Tag Archives: lunch

Brunches and lunches, 2

Oh my, it’s been over a week since I posted again. Sorry ‘baht that. I’ve been a little emotionally unstable but nothing a lot of cake and a vat of wine won’t fix. Please feel free to send both of those things to me.

I’ve not been at home much over the last 10 days so there hasn’t been a huge amount of cooking done (there have been two occasions of Papa John’s wings though, which was delicious but probably not something to talk about here. But for future reference, if you’ve maybe had too many vats of wine, you should try the plain roasted wings and add your own sriracha – it’s the perfect cure. Washed down with a Tango, obvs).

There has however, been a lot of lovely brunches and lunches on which to report, so I’m going to do that RIGHT now.

First up, lunch at Blixen. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently working in an office again and as luck would have it, my office is actual spitting distance from Spitalfields (see what I did there?)

Squid stew, Blixen

Now, I’m very old and I’ve been in London a significantly long time and I remember when Spitalfields did not look like it does now. And whilst I could rant about gentrification taking all the personality out of London (which it has and if you agree, check out the Save Soho campaign which is totally doing the right thing), right now I mostly want to talk about the awesomeness of Blixen, the latest offering from the people behind The Riding House Cafe and Village East. I went the week after it opened, with my darling friend Chris, who works just around the corner. At the time, I was suffering from a gigantic cold and cough and feeling a little sorry for myself (unusual, right?) and so I decided to have a Good Times juice of pear, pineapple and ginger and a warming squid, chorizo and chickpea stew with saffron aioli. Chris had some sort of salad because he’s weird and healthy and was delighted to be sitting across from my snot streaked face. The service was lovely, the stew was the kind of dish that seemed really simple but perfectly balanced and just gorgeous and the decor was understated elegance – loved every bit of it and cannot wait to return (this time to try the cocktails which I’m sure, based on their other restaurants, will be incredible)

Kale salad, blixen

Chris (and his darling husband, Neil) were my brunching partners this weekend too. I ventured south for the first time in years (for those of you outside London, there’s a huge north south divide – the Thames only serves to divide the capital) to meet the boys for brunch. The weekend just gone was the Rugby 7s. I don’t really know what this means and nor is it relevant, apart from to let you know that the Rugby 7s has a theme and this year’s theme was either galactic or out of this world. So I get on the tube in the north-west ‘burbs and half way through my journey, I find myself sitting opposite Pikachu. At about 10am. Which was weird of itself, but shit got weirder at Clapham North, where I made my way to street level to meet the boys and ran into The Avengers. Followed by a couple of unicorns. Followed by human Minecraft characters and then more Avengers and people in shiny all in one bodysuits which left nothing to the imagination and some spacemen. I reckon 95% of the population of South London was in costume. Honestly, this is why I don’t go to south London – it felt like I’d had some sort of acid flashback.

After that confusing start, we wandered down to Brickwood, a newish brunch venue that the boys have been raving about. And rightly so. Again, the boys are both on this health kick so had avocado on (gluten free) toast and bacon so I decided to make them drool by having the brioche french toast with syrup and bacon and orange blossom creme fraiche, all washed down with a couple of the best americanos I’ve ever drunk (and I say that having had Americanos from The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs in Spitalfields, which are also good but they don’t come with brioche french toast. Just sayin’).  FYI, the coffees in the main pic are piccolos from the Dept of Coffee – not americanos, which just aren’t that photo worthy. Whilst I doubt I’ll get back there again soon (flashback still too raw), if you’re in South London and looking for a brunch venue, check it out – worth it.

Brickwood

Other fun meals of note included a trip to Ottolenghi in Islington a few weeks back where I had an amazing broccoli salad with salmon. Doesn’t sound that impressive but tasted AWESOME. And a trip to Maltby Street Market at Ropewalk with the lovely Charlotte where we drank gin at 11am and then had scotch eggs and chocolate brownies from Bad Brownie. And when I say chocolate brownies, I mean a glorious oozing salted caramel brownie and a maple bacon brownie. Those were quite some brownies. I may never recover.

