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Some recent eating in London...

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Haven't been posting much lately. Here are some thoughts on great food in London that I have been eating regularly... Personal preference needs to be taken into account. I am vegetarian and prefer food with great ingredients. So read on if that works for you….

Hackney...
Heaps of newish places popping up around Hackney thankfully, because I was beginning to regret settling in the east in favour of Brixton…

e5 bakehouse have some of the best bread in London. Up there with Franco Manca/Wild Caper, St John, Elliots Café (http://www.elliotscafe.com/bread.html). e5 are super friendly, deliver all over the local region on a very cool bike and frankly just do awesome loaves. There are only a few varieties, Hackney Wild, Multigrain, Borodinsky bread, Fig and Walnut, Ciabatta and Spelt and they are all highly recommended. My favourite at the moment is probably the spelt. When you get it fresh it has that crunchiness on the outside and the inside just melts in your mouth.

Andor Bureau has recently popped up on Mare St, at the corner of Mare and the canal. It took me a while to visit but it was worth it when I did. Café style food and a cool vibe, the food was above Broadway Market standards. Great salads and wicked sandwiches. The guys are friendly and super accommodating. Everything you want in a local café. (see website http://andorbureau.com/

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Railroad Café has been around for a while but again I only got my act together recently and paid it a visit. A sample size of one meal is not enough I know, but what a meal. Started with some sensational slow cooked fennel on toast, along with a really nutty almond and beetroot chilled soup. Loved the almost sour flavour of the almonds. For mains we all had the delice pumpkin stuffed with pilaf and yoghurt. Some seriously good cooking going on in this tiny kitchen. Confirmed with the mind-blowing pressed chocolate cake for dessert. (see website http://www.railroadhackney.co.uk/). They are related to Dock Kitchen, where I have had one (spectacular) meal. (http://www.dockkitchen.co.uk/

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Healthy Stuff is a newish café on Dalston Lane. Given I’m an organic, vegetarian nutcase, it’s right up my alley. Given you are probably not it still may be right up yours. They have a small food store, but the highlights are the simple breakfasts and killer sandwiches. Great ingredients. Awesome combinations. e5 bread. And it has just such a welcoming and friendly vibe it feels like you are in a relaxed country town hanging out here, rather than the chaotic London. (see website http://www.healthystuffe8.co.uk/

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Violet’s on Wilton Way is another underrated café. While it doesn’t do too much, it serves seriously amazing cakes, great salads, an insane grilled cheese sandwich and has a brilliant, relaxed feel. (see website http://www.violetcakes.com/shop/

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The Corner Room in the Town Hall (next to Viajante) I’ve been to a couple of times. Love the room, love the bread, don’t mind the atmosphere. The food is a bit fussy for my taste, and a couple of dishes I have order have been a struggle because the main ingredient has somehow been missing from the description, but a great addition to the area and a reasonably-priced alternative to home cooking. (see their immensely descriptive website http://www.cornerroom.co.uk/

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Frizzante at Hackney City Farm continue to inspire me. Love the café during the week and weekends, especially crazy Sundays, and love the Thursday night Agriturismo even more. There was a time I was going every Thursday and enjoying the sensational ingredients, simple Italian cooking and great atmosphere. The crumble to share is a must. And the past is fresh, homemade and delicious. (See website http://www.frizzanteltd.co.uk/). It does make me think that we are so lucky in Hackney to have the farm. If you haven’t visited it is definitely worthwhile. It’s just great to see pigs in Central London.

There are also the cafes of Broadway Market and Columbia Road, there is Little Georgia, there is One Vyner St (not my favourite), Viajante, the Loft Project, a few pop-up restaurants in people’s houses, Tina We Salute You on the way towards Stoke Newington. Haven’t tried Larder near the Buddhist Centre, Thai Garden (http://www.thethaigarden.co.uk/) is great. La Bouche does deserve a special mention. It’s brilliant.

