Monday Miscellany

One of the main problems with living in London is that there is so much to do and so little time.  In between the necessities of work, sleep and travel, we have so much to cram in that it can make our heads spin.  Last week was one such week (luckily this week is a little quieter), so with little time this week to write up all of the places I’ve been, I have done a kind of round-up of it all.  Now pass the aspirin.

Underground Cookery School, City of London
On Monday I attended a cooking class for bloggers and food writers at the Underground Cookery School on Old Street.  The cookery classes are aimed at corporate events, hen and stag parties and birthdays.  There was A LOT of wine, so much so that I almost left my goodie bag on the bus on the way home.  The full write up is here.


Attendant Cafe, Fitzrovia
My new favourite spot for a mid-morning caffeine fix is a cafe in a converted Victorian toilet on Foley Street.  Once you get past the realisation that you are drinking coffee in a spot where our ancestors peed, you fall in love with it.  The coffee and cakes are excellent and the staff super-friendly.  It is almost always busy.  The full write up is here.


MyChocolate Workshop, Farringdon
On Tuesday evening I attended a truffle-making workshop, again for bloggers and food writers, with the lovely Aimee and Elliw.  It turns out that there is no future for me as a master chocolatier, however much I really want to be the guy on the Lindt advert, as there is no chocolate shop in the world that would sell my misshapen little blobs.  I did, however, get to dip marshmallows into bowls of molten chocolate, which I haven’t done since I ended up wearing most of the chocolate fountain at a friend’s wedding.  And I was able to provide beer-snacks to the friends I met for drinks afterwards.  The full write up is here.

Flat Iron, Soho
It seems that I am destined to never, ever eat at Pitt Cue.  From the glory days of their truck on the south bank, I have tried to get a table at their Newburgh Street restaurant, always to be told that there is an excruciatingly long wait.  One upside of this tragedy is that I have built up a good list of back-up restaurants within walking distance to avoid ending up in some horrendous chain, crying into my pre-mixed cocktail.  After not getting into Pitt Cue for lunch on Friday, we headed around the corner to Beak Street and saw that Flat Iron had their lunch special burger on the menu.  It seems a bit off to review the restaurant without trying the £10 flat iron steak – their main attraction – but we did manage to squeeze in a Burger League entry.  And not a bad one too.  The full write up is here.


Peckham Springs, Peckham
Friday night was my second visit to Peckham Springs for late night cocktails.  This is the latest in a line of new bars in Peckham, keeping the crowds warm until Frank’s Cafe re-opens in the summer.  It’s a small space under the railway arches, not easy to find, which is why non-locals look at you in disbelief when you direct them under a very dark and dodgy-looking tunnel.  I rather like it, the crowd is a mix of locals and students from nearby Goldsmiths and Camberwell College of Art – it makes me nostalgic for the former, where I spent four years drinking in various bars around New Cross and Peckham on my student loan.  The cocktails are a mere £6, and whilst perhaps not the most refined that you will find, are plentiful and strong.  There is a small kitchen at the side and, sometimes, a street-food van parked out front.  Most seem to use it as a pre-drinking venue for the nearby Bussey Building, so it gets progressively busier as the night goes on.  With the queue for the bar growing rapidly, we headed over to the Montpelier for something a little more conventional:  G&Ts, scampi fries and laughing at the stream of people trying to exit through a locked door.


Maltby Street Market, Bermondsey
There are few things I love more on a Saturday morning than dragging my hungover self for some street food in one of south-east London’s many food markets.  North Cross Road is a convenient distance from my flat, so is perfect for the most extreme of hangovers where cycling or public transport is simply not an option, my absolute favourite is Brockley Market, which has become more of a social occasion than simply an opportunity to eat, and for the days when I am super organised, Maltby Street is a bit of a treat.  Despite our boozing the night before, we made it there pretty early, much to the astonishment of The Ginger Gourmand et famille, who we ran into, predictably, near the coffee stand.  There is so much great stuff at Maltby Street Market, this little paragraph will not do it justice; but we had delicious flat whites from Craft Coffee, hangover-busting breakfast pots from Potdog (mine was sausages, rosemary potatoes and sauerkraut), and chocolate doughnuts from the wonderful St John Bakery.