Bad Brownies (good brownies) Scotch Eggs

I did also take a fancy pants trip to Roux at the Landau but that deserves a post all of its very own. I love Michel Roux Jr. Turns out, I don’t love rabbit though. And my mum reminded me of a story about that, but I’ll share that in the Roux post. It’s a goodie.

I am continuing to stuff my face because it’s my most favourite thing to do and I’ll keep you posted on places of note. Would love to hear your Spitalfields/Shoreditch recommendations though – I’m going a bit snow blind from all of the choice around there…

Lunching out: Barrafina

I have mentioned before I have a huge extended family – lots of cousins, second cousins, third cousins once removed, aunts, uncles and other non-blood but still family, family members. And I love it, it’s great to be part of a big old clan that’s spread out across the world.

However, my darling husband has a much smaller clan so I think the shock of becoming part of mine took a while to get used to but they do love him dearly (and I think he’s quite fond of them!) This week by way of making up for the amount of time he spends with my lot, I made plans to hang out with his elder sister, Joy.  Joy and I share a lot of the same interests so it’s lovely having a new friend to hang out with, And when I say the same interests, I mean we both love food and we don’t mind a glass of something winey to go with it. We’re simple folk.

We decided to have a day out in town, the theory was a spot of lunch followed by a bit of culture. However, we got our gossip hats on and ended up two bottles of wine down with our only nod to culture being a swift peruse of the beautiful clothes in Cos. Where I’ve found what may be the perfect dress for Marcel’s other sister’s wedding this Autumn, isn’t it lovely? Such an awesome colour and a cute pleat in the back. (sorry for the crappy screen capture image but follow the link above to see it).

cos dress

But lunch was incredible, despite the lack of culture – we got to Barrafina just before midday and were first in the queue so we knew we’d get a seat. We started with a glass of txakoli whilst we listened to the specials and made our way through the menu.

If you’ve never been to Barrafina before, it’s a beautiful little tapas place in the centre of Soho that seats about 20 around an L-shaped counter so you have to get there early if you don’t want to queue. The food is never less than amazing – I don’t think I’ve had anything I don’t like there. The bar is placed around the cooking stations, so you can watch food being prepared and perv over the attractive staff. Not that we did that of course, we’re much too sophisticated. Honest.

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So we decided to go with a couple of the specials and a couple of old favourites from the menu. We ordered the chiparones, a fennel, radish and cherry tomato salad, the ribs, an amazing tempura monkfish and a dish made up of three of my favourite all time ingredients – chickpeas, bacon and spinach. What’s not to love?

The chiparones were the first to arrive, which is always good because they’re the perfect snacking food. Little bite sized morsels of squid, with a little squeeze of lemon – just lovely. I would say they needed a smidge more seasoning but I do like salt a little too much so that could just be my palate, and also it’s not one of those places that refuses to give you salt or pepper to add. So not really a complaint.

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We then got the monkfish with the fennel salad – a perfect partnership. The monkfish is one of those dishes I’d have as my final meal – lightly tempura-ed, covered in a spicy mango salsa – every mouthful was a delight, just beautiful. And it went perfectly with the fennel salad, which was fresh and clean and elegant. Even the tomatoes and we know I’m not a big fan of tomatoes.

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The chickpeas came next with the ribs. I think the ribs were the biggest disappointment, and even they were still good. I think we hadn’t quite considered how big it would be and whilst they were cooked perfectly and the meat came off the bones easily, the sauce was a little too sweet – I think I should learn to listen to the specials more closely, rather than being blinded by pig. I also forgot to take a picture until we’d started digging in so this is half way through eating.

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The chickpeas, bacon and spinach were in a light broth, perfectly spiced and seasoned. With a few chunks of bread to mop up all the incredible sauces (and a carafe of Albarino to keep us chatty), it was a great way to while away a couple of hours on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Looking forward to my next day out with my sister in law!

