London for Food Lovers
It is not often that Mr T wants to go to the big smoke but two weeks ago, we boarded the plane and swished over to London. I have been to London many times but have never really written about the food experiences yet. London is a melting pot of different influences, nationalities and their cuisines. There were places I always wanted to go and others I always go to when I am in the big city. So, here are my tips for food lovers in London – the good, the bad and the ugly (not so much ugly). Please note that I went all over London to visit the places – you might want to plan your trip a bit more centralised to avoid traveling too much but I hope you’ll find this London for Food Lovers Guide helpful.
Bread & Bean
Our flight was delayed by two hours and we were starving by the time we were near our hotel. We remembered Bread & Bean from our last visit and were looking forward to some nice food. The cafe is located opposite the underground station ‘Archway’ on Junction Road. It is a busy place with additional seating downstairs. I asked for apple juice and when it came i thought they had mistaken my order as it looked more like orange juice but no, it was freshly pressed juice and was amazing. As it was close to lunch, I decided on a bap with goats cheese, roasted sweet potato and candied walnuts. The mix of flavours was utterly delicious and although the bap could have been nicer, I truly enjoyed the dish. The menu is short but varied. Other dishes on the menu were Shackshuca, leak and pork sausage with poached egg on sourdough, homemade baked beans with polenta triangles, slow roasted tomatoes etc.
37 Junction Road, N19 5QU London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7263 0667
If you love the English Market or any other outstanding market for that matter, make sure you visit Borough Market when in London. Located under London Bridge, the market is open but roofed and offers many delights for food lovers. We met a lovely girl at one of the cheese stalls and tasted some great cheeses, one that stood out particularly was a beautiful blue cheese but one that I liked was a cheddar with elderflower by Quicke’s Traditional Cheese – all clothbound cheeses and this elderflower was subtle enough to be not overpowering. Another cheese stall looked like it was taken right out of France with its wooden cabinets and boards. My eye was caught by a blue cheese that looked a bit weird and the name ‘Blue Brain’ made sense. A creamy cheese where the mould is on the outside rather than being injected into the cheese. The result is a cheese that looks like a mouldy brain. The taste was just like you expected from a creamy blue cheese so the novelty is simply its look. A lovely spice shop (Spice Mountain) got me all tingly inside and I was able to get beetroot powder and bee pollen, something that is rather difficult to get in Cork. The Balkan Bites stall transported me right back to Turkey and its street vendors with their tasty Borek that I indulged in nicely. And if you like really fresh bread, Bread Ahead in the market has their own bakery onsite with large windows where you can watch the bakers in their element while the stall just outside invites you to linger with wonderful aromas of fresh sourdough breads and tasty pastries. The bakery also offers courses to learn the craft of proper bread. All that walking is tiring and the onsite winebar was simply too inviting. Bedales is a simple place with not so simply wines which are stacked on ceiling high shelves. I thought I deserved a glass of bubbly ….. okay make that two. Other stalls to visit for sure are From Field to Flower – try their amazing cherry honey and Piemento Hill with their delicious onion chutney
Borough Market, 8 Southwark St, London, SE1 1TL, United Kingdom, Tel: 020 7407 1002 – open from 10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday (Monday & Tuesday limited traders)
Taking the train to Rutherhithe, we paid the oldest pub on the Thames. The Mayflower Pub goes back to 1620 and has maintained a lot of its original features. I love these old pubs that have escaped the ‘super pub frenzy’ and this pub invites you to sit down and forget that you are in the 21st century. A lot of quirky features have been added like little ‘rats’ that look like they are running along the ropes etc. The menu was a mix of traditional and more modern dishes. Mr T ordered fish ‘n chips and Mr T jr opted for scallops with pea puree and caramelised bacon. The scallops were a bit chewy but the taste was good and I had to steal the bacon as it was utterly delicious. The pub advertised an artisan British cheese board and you could choose between 3 and 11 cheeses. So, I took the list and looked through the offerings. And what did my tired eye spied???? Crozier Blue from County Tipperary was dead in the middle of the list. Now, I had to explain to the lovely waiter that Tipperary is still dead centre in the republic. Anyway, I chose Drunken Burt from Cheshire (delicious and my favourite), Lincolnshire Poacher, Wigmore from Berkshire and Cornish Blue. All very nice cheeses and I had a great smile on my greedy face.
