Pump Street Bakery Sourdough and Sea Salt Chocolate

This is pretty much my favourite chocolate bar at the moment.

Pump Street is a Bakery up in Suffolk. I’d been aware of them for some time, mainly as I’d heard they were producing some increasingly good bean to bar chocolate, still something of a rarity in this country. Having tried it since, I concur, it is indeed very tasty. However THIS bar is something else entirely.

I went along to the launch at The Quality Chop House shop where I was able to sample the chocolate bar (I sort of forgot to try any of their others whilst there – oops) as well as their excellent sourdough bread, the very same that they use in the bar, alongside a very complimentary red wine.

I know Paul A Young recently produced a bar in collaboration with Peckham’s Brick House sourdough. Here however, the sourdough is incorporated into the conching process itself as well as larger crumbs added later on along with Maldon sea salt; the resulting bar has the most incredible texture with that sour bread tang. It’s a bar that’s fascinating enough that I want to eat piece after piece in quick succession, the 66% chocolate is smooth and malty but texturally satisfying. I just can’t get enough of it. I detect a note of rosemary in the finish of a number of the squares from my block which causes me to think perhaps they’re odours absorbed from around the bakery.

It’s funny, as I generally don’t like biscuit/crunch anywhere near my chocolate; aside from the fun of nibbling the edges from a Kit Kat or Club, biscuit can, frankly, do one. However, it seems, like all other areas of my life, bread is a welcome addition. Who knew it would go so well with chocolate?!

In short – and I’m trying to produce some shorter posts in order to cover more of the things I want to share – get some. You won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

 

 

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Almond Milk and Spelt Ricotta Pancakes with Maraschino Laced Cherries

I’m a sucker for cherries, so I’m in heaven that there are plump and juicy varieties in all of the supermarkets and farmers markets right now. Not that it stops me when they’re not in season, I turn to cocktails instead, demanding a cocktail cherry, not only in my Manhattans (double dosing on beauties from the Manhattans Project) and Martinez’s but all heathen-like in Negronis and martinis too; my cherry love knows no bounds. Perhaps in part due to their saucy connotations, there’s something rather seductive about a cherry pie or tart, even a simple dish of cherries and cream. Something titilating about plucking one of those pert, dark and juicy orbs from a virgin white plate. Another thing about tongues and cherry stalks.

I made little cherry and ricotta boreka pies a few weeks ago, but this time I fancied something for brunch, since I found myself working at home and stalking the kitchen as I’m known to when procrastinating. For some reason I’ve been craving ricotta pancakes. Odd, as I never fancy, or indeed eat, pancakes. But the craving has been persistent all week and so Friday lunchtime I gave in. All plain flour would have given a fluffier pancake but I love the nutty flavour of spelt, sweetened with almond rather than regular milk and yoghurt to serve for a sour contrast. With the addition of cherries and maraschino, and mahlep in the pancake to boost almond flavours further, I can’t help thinking of the classic dessert, Bakewell tart.

Serves 1, heartily (I pinched the basics of the recipe from good old Nigella)

100g ricotta

50g almond milk (The Pressery’s is raw and utterly delicious)

30g wholemeal spelt flour

20g plain flour

1 large egg

half a teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

teaspoon of mahlep powder

oil for frying

ripe cherries

sugar

maraschino liqueur

Greek full fat yoghurt to serve

Separate the egg, then in a bowl add the yolk to the ricotta and almond milk, stir to combine. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and whisk to create a smooth batter. In another bowl, beat the egg white until frothy then fold into the batter mixture.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and drop large spoonfuls in, you should get around four. Cook on each side until golden and fluffy but still a little gooey in the middle.

While they’re cooking, halve and de-stone the cherries and fry quickly in another pan with a little sugar. As soon as they’re softened and releasing their juices pour in a little of the maraschino and toss to combine.

Stack up the pancakes on a plate, add a large dollop of yoghurt and pour over the cherries and all their juices.

 

 

 

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Spoilt for Choice in Fitzrovia

Not so long ago Oxford Street and it’s peripheries was somewhere to be avoided, better left to the tourists that bung up the streets with their slow, aimless, zombie shuffle. The shopping, or anything worth shopping for at least, dried up a long time ago and is generally more comfortably dealt with online, on the whole anyway.

But what’s this?

Not one, but two of the most anticipated new cafe openings of the year so far have chosen just North of this very area to open up, historically a patch more accustomed to the depressing bilge of the coffee chain giants than anything decent. For the first time that I can recall, we’re suddenly spoilt for choice in the West End. Well ok, we’re not quite in West London territory yet, and just this little bit of it for now, but spilling down to Soho and beyond. But still! I’m not remotely discounting the marvellous job Kaffeine have done, holding the fort on Great Titchfield Street, setting a strong and steady example for as long as I’ve been remotely interested in coffee. I have a LOT of respect for what they’re doing, but there’s only so far one cafe can service and it’s inevitably busting out of it’s seams with happy customers whenever I visit.

Welcome the new guard….

Curators Coffee Gallery now sits resplendent on Margaret street, this second site feels as different as one can from it’s original, The Coffee Studio, a tiny, almost hole in the wall, city location and one I’m sad to have visited infrequently due to it’s city location and hours. This new site throws out there a starkly contrasting curve ball; a truly magnificent space, that’s so much the antithesis to the current moody fit-outs as to appear completely fresh. There’s no exposed brickwork to be seen here, no unfinished edges or rustic features, simply clean expanses and a beautiful curation of details with flourishes of greenery.

The teal of the studio has been replaced with deep aubergine, an undercurrent that runs throughout the cafe, starting as a muted mosaic tile detail and exploding in dramatic splashes as a pimped EK43 grinder and La Marzocco, then flowing unrestrained down to the basement as a dramatic purple staircase. Everything else has been kept neutral to strike a balance, the lower ground area is calm and stark in contrast, a soothing space with a simple table and chairs set up. Upstairs is more playful; a menagerie of coffee toys, small army of copper Hario kettles and scales, and a stunning dark wooden bar that’s engulfed by a flock of cubist butterfly tiles that flitter up the walls and across the floor freely. Bar design is courtesy of, regular now on the cafe build out scene, Made By Jason and his team, and it’s impressive.

Coffee is by Nude, including a special espresso blend that’s rich and viscous in texture. Actually the menu is one of the most interesting I’ve seen yet in London, a mixture of classics with not so common items like matcha latte and cold brews, with some curious sounding coffee and tea twists on punches and iced drinks. Food is worth a look in too, I had a great toasted sandwich and having seen the not inconsequential facilities downstairs, I reckon there’s scope for much more yet…

I find the space a real breath of fresh air and I believe a welcome and notable addition to the area and the coffee scene in general. There’s something of a fantastical secret garden about the cafe that’s enchanting, captivating, and I look forward to hibernating within it’s walls often.

