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Posts tagged: London

We are definitely spoilt for choice in London when it comes to gigs. Not only are the gigs  but you can get up close and personal with the artists at a wide range of intimate venues. Koko, Camden is one such venue but one of the better ones because of the upstairs bar and section overlooking the stage and the sound quality.

Last weekend at Koko we saw Submotion Orchestra, a 7 piece band formed in Leeds, UK in 2009. Their sound is a mixture of jazz, electronica, and dubstep. The band is incredible live. It took me surprise how they were able to produce such unique ‘electronic-y’ music in a live setting. Together with lead singer, Ruby Wood’s amazing vocals - seductive and hypnotising with every reverberation - made it a very entertaining act. 

One of my favourite tracks, ‘Blind Spot’, is showcased here.

The corn fritter table at Granger & Co

Bill Granger is the latest Aussie import to open a restaurant in London. The doors to Granger & Co have been opened for almost a month. But on the first Sunday of the restaurant’s opening, I was already queuing outside along with other fellow Aussies eager to relive some of ‘Bill’s Classics’.  The restaurant name deviates from his usual branded cafes in Sydney and Tokyo. This is understandable given there is another Bill’s in Covent Garden which has nothing to do with Bill Granger.

Once seated at a round table near the bar counter where coffee after coffee was being churned out and waitstaff were rushing by, we immediately knew what we wanted. “Can we please have four corn fritters and hotcakes to share?” Also coffee of course.

Made from Allpress beans, my latte was unfortunately missing the strength of an Allpress coffee. The flat white was smoother in texture but didn’t do much for me either. But then again, I didn’t come to Granger & Co for the coffee. The hot chocolate came out like a spotted cow with chocolate droplets permeating the warm milk. This ‘spotted’ approach to hot chocolate was not only interesting but gave it the right amount of sweetness.

When our corn fritters finally arrived, I was grinning from ear to ear. I wanted to savour the moment for as long as possible. Next came the ricotta hotcakes which was on centre stage. We ogled the melting honeycomb butter as it was smeared together with maple syrup between the three hot fluffy layers. Within a matter of seconds, we demolished the hotcakes. Now you see it, now you don’t. The hotcakes were so soft, fluffy and light. Perfect.

Onto the much anticipated corn fritters. With high expectations, there comes some disappointment. Both my fritters were burnt and something was missing. It took me a while to figure it out but after a few Google searches I realised it was avocado salsa! Regardless, I polished off the dish (except the bacon) and each and every corn kernel that was on my plate. 

As we paid the bill we learned that Bill Granger has been ‘out on the floor’ every day since the restaurant opened. Regrettably, the day of our visit was not one of those days.

Granger & Co has a relaxed Sydney vibe with a simple menu, which is perfect for a casual dining experience.  When I say simple, I mean everything on the menu you can probably make it yourself. Proof is in the pudding. Shortly after my visit, I made Bill’s ricotta hotcakes using his recipe. See how they turned out in photo no. 5.

Bill’s ricotta cakes were better than I remembered. The corn fritters were definitely better than those at St ALi with more corn and less flour. Although the fritters did not live up to my expectations, at least we would be forever known as ‘the corn fritter table’. 

Granger & Co
175 Westbourne Grove
London W11 2SB
http://www.grangerandco.com/
Nearest tube: Bayswater / Notting Hill Gate

Sensory Lab: an escape from madness

London is a shopping mecca but on Oxford Street it’s madness. Shoppers are in survival mode in attempt to fight off incoming crowds with their shoulders, elbows or shopping bags. Luckily there is Sensory Lab, a coffee oasis which is only a block or so behind Bond Street tube.

Another Melbourne brainchild of those behind St ALi, this is a great find particularly in an area which is starved of good coffee. The small coffeebar is perfect for an expresso pit stop. However if you are more inclined for some ‘maintenance’, pull up a stool and people watch at the window bench facing Wigmore Street. 

Like its Melbourne sister, St ALi, there is no flat white on the menu but is available on request at the going rate of £2.40.  While you wait you can enjoy some water served in a mini tumbler. However the real cherry topper was being asked “Would you like still or sparkling?” I thought to myself and in fact said aloud, “What? You mean I have a choice? Awesome!” The guy behind the counter looked rather smug. So he should be, this is A-grade service and totally unexpected while waiting for my coffee. 