As I love markets, we made a little detour to Spitalfields Market – Completely different from Borough Market, it offers food but more from the larger chains like Itsu, Leon and Giraffe. So it didn’t really invite me to stay on. Saying that, I found a very interesting tea shop called The London Tea Exchange. Reminded me of old traditional tea shops with large urns and dark wooden shelves.
More details on opening times etc. here
If you love food TV shows, you will have come across this wacky team that creates even more wacky cakes made with chocolate. Last time I went to London, I was too late as the shop closes at 5pm, so it was on my agenda for this visit and not a hundred horses would stop me from heading to chocolate heaven. So, I made it and was in awe of the creations, which were made entirely out of chocolate. The shop was already gearing towards Valentine’s Day with loads of hearts floating around but not as you know it. These creations are bold, naughty and utterly delicious. The ground floor shop leads to an upstairs café that screamed decadence at you. Dark red coloured walls, black floor and decorations everywhere. It was amazing. As the day drew to a close, I wasn’t able to grab one of their famous hot chocolates but I will be back. Make sure to pop in when you are nearby.
30 – 32 Fouberts place , Carnaby , London , W1F 7PS, United Kingdom, Shop open from 10am – 7pm Monday to Saturday, Sunday from 12noon to 6pm. Cafe open 12noon to 5:30pm
Edward Lear Pub
Returning to the hotel, we were staying in a hotel at Archway Underground station, we just freshened up and went for a nice walk and came across The Edward Lear pub on Holloway Road. It looked great from the outside and offered food, so we popped in for our dinner. The pub was used as a nightclub prior to an awesome renovation, looking like a traditional English posh pub and I felt comfortable. One of my pet peeves is when the staff wasn’t informed of menu changes and/or if it is difficult to see how to order. Anyway, we grabbed one of the menus, studied it and decided on some dishes for us. I then went to the bar and ordered. First I was asked for was the table number – apparently, the bottle on the table had a number on it which the girl behind the bar needed – problem was that the bottle was turned away from us and we never checked why there was an empty bottle on the table. So, I had to return as the girl wasn’t able to look across the room to identify the table. After giving her the number, I started ordering – and she wasn’t aware of most of the dishes and had to go and ask. So what should have been an easy exercise of a minute or so took a lot longer. She didn’t make it any easier with a very abrupt attitude – like I was at fault, ordering something from the menu she wasn’t aware off. Saying all that – the food was good, the atmosphere in the pub is great (in the back is a huge telly for the football mad) and we enjoyed our food. When I checked their website for this article, I saw a photo of the tables with a huge sign on with the table number and instructions on how to order… would have been helpful on the night. I liked the menu and would recommend it for lunch rather than dinner but will be back when I return to Holloway.
The Edward Lear, 471 Holloway Road N7 6LE, London, United Kingdom, Phone: +44 203 588 7650
Books for Cooks
For many years, I was planning to visit the shop Books for Cooks – as it says, a shop dedicated to cookbooks. A piece of heaven for a cookbook addict like myself. My expectations were high – too high maybe. As they say, you should never meet your hero – here is came true. I took the underground to Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith Line) and walked up (turn right at the exit) to Blentheim Crescent. Only a five minute walk, I wanted to enjoy the sunshine while imagining myself in the shop whiling hours away and finding some hidden treasures. The shop is easy to find in the middle of Notting Hill. The area is beautiful with the old period townhouses looking stunning and the small shops and cafes inviting you to linger. With excitment in my heart, I walked through the red front of the shop and stepped into cookbook wonderland. But I felt flat out – I expected buzzing and hustling and it was just dead air. The owner, Eric Treuille – a chef himself, was present and polite and all but still, no excitement. The kitchen cafe was closed which might have been a factor and there was a sign that no photos were allowed to be taken in the shop – not sure why, can’t see anyone getting a benefit out of it other than talking about having been there. So, setting all that aside – this shop is indeed a heaven for cookbook lovers. I could have stayed much longer but I had plans so after about 20 minutes, I settled on two books Bread is Gold by Massimo Bottura (more about the book in a later post) and a little pocket book by Nigella Lawson on the Art of Eating. Please go if you are near Notting Hill as the shop offers books you might not have been aware of.
