For me, I think London is one of the most exciting food cities of the World. There are so many places to eat and so many different cuisines on offer, you can literally spend the whole year sampling and visiting food shops and not be finished. It is not for nothing, that only a few years ago, 2006, I think, that for the first time, London had more restaurants in the top 50 restaurants of the World than any other cities, even Paris and New York. So everytime I visit London, you can imagine, I get very excited about what to eat and what to buy, then I think, gosh ! London is too big and I don't have enough time, but I've got to try. On that last note, I was lucky enough, thank God to visit London during the mad rush in the run up to Christmas late last year, which is always exciting, because a lot of special food treats are only available during the "festive" season. Before I start this mouth-watering journey, a proviso – As I didn't have much time nor money, I didn't have time to visit restaurants and so my experiences and advice below are by no means exhaustive, but let's call it a "taster of London".
For breakfast, I recommend Baker and Spice, now located in 4 locations in London, one in Belgravia, one in Chelsea, one in Queen's Park, north London, one located at Selfridges Food Hall (more on that later) and another not too far from the latter at Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale area @ 20 Clifton Road, Maida Vale W9 1SU, which is where I went for this experience.
It's got a very relaxed, woody and informal atmosphere. You can order whatever you want for breakfast like big fat buttery croissants and/or finger licking muffins (highly recommended by moi), or toast or go for the gusto and order stuff like eggs. They've got long benches and you can pick up your butter, jam or marmalades from the counter and share with friends or fellow customers. As you enter the shop on your right there's a rack of expensive goodies you can take away like Italian honey, spices and lots of other stuff and right in front of this, is a big cold display offering salads and dips. At the back, they've got tasty treats like cheesecakes and other desserts – you can literally spend at least an hour between choosing what to eat, eating it and then deciding whether you have space to eat dessert or if you don't, you can take it away. I wasn't allowed to take any pictures…. boo hoo ! But I think the waitress felt sorry for me when my request to take pictures of at least my muffin was turned down, with the manager coming to ask me to buy a book instead (which I already have anyway), that she went to the back and got me a little chocolate croissant – courtesy perhaps of the manager. So, not to be defeated, I went outside and took this picture for you, so as to give you an idea of what to expect.
You can find out more about Baker and Spice by clicking on www.bakerandspice.com .
London is famous for shopping and no doubt Selfridges, located on 400 Oxford Street is one of the most famous department stores, stocking everything from designer food to designer clothes, jewelry, books, electronics, luggage, cafes and restaurants in the heart of the West End (the shopping heart of London). Run past the perfumery and jewelry section on the ground floor and to the back of the store, veering left, where the Food Hall is located, surrounded by World famous chocolates like Leonidas, ice cream, oyster bar, sushi bar, beefy hotdogs, freshly handmade sandwiches, cheeses and delicatessen goodies, as well as tasty snacks, breads, biscuits and drinks. The stuff is really good, but it is expensive too, so you have to pick bits to get a sample of what you really want and keep that credit card in your pocket. As I am not made of money, but find it hard to resist a good foodie offer, I noticed that as I ran past the Food Hall, I saw a fabulous deal, Selfridges were selling their deliciously packed Panettone (made by the Muzzi family in Italy), as a two-for-one. Yes ! I bought two-for-one and I was not disappointed – I gave one to my brother and kept one for my family.
On my return to Vienna, I waited for the right moment, constantly looking at it, until I couldn't wait no more and unravelled it, smelled it – wow ! what a smell – buttery, eggy, sweet and fruity, all in one. It is definitely the best Panettone I've tasted and just with butter or on its own it is sublime.
It is my morning treat, one slice at a time for the last 3 weeks – I'm saving it.
OK ! It is time to eat something, sweet or savoury and for this, try the newly opened Milanese bakery on 135 Wardour Street, called Princi.
Located in Soho, Princi is a famous Milanese bakery, that aims to sell bread in designer settings and their uniforms are even designed by Giorgio Armani. They've just opened their new bakery/patisserie/bar in the heart of trendy London, called Soho.
