited to read on my way out that a second Bea’s is due to open at the end of October in St Pauls…

Right around the corner from where I work…danger danger!

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A trip to the Haberdashery

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog a bit recently but I’ve been terribly busy sunning myself on the Dalamation coast in Croatia, eating amazing seafood, drinking copious amounts of strong Croatian coffee and doing a fantastic job of pickling my liver! It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!

I’ve only been back in London for a few days but have already been having brunch withdrawal symptoms. My friend Mark recently moved down the road to Crouch End and has been trying to coax me over the hill to visit him ever since. He finally succeeded by telling me about a cafe called The Haberdashery. I checked out their website and menu I didn’t need any more convincing…

The Haberdashery advertises itself as an eatery and coffee house that sells old vinyls. It’s a really cute place with a great atmosphere. It retains a really light and airy feel even though the walls and shelves are filled with cool little trinkets, crockery and original artwork.

There’s also a lovely garden out the back…

where we started our Haberdashery experience…on a picnic bench in a sunny corner soaking up the rays…

We arrived just as the breakfast menu was finishing and the daytime menu was starting. It was such a gorgeous sounding menu that it wasn’t any great hardship…

We started off by ordering coffee to assist us in our decision making…an americano for me with the milk served in a little tea pot..

and a bowl of flat white for Mark…

I ordered a salad of parma ham, grapefruit, avocado, toasted pinenuts and parmesan shavings on a bed of baby spinach leaves, which was served with a rustic olive bread pot…

If I’m honest, the main reason for choosing a salad wasn’t for it’s health benefits but for the accompanying rustic bread pot, which I’d spotted on entering the cafe and fallen in love with!…

Mark had the halloumi sandwich served with rocket and olive jam on rosemary bread…

The food was nothing short of amazing – so fresh and tasty! and although we were both pretty full we decided that it’d be rude not to sample a cake for pudding. We moved to a table inside the cafe for a change of scenery and to soak up the atmosphere and were faced with an array of very tempting cakes…

muffins and pastries…

and a very difficult decision to make.

We ordered another round of decision making coffees and after suffering a severe bout of bowl envy after our first round I ordered an americano in a bowl…

I thought I should put into context just how enormous this bowl of coffee was…

It required two handed lifting and actually sent me into a complete caffeine spin out, which was heightened by the sugar rush that we got from the yummy blackberry crumble cake that we eventually chose…

Everything about The Haberdashery was spot on, the food was amazing, the coffee excellent, it was the right amount of quirky without trying too hard and the staff were very friendly and accomodating!

I highly highly recommend a trip to The Haberdashery…get on your bikes and brave Crouch Hill…a real treat awaits!

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J+A Cafe

I’ve been working in Clerkenwell for over 2 years now and am ashamed to admit that I don’t know the area at all. But recently I’ve been on a journey of discovery. On a recent reconnaissance mission I found myself drawn down a little alleyway just off Great Sutton Street and happened upon J+A cafe. Unfortunately at the time I was on the way to meet a friend so couldn’t linger but I stored it away in my memory banks for another day. That day came around yesterday, when I met a friend for lunch in the sunny courtyard of J+A…

The menu sounded amazing with loads of fresh, home made salads, sandwiches, tarts, quiches and cakes. I had real difficulty choosing what to have but finally settled on a roast chicken open sandwich on Irish soda bread with wholegrain mustard mayonnaise…

The bread, baked on site, was delicious and the chicken was succulent and plentiful. The whole meal was to die for!

My friend had a club sandwich, a triple decker filled with chicken, bacon, avocado, salad, tomato and mayo…not for the dainty or sparrow stomached…

I loved the feel of the place, the atmosphere and their quirky details like their old fashioned bottles used refilled with tap water…

and the fact that they have planted flowers in old butler sinks…

Our bill including 2 coffee’s and a soft drink only came to about £17, generally more than I would pay for a normal ‘nip out of the office’ lunch but definitely good value for money considering the amazing quality and deliciousness of the food. I have just found out that they serve afternoon tea from 3-6pm…I’ll be revisiting J+A sometime very soon!