The latest Workshop coffee bar marks number four for the brand, second this year, and in quick succession from site number three in Holburn. It causes me to raise an eyebrow as to whether this is, perhaps, the beginning of a larger roll out? At any rate, it feels like a step up for the roaster. The bar itself, and it is a bar rather than a cafe in my opinion, is my favourite of theirs so far, a real triumph of embracing the mood of their Victorian era location (something that has become their ‘thing’ along with a lack of wifi) and of function colliding exquisitely with form; it’s a polished little gothic gem.

A narrow, but long, entrance area facilitates fantastic barista customer engagement across the bar and I’m surprised and delighted to find Gareth, ex Prufrock, amongst the super friendly team. The options here are to either takeaway, linger along the bar, spill out onto the miniature forecourt or lean nonchalantly on the Victorian railings outside. Movement is organic and fluid, and the room at the back, though lovely, is for those swimming against the tide, pushing against what is a natural design led reflex, but also a great spot for an efficient meeting. There’s a strong Italian aesthetic here dictated by that style of service, designed for bar propping (though obviously not in coffee style) but also in detailed design flourishes; check the flashy accents of gold; gilt taps and inlaid seams in the counter and gorgeous decorative shelf top tiles.

I find I can’t tear my eyes from the bar itself, like a moth to a flame, I’m sucked into the gleaming granite that shimmers and sparkles with years of history, present as semi precious quartz highlights of teal that mimic the walls behind. Doesn’t appear it’s just me or that it’s that fatal, that bar appearing to act as a magnet, customers drawn to it as they enjoy their chosen beverage, chatting happily and rapt to the baristas on shift. The menu here is simple and well executed; an excellent Cult of Done espresso and aeropress made filter are as good as I’m used to from these guys.

I can see myself coming here often, for a session at that bar or, in more brooding moments, to secrete myself in a secluded nook in that quiet space at the back for a gathering of my thoughts against the tide, perhaps a spot of writing, as I fancy those creatives of the area might have done many years before now.

Mothers Milk are the badass underdogs of the speciality coffee world, in the absolute sweetest possible way, their self depreciating humour and casual attitude a foil for some of the best coffee in the area. Don’t listen to what Will and James might tell you, these guys really do know their stuff and have the funniest coffee twitter account and website to boot. Their tag line ‘serving alright coffee in an already saturated market’ probably tells you all you need to know with my pre cursor.

Hidden within the grid of Fitzrovia, on Little Portland Street, Mother’s Milk is a tiny coffee bar masquerading as Rosalind’s Kitchen; the landlord who remains owner of the property and won’t let go of her twee decor or name. I like it – that is, the juxtaposition of this pair of world weary and angst ridden baristas against confectionary pink, it tickles me. A beautifully succinct menu is produced via Victoria Arduono lever machine, thanks to Prufrock, and filter is made on an aeropress. Beans are from Munich roaster JB Kaffee and visiting is always an absolute joy. For these are not as sullen as they would have you believe and manage to effortlessly charm every customer that enters their threshold.

I love that the simplicity of the set up goes to prove you really don’t need anything more; no gimmicks or fancy fit outs, though all of that’s very nice. Here are just two very nice boys making and serving very delicious coffees in a pink cake shop, that doesn’t sell any cake.

Back to the location and there *is* coffee further out West; the second Workshop site on Wigmore Street, branches of Fernandez and Wells in South Kensington and now Duke Street, Talkhouse on Portobello Road and Taylor Street Baristas in Mayfair but they’re few and far between in comparison to the saturation we have East.

Could this be the start of an infiltration, a marked onslaught against the Starbucks and Costas for the wealth of business in the area? Or is it just coincidence?

Only time will tell, but it seems note worthy at least and I’m happy to have an increasingly rich tapestry of cafes from which to choose from in whichever part of town I happen to be in.

Anyone wanting to shake things up South of the river would be most welcome!

 

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Little Boreka Pies from the Honey & Co Book

I try to limit the number of cook books I buy these days, it’s all too easy to click the ‘buy’ button on Amazon, or to become seduced in the flesh by the heady scent of virgin pages and gloriously styled images within the latest must have. I find increasingly that my likelihood to cook from a book is inverse to the number glaring down at me from my bookshelf, piling up almost of their own accord in corners around the flat. Feeling overwhelmed with all of their collective content, it’s not unknown for me to barely glance at, not even noting recipes of interest, a book before it is placed, guiltily, out of sight. No more. I’m now frugal with my purchases and overloading of information, only giving in to those that I’m convinced will enhance my time in the kitchen and inspire within me fresh verve.

The Honey & Co book, I knew immediately, would be one of those and I’ve had it on pre-order since I became aware of it’s existence. The restaurant is one of the few that I regularly return to for it’s warmth, which radiates from passionate and lovely owners Itamar and Sarit, as well as the beautiful food itself. I spent a chilled weekend dipping in and out of the book, finding myself warm to the couple and their endeavours all over again, each chapter starting with an anecdote that is at once charming, endearing and honest. Each of the Middle Eastern recipes is designed for home, not dumbed down at all but vibrant excerpts from the heart of a happy kitchen. It’s written with such obvious love, and exuberant love of food, that I think you’d struggle not to transfer at least a small iota from the pages into your kitchen at other end. I fully expect this to become splashed and worn in the way all good cook books should, in exactly the way my Jerusalem book now looks.

I’m not a pastry lover (I know – sorry!) but for some reason the little Boreka looked like just the sort of thing I relish making. I start with their suggestion of a spinach, feta and dill filling topped with a smattering of nigella seeds but add some chopped soppressata to the mixture for a hint of meaty spice. The pastry, rich with butter and double cream, puffs up beautifully, creating a light, melty and crisp pocket for whatever filling takes your fancy really. I like the idea of wild mushrooms and cream or smokey aubergine with spicy n’duja.

I bought some plumptiously ripe cherries at Brockley Market on Saturday which gave me a good excuse to use some of the dough for a sweet twist. I macerated some of the cherries, chopped, in a little sugar, then put a teaspoon on top of a small dollop of ricotta before folding and sealing, and finishing with a sprinkle of sumac spice for a zesty bite.

I fully intend to delve more into the book over the next few weeks, and expect many of the recipes will easily slip into my own kitchen repertoire.