Shoreditch…
Was not a huge fan of Shoreditch/Spitalfields but things have taken a turn for the better…

Still the ultimate, even for a vegetarian, St John Bread and Wine get’s better and better. Freshest ingredients, amazing bread, perfect cooking. The kind of food you could eat every night. (see their website http://www.stjohnbreadandwine.com/

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Story Deli has now moved to 3 Redchurch St. Pizzas are £15. Pizzas are delicious. Atmosphere is sensational. Worth a visit, way better than Pizza East. There are only a few tables and it does get busy, but wait around it’s fun and it’s worth it. All ingredients are organic and super-fresh. Maybe not too traditional but give it a go anyway. (see website http://www.storydeli.com/

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Franze & Evans has again been open a while. Love their Italian cooking. Salads are decent but really I think they are too heavy on the vinegar and too many ingredients. Pastas and cakes are really nice. They are now open for dinner and are doing a great job of that. Amazing cavalo negro, luscious pastas. Worth a meal. (see website http://www.franzeevans.com/

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Rochelle Canteen is still an absolute favourite. Fresh, wholesale, simple, tasty. The way food should be. (see website http://www.arnoldandhenderson.com/4-r...
)Leila’s Shop and Café. Leila chooses her stuff from New Covent Garden market every Tuesday and you can tell. Had the best peach of my life there. Just seriously good veg, amazing brazil nut chocolate and feta that makes you want to eat nothing but feta for the rest of your life. The café has super brunch and is just lovely to hang out in.

Some good places along Columbia Road, especially on a Sunday, haven’t eaten at Braun because of the vegetarian thing but supposed to be fantastic, a few good places like Gourmet San along Bethnal Green Road but nothing worth a long trip right at the moment, Saf is also a favourite but I don’t dig their recent menu, try to avoid the chains around Shoreditch in general, don’t mind Vietnamese on Kingsland Road but the quality of their ingredients can’t compare with the places above. Pretty big fan of Due Sardi pizza.

Markets…
Haven’t been as market crazy of late, although did visit the Abergavenny Food Festival in Wales (see website http://www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com/) which was a lot of fun.

Been involved a bit with the London Fields Farmer’s Market. It’s now in local hands which is great. Not a huge number of farmer’s at the moment, but it’s building slowly, has a great atmosphere and hopefully will be one of the shining lights on the Farmer’s Market scene in the next year or two.
Borough Market continues to splutter along. Great for tourists. Average for locals. Mired in politics. Enjoy and avoid at the same time.

Broadway Market has expanded into the school next door. Still has a great vibe on a sunny autumn afternoon. Fresh veg is average (go to the London Fields Farmer’s Market on a Sunday for good veg). Cooked food is ok. This market is all about the vibe.

Stoke Newington Farmer’s Market is buzzing every Saturday, as is Marylebone on a Sunday and Notting Hill on a Saturday. Definitely three great local London Farmer’s Markets that have got it right.

Around London…
Some other places around London worth mentioning, old favourites, new discoveries.
Zucca is my favourite restaurant in London today. Not the greatest reviews on Chowhound (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/699136) but please do not let that put you off. Forget about what it isn’t and enjoy what it is, a rare treat in London dining. Only shame is the pistachio cake is no longer on the menu. (see website http://www.zuccalondon.com/). Had high hopes for Trullo but it didn’t come close in my simple mind to reaching Zucca’s heights.

St Ali the South Melbourne café has opened recently in Clerkenwell. Coffee is supposed to be great, but I can definitely recommend the brunch. The beans on toast are outstanding and attact antipodeans from all over for their fix. (see website http://www.stali.co.uk/).

Caravan is also pretty good. Simple, well-cooked food, good brunches, crumpets with butter (wish they were homemade but nobody, not even St John, is able to satisfy my craving for home-made crumpets)… (see their website http://caravanonexmouth.co.uk/

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The Ledbury is apparently in the top 50 restaurants in the world these days. Fair enough too. Had a brilliant meal their a few months back. One of those rare epic dinners where I wake up feeling good the next day which says something about the cooking. Would have the Ledbury on par with River Café as a place to celebrate.

Wahaca stands up time and again with the great ingredients, wonderfully creative combinations and inspiring interpretation of Mexican food. Forget the fact that it is a chain. Forget (in fact embrace) that it is not authentic. My wife and I lived in Mexico for two years, and Wahaca is our Mexican restaurant of choice, far above Lupita, Taqueria etc, although we haven’t tried Casa Morito yet.

Brixton Village. Enough has already been written (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/698606). I still can’t go past Wild Caper though for their brilliant salads, great value, and mind-blowingly mindblowing bread cooked in the Franco Manca ovens (see website http://www.wildcaper.co.uk/).
My other Brixton Village favourites are the arepa stand outside the village, still love Roas’s next door and the pasta guys. I crave their macaroni weekly.