Just around the corner is a shop that made up for being less excited than I anticipated (and again, this is more my fault for having overly high expectations) – Biscuiteers is a feast for the eyes if you like decorated iced cookies. Who ever does the piping – I salute you. The patience that person has needs to be awarded – but the cookies are also very tasty. Next time I am in London, I will be taking one of their icing classes and become a ‘biscuiteer’.
And when in Notting Hill – I can never pass up the opportunity to walk along Portobello Market. In the past, I have found some amazing pottery – saying that, there is also a lot of junk to be found. Keep your wallet close and enjoy the trip down. And if you find yourself hungry, try to grab a table at the Farm Girl cafe. The menu sounds fantastic and although I normally run a mile when I read ‘healthy menu’ – this cafe makes a healthy menu sound mouthwatering. But the queue out the door was too long and I had other plans.
Heading toward Victoria Station – I tried to find the bus stop for the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour by B-Bakery. I was so looking forward to it as I had planned to invite my friend Christine along…. but you will have to wait until my next visit to London as the tour were sold out and you need to book at least 24 hours in advance. So, in case Christine is reading this – next time I will be better prepared.
Books for Cooks, 4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London, W11 1NN, Phone +44 20-7221-1992
As I was getting hungry (remember, the cafe in Books for Cooks was closed and I didn’t make it on the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour) I was in urgent need of something nice – also to make up for a few disappointments of the morning. While walking towards the underground station from Victoria Coach Station, I came across a great looking place called Balls Brothers. A sneak peak on the menu display outside (I love when I am able to see what the offerings are before I actually walk in). The beautiful town houses in London are always worth a look but especially when interior designers have paid tribute to the style when transforming the rooms into a restaurant. High ceilings were kept untouched and the dark wood of the floor could have been there 100 years ago and a contemporary but traditional furnishing, the menu looked also very appetizing. Ball Brothers are wine importers and the wine list mirrored the portfolio and choosing was indeed difficult. From the menu I opted for Mezzaluna Truffle Pasta and thought that a Picpoul de Pinet Les Girelles would just go beautifully with the dish. And I was right. The pasta was perfectly cooked, the mushrooms were fresh and the sauce beautifully creamy – although a bit lacking in flavour. A pinch of salt and a bit of garlic would have lifted this dish from good to outstanding. The wine was cooled without being cold – just the way I like my white wine. Service was excellent and I might have to call in again when I have a bit more time but I think it deserved an entry in the London for Food Lovers Guide.
Balls Brothers, 50 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 0RN, London, United Kingdom, Phone +44 20 7828 4111
St John’s Tavern
Our last evening had arrived and we wanted to take the family out. Asking Christine, we opted for a nearby (near our hotel in Archway) pub called St John’s Tavern. When we arrived, the pub was in full swing and the atmosphere was great. The bar leads into the restaurant part and we asked for a table as there was no room in the bar for our group. This place is for what I call ‘yuppies’ or as you might know them ‘hipsters’. Nothing wrong with that and we were there for the food and not the company (which we had with us anyway). The menu offered a list of tapas of which we ordered plenty. Patatas Bravas – I had better (actually, I make better ones), White Bait (not sure if they used the proper fish as I remember it from Spain and it was completely different), Jamon peppers were out, Scampi in Chilli Oil (needed to be peeled which freaked poor Jessica out), Haloumi with Pomegranate (way too salty – and I do love my salt), fish ‘n chips (chips were excellent, fish was good) and some other bits and pieces. For dessert we had Churros with Chocolate sauce (again, I know Churros from Spain differently). All in all it wasn’t bad food but it wasn’t something I would write home about. I think with a bit more effort in the kitchen, the food could be better but saying that, I would go again and trying the dinner menu (apologies for the quality of the photos – my iPhone as playing up).
St John’s Tavern, 91 Junction Road, London, N19 5QU, United Kingdom, Phone +44 20 7272 1587
Disclaimer: This review/guide of London for Food Lovers is my own account – I have not been asked to write it, nor have I been paid or otherwise compensated for this review.