I’d like to start by saying this post is sponsored by the humble, and severely underated by me, coat. Without one I would have been a cold and miserable girl this bitterly cold weekend and certainly wouldn’t have stayed out and about for as long as I did on Saturday. Goodness knows why it’s taken me quite so long to give in to this most pedestrian of purchases, I’m fairly sure my Mum never let me out of the house without one, but since becoming an adult (ha!) I’ve never quite managed to get a grip on dressing weather appropriately. I’ve been known to wear my beloved flip flops well into October/November and even now where them to the gym at the weekend, in lieu of a proper coat, I’ve spent years swathed in layer upon woolly layer of fabric in attempt to stave out the chill. Yet lo, all I needed was one thing, this worn over anything and I’m all toasty, ready to battle anything the outside has to hurl at me. That’s me thoroughly sold to this most fantastical of creations!
My birthday is right at the end of November and it’s become traditional for the boy to buy me an advent calendar so I can eke out the celebrations a little longer, even better if it’s one containing chocolate as this years Lindt one does. However the boy was well and truly trumped by the kind people at Niederegger who sent me the best advent calender EVER. Not only is it an attractive looking green and gold Christmas tree shape, but it weighs in at a hefty 400g. I’m only on day two, but so far so impressive, behind each door is not just a token treat, but a proper large sized marzipan chocolate, and being Niederegger it’s great quality, their marzipan is rich and almondy and never too sweet. I didn’t know this even existed so as a big fan of the stuff you can only imagine how excited I was to receive this. The boy’s going to seriously struggle to beat this next year.
Saturday started with a trip to Portobello Market, I’ve not been for years and I’m ibstantly reminded why as I try and navigate myself through heaving crowds and walk as blinkered as possible past shops full of tempting antiques, I’m dying to stop and look at pretty crockery but resist (just). No, I’m drawn here for just two things on this bitter Saturday. Firstly Electric Donuts, this is part of a relaunch of the Electric Diner from the Soho House group, where incidentally I’m attending a dinner tonight, so no doubt more of that in another post. The donut (their spelling not mine) bar is in the foyer of the Electric Cinema, a charming building and London’s oldest cinema. As the diner has teamed up with chef Brendan Sodikoff of Chicago restaurant Au Cheval, the donut concept is a take on the Doughnut Vault there.
It’s very sweet, and far more simplistic than I’m expecting, really just a till and chest of doughnuts on the back wall with a batch coffee brewer on the side. What makes it is the chocolate box touches; lots of dark wood, shelves are stacked with antique plates and old fashioned sweetie jars, branding is kept retro and candy striped waxed paper is a recurring theme. Out of a daily three flavour options I go for an easy decision of pistachio, over cinnamon stack and chocolate, the previous days birthday cake flavour may have caused more of a furrowed brow. Coffee is, I believe, from Caravan and commendably the only option is filter, mine tastes a little ‘stewed’ but I imagine with a little tweaking it’ll be better than anything nearby, a batch brew is consistent once dialled. I pull my little ring doughnut out of it’s bag later on my long walk to Bermondsey, and I really enjoy it, it’s more ‘cakey’ in texture than the doughnuts I’m used to but still light and not too sweet, the glaze is delicately pistachio flavoured but backed up by a crunchy, salty topping of pistachios pieces that satisfies my sweet/savoury love. I wonder if they’ll be doing any filled versions….
So, the second reason I’m uncharacteristically drawn this far west is to try a friend and fellow blogger’s latest venture. Operating out of the courtyard of The Portobello Star, Louis and friend are serving well sourced, artisan hot dogs as Wild Dogs. I’m pleasantly surprised, not the biggest hot dog fan, these are made from great quality Gloucester pork, provide that essential ‘snap’, and nestle into a bun that looks a little dull at first but is in fact light and fluffy and pulls the simple components together beautifully. These are tentative first steps to ensure a solid, quality offering, with more elaborate toppings and different locations to come. Definitely one to watch.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Marshmallowists stall on the other side of the doorway have some incredible looking mallows, will definitely need to try these another time when I’m not stuffing my face with donuts and dogs.
From Notting Hill I walk all the way to Bermondsey (partly to at least burn off a bit of that doughnut) to Village East where the bar have set up a temporary Chowder Shack, fully equipped with makeshift bar, to entice locals into their handy alley. Of course the London public being somewhat cynical, they tell me they struggle to give away FREE clam chowder and beer. Really! Still, they managed to give away all the chowder by the time I get there, but I do enjoy a couple of plastic cups of beer whilst warming frozen fingers under their outdoor heater. Another to keep your eye on as there’s talk of a repeat shacks.
From here I take a slow walk to the Southbank where I meet the boy for a festive stroll around the Christmas markets. We imbibe much mulled wine but fail somewhat in the food stakes, I have in mind the cheesy potatoey, sausagey goodness I’ve seen at recent German markets but can’t quite find what I want here. We settle for a rather good Polish sausage, pickle and saurkraut box to share and stave off hunger before hunting down dinner.
Oh yes, it’s a Gordon’s night. You must be familiar with Gordon’s Wine Bar? If not, it’s the slightly seedy looking bar on the stretch leading to Embankment Station. It’s a genuine gem, I’ve found myself here many many times for just one last glass of wine before jumping on the tube home, it also has a cheese board option that I’ve only recently taken advantage of; for £8.80 you choose 2 different cheeses, I always ask for the stinkiest, you get a ridiculous portion of each (I’m talking at least 125g of each, none of this matchbox sized nonsense), half a french stick, butter and pickles. You then get to take this outside to join a plethora of varied clientele clutching your bottle of wine and glasses, and huddle around a table, you’re usually too pissed to feel the cold much at this point anyway. Love.
Sunday evening I really needed to sate that cheesey, sausagey, potatoey craving I’d failed to feed on Saturday. So this plate of mess is what happened when I fried sliced spuds with a couple of onions, 2 sliced bratwurst sausages and melted over some Raclette cheese (actually it made 2 plates of mess). It may not look pretty but I can confirm it completely hit the spot.
Oh, and on Saturday evening, as we were stood in the cold watching carol singers on the balcony of the Southbank Centre, surrounded by fairy lights, snug in my coat, warmed internally with mulled wine, the boy disarmed me with a short but loaded question.
Reader, I might have said “ok”