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9 courses of pure joy and wonderment

I’m up pretty early on my day off because I felt the urge to share with you the pure gastronomic joy and wonderment that I experienced last night at the Fernandez and Leluu Supper Club. I’m gutted to have to admit that I didn’t take photo’s of my food as I felt a little bit conspicuous in the setting of Simon and Uyen’s lovely home, which was so relaxing with an atmosphere so unlike that of a restaurant that it just didn’t feel right. I am also aware that I may be labelled as ‘one of those annoying people who takes photos of everything they eat’ and although that does sound pretty accurate I’m not sure I like it and at least can work on taking the ‘annoying’ bit out of that sentence 🙂

So I’m afraid all I can do it tell you all about the most delicious meal I have eaten in….well…forever!

We arrived at Simon and Uyen’s house clutching our bottle’s of wine and with our cash donations tucked away in our purses. Fortunately there were quite a few first timers like us so we weren’t alone in initially feeling slightly strange that we’d just rocked up at a strangers house and were now drinking wine and making small talk in their back yard.

Any awkwardness disappeared when we were lured to our tables by the intoxicating smell of fresh baked garlic bread, which I’m actually calling course number 1. There was a seating plan for the evening and Kim and I were very lucky to be sat on a table for 4 with 2 lovely supper companions.

From that point on, the wine and conversation flowed freely and we were brought out a steady stream of the most delectable dishes….9 courses in total!

Course 2 – We started with a pea soup with basil, topped with parmesan shavings and lardons of succulent ham.

Course 3 – Next up were figs stuffed with goats cheese and topped with proscuitto and pine nuts.

Course 4 – We then shared sweet potato tortilla with a tomato picante sauce and a really fresh cucumber and feta salad.

Course 5 – Then fresh and zingy carrot and chicken salad served with deep fried lotus (something I have never seen or heard of before) and prawn crackers.

Course 6 – Next we had banh cuon (thai pasta sheets) with cured ham and pork belly, which was to die for.

Course 7 – Just when we thought the meal was nearly over they places a huge plate of the freshest, most tender tuna Sashimi and chips in front of us and we were in pure ecstasy! I’ve never had sashimi before so have nothing to compare it to but 

Course 8 – We were all pretty full at this point but managed to devour a delicious bowl of beef pho.

Course 9 – The final course was a coconut sorbet with cointreau, which was exactly what was needed to finish the meal of perfectly!

Well…what can I say…I have fallen in love with the Fernandez and Leluu Supper club and will most definitely be returning if they’ll have me back. I was totally amazed at the professional standard of the food being produced in what was in reality a fairly small non commercial kitchen. We all commented on the quality of the food – there had definitely been no expense spared on ingredients and it was worth every penny of my donation. I believe that that standard of food can only be produced by people who fully appreciate, understand and have an all encompassing passion for food and I have come away from my first supper club experience completely and utterly inspired!

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Reacquainting myself with an old friend

Last Thursday I was running early (as usual) for a Businesslink course in London Bridge, the perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with my old friend Monmouth Coffee.

I used to be a pretty frequent Saturday visitor to Borough Market when I lived South of the river but since I defected oop North visits have been few and far between. Now, for those of you who have not been educated in the delights of Monmouth, it is, in my opinion one of the best coffee’s you can get your hands on in London. Their coffee menu is simple and unfussy – I highly recommend their flat white but on this occasion I decided to go for a filter coffee. I really like the look of the racks and rows of filters lined up on the counter and I love the fact that you can’t rush a filter coffee – the water takes it’s own sweet time to drip through taking the most delicious coffee with it – 

The wait is always worth it at Monmouth – 

The perk of being in Borough Market on a Thursday was that it was relatively quiet and I had the chance to wander around and see what was new since my last visit. I was drawn to a little stall owned by The Cinnamon Tree Bakery

and especially to their Pecan and Orange Shortbread (a light and flaky shortbread with fresh orange zest and a sweet pecan and orange crust)

After much deliberation I decided to try a Tweet Tweet Cookie (Pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, raisins, dates, tahini and malt extract), which was divine! It was chock-full of wholesome ingredients and still managed to be the most delicious cookie with a very satisfying, not too syrupy, not too crumbly texture. Just what I needed to help me through 4 hours of lectures on starting a business 🙂

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The poshest arctic roll I’ve ever eaten

Yesterday, found Kim and I, courtesy of Toptable, on another of our monthly fine dining experiences. I was very excited to be visiting the Grill at the Dorchester as it’s a bit of a London institution. The actual restaurant is a funny old place though. It’s a riot of gold bling, tartan fabric, red velvet sofas, vast vases of deep red roses and to top it off the walls are painted with murals of angry looking, windswept, intimidating scotsmen and women. 