I bought my copy of Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East from Amazon

 

 

 

 

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Revisiting New York & Williamsburg

I forget how vast the states are and how different each of the towns and cities within it  feels. I felt it when I first visited Williamsburg last Christmas, an eery stillness I hadn’t come across before, so far removed from friendly Seattle and busy, noisy Boston. Arriving in Brooklyn, fresh from Seattle I get hints again of that blanket of quiet, like the calm before a storm. I can’t quite put my finger on the cause. I don’t know why I should expect that it’s so different to what I’m used to; perhaps in part it’s due to the expansive blue skies and sprawling sidewalks and roads, a more languid pace of life, though probably not right here, that’s so very polar to the tiny, bustling and (always in my mind anyway) green and freshly rained-on roads back at home. Pounding the wide streets of Williamsburg I’m sharply aware of each sound, as though it’s fought to break through a broad muffle, like a bullet through cotton wool; the roll and clatter of a skateboard, the sharp beeping of taxi horns, the faint rustle of leaves, the constant woosh then short rattle of the wheels that follows in line with each of my steps.

Finding myself in this still unfamiliar city, fresh off the overnight flight (sans sleep) and unable to check in until late afternoon I find comfort in the unknown familiarity of a coffee shop who’s name I’ve seen on Twitter on numerous occasions but one I didn’t get the chance to visit on my last trip. Dragging my cumbersome and growing luggage, I head towards the closest Gorilla Coffee to where I’m staying and plot at the end of it’s long bar for the foreseeable, my simple plan; to imbibe all the stimulants in my close proximity. Like a mirage, I spy Donut Plant doughnuts in the small glass counter at the shop front and quickly order lest they disappear before my eyes. I add a liquid, filter brew injection to my sugar order of Meyer lemon and poppyseed and retreat to my corner clutching WiFi gold.

Gorilla turns out to be the perfect spot to hibernate and deal with a burgeoning inbox, I don’t find the coffee perfect to my tastes but it’s certainly good enough and the atmosphere is accepting, soothingly dark against the bright outside and I’m left unbothered.

I find my Williamsburg Airbnb apartment easily enough, my second time using the fab website and I carry out what I expect will become a regular routine; methodically I check inside cupboards, look behind curtains and underneath furniture, I’m not even sure what for, anything unsavoury I guess. This is downstairs from where the owners live and I’m unnecessarily panicked by a door, locked from their side, that must be at the bottom of their stairs, and another that opens into a garden, both hidden behind curtains. I’m equally spooked by a sinister and looming boiler cupboard door that I automatically shunt my suitcase up against to contain any ghouls or the like that may have taken residence.

Feeling bairly able to hold my head up, I’m determined not to let my first, and only one of two nights here go to waste. I had met Jenny from the NYC based blog Melting Butter at an event in London’s L’Entrepot and we agreed there and then to hook up when I was in her ‘hood. Not sure where to hit up in this expansive city, I decide to stay local, not really relishing the thought of travelling, and ask for her suggestions; Reynards is her quick response and I’m endeared by the fox on their website that reminds me of a London favourite, the Talented Mr Fox. I do love a bar, this one has a rooftop one, and although I have sights on Roberta’s for pizza or Mission Cantina for Mexican, I snap at her suggestion, my rationale being that I don’t really fancy hanging around on my own waiting for a seat at either, not something I would have minded ordinarily with company.

I somehow manage to cock the whole thing up and feel like my one night out in Williamsburg was a bit of a wasted one.

It all starts so well; I walk into the handsome, glitzy room of Reynard’s within The Wythe Hotel and perch at it’s bar, faintly dazzled by the dressed-up clientele and expansive warehouse-ey room with brick walls, sky high ceilings, glamorous lights and epic windows. The menu, which is heavy with brasserie classics looks good but I fancy a drink and a nibble so order what I think is going to be a snacky cheese and greens plate, on the menu as ‘stracciatella, multigrain, ramps’. I’m not expecting and am rather disappointed to be delivered the other meaning for the sloppy Italian cheese; that being a clean tasting vegetable broth that’s very nice but not really what I had in mind.

The negroni is good as is the barman who engages in some gin chat with me as I people watch, this informal bar area leads out to a more austere dining room setting towards the back of the building. The main reason Jenny has recommended this place is that the view from the rooftop bar is supposed to be stunning. I’m afraid I never got the chance to see for myself as I have failed to bring my passport along for ID purposes (despite being served without it at the downstairs bar!).

Disgruntled, I take this second disappointment in my stride and head back to a bar that’s look and menu had caught my attention on my way up, The Counting Room, this was to prove to be my third and final mistake. Despite being fairly empty, I reasoned it *was* Monday night, I join a gaggle of others at the bar, squeezing into a spot in the corner. I order a pressed sandwich from that menu that had caught my eye, a truffled grilled fontina cheese and ham number in particular, I also order devils on horseback, just for the sake of it. The room sure looks the part but I can’t shake off a negative vibe that permeates, I select a drink and try and shrug it off. My Hide and Seek looks good on paper, a mix of Old Tom gin, Bols Genever, Campari, Aperol, Cocchi Ross, black pepper tincture and rhubarb bitters, but doesn’t quite work to my palate, the black pepper a touch too aggressive. My toastie is depressingly cardboard like, the dates at least are good. I think my chagrin is due mainly to the disinterested lack of engagement from the barman which really feels like it lets the place down, maybe it’s better at weekends. I’ll never know….

I shuffle off with my tail between my legs, popping into a supermarket on the way to Instagram weird and wonderful American snacks. As you do….

Rising late, and tired, I’m determined today will be better. I grab a caffeine fix at so so Gimme Coffee and entirely confuse myself trying to find the correct subway line at a single station name which has two completely different locations on opposite ends of the same, lengthy road….confusing much?! I finally make it to the bottom of East Village and wander up to Box Kite on a number of recommendations. It’s the best cafe I visit on this trip; small and unassuming, unpretentious, unfancy and warm, and staffed entirely by girls on my visit. It’s simple done very well indeed and the coffee is excellent; I have a Madcap espresso that is served with a tiny biscuit on the side. I quiz the barista on good spots to eat in the neighbourhood and generally gather myself together.

I nearly try somewhere new, nearly, but in the end can’t resist the Momofuku noodle bar as I walk past, then quickly back again. It’s relatively late in the afternoon and I easily get a seat at the bar. Curiosity has me ordering ‘nugget’ potatoes from the section of the menu labelled Spring and they arrive in a bowl, the potatoes crushed and fried with beetroot, soft onion, pine nuts on a smear of yoghurt. It’s a dish I’d make at home. I umm and aghh over a couple of the mains, swinging between a special of pork belly, something that does sound pretty special, and a spicy dish that encourages warnings from the waiter. Spicy wins, I want fiery heat and this noodle dish, that is alarmingly hidden beneath giant mounds of honeyed cashews, shizuan spiced sausage and spinach, is mouth tingling but not overly so, and the abundant chilli oil makes the spinach a touch too oily for my liking. It’s a bowl so generous I uncharacteristically actually leave some, worrying that I’ll never make it on to dinner, no matter how late, otherwise.