Postman’s Park, City of London
A non-foodie item, but one that still deserves a mention.  Tucked away behind a church off Little Britain and London Wall, close to the Museum of London, is one of the city’s most interesting memorials.  Postman’s Park contains a memorial to acts of heroism by ordinary Londoners.  This was the creation of the painter George Watts who, at the end of the nineteenth century, wanted to commemorate people who would have otherwise been forgotten.  He was inspired by reports in local papers of people who died saving others and erected a number of plaques to commemorate these ‘everyday heroes’.  A few years ago, whilst at Goldsmiths, I was lucky enough to visit the monument with John Price, who is the leading expert on Postman’s Park, and who has an exceptional knowledge of the memorial itself and he people it commemorates.  He has a book on the subject which can be found here.


The Stormbird, Camberwell
One of the few wet pubs you will find in these ‘ere parts, as most of the south-east London pubs are now also restaurants.  It is a craft beer pub and has an enormous range of beers on tap, as well as a number of bottled beers.  They sell most of them as well-priced half-pint and third-pint glasses to give you the option to try as many as possible without the worry of passing out on the bus home.  They almost always have The Kernel IPA on tap, which pleases Ollie.  I’ve only ever been in there in the evening, but it’s always a lively spot.

The Camberwell Arms, Camberwell
This new pub, run by the same people responsible for gastro-pub stalwart The Anchor & Hope, opened last week to much interest.  It used to be a slightly dodgy venue called The Recreation Rooms, that we would occasionally drink in as students, but that closed not long after it opened.  The refit of the space is impressive with a drinks bar at one side and a food bar on the other, wrapping the open kitchen.  Despite the gripes on Twitter about how it is too expensive for Camberwell etc., the food and drink seemed quite reasonably priced –  A Gin Rickey (basically a pimped up double G&T) and a Bloody Mary were only £5 each.  We didn’t get to try the food as we were off to Silk Road, but I will definitely be back for a bar snack of pork fat on toast. Yes I will.


Silk Road, Camberwell
If all Chinese restaurants were like Silk Road, I would eat Chinese food all the time.  The cuisine is mainly Xinjiang, but with a bit of Sichuan thrown in for good measure.  We used to drunkenly wander in for a late-night dinner after drinking in Camberwell as a matter of course, but since it received a number of rave reviews, including one by Jay Rayner, it is more difficult to get a table.  We ate our usual round of favourites of middle plate chicken, lamb skewers, pork and celery dumplings, double-cooked pork and home-style aubergine.  Honestly, the home-style aubergine is the best aubergine dish I have had ANYWHERE. EVER.  I’m already in the process of planning a huge dinner there for Ollie’s birthday.  On Saturday, our bill came to £29, which was enough food to render us immobile on the number 12 bus home and included drinks.  Book a table or go late.


ToastED, East Dulwich
Is it called ‘Toast’?  Is it called ‘Toasted?’ Who knows.  We’ll call it ‘Toasted’.  Whatever it’s name, I think I am possibly the only person in south-east London yet to eat there.  During the week I am mainly in central London, and at the weekends I am a little scared of being stuck in a place with hoards of children, which often happens on Lordship Lane on the weekend.  (Sorry – but it’s true!)  On Sunday, I popped in with my friend for a coffee and a slice of their famous banana bread and it was so good we ended up staying for the wine.  It’s a really nice place to spend a couple of hours on the weekend and, although there were a few buggies, there were no children racing up and down and screaming.  The banana bread was outrageously good – crispy on the edges and with the texture of bread pudding in the middle.

Nigel Slater’s Smoked Haddock with Cannelini Beans and Mustard
I feel as though I’ve hardly done any cooking this week, or indeed spent much time at home.  I asked Ollie what he wanted for Sunday night supper and he responded with just “no red meat!”  I think we have both overindulged a bit on the good stuff.  Being a little lazy on Sunday morning, the only shop I made it out to before Sunday closing was the local branch of a supermarket.  These places almost always have some kind of smoked fish, so I was able to cobble something half decent together for dinner.  (Didn’t go shopping this week either, natch).  This recipe is from The Kitchen Diaries and is a genius combination of smoky fish, meaty beans, cream and grain mustard.  I added a little more mustard than the recipe suggested, but didn’t regret it.  Half-pissed on wine and watching TV on a Sunday night, this dish is perfection.  The recipe can be found online here.


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