Stocked with Square Mile, HasBean and St ALi beans, you can’t go wrong with any given choice. I think I got a Square Mile flat white because I started having flashbacks of the coffee from Prufrock Coffee at Present. Good strong coffee with a hint of Square Mile bitterness.

Sensory Lab has a cool relaxing vibe with good coffee. Can’t wait to try it again and to check out the brew station to learn more about coffee.

Sensory Lab
75 Wigmore Street
London W1U 1QD
http://www.sensory-lab.co.uk/
Nearest cross street: James Street
Nearest tube: Bond Street 

My coffee fix @ Fix

People complain that London does not have good coffee. That’s only true if you haven’t scouted hard enough. With the Antipodean invasion into the London coffee and cafe scene, we are spoilt for choice. Well at least where I am in Shoreditch. 

Fix Coffee on Whitecross Street is within walking distance. Sister cafe, Fix 126 on Curtain Road is a hop, skip and jump away. Both ‘Fixes’ use coffee beans from roasters Climpson and Sons, who have their own independent cafe on Broadway Market in Hackney.  The coffee blend is Ethiopia, Brazil and Peru and 100% Arabica (i.e. better quality coffee beans).

I only discovered Fix recently when walking along Whitecross Street. To my pleasant surprise Fix serves the cheapest flat white to date at £2 a pop. This left me a bit miffed because I’ve been going to Fix 126 before then forking out 40p more for the same cup of flat white. 

On my visit yesterday, I noticed Fix gave a good description of a traditional flat white on its chalk board. It warned flat white lovers that unless you specify, a flat white will be served in a small cup to “ensure people get what they expect in the traditional sense - a small strong coffee with smooth microfoam milk.”

The initial sip of a Fix flattie is insatiable with the perfect blend between foamy milk and expresso. But you have to drink quickly because the foamy milk texture disappears once the coffee is lukewarm or cold and you are left with a medium tolerable bitter taste. Fix has good coffee strength but shame about the not so long lasting milk. Definitely drinkable and I would go back for my fix every now and again.

Fix
161 Whitecross Street, London EC1Y 8JL
Nearest tube: Barbican, Old Street

Fix 126
126 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3PJ
Nearest tube: Old Street, Shoreditch High Street

http://www.fix-coffee.co.uk/

St ALi: A taste of home

St ALi has easily become one of my favourite cafes in London since it opened in April 2011. Call me biased but I think Aussie style brunch kicks ass over greasy English fry ups. Not to mention Aussies (as well as our fellow antipodean Kiwis) know how to serve way better coffee, including injecting the London coffee scene with flat whites.

St ALi originally hails from Melbourne, Australia. Not sure if it’s an exaggeration but I have heard Sydney-siders fly to Melbourne just to try St ALi’s coffee. Thankfully St ALi decided to open its second branch in London to give me a little taste of home.

I first tried St ALi not long after its opening and immediately felt at home with the Aussie twang rolling off the tongues of the friendly waitstaff.  I also fell in love with the menu which had a lot of healthy options - poached eggs, yoghurt, muesli and corn fritters!  Since then I have returned twice.

I’ve had My Mexican Cousin, which is corn fritters, baby spinach, grilled haloumi, tomato kasundi and poached eggs.  The tomato kasundi (a sweet and sour tomato chutney) was a yummy binder for all the elements of this dish. The corn fritters are not as good as Bill Granger’s at Bill’s in Sydney, but overall still quite tasty and not bad.

I’ve also sampled probably St ALi’s best dish: The World’s Your Oyster, which is two poached eggs on sourdough toast with asparagus, smoked salmon and the true kicker of this dish - truffle mascarpone. Unfortunately on my most recent visit, I learned this dish is no longer featured on the menu which is disappointing.  Without it, you can pick and choose your extras to go with poached eggs on sourdough and the tomato kasundi.

The other ‘must try’ is the Banana Republic which is toasted banana bread, topped with fig and orange jam, expresso mascarpone and a sesame seed brittle. It seems anything with flavoured mascarpone tastes good here.