I’ve arranged to meet Jenny for a coffee and enjoy a big mug of batch filter Stumptown at Third Rail while we catch up. Another meh, if I’m honest. The coffee not the chatter. The chatter prompts us to move the conversation on to cocktails, where she guides me over to Angel’s Share, an actual speakeasy style bar, through an undisclosed doorway, and past a Japanese casual dining joint. The bar itself is tiny and feels a little like an ornate balcony with windows over looking the East Village and watched over by a mural of angels; it’s all at once faintly exotic and naughty with an air of faded opulence. We sit at the end of the bar and both order a whisky based cocktails that is presented in a cloud of heady smoke, a second is slightly less successful as I don’t like that aggressive cinnamon flavour the Americans seem to love, forgetting momentarily they don’t treat it in the same way as us Brits. A snack of chicken meatballs with a very soft egg as a dip is a delicious revelation.

It turns out what’s supposed to be a date night between Jenny and her fiancé has been hijacked by the presence of his best friend, this suits us perfectly as gives me an excuse to join them. We decide on Navy, a hip new restaurant in SoHo which doesn’t have a table until around 9pm but works out well, as we drink wine until we’re ready to make a move, then loiter at the bar with cocktails when we get there. A closer inspection of the cocktail menu, heavy on sherry and vermouths, reveals zero spirits, apparently this is not uncommon in newer spots due to heavy liqueur licensing laws. My Lower Manhatten, a mix of Fino, cream sherry, Antica Formula and barrel aged bitters is very drinkable and doesn’t suffer overly from the lack of gin (I would have liked gin) and I LOVE the ice crusher that sits aat one end of the raw bar; a hand operated, be-wheeled beast. Once seated, between the four of us, we pretty much manage to order the full menu, which although billed as a seafood restaurant that reinforces the ‘navy’ theme of its moniker is easy for me to navigate.

Fried sweetbreads with mustard mayo and cubed radish are addictive as is a little vegetable dish of mushrooms and fiddleheads with yoghurt. Tiny crispy gnocchi with charred ramp and a poached egg would make a perfect brunch dish and a sharing plate of sliced pork chop with preserved peach and chicory is a real triumph for feasting. The only disappointments are the bread, no artisan stuff here, just a strangely thick slice of brioche and the desserts don’t really enthral us either.

Everything about Navy is so Polpo it could be straight from Russell Norman, though I suppose this is meta for me as my reference point for the inception of this style is a bit inverse. The night finishes messily in a dive bar where I force them to make me Negroni’s and feed the juke box an endless selection of Seattle favourites much to the chagrin of the younger patrons.

I awake the following morning with the hangover of absolute doom and attempt to drink it under at Blue Bottle Roastery, I love the space here and the two filter mugs I sink are excellent but don’t sufficiently do the job alone, so I shuffle along to Egg at the recommendation one of the baristas. I’m expecting a small and trendy, ramshackle, dude food (urgh) type brunch spot, so am somewhat taken aback by an elegant and clean white interior that’s calming and serene, with a menu I can’t begin to do justice in my fragile state. I order a special of pork belly hash that’s frustratingly delicious, a dainty plating again where I’m expecting dirty great portions, but I’m able only just to tentatively nibble my way through half before giving up entirely.

Fool. I disappoint myself sometimes quite frankly.

I flee (slowly and painfully) to the airport in torrential rain with a growing list of places I still need to return; Booker and Dax for creative cocktails akin to those made at The Talented Mr Fox and Peg and Patriot utilising similar distillation and clarifying processes; Death & Co and Dead Rabbit for more cocktails; The Cleveland for brunch and aforementioned Mission Cantina and Roberta’s.

No doubt I’ll be back before too long…

 

 

 

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Workshop Coffee Holborn

Since writing this piece for Caffeine Magazine, Workshop has now opened to much positive press. I managed to visit last weekend when they hosted the UK aeropress Championships in conjunction with Square Mile. The image below is of the UK Aeropress Champion, Gabrielle Von Koss, with the three judges; James Hoffman, James Bailey and Klaus Thomsen.

‘Australian export, St Ali, landed slap bang in the middle of London’s burgeoning third wave coffee scene three years ago, to welcome arms, an excitable fanfare, and a lavish party. However, things soon went awry and, after just a year, owner James Dickson and head of operations Tim Williams parted ways with the brand, quietly, stealthily rebranding. St Ali was re-born as Workshop Coffee, an honest reflection of their business and maybe a nod to the old textile factory they inhabit, with a graphically simple logo that has become synonymous with the roaster we’re all familiar with today. For some, the ghost of St Ali will always linger, perhaps in name only, with the Clerkenwell store

Right from the very beginning, the flagship Clerkenwell store, was never just a cafe, or even just a coffee emporium for local businesses, but a destination for the entire experience. The antipodean style food menu, a fusion of influences, draws quite the crowd; there’s, more often than not, a caffeine hungry queue creeping out of the door for their famous brunches each weekend. They’re one of the few cafes that manages to provide an all day service with panache, seamlessly shifting between breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in between (and if you haven’t tried their rare breed burger – you’re really missing a trick). Craft beer and a well sourced wine list wouldn’t look out of place in some of London’s better bars, but it’s their beans that show where their real talents lie.

Presiding over what you might be mistaken for thinking is now a blueprint for cafes and restaurants around town these days; urban cool, exposed brickwork, naked lights, and rather more uniquely, their living wall, is a 12kg, probat roaster. All of the beans are still roasted at the back of the cafe, amongst towers of hessian sacks, leaving you with no illusion where their focus lies; on roasting days customers become part of the process, finding themselves immersed in that intoxicating aroma, enhancing and reinforcing sips of their chosen beverage. This area is also where much of the quality control happens, and that means cupping; lots and lots of tasting, overseen by Head of Quality, James Bailey.

Their second site, the tiny coffee bar in Marylebone, opened shortly after the first and is a lesson in simplicity; an efficient little space in the heart of the West End. But, rather than continue to expand visibly, outwardly to the public, Workshop have been taking time to expand and regroup internally first, focussing on building a strong core team of staff and investing resources in training. This has allowed Tim Williams and Richard Shannon, head roaster, to travel to Central and South America and Africa to develop direct relationships with the farms, enabling them to source the very best beans sustainably. For example, Tim tells me he was able to purchase 250 bags of green beans from Ethiopia and Kenya on his most recent trip, where the previous year they’d bought just 20. This enables a certain level of buying power that just wasn’t available to them previously. In turn, this translates as a better understanding of their core product to all members of staff, which can be passed on to the customer, to create an all-round more coherent and informed experience.

Workshop Coffee may be seen as one of the most consistent roasters, knocking out a steady stream of delicious, clean, sweet, lightly and carefully roasted new harvests, but it’s also seen as one of the most expensive. Tim explains that their filter roasts are actually not that different in price to their competition, however, yes, their espresso blends, the constantly evolving, Cult of Done, are. This is because they source specifically to build a blend that tastes exceptional, rather than working back from a price point and buying their green beans on that basis. This is something he’s clearly proud of, he speaks with an obvious passion when telling me about the next two espresso blends, already lined up.