I’d done my homework and read some reviews, which helpfully warned us not to be tempted by the champagne trolley that they wheel around to tempt you with before your meal and there was also a recommendation to opt for the 3 course set menu as opposed to 2 as it comes with quite a few extras. Oh boy were we in for a treat….

First off we were served a platter of speciality breads and rolls including stilton (mmmmm), multi-seed and rye and an amuse bouche of smoked salmon with a pea foam – 

The starters all sounded so good that we ordered 2 out of the 3 on the menu and went halves on the english asparagus topped with a poached pheasant egg and hollandaise sauce – 

and the roasted mackerel on toast with a quenelle of crab mousse, topped with pea shoots – 

We both decided on the rump of lamb with a basil and garlic risotto. It came with kidneys, which I made myself try thinking that my tastes may have grown up but….no I still don’t like them! and an unidentified meat dish, which we think was duck but texture wise can only liken to pulled pork – I’m not doing it justice in my description but it was extremely rich and tasty. I just wish I’d noted the description off the menu as it’s annoying me now that I don’t know what it was. It will remain a mystery for all time.

The lamb was cooked to perfection and accompanied by a lovely glass of Baron Philip de Rothschild Mouton Cadet “Origin” Pauillac 2006.

As if that wasn’t enough, we were presented with a pre-desert of (posh) arctic roll topped with strawberries and jelly. Who’d have thought we’d be served jelly and ice cream at the Dorchester – I’m such a pleb that I have to admit, it was actually my favourite part of the meal 🙂

The waiter wasn’t much use in helping us decode the desert menu but all was forgiven when he brought me out the sabayon parfait, a delicious, extremely light, frozen custard – 

and a banana financier served with praline and ice cream for Kim – 

By this point we were fit to burst but still managed to put away some home made petit fours – it’d be rude not to wouldn’t it??

And the best bit…..we only paid £33 for all of the above including service! God bless Toptable!

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Left to the fate of the London Buses….

This week my Friday treat coffee venue was decided by which bus arrived at the bus stop first. Kind of like a cafe lottery. The number 19 goes right near Exmouth Market, which would have meant yet another trip to Caravan or the number 4 goes down Goswell Road and stops right near Goswell Road Coffee, which I hate to admit, is part of a chain, thankfully not of the St&*%£$ks variety but with 2 more shops on Bermondsey Street and Brick Lane. The coffee is good but for me the thing that keeps bringing me back here is the feel of the place….I love it.

It has loads of big sofas, good music, a notice board advertising yoga classes, rooms to rent, ironing services, giving it a community feel and some pretty darn funky features like lamp shades made out of milk cartons…

coffee paraphenalia holders made out lego…

and a very cool mural that takes over a whole wall…

Unfortunately I only had time to grab a take away white americano but the sofas were calling out to me to be lounged on and the huge pile of magazines/ newspapers just begged to be perused……they’ll just have to wait for another day when work isn’t on the agenda. 😦

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I like my men like I like my coffee

Today’s Caravan coffee was a Bolivian Finca Irupana and as always…..was amazing! It was strong, full bodied and fruity, with a chocolaty, creamy aftertaste. I’m 3 weeks and 3 stamps on my loyalty card into my Caravan addiction and it’s just getting stronger and stronger. I may have to enforce a ban for a few weeks just so I’m forced to continue my hunt for other good coffee establishments….or maybe not! After all there are 6 more days in the week but Friday’s are reserved for Caravan!

As I was walking back down Exmouth market on my way to work the chorus of ‘coffee by supersister’  popped into my head (hence the title of this post) and annoyingly has been lodged there ever since. I realised after it had gone round and round my head on repeat a few times that I only knew the chorus so I googled the lyrics and they really brightened my morning. Read on and I dare you not to crack a smile…..