Breakfast and lunch and breakfast and lunch again

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time breakfasting and lunching in places other than my own house and instead of boozing and stuffing a burger in my face on the tube on the way home. Sometimes I’m so proud of myself it is difficult to not know why minions aren’t strewing the street in front of me with rose petals as I walk. Man, that would be some fine times.

Anyway, here are a few of my favourite places to stuff my face with sensible breakfast and lunches. Well, I say sensible, french toast features quite heavily in my breakfast chows so you know, artery clogging but not responsible for gigantic hangovers. Possibly just a sugar crash or two.

Kopapa Café

I love Kopapa. It serves beautiful and elegant dishes that use interesting flavours and spices. After a particularly gruelling early start to a Tuesday morning, I decided to treat myself to lunch there. The menu is varied – you can get fry ups (eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, black pudding etc etc) but I’m sure they’re far from bog standard. There’s also more interesting options such as avocado toast with chilli, goat’s cheese, mint and lemon oil or chorizo hash with sriracha chilli sauce. Or even a good looking fruit salad, that I did suffer slight food envy pangs about  but as I wanted a treat, I sacked off all pretence of eating healthily and had spiced banana french toast, grilled bacon, orange blossom labne, tamarind raisin relish and orange vanilla syrup.

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Other than the nuts in the banana bread (which I know are a normal inclusion in banana bread but I have a weird hatred of nuts in sweet things) it was delicious. The labne was a little bit tart but by simply ensuring you had enough of the syrup in the mouthful, it worked so well. Couldn’t taste any tamarind (or raisins, weirdly) but there was definitely relish on the toast.

My only complaint was that as a solo diner (breakfaster?) I had my Kindle out and was reading whilst I ate. Seeing me pick up my Kindle, despite having at least half a slice of french toast left, one over zealous staff member started clearing my plate away. But I soon grabbed it back, muttering curses under my breath. She never came back to my table again. I wonder if these two things are connected? Also, I had to reign in the crazy when a man walked in who was the spitting image of Muvatu from Zoolander. Really wanted to know if it was ironic or high fashion but don’t think I could have coped with either answer, so instead I giggled at him from behind the safety of my Kindle. I’m bad people.

At £15 for two coffees and breakfast, it was a little on the steep side, but you do get a lot of food for your money and I probably didn’t need to eat again till dinner time. But that would have been ridiculous, so I did.

The Riding House Cafe

I worked around the corner from The Riding House Cafe when it first opened and still love going there. One of my favourite times there was arriving before my dear friend Cat and ordering a bottle of pink fizz. Ah, the laughing she did when she got out the picture of her baby scan to announce her pregnancy, leaving me to drink the whole bottle myself. We also had a lovely time there with another good friend and his then new, now well established other (and definitely better) half. So, I’ve had some lovely times at RHC. It was with the same dear friend Cat that I went to RHC again recently, this time for a much more sensible breakfast (and no booze).

It’s a much more ‘normal’ breakfast menu at Riding House than at Kopapa. Eggs Benedict, kedgeree, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Still, if something works, why change it?

I had the challah french toast (does twice in a fortnight make this an addiction? I fear so) with maple syrup and a side order of bacon. Cat had the smoked salmon scrambled eggs which looked amazing. I should probably say here that a side order of bacon is more like an actual side of a pig. I assume this is for the table to share but given Cat doesn’t eat meat,  it was all for me. And ever so nice it was too. However, whilst the breakfast was lovely, nothing really stood out. It was just good – no complaints but also nothing to rave about (apart from the size of the bacon side). With a couple of coffees and a juice, the bill was around £25 for two. And a lovely place to while away a couple of hours gossiping with a buddy (despite the mildly terrifying squirrels taxidermied to look like they’re running up the light fittings). And forgetting to take photos. Sorry about that.

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar

A couple of years ago, ramen took over London and you could barely turn a corner without splashing into some bone broth and or being chased by noodles. And with the ramen came the ramen bores, talking about the ageing on the bones, the quality of the broth, the right combination of noodles/egg/meat/veggies etc. And whilst I agree it’s an artform, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. However, when Bone Daddies opened a couple of years ago at the end of Soho’s sex alley and Berwick Street market, I thought I’d give it a go. Mind actually blown. And whilst there are plenty of other places that do great ramen, it’s always Bone Daddies for me. Any place with cock scratchings on the menu has to be good, no? I generally go for the Tantamen ramen but I’ve tried a few and they’re all good. And definitely good value for money. So go, get your ramen on.