Workshop Coffee are clearly now at a point where they’re feeling strong enough as a brand to proactively expand and open up to the public. Towards the end of last year they launched classes aimed at home baristas, and now that they have Stuart Ritson looking after their wholesale division, this area is looking increasingly strong. Think of some of London’s best cafes and you’ll notice they’re serving Workshop Coffee; M1lk in Balham, Embassy East, Daily Goods in Kinoko Cycles and Rapha Cafe to mention a handful.

I ask how they maintain the integrity of their product in a retail environment that’s not their own, especially when those wholesale accounts are growing at an increasingly fast pace. James Dickson tells me “Working with great people and great cafes who care about the attention to detail that Workshop goes to in sourcing coffee, is often the best way to protect the integrity of your brand”. However, I’m rather more curious about those that aren’t necessarily as dedicated to serving the beans in a way that Workshop might be proud of.

Tim Williams is more pragmatic in his answer, telling me that whilst they provide full support, you can’t force anyone into training, that you’d be surprised how few people really respond well to a training program. At the end of the day Mr Olke Bire (an Ethiopian coffee farmer that grows particularly good quality beans) doesn’t care wether his beans are brewed well or not, for him they’re simply a commodity and he’s more concerned about providing for his family.

He also doesn’t feel they have anything to worry about when I casually touch on the current roaster wars that appear to be gaining in momentum for those of us watching in the wings. Tim calmly tells me of the combined years of experience the Workshop team have behind them, 15 of his own, and reiterates how heavily they’ve invested in quality control and staff training. Just because, he continues, “some of the new crop of roasters are using the terminology they’ve seen others use, doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing.” Maybe, he rationales, “it’s down to the fact we’re growing up, have families and mortgages now,” in answer to why there appears to be a turn for the serious and less of a sharing, caring feeling between them than there might once have been. It’s their livelihood after all.

So, the third Workshop site within the Amazon building on Holburn Viaduct is as different from the first two cafes as you will learn to expect. As part of a new build, the scope for the cafe has been almost unlimited and I get the impression it’s been very kid-in-a-sweet-shop territory, albeit if that kid had a very stylish and an on the verge of OCD neat vision and those sweets were very expensive pieces of kit. Here, they’ve pulled together the very finest equipment to create a dream working environment, perhaps more Tim’s vision than anyone else’s; his taste in bar design seemingly as clean as his taste in coffee. By the time you read this, there’ll have been a full week of training to get the team of baristas up to scratch and iron out any practical niggles, so that by the time they open, the cafe will operate like a well oiled machine.

More on that kit. When the Clerkenwell site originally opened, they hadn’t bargained for certain issues and London complications; we’re talking water here. Far from the water issues encountered at the first site, Holburn is more than prepared to do battle with London’s worst, with a large Bespoke Water RO system, the same system used in the states by the likes of Bluebottle and Handsome roasteries. It’s the first system in the UK and more than up to the challenge of handling the large water demand required for an incredibly impressive set-up working at full capacity. Perched in pride positions on the bar, poised and ready for action are a gleaming and glowing pair of La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machines’s, a pair of Marco Uber Boilers are located on two alternative points, there are also bulk brewers just out of sight. A whole artillery of Mazzer grinders, walls of steely dish and glass washers, fancy water taps, scales and other coffee paraphernalia provide back up for any possible coffee related situation.

Affable James Bailey’s eyes light up at the sheer range of new toys at his finger tips, he comments with childlike glee that it’s “just like Christmas”. Even Tim Williams cracks a smile when he gazes at the bar; a balance between precision workmanship and natural beauty, custom built for ease and efficiency of service.

Yes. That bar, shall we talk about the sheer beauty of vast expanses, sheer planes of Italian Calcutta marble, whispering coolly of elegance and of a polished finish. If you can tear your eyes away, forget just 50, the rest of the space is a million shades of grey, warming, just, to muted teal, with jewel like flashes of blue and silver to mimic the multi faceted logo. A thousand grey suits will, no doubt, finish the picture. The floor is a subdued natural wood, inlaid with white graphic tiles that again echo that diamond cut Workshop logo, the symbol for quality. The ceiling, encompassing all the intricate pipework, is whitewashed, the antithesis to the glossy detail at Clerkenwell. Caged lights illuminate back and side walls and an explosion of domed black light fittings create a feature towards the back of the cafe. The overall effect is that of sitting in a giant, organic, shimmering pebble; at once soothing, natural and sleek but cool and calming, perhaps exactly the counter balance to, what is to be, a frenetically busy service.

A wrought iron sliding door will be able to effectively splice the space in two, directly through the centre of the bar, allowing the back section to be hired out for meetings or events, complete with barista and bar. Seating is kept to a minimum, just 25 at the back, a combination of leather and grey upholstery, with standing tables towards the front and opposite the bar. I notice a vibrant yellow, go-faster stripe that turns out to be a bum rest for those queuing for their coffee. This is not designed to be a space for loitering.

The focus for Holburn is very firmly on creating an impressive, fluid coffee service, all attention is on high impact coffee making, serving as many people as possible their quality brew of choice. There will, of course, be a food offering; this is a busy city location, but it will be kept simple, not quite the succinct offering at Marylebone but a long way from the food service at Clerkenwell. For now. I’ve seen the kitchen area and it’s not inconsequential, there’s certainly scope to offer more, should the need arise. Increasingly processes are being brought in house wherever possible; laundry and food prep just two, another element to their all pervading desire for quality control. Control. Quality. Two words that are echoed many times when speaking with anyone from Workshop Coffee.

You can’t have failed to notice that it’s competition season for many baristas and I wonder aloud that Workshop have no staff entered. Tim explains that, aside from the time investment required for training, he feels that there’s too many of the ‘old guard’ still involved with the competitions, in his opinion holding things back. Ultimately, he doesn’t believe that winning comes with the prestige and opportunities it once did. He goes on to say that he wouldn’t stop any of their staff from entering, James Bailey is the reigning Brewers Cup Champion after all, but if, and when, they do, make no mistake; they’ll be in it to win it. There’s a glint in his eye that belies his smile, this man’s not joking and neither is his attitude to coffee.

You’ve probably heard the rumours of site number four already. It’s true. Tim confirms their 4th store will be just off Regents Street, in prime position to take on the corporate coffee world that is rife in the area. In keeping with the other three sites, the style and feel of the cafe will be dictated by it’s surroundings and also completely different to the previous cafes. So, think Regency era Victoriana then….’