Eat at Princi at least once a month, and every time I go there I wonder why I am not there more.

Koya is just amazingly good. The seawood or the curry udon are my dishes of choice. So lucky to have a place like this in London.

Tried Nopi and was pretty impressed with a lot of the cooking. Can’t get over the pea and feta dip to go with the bread. Ate that pretty much all night!

L’Anima has amazing, amazing pasta if you can get past the slightly sterile atmosphere.

Garrison is a great little pun on Bermondsey St serving decent food if you can’t get into Zucca (or Jose or Brindisa).

Wholefoods…
I’m a wholefoods nut. So forgive me if you don’t care, but these places are worth checking out.
Unpackaged in Angel is in my mind the nicest wholefoods store in London. Bring your own container and fill up on organic stuff, including sublime olive oil. (see website http://beunpackaged.com

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Fareshares in E&C is always awesome. Run by volunteers with the aim of bringing cheap organic foods to the London community it’s a social project as well as a bike shop as well as a wholefoods store. Worth a visit there are always cool people around. (see website http://www.56a.org.uk/fareshares.html

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Happy Kitchen of vegan muffin fame have recently opened up a café. It’s a nice addition to Hackney. Food is good, and buying food in bulk without packaging superb.

Luscious Organics is a cool little café with great home-cooked food on High St Kensington near Holland Park.

Brixton Wholefoods is the ultimate in wholefoods in London. Tiny space, heaps of people, great products and you always come away with some new way of living until you are 400.

Oliver’s near Kew Gardens is just a beautiful store with everything you see in a London organics store only more of it.

The Grocery on Kingsland Road combines organic with hipsters. Go there all the time and so grateful it is close by and always open.

Wholefoods Market is an experience in itself. A slice of organic America in London. Trying to find the kale chips on the basement is an experience in itself.

A quick note. If anybody is an almond butter fan, Monki almond butter blows the competition away!

Gelato...
Did a gelato making course at Dri Dri a week or so ago. Simple, fresh ingredients along with their special mix of sugar and natural thickener. Made following the traditional process of mantecazione, the end result is spectacular. Great sign, the pistachio was brown not green. The Sicilian pistachio's were absolutely amazing. The biscotto was out of this world, and the stracciattella was also worth the trip over to Notting Hill. Definitely the gelato highlight of London at the moment. (see limster's review... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782437 and their website http://www.dridrigelato.com

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Gelatorino for me is a very close second. The fior de late comes from the piedoment. They use fantastic fresh italian ingredients, the mantecazione process and the pozzetti (tubs) to store the gelato. Flavours I can't go past are the fiordilatte, Gianduja creamy chocolate with Piedmont IGP hazelnuts, Halzenuts, Croccante milk cream with crunchy pieces of almond croccante, Nocciolini di Chivasso, special cream with Piedmont nocciolini and Stracciatella. Beautiful little shop as well. (see their website http://www.gelatorino.com/

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Finally there is Gelupo which is also excellent but in my gelato cravingness sites just below in the 'would i cycle an hour and a half for you' stakes. Another artisan gelataria in Soho, they deliver all over London. Slightly fancier flavours, I love the fresh mint stracciatella and the ricotta, chocolate and balck pepper. Also a really nice shop to just sit and chat (see their website http://www.gelupo.com/)

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Wahaca
66 Chandos Pl, London, Greater London WC2E 7, GB

Saf Restaurant
152-154 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AT, GB

Ledbury
127 Ledbury Rd, Kensington, England W2 5, GB

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  1. Awesome - many thanks for all the tips!

    Have you tried La Gelatiera? Love to hear what you think. The baked stuff there is great as well, and you can get gelato with their brioche, a Sicilian combo. The brutti e buoni ("ugly but good," made with egg whites and nuts) is excellent - light, crisp and crunchy - and ful of hazelnut and almond flavour.

    BTW Zucca has matured well since the initial opening hiccups, and I do enjoy the food there; Maltings Cafe (one of the best tips I learnt from this board) is as good as ever too.

    1. Wonderful posy feelinfoodie. We'll be in London the second week of January 2012 and your list will surely come in handy. Thanks!