You ask a question, "Can I come in for coffee?"
I thought this could never be.
I thought for a minute, then smiled for a second,
Coz you're just my cup of tea.

The coffee was steamin', and I, I was dreamin'
You'd take me to boiling point.
Your lips started kissin', my heart started missin'
We damn nearly wrecked the joint.

Like a dream you held my body tight. (you held my body tight)
Like caffine you kept me up all night.

I like my men like I like my coffee,
Hot, strong and sweet like toffee.
Oh, so you know that I can't let you go.

I like my men like I like my coffee,
Hot, strong and sweet like toffee.
Oh, and I know that I can't let you go.

I thought that maybe I'd slept like a baby,
Alas it was just a dream.
Then in popped my lover, pulled back the covers
Coz I like my coffee with cream.

Then I felt a stirring deep inside. (you stir me up inside)
Fill my cup (fill my cup) till it's flowing down the side.

I like my men like I like my coffee,
Hot, strong and sweet like toffee.
Oh, so you know that I can't let you go.

I like my men like I like my coffee,
Hot, strong and sweet like toffee.
Oh, and I know that I can't let you go.

Men like my coffee, really turn me on.
Sometimes espresso, sometimes he's too strong.
Then there's Costa Rican, mellow but he's rich.
But never give me instant, coz baby, he's too quick.

Like a dream you held my body tight. (you held my body tight)
Like a fiend you kept me up all night.

I like my men like I like my coffee,
Hot, strong and sweet like toffee.
Oh, so you know that I can't let you go.

I like my men like I like my coffee,
Hot, strong and sweet like toffee.
Oh, and I know that I can't let you go.

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The light at the end of the tunnel

It’s been a bleak old week in my world but the black cloud that has been stationed above my head, much like the volcanic ash cloud which is lurking over Britain, has finally started drifting away. I’m a simple soul and in most cases like this a good coffee, cake, yummy meal or in this particular case, a trip to a fantastic cafe is the answer!

Just over a month ago I was doing a recce of Kaffeine with a friend and we got chatting to a guy on the neighbouring table, who wondered why I was taking photos of my coffee. He enthused about a little cafe in Charlotte Place called Lantana and told me that the owner had started a blog about her experience of starting her cafe from scratch. As people who know me are probably all too aware, this subject is very close to my heart, I’m very happy to chew anyone/everyone I meet’s ear off about my own cafe dreams! So, as soon as I got home I googled Lantana and found the blog in question. I started from the very beginning and read every post until I was up to the present day – it had me hooked! This, along with inspiration from reading Gary Vaynerchuks book ‘Crush It’ was what made me start this very blog.

But anyway, I’m going off on a tangent…the point of this post is that I finally made it down to Charlotte Place on this most gorgeously sunny Saturday morning and here’s what I found…

I think I must have been looking a bit lost because I was trying to decide whether to sit outside in the sun or inside where I’d feel more of the atmosphere of the place. But I was soon approached by a lovely friendly waitress who sat me at a vast varnished plywood bench at the front of the very shop, where the window was wide open, looking out onto the street so I got the best of both worlds – perfect! To top it off I had a selection of every weekend magazine/newspaper available laid out right in front of me.

I ordered a flat white to tide me over while I perused the menu

the coffee was nothing short of dreamy. It was smooth, creamy, not to mention a work of art. The menu was a nightmare though because I wanted EVERYTHING on it! I finally settled for a ‘grilled haloumi stack, mushrooms with herb pesto, corn fritter, sautéed spinach, and roast tomatoes served with wholemeal sourdough toast’ and was assured by the waitress that I’d made the right choice.

When it arrived I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed –

Every single element of the dish was delicious and the only criticism I have is that I had to add a bit of salt to the sweetcorn fritter, which wasn’t the end of the world!

After devouring my brunch and all of the weekend papers, I was toying with ordering another coffee but decided that that would be a little bit excessive and anyway the cafe was really busy, with people queueing for tables. I took pity on a lady who obviously had her eye on my window seat and eventually dragged myself away, stopping by on the way out to tell the owner how much I had enjoyed it! Great work Shelagh! There is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back!

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