I’ve now seen the next site on Fitzrovia’s Mortimer Street and very much look forward to it opening. It seems that area is becoming a sort of the new coffee hub, as we’ll see the second cafe from Curators opening around the same time, to join Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street, Mothers Milk on Little Portland Street, TAP on Rathbone Place and Dunnefrankowski at Sharps on Windmill Street (although I’ve heard rumours they may be on the move soon….).

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N’duja, Mozzarella and Basil Fritters

When toying with recipes, I often create a draft with notes in here that I might spend a week adding to and/or amending. I generally have a notion of what I want to make, it will then evolve as I bash it into shape, updating my notes here if I remember.

Although I loved last week’s fritter recipe, I wasn’t done with n’duja just yet and still harboured notions of the deep fried variety. Long weekends, sunny ones at that, or at least the glimmer of hope for warm rays to befit the season, conjure up holiday endorphins, for it’s rare that I actually go away to capture them abroad. Holidays being lazy days, I feel justified in eating what I fancy, which usually translates as non coherent meals, more likely a sequence of drinks and small bites, a sort of tapas style I guess.

I’ve just had to go back and change the title of this post as I entirely forgot to add one of the main ingredients (at least I’m honest!). These were supposed to have crushed broad beans in them, and I will certainly make them with next time. For some reason, they completely slipped my mind, and I spent the evening trying to compensate for the lack of green that was still apparent in my head like an itchy phantom limb. I found myself tearing up more and more basil to add into the mix and then serving with little bowls of green olives and fried padron peppers.

To be honest, the addition wasn’t missed, these aren’t supposed to be healthy, but they are tasty and accompany an ice cold martini superbly; molten cheese, fragrant basil and nuggets of fiery sausage. What’s not to love about that? I *will* attempt to remember the broad beans next time.

1 egg beaten

100g milk

100g plain flour

around 60g n’duja torn into pieces

1 125g ball mozzarella diced

couple of large handfuls of basil

salt and pepper

Slowly add the flour to the egg and milk, whisking until there are no lumps and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the n’duja, mozzarella, crushed broad beans if using, tear the basil leaves into pieces and stir until everything is coated in the mixture.

Heat a deep fat fryer or large pan with oil and drop spoonfuls of mixture into the hot oil, fry for around 2-3 minutes until the exterior is a golden brown and the centre is oozing and molten.

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Cauliflower & N’duja Fritters

Another weekend’s past and another Sunday where I drink coffee and write/work until my stomach springs into action and demands something to eat, whereby I have to get up, hit the shops and rustle up whatever that thing is. I’ve discovered there’s no point in planning, as it turns out my food cravings are whimsical as you like and fail to transfer across days/times. Unless, of course, it’s one of those ideas I’ve been harbouring and evolving all week, whereby the anticipation and creation of whatever dish it is can be almost juicier and more satisfying than in the eating, that is always over far too quickly.

This time it is fritters, prompted I’m not sure by what, they’re something never far from my kitchen, and I fancied cauliflower. A nice cauliflower and feta (I had some in the fridge) number sounded just the thing to fuel a Sunday spent procrastinating on the sofa. However a quick google for a recipe yielded tonnes of the little blighters and they immediately lost their attractiveness. Contrary, moi? Luckily a fridge excavation rewarded me with a slab of n’duja, bought from a stall at Borough the day before, which I’d promptly forgotten about, and so the following recipe was decided upon.

N’duja is a dream to cook with, lending a boisterous fiery and meaty kick to all manner of recipes. A comment from the lovely @SabrinaGhayour on Twitter that ‘anything n’duja touches turns to gold’ is nearly correct; she may have been commenting on the ingredients wonder qualities but in reality it also turns literally everything it comes into contact with an aggressively lurid orange. I almost add cheese to the mix but instead keep it simple with a smattering of nigella as I love their subtle flavour; the mild cauli and spicy Calabrian sausage need no help here, they’ve got each others culinary backs. I add cheese instead to a simple kitchen foraged salad of beetroot, feta, artichoke hearts and pea shoots.

Makes 2 portions

around 250g cauliflower

2 tablespoons plain flour

half teaspoon baking powder

1 egg beaten

around 30g n’duja

nigella seeds

seasoning

oil for frying

Break cauliflower into florets then boil for around 5 minutes, pat dry with kitchen towel then mash so it’s broken down into little pieces but not smooth. Put into a large bowl then and add the n’duja torn into tiny pieces, egg, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper and a handful of nigella seeds. Mix to combine.

Heat oil in a large pan, then scoop the mixture, in heaped spoonfuls into the pan, you should get around 6. Squish down to flatten then continue to fry until they’re cooked through and both sides are golden and crunchy.

Not bad at all with a chilled glass of rose on a sunny Spring day in London!

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Sandwiches – A Retrospective Post

In a state of slothful lethargy, it took a single image of a toastie from @Rocketandsquash to rouse me into action, out of the house and to the shops to procure some suitable ingredients. Of course, by this point, it was late on in the afternoon, I was a couple of coffees to the wind and not a fit state for a Sunday supermarket shop. I dithered and pottered up and down the isles, I bought all the ridiculous things you know not to when properly prepared for this sort of scenario. By the time I’d walked all of 100 yards or so to my local Waitrose and M&S, I’d spent the equivalent of a whole small family’s disposable income on unneccesaries; sweets and wine, cocktail making curiosities, expensive olives, hot sauces, fancy salts and olive oils. By the time I got home I was FAMISHED and it was nearly dinner time so I hastily assembled my chosen ingredients – sourdough loaf from M&S is the only loaf in my town to hold up in these circumstances (good crustage), some black truffle pesto from a jar, scrunchled up mortadella from the Waitrose deli counter, sliced artichoke hearts from another jar (those jars are destined to linger at the back of the fridge for the forseeable aren’t they?) and grated Lincolnshire Poacher from aforementioned deli counter.

I just about remembered to do what any good blogger does in these circumstances; I instagrammed my lunch.

Cue the best response for a pic I’ve taken to date so far. It’s all in that close-up buttered and seared crust and oozing cheese. I know, I know. It just so happens to be National Sandwich Week so I thought I’d pop it on here along with some past thoughts and ideas on the subject.

It was actually my fifth post, three years ago now where I vocalised my ‘Sandwich Love and a Quest‘ which was to be the very beginning of my, at first, tentative journey into coffee. It was simply, back then, a search for the best lunch spots, but you can see that over time this instigated in me a strong yearning to learn more about coffee and all it entails as I doggedly asked more questions and listened and absorbed, propped up at many a London coffee bar.