What about the coffee? St ALi roast their own coffee beans onsite so the coffee has unique flavours. Although flat white is not on the coffee menu you can order it without any fuss. The flat white was slightly stronger for my liking so I generally stick to lattes when I am here.

St ALi
27 Clerkenwell Road
London EC1M 5RM
http://www.stali.co.uk/uk/
Closest tube: Farringdon 

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation to download the London’s Best Coffee  app, this has reinvigorated my coffee obsession. Now I have a portable list of coffee places to try.   No. 1 on the app’s Top 25 list is Nude Expresso on Hanbury Street.
I went to Nude last year on a coffee high from my Madrid trip and recall that I did not like the coffee there. In fact I threw half the coffee away.   On my revisit this morning I opted for the flat white again. More expensive than the normal at £2.50 for a small cup, I now recall why I am not a big fan.
If you like your coffee slightly strong with a bitter aftertaste then this might be your cup of coffee. For me, initially the bitter aftertaste subsided quite quickly. But as I kept drinking the bitterness lingered. I prefer my coffee to a lil’ more milky flavoured.   Maybe I am coffee matured because I finished the whole cup without the urge to hurl it in the bin. Might try the latte next time.
Nude Expresso26 Hanbury St SpitafieldsLondon E1 6QRhttp://www.nudeespresso.com/

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation to download the London’s Best Coffee app, this has reinvigorated my coffee obsession. Now I have a portable list of coffee places to try. No. 1 on the app’s Top 25 list is Nude Expresso on Hanbury Street.

I went to Nude last year on a coffee high from my Madrid trip and recall that I did not like the coffee there. In fact I threw half the coffee away. On my revisit this morning I opted for the flat white again. More expensive than the normal at £2.50 for a small cup, I now recall why I am not a big fan.

If you like your coffee slightly strong with a bitter aftertaste then this might be your cup of coffee. For me, initially the bitter aftertaste subsided quite quickly. But as I kept drinking the bitterness lingered. I prefer my coffee to a lil’ more milky flavoured. Maybe I am coffee matured because I finished the whole cup without the urge to hurl it in the bin. Might try the latte next time.

Nude Expresso
26 Hanbury
St Spitafields
London E1 6QR
http://www.nudeespresso.com/

Weather obsession

London weather is temperamental. One minute it is pouring bucket loads and the next minute the sun is beaming. You never declare that you are enjoying a sunny day in London because as Crowded House sings:

Even when you’re feeling warm

The temperature could drop away

Like four seasons in one day

London weather is also a master of disguises. Somehow no matter how bright the sun is shining outside, it always looks deceptively warmer than it really is. One thing’s for sure though, with the amount of rainfall this country has, London will never have a water shortage problem. 

Weather extremes make London headlines: early 20C is balmy t-shirt weather and 28C plus is a heatwave.  Going to the other end of the thermostat, the whole of UK goes into meltdown when it snows heavily. Apparently the UK economy loses about £1 billion pounds per day from travel disruptions caused by heavy snowfall (source: Federation of Small Business, February 2009). 

Last winter, the coldest UK winter in 30 years, happened to be my first London winter experience. It was exhilarating to see snow falling right outside your courtyard and while walking on the streets of London. But with all things, especially anything to do with the cold, the novelty soon wears off. 

I admit it, I am a bit weather obsessed. More so since moving to London especially now that sun is an unidentified foreign object. I call it getting into the London spirit - monitoring the temperature every day and clinging onto any glimmer of hope that sun will make an appearance, while complaining how miserable the weather is. Call it what you want but the weather affects my moods as much as PMS does. So you better pray for sun!

If there is any advice I could give to a newbie in London, I would say this: umbrella and outer wear are like an AMEX card - don’t leave home without it!

It had been quite a shift. One miner, Ariel Ticona, the second last to emerge, became a father during his ordeal — and asked his wife to name their baby girl Esperanza, the Spanish for hope. Another returned to the surface with a book draft.

A third was met by his mistress while his wife stayed at home.

Travelling on the East London line on the new overground for the first time. The trains are new, spacious and wait for it … has air conditioning! This is how London transport should be.

Travelling on the East London line on the new overground for the first time. The trains are new, spacious and wait for it … has air conditioning! This is how London transport should be.