Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Weekend, Part 2...

So, as you may have noticed that my last post stated an intriguing ‘Part 1’ in its title. Intriguing I say, as two weeks have been and gone since it was published and still there is not even a whiff of ‘Part 2’... Well never fear, the weekend did not end with hummus and drag queens as you have no doubt been wondering for all this time; oh no, there was much more room for eating than that...

Yup, as you may have gathered, the last post only touched on the breakfast, lunch and dinner (how I like to portion out all of my days), of Saturday, leaving a whole new day of brunch, afternoon tea and midnight feast to get my rumbling tummy, and foodie ramblings on this very blog, engaged with. I mean, come on, you didn’t really think I spent a whole day without batting my boyfriends fork out of his hand as he dared to begin eating before I had snapped his brioch-bunned burger, did you?  

So, after an evening of falafel (see here), followed by fiddles and foot stamping watching Once at the Phoenix theatre, Sunday started the only way a sunny day should- with croissants, flat whites and strawberries on Clapham Common. A few dodgy cartwheels (from Mr. R) and an unexpectedly spectacular handstand (from yours truly) later, it was time to get eating. Our first port of call was Brick Lane, where hustle, bustle and beigels are on the menu every Sunday, easily making it the perfect destination for the wandering foodie with mouths to fill and guests to entertain.

We headed straight to the Sunday UpMarket, held in the concrete floored, rough and ready warehouse that once housed the Old Truman Brewery just off the neon signed, curry scented throng of Brick Lane itself. Open every Sunday come rain or shine, the mouth-watering smells emulating from the bubbling pans of rich, sticky lamb tagine or smouldering hotplates adorned with kimchi stuffed Okonomyaki from Brixton favourite Okan; ensure that you will never leave hungry, and, after temptation no doubt gets the better of you, seldom with a spare pound left in you pocket. This is a hungry person’s Mecca. Yup, as a perpetually hungry person, the giant pans of smoky paella, great hunks of Cuban barbequed pork, cumin rich falafel and spicy pans of punchy Ethipian beef stew make this treasure trove my absolute favourite haunt for Sunday lunch.
The indecisive amongst you (and this includes me...) beware; this hall of steaming pans and vintage Barbours (not roasted; don’t worry- The market does clothes, jewellery and other tempting fancies too...), this is no Burger and Lobster. There is enough choice here to turn even the most decisive into a shivering mess under a rail of beaded 80’s playsuits. An even bigger issue if your lunch-mate professes to suffering from a severe and debilitating food-sharing allergy...

This time around, it was a refreshing cup of pepper spiked gazpacho, fragrant with cucumber and sweet, juicy tomato that tickled my fancy- the perfect partner to a paper plate stacked with golden pork and spring onion dumplings, smothered in spicy chilli sauce, soy and (not entirely authentic) Sarson’s malt vinegar. Delicious. And leaving just enough room for a legendary salt beef stacked, pillow soft beigel from the famous Beigel Bake, heady with bright yellow mustard and still warm from the boiling and baking process that goes on out back 24 hours a day. Follow that with a big slice of the renowned Jewish bakery’s creamy baked cheesecake, crumbling as you bite from the sticky white paper bag, and always managing to pack the perfect sweet, salty, slightly sour punch. A foodie’s dream.

Well fed, slightly soggy from an unexpected (shorts were the wrong outfit choice, as it turned uot) downpour, and slightly tipsy after a near perfect round of mojitos, Bloody Marys and Negroni-esque Rumdog Millionaires from the seductively lit Redchurch Bar at the end of Brick Lane (well, what else do you do in the rain??), the day concluded with a very civilised sashay around the beautiful, flower fronted and couture filled halls of my favourite department store- Liberty’s. With its iconic white and black beamed frontage frilled with frothy, neon pink hydrangeas and fragrant prongs of vibrant lavender plants in brushed metal tubs; this couture playground is the velvet and silk filled sum of every girly-girl’s dream.  The mirror-shined wooden floors, tables adorned with glistening rainbows of pattern splattered silk scarves and shelves stacked with an array of butter-soft, gold edged Charlotte Olympia pumps; this place is what shopping must have been like before Primark somehow made piles of scrumpled vest tops and floors covered in bejewelled flip-flops the done thing.

After a quick stop off for smoky pulled pork and fluffy jalepeno cornbread at the neon lit, cartoon strip wallpapered Jamie’s Diner in Piccadilly Circus, it was time for my guests to go on their merry way from whence they came and for me to pass out on the sofa, comatosed by too much food and too many mojitos.

The. Perfect. Weekend.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Weekend, Part 1...

Weekends, I have come to realise, are much like the buses that stop outside the gym and whizz my tired legs the 10 minutes up the road to my front door, the sofa with a well needed cup of tea. Not only because they are, after a week filled with Legs Bums and Tums induced torture (I am sure that bandana wearing demon-woman is trying to kill me), a very welcome break for said legs, bum and tum, but because no matter how many weeks you laze about in the park with a magazine and a bag of tortilla chips all on your tod, the excitement, and the visitors (like the proverbial bus) all seem to come at once.

 This weekend, was one of those excitement filled ones, with a house full of guests and time to do whatever the hell we wanted. Yup, bustling for attention was not just one visitor, not two, not even three, but FOUR suitcase toting sightseers, all after a bit of big-smoke glamour and, as is my custom, serious amounts of time spent sipping on cocktails and stuffing our faces.