I fell in love with the trio of Fernandez & Wells stores at the time, the unbeatable sandwiches and some short and intriguing long blacks (yes, that’s what I drank back then). There are, of course, double that number of stores now as well as their Somerset House residency. I marvelled at the absolute perfection of Kaffeine, that still stands out as one of London’s greatest cafes, and Shaun, who won over so many customers behind that bar has now taken his charm outside and has his own brilliant Noble Espresso. I rhapsodised over the chelsea buns, banana bread and monte cristo sandwich at Foxcroft and Ginger, who’ve just opened a second site, but always found their coffee a touch hit or miss. I can only reminisce over the incredible F.A.T. Ultimate toasties at Dunnefrankowski at Sharps while drinking delicious coffee and eating whatever pop up is currently doing so and serving. Oh and they make a damn fine sarnie, and damn fine coffee, at my local Fee and Brown, of which there’s now a branch in Orpington, yes really.

I wrote about Raw Duck , the little sibling to Soho’s Duck Soup, when it opened in the Summer of last year, it met an undeserved early demise after a short few months of trading but has come back bigger and stronger than ever before right next to Lardo up at the top of London Fields. They have a proper kitchen this time around and massively increased space to play with and you’ll be pleased to hear the epic Dirty Bird sanger is back. I popped in recently for a look, I *didn’t* have a sandwich this time but I can confirm the harissa eggs are very good, as is the Provence 75. Caravan are looking after the coffee and I had a good chat to the barista on the day, it sounds like that’s shaping up nicely too. I love that the reincarnated restaurant has the same vivid custom orange espresso machine and cute concrete bar, except stretched, all the way down the length of the long room and around in a loop to provide seating all around the central area.

I fully intend to return for evening, to try more of that extended menu and their delicious sounding wine list, they even have a wine refilling station.

Toasties and wine, a heavenly pairing? They are at Sager & Wilde.

I made sandwiches too. There was the love it or hate it deep fried avocado one, the pumpkin doughnut bacon one, the Boxing Day one and the haggis one to name a few that I’ve blogged. Trust me, I’ve eaten many more.

I don’t usually cast my eye back, have never done one of those end of year blog round ups, but well, this is a subject close to my heart and clearly to many of yours too.

My friend Helen has written a quite brilliant entire book on the subject that I highly recommend you take a look at.

 

RawDuck on Urbanspoon

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Temecula and Seattle

Since I started selling products manufactured out of a town called Temecula, situated between San Diego and Los Angeles, I’ve come across just one person who’s ever heard of the place, and so I had very limited expectations from a tourist perspective (pretty dreamy work jaunt though, so not complaining!). I was only there for a night and a half, so didn’t put too much pressure on that part of trip, expecting it to pass in an all too brief blur of sunshine and workshop. I was right. I have also never come across anything quite like it. In the midst of avocado farms, micro breweries and vineyards sits the peculiar Old Town; a miss mash of original buildings and mock-ups to resemble something straight from the wild west, complete except for horse drawn carriages, tumbleweed and the cowboys themselves. The impression I get is distinctly odd, it feels like a Disney resort town, populated with a mix of holiday makers and local youth boozing it up in awkward harmony. I wander in a daze past much merry making on sunday evening, but tiredness overcomes me on that first night, after the longest day I think I’ve endured, encompassing an early start, lengthy flight and a confusing six hour journey back in time. I settle for an easy option – a Denny’s diner take-out of philly cheese steak omelette served with hash brown, not the first time I’ll say this here – ‘looked gross but pretty much hit the spot’; it’s packed up for me, without question, like giant plane food that I just about manage to feed into my face whilst sat sloth-like in bed watching unfamiliar tellie before losing myself to zzzz’s.

The following day, I have my first, to my recollection, American sandwich shop experience, it’s one that induces a panic prickle of perspiration that pierces air con cool as I listen to the customer before me easily reel off his own complex order. My garbled attempt, whereby I’m sure I mismatch breads, fillings and dressings to much hilarity to those behind me, is delivered as an absolute beast of a plate. I congratulate myself on my half sandwich order as it’s still bigger than most UK equivalent wholes, whilst wondering how to squish it into my gob (I resort to weaponry); marbled rye with turkey, bacon, swiss, a proper plate full of salad and a bucket of diet coke.

Later, determined to experience at least one evening out in this strange town I venture out for an early dinner, taking recommendations and company, from local and owner of the business I’m here to visit. The Public House has a lively outdoor back yard which we head straight out to, bypassing whatever might be inside, headstrong in my desire to soak up as much sun before my transit to rainy Seattle as humanly possible, we perch on stools at a tall table underneath unnecessary, but cosy all the same, lamp heaters. I watch bemused as my giant plastic wine goblet is filled and then our waiter upturns the rest of the bottle rather than take it away; I must have nearly a pint of the red stuff, it lasts me all evening. We both choose a kobe beef burger, cooked correctly to order and smothered in a thick cloak of mushrooms, cheese and garlicky caramelised leeks. My only complaint is at the expense of an over large and dull bun and the slightly strangely seasoned fries. The US knows how to do a burger though huh?! A couple of hours of kip and frantic emailing session preludes a dazed flight across to Seattle.

Although I have a number of recommendations for Seattle, I’m in a similar state of lack of expectations, mainly because I haven’t had time to indulge in the sort of googling and planning I’d ordinarily prefer to bestow upon a trip, in order to whip myself into the necessary frenzied state of excitement. I do, however, have stowed tightly in my laptop bag, a printed article from Dinehard and the latest issue of Imbibe, grubby around the edges of my soon-to-be-destination section. No, my exuberance at visiting stems primarily from the simple association with that heady music of my youth and the birth of, now vilified, Starbucks; music and coffee; an evocative and soulful combo for this girl.

The most frequently and urgently proffered bar suggestion is for Canon , so with deft and cunning skill I keenly swing our party towards a visit on our first night out, reasoning that if it’s as good as I hope there’ll be time to return. An inconsequential front seems to ward off unworthy passers by, on what I’d learn is the hip part of town on Capitol Hill that’s populated by plenty more bars and restaurants sharing space as it does with University grounds. That diminutive front belies an interior that I immediately knew would win me over; an epic wall of bottles, reaching from floor to tin ceiling, shimmers and whispers behind a long bar, seeming to goad and tease the very Earth to quiver. A self proclaimed whisky and bitters emporium, I’m actually impressed with the range of other spirits, vermouths and liqueurs. Pure prohibition in style, the room is decked out in dark wood and antiques, there’s a gramophone in the bathroom that plays patchy radio stories on loop, though I can’t decipher, or forget, quite what.

The drinks menu is an impressive compilation of riffs on many of my favourites that truly challenges my powers of decision making, and in a highly unusual turn of events I’m not remotely tempted to order off menu. I start with a Fighattan that takes some beating, a mix of bourbon, cocchi torino, taverna, fig and boker’s bitters garnished with my now beloved double cherry. Move onto a silky martini; a dramatic version of the classic made with an old english gin, colin blanc, orange bitters, liquid nitrogen and a lemon twist that arrives in a flourish of ice cold smoke. I finish this session with a triplet of negroni’s (how could I not order a Negroni Experiment?!), a comparison of the drink made respectively with rum, rye and classic gin, they make me pretty happy indeed, every cocktail should come in multiples…! My friends are equally delighted with their aged old fashionds that come in dinky whisky bottles, but in retrospect would possibly have preferred a glass and ice.