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The Ivy Market Grill

Back when I first started working in London, which was a very long time ago, The Ivy was the place to be seen (and to celeb spot). Yet for me, on a minuscule first job salary, it had to be an very infrequent treat. The Ivy at it’s original location is currently being refurbed (and the original fixtures and fittings are being auctioned by Sotheby’s, which I’m pretending to not know because I really want one of the chairs but definitely cannot afford it, Maybe I’ll go for one of the napkins instead?) The Ivy Market Grill has opened not far from the original location, offering the same sort of menu and the same dining experience. I popped there for a quick lunch with a buddy and we both just had main courses – no wine, no desserts, nothing. The risotto was one of the best I’ve eaten, pea and asparagus with goat’s cheese. Neil had the chicken salad. Our bill was £30. Quite steep for a quick lunch but definitely worth every penny so maybe save it for a treat.

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Two months of good times…

After last year, I made a commitment to myself to celebrate the small stuff more and not get bogged down in ‘woe is me’ and it seems to be working.

So here’s all the awesomes that have happened in 2015 and the things I have to look forward to in March…

Starting at the very beginning, the wino and I completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw which we started on New Year’s Eve. Got to admit, I did wonder about what had happened to us (for the last few years we’ve either thrown amazing parties or gone and stayed in beautiful country cottages for the festivities) but staying in, eating nice food, drinking pink champagne and doing a jigsaw with the love of my life was exactly what I needed! And it meant that I could be a good daughter for the first time in about 30 years and take my dad to the temple on New Year’s Day. Oh yeah, already winning at 2015.

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I know I’ve hardly said anything about it at all, but I also went on a fantastic holiday in January. You can read all about it, if you’re so inclined, but what was particularly awesome about that trip, other than it being utterly gorgeous, were the wonderful friends we made whilst sitting by pools and drinking gin.

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I’ve had a lot of fun days out with fabulous friends in London – all day drinking (twice) in Soho (and food obviously – ramen at Bone Daddies, pizza from Pizza Pilgrims, brunch at Balans), lunches in Granary Square (and playing in the fountains obviously), a day out at Borough market, brunch at Riding House Cafe and drinking a lot of gin on one day.

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There’s been a lot of quality family time too – my cousin came over from Canada for a spell to visit his mum. We celebrated his birthday this week at a delicious local Sri Lankan restaurant, which was only mildly ruined by the “Greatest Hits of the 1980s-2000s… on pan pipes” CD they insisted upon playing.

I took my darling niece and nephew on a half term day out which included Big Hero 6, Wagamama and Shaketastic. They are too cute for actual words. And we had neon sugar pancakes on pancake day.

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I have started to build up my work portfolio and feeling confident that I may actually be able to afford to get my hair cut and nails done soon. Because, whilst looking like a crazed mountain woman is fine when you’re working from home in your pyjamas, people in actual offices don’t seem to appreciate the wild eyed insane look. Lord knows why.

I had a midweek daytime trip to Ikea (actually not hell on earth then, if you can do it) and have finally got around to framing some of the prints that have lived in tubes for years and bought some lovely new plant pots and succulents to give me something else to look at whilst I work my day away.

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And coming up in March – I’m hosting a gigantic dinner party, my dear friend turns 40 so most of the rest of the month is celebrating him (not nearly enough time to do him justice, quite frankly), I’ve got a couple of friends coming to stay and I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes up to surprise me.

Life is looking a lovely shade of pink at the moment – there’s been some downs too, but what’s the point in reminding yourself of those? It’s all about onwards and upwards and putting a smile on. And getting a haircut.

What do you have to be grateful for so far this year? And what’s coming up to put a smile on your face? I’d love to hear about it.

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