The first through the door, a fully-subscribed member of my VIP guest-list, brunch companion of choice (as you can read here), was my boyfriend. The second was my mum. The third my Mum’s friend, affectionately referred to as ‘Auntie Kim’ (much to said boyfriend’s confusion), and the fourth my best buddie from uni who, when not sunbathing at her swimming pool in Dubai, is gallivanting around the world living the glamorous life of an air hostess. Yes. Very different people. Very different ideas; a sentiment summed up by the speed at which my boyfriend, the rose between four thorns, of course; escaped to the relative safety of the pub, football and some male company on Saturday night...

But, despite spending most of the weekend wishing I was Bernard with his time-travelling watch; I absolutely bloody love having visitors. Not just because I have someone to partake in my sharing bag of Doritos, but because it is the very best excuse to go to, and for the most part, eat at, some of my favourite spots in this wonderful city. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, (not forgetting any elevenses, afternoon tea or midnight feasts in between), I am suffering from a crippling addiction to seeking out hidden, remarkable little places that are dishing up the most amazing, exciting food (and cocktails/wines/G&Ts, of course) across the capital. I spend most of my time researching the next street-food sensation or scanning the Cheap-eats section of the Time Out website (this addiction, like most, is certainly not good for my bank-balance), endlessly searching for the next place to send my taste buds wild and entertain anybody willing enough to be my dining partner.
This weekend was no exception; it all began with, of course, a poacher hash and bubblegum mascarpone rich brunch at my old favourite M1lk, before moving on for creamy banana milkshakes and sour cherry studded, buttery custard tarts at cycle-mad cafe, Look Mum no Hands. This cafe-cum-bike shop, where the slate grey wheels and shining metal spokes of a myriad of racing bikes queuing up to be cured of their ailments in the onsite worshop, contrast strikingly with frothy, bright pink crepe paper pop-poms and polka dot bunting that hang from the ceiling; is, much like M1lk, forever busy. There is a lot to be said for a good queue, in my book.

So if you, like me, can bear the bustle for a table in a queue of lycra clad cyclists and scrunchie-sporting Shorditch trendies, this is a wickedly unique place to partake in a bit of weekend chillaxing. And despite being much too scared to jump on any bike that is not a Borris and confined to the borders of Hyde Park myself, it is one of my favourite spots for a quick coffee from the Square Mile Coffee Roasters, or lunch from their tantalising selection of fresh, colourful salads and golden pies and pasties. The perfect place to watch the Tour de France, you say? Well, funny you should mention it; starting from Saturday they have a big screen which will be broadcasting the whole shebang. Spot on.

Next up, after an afternoon of getting lost in between neon jelly shoes and crochet crop tops in Primark and getting caught up in a very rainy Gay Pride parade, was another very foodie destination- dinner at one of my very favourite spots in Central London; Soho’s favourite Lebanese outpost, YallaYalla.
A tiny cafe of houmous and halloumi filled heaven, this is, yet again, a queuing hotspot (how very English...), offering only just enough velvet cushioned benches to seat around 18 hungry diners. But it is worth the wait, and the squeeze; just get a bottle of Lebanese Rosé (who knew??) and drink from tumblers in the neon signed, sex shop strewn alleyway outside. Which is incidentally how I like to partake in all aperitifs. Not dodgy at all...*

But anyway, once you get inside, this place is the business. Yup, with overflowing plates of smoky, pomegranate strewn baba ganoush and creamy hummus crowned with the richest of lamb schwarma, teamed with charred, freshly rolled pitta and crunchy, neon pink pickles, the food more than makes up for the slightly shifty location. Follow with crispy balls of cumin rich falafel, vibrant fattoush spiked with sharp red wine vinegar, fragrant sumac and strewn with crispy pitta, golden halloumi with the saltiest black olives and the very best, garlic heavy, homemade Lebanese sausages fried with fresh tomatoes and torn flat leaf parsley, and you will be glad you stuck out the moments of unintentional eye contact as customers of the shop advertising ‘models upstairs’ go on their merry, if sheepish, way. The pitta, soft and steaming, arrives in drones, as the food (if turning up slightly sporadically, and often missing a few dishes) fills the tiny room with wafts of coriander, mint and harrisa. It is easy to over-order; the plates are small, but the lamb stuffed, fried pittas drizzled with pomegranate molasses and hunks of chilli rich, paprika coated fried potato make for a seriously filling meal.

We chose two dishes each, and had just enough room to sample the delectable ‘Damascus milk pudding’, a fragrant bowl of rose scented pannacotta-like jelly; sweet, creamy and crowned with jewel like pomegranate seeds in a bright red syrup. Not my boyfriends favourite, he tried it twice and on each occasion did a rather accurate impression of the Churchill dog having a pessimistic moment (Oh nooo, Oh no, no!), but it was a hit with the girls, if being a little teeny bit sickly. Maybe it had something to do with the pink...
Full, happy and slightly delirious from all that pitta, the (extremely reasonable) bill was paid and we too skipped down the unassuming little lane and into the throngs of drag queens and rainbow flags of the West End. Delicious, just keep tabs on what you order so you don’t end up shelling out for fattoush or falafel that never made it up the dumbwaiter and onto your table...

*(If all else fails, they have another branch just off Oxford Street...)