Not only are the drinks here epic but the food appears to match in it’s appeal; propped up at the bar, front seats to the sometimes dramatic cocktail making action we sample a selection of those snacks. Pork belly buns with apple slaw are as good as any I’ve had; foie gras panna cotta is a playful dish that incorporates pineapple coulis, mint gel and peanut brittle; hanger tartare is a great example of it’s kind. I mourn baguette with truffle butter, marrow with smoked gremolata, carrot fritters with ginger and paprika aioli and that US menu stalwart of roasted brussel sprouts. It’s ok, I’m already engineering another trip in my head, it’s taking shape quite nicely.

Instead, we decide to move on and take our barman’s advise to lope around the corner to Quinns, a rowdy bar/restaurant with distinctly less genteel vibes and large goldfish bowl effect windows through which to observe. From either side. Taking a seat again at the bar we three order unhealthily as you like; fish and chips, wild boar sloppy joe and foie gras frites respectively. My mess of chips (not the best frankly but so obliterated with topping it’s almost irrelevant) is piled high with shaved foie gras and foie sauce, clearly not decadent enough, I request a duck egg. Oooof. No, it’s not remotely an attractive dish but, oh my, is it tasty. I can’t resist ordering us a comparatively dainty plate of cauliflower florets with capers, endive and mint, doused in meyer lemon, it’s a dish that I expect will find it’s way onto my own dinner table soon. Cocktails here are not really worth writing home about.

Of course I manage to swing a second visit to Canon on our penultimate evening, whereby we share an excellent little pizza topped with maroccan spiced lamb sausage, roasted red pepper, feta, mint and yoghurt. I go off piste with a longer and sweeter drink than I’d normally pick but am rewarded with the cutest delivery and an unusual take on the Last Word, here a Sparkling version of gin, maraschino, green chartreuse and lime. We’re accidentally brought a Swagger, or was it Hanky Panky? In any case it doesn’t last long.

Canon doesn’t feel a million miles from one of my London favourites, wine bar Sager & Wilde, with it’s lazy bedroom slatted lighting, bar seating and attentive, tailored service; I imagine this is what a cocktail bar from the pair might be like. Regardless, it’s right up my street and if we had one in London, I’d be a regular. It would be sure to vie for my attention, jostling with the likes of The Talented Mr Fox, Happiness Forgets, Satan’s Whiskers, Ruby’s, Nola and the new Pearl’s at The Cat and Mutton.

On a local recommendation for good sea food, we hit Steelhead Diner, overlooking Pike Place Market and adorned with fly fishing motifs, it seems a good choice. Whilst my companions tuck into chowder and mussels and everything I abhor, I embarrass them by ordering a very good chicken sandwich indeed, with some of the best chips I’ve ever tasted. I’m not so keen on the local gin I’ve chosen for my martini, but no worries, I’ll try again at the next joint. Following the stairs down towards the market, we chase an early dinner with drinks at Il Bistro . Although we don’t eat anything, I can highly recommend for cocktails if the guy pictured below is working. I start with a martini made with another local gin, this time a highly successful version made with Voyager, after which we decide we fancy something a bit different. Not sure quite what, this fabulous character (sorry – I’ve forgotten his name) comes to sit with us until he’s picked our brains and then delivers three well thought out, individually paired and balanced drinks.

Zig Zag bar is another I’ve been hankering after and so I’m pig headed enough to shoe horn in a trip here too on this final night in Seattle, scooting across the road, further towards the harbour and down more steps. A stern warning of a wait is in fact just 10 minutes or so before we’re ensconced in our own booth and again awaiting a new triplet of individually designed and successful drinks. I could get used to this….

Oh, and if you’re into rum then a visit to Rumba ought really to be on the cards, not ordinarily my thing but we were there for one of the many coffee parties about town that week and I can honestly say I’ve never seen a rum list remotely as extensive as the one here. I indulged in my first ever daiquiri (I know!) and a very sexy take on a rum old fashioned.

I didn’t visit nearly as many coffee or lunch spots as I’d hoped to, mainly because I was at the SCAA Symposium followed by the show for the duration of my stay. That’s not to say I didn’t try lots of coffee anyway, including many US roasts I’d never come across before, so nothing to complain about there! I did make it up to Stumptown on Capitol Hill one morning for coffee and doughnut and I was again reminded, from back to my last trip to the states, how much more slick in general coffee operations are out here. Maybe that’s unfair and it’s largely down to the grander scale? Each cafe seems geared up to cater to a far vaster audience, each one spaced out further than the tight network London has, and what I’m used to…

Dunno, but anyway, service was faultless, and delivered with what appeared to be a genuine smile, and when they mix up my filter brew, they insist my espresso is on them. Filter is served your choice; as a pour over, aeropress or self service batch. No biggie. No drama. No song and dance. My french toast doughnut is the best I have on this trip, I don’t know who makes them, but it’s a cake style, moist, spicy with a sugary glaze that is everything I want for breakfast/brunch with my coffee. They have a fancy cold brew beer tap style dispenser and also roast on site. Atmosphere is laid back and I’m joined by a mix of clientele, all the way from those taking meetings to runners gagging for a caffeinated pit stop to students from the nearby uni.

I attempt to stop by Victrola on Pike Street, but after some stern arguments with Google maps and consequently a later than planned arrival, I manage a short 5 minutes in the queue before deciding it’s time to head off to the show. Shame as I’m told it’s a great spot, I can vouch for the space, large and lofty, but sadly can’t comment on the coffee.

During my brief stay I also manage to scarf a couple of cuban sangers, a french dip sarnie at the sandwich shop underneath the Washington State Convention Centre, eat chicken potstickers, beef bulgari bowls, martini’s and tempura bacon(!) at Dragonfish across the road (great happy hour menus), some highly dodgy negronis and a cherry blossom doughnut from Top Pot that was sadly not as tasty as it was pretty looking and sounding.

My resounding impression of Seattle, after five short days, is just incredibly welcoming; nearly every person I meet, from passers-by on the street to those doing their job in the service industry, genuinely seem like couldn’t have gone out of their way to be more helpful. It feels small enough that I’d love to return to explore further, get more of a feeling as to what it’s like as a local, as though that might actually be possible.

Oh, and I fully indulged in a good old wallow through old memories watching Pearl Jam Twenty on the plane out of there.

Public House on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Canon on Urbanspoon

Quinn�s on Urbanspoon

Steelhead Diner on Urbanspoon

Il Bistro on Urbanspoon

Stumptown Coffee on Urbanspoon

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