It's a bit dark and woody inside, so I'm guessing that they are focusing more on the bar look, rather than the sit down and eat designer bread and coffee look or feel, so I glanced around, took some dark shots before I was told not to and ordered a ricotta sweet slice and croissant and left.
Princi is nice and I would probably go back God willing, for their unique pizzas and to try their coffee, but personally I don't think it is unique enough for London and for their upmarket-ness, I would have thought they would try and be located in the posher (i.e richer) part of London like Chelsea, where their customers are more likely to know of them from visiting Milan, but in Soho it will be fiercely competitive.
So, we've had the Italian bread, now time some really good Italian tasting coffee and still in Soho, you will be glad to know that you will be spoilt for choice. Here we go.
If you want to complete the Italian experience then head to Bar Italia on Frith Street, which is actually parallel to Wardour Street but just one street over. Bar Italia is open 24 hours a day, so you have time to visit all day long. There's also Milk Bar on 3 Bateman Street, newly opened and part of Flat White – see next sentence. However, for me, the best coffee in London is probably served at Flat White, located on 17 Berwick Street, run by Cameron and his mates from Melbourne, Australia. Flat White was voted best coffee shop in London by Restaurant magazine in 2006 and now have a cult following. Flat White is actually named after the Australian version of a latte, called a flat white, see below for their version;
As you can imagine, they take their coffee very seriously and every milk based espresso coffee drink is served with latte art, like this, called a rosetta.
Almost too good to drink, but delicious, so drink up and continue on your foodie tour of London.
You won't have to go far though, as just across the street from Flat White is wait for it, Yauatcha located on 15-17 Broadwick Street.
As described on its website, Yauatcha is part luxury dim sum restaurant, part French Patisserie and part tea house. When you walk in, you might be intimidated as it looks like you are walking into a really expensive designer shop. It's supposed to be famous for its dim sums, but as I was in a rush and was drawn from the outside to the lovely looking colourful macaroons, I went straight for the counter and ordered these delicious macaroons.
Ok ! again, I was not allowed to take pictures inside, so these were taken at home. Anyway, Yauatcha is already popular with dim sum lovers, so I recommend you try it out, and if you like it, send me a note.
Before leaving Soho, I strongly recommend you try my favourite cake shop in London, Fernandez and Wells Coffee shop, located on 73 Beak Street. I'm not going to go into details here, but just see below;
Need I say more ? I also have to add that they serve delicious coffee, which you can sip and watch the Soho crowd go by. I had an espresso macchiato (espresso topped with a little frothed milk) and a sublime Portuguese custard tart called a Pasties de Nata.
In any case, you can pick up some cakes to take home to share with family and friends. I bought a lemon and pistachio cake slice, delicious and definitely tasty. For more about drinking coffee in London, I cannot recommend a better blog than mine I'm afraid, so check http://fromcoffeewithlove.com/blog/
OK ! now we can leave Soho and head briefly to Kensington to Ottolenghi, who now have 4 shops at Notting Hill, Islington, Belgravia and Kensington. I popped in very briefly to the recently opened Kensington branch located on 1 Holland Street. It's a bit small but its white decor is inviting and I had to buy a souvenir, so I got a jar of Strawberry and Vanilla Jam, because I usually make my own version during the summer months.
Getting accustomed to being denied the opportunity to take pictures in these guarded shops, I went out and took this pic for you to make your mouth water even more for what is also on offer. However, I with coffee looking like this, you've got to take a picture and just lay back and sip it quietly.
OK ! I think this post is now quite long and I'm going to stop now especially as I'm conscious of the fact that you may be getting a bit hungry reading through this and looking at these pictures - please don't start eating the computer. Nevertheless, I do however promise to post another mini-London foodie tour later, as you can imagine I went to slightly more shops than these so I promise to share more with you at a later date on eating and food shopping in London at a later date, God willing.