Biting off a slice of something delicious at Loaf…

There’s only one thing I’m as much of a geek about as food and that my friends, is film.

Movies. Cinema. Silver screen. The talkies.

Okay, admittedly we’ve come on a bit since they were last called that but you get my drift. As such unashamed film geeks, J and I run a bet each year to see who can predict the most winners at the Golden Globes, the Baftas and the Oscars which means that we do some serious awards season movie viewing during the run up to these shows. Yes it may be all E! Red Carpet and ‘ooh, who are you wearing?’ and sure, there’s a certain amount of wondering how many celebrities Ricky or Stephen or Tina & Amy can delightfully and ironically insult but let’s be honest, there’s a paid-for-by-the-loser dinner at stake here so you better be damn sure I take it as amicably and nonchalantly as Monica Geller plays Pictionary.

Double bills are a luxurious way for movie nerds to pack in the films but they generally leave you with a pretty short window of time in which to recharge your batteries and ensure that your lunch that day doesn’t consist of day old cinema chain hot dogs and nachos. Next time you happen to be ticking off your Best Picture nominees in central London, swing by Loaf and exile forever images of dry, playdoughy wieners and stale, dusty tortilla chips.

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Cuter than the proverbial button with milk bottle lights, vintage wood benches, glossy subway-esque tiles and a welcome considerably warmer than the temperatures outside – those outside London should know that a blue sky in December is always deceptive – Loaf modestly boasts a small but perfectly formed menu and a welcome spot off the beaten track in which to enjoy quirky tin plates of beautifully homemade fare.

Avoiding every formulaic convention of the chains that close in on you wherever in the world you are nowadays, Loaf takes its inspiration from across the pond, specifically from some of New York’s favourite grilled cheese, comfort food trucks and shops. Fusing the stateside love for dishes like mac’n’cheese and pulled pork with the uncomplicated charm of a British cafe, Loaf offers simple sandwiches on fresh bloomer bread that run the gamut from greasy spoon sausage to upper end truffle egg & mushroom, packed protein boxes and platefuls of full English alongside 7 grilled cheese options and globally influenced salads and wraps.

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Given that it was about as warm & inviting outside as a dinner between Kim Kardashian and the majority readership of Vogue, hot dishes were the only appealing option to us for refueling between dates with Michael Keaton & Angelina Jolie on this wintry day which is how we ended up with these two gorgeous plates.

BBQ pulled pork & beans with brown rice – FYI mashed potatoes and macaroni cheese are also offered as bases for this – and red cabbage slaw was warming and delicious with a thick and sweetly smoky sauce smothering juicy shreds of pork and crisp, amethyst vegetable.

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Jerk chicken with generous chunks of sweet potato in a reggae reggae sauce was the second choice, again served with ample helpings of nutty rice and crunchy cabbage. Herbs & spices blended beautifully in the glossy sauce which was hot enough to blow through any vestiges of a winter cold without scorching your tongue and killing any hopes you had for enjoying any other flavour that day. Both plates were great value at £4.95 for the small sizes as seen above and shared as these were, they made for a well-sized and filling lunch.

The adorably-picky-about-coffee J was won over with an above average latte while the hot chocolate was rich, smooth and a surprisingly enjoyable accompaniment to the hearty platefuls of hot food. Service was genuine and friendly from the warm welcome and sincere goodbye to the quick delivery of food, and seats in the window offered the perfect vantage point from which to watch passing tourists juggle with bags of sale bargains bigger than them and steaming cups of takeaway tea & java.

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You’ll find this delightful, trans-Atlantically styled joint on Tottenham Court Road, smack bang between Warren and Goodge St stations, and you’ll discover that it’s the perfect place to enjoy a Manhattan-style-meets-British-foibles bite to eat. Central London can be a hotbed of cheap, tasteless clones when it comes to lunch on both a monetary & time budget but Loaf proves it doesn’t have to be this way; it’s the ideal spot to enjoy something that tastes good and allows you to support an independant business rather than an international behemoth of coffee beans and conventionality.

http://loaf.uk.com/about

And the gold medal for London’s best buttermilk fried chicken is awarded to…

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One of the loveliest things about living in London – along with Southbank sunsets, summery picnics in Greenwich and red-velvet-seated screenings at the Prince Charles – is that there are always so many gorgeous, wintry, festive events to enjoy with friends & family in a warm, cosy, Christmassy blur of mulled wine and Slade.

For the past few years during the run up to Christmas, the skyline of Hyde Park has been dominated by Winter Wonderland’s fairground rides and swiss-style chalets and although there’s no doubt it’s a fun novelty to experience, its growing popularity has resulted in it being exceptionally busy so if you’re after something a little less commercial, your best bet now is to head east to Victoria Park, and the slightly hipper and less mainstream Winterville.

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Along with a legion of & crafts stalls, the absolutely-compulsory-come-December ice rink and an entertaining if slightly deafening wall of death, there were more places to feast your face in than you could shake a glass of eggnog at.

From a hot cider tent and craft beer arena – the mingled scents of incense and alcohol creating estive, hippy buzz in the air – to legendary-in-London street food traders and artisan producers, Winterville offered a refreshing change to the same tired old dishes that get trotted out at similar events and it was here, among rosy-cheeked and bobble-hatted families, couples and groups of friends, that J and I found something completely outstanding…ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Butchies fried buttermilk chicken.

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This, the Clancy Wiggum, was without a doubt one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a very long time and quite possibly the most amazing chicken I’ve eaten ever.

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Sandwiched in between two halves of a beautifully golden & softly sweet brioche bun and nestled as comfortably atop chopped lettuce and tomato as your granny on the sofa in front of the Coronation Street omnibus, was a little piece of poultry sent from heaven via E8.

Deep fried in buttermilk batter, this chicken was so light and crispy without a single slick of superfluous grease that you’d be forgiven for doubting whether or not it was actually fried but the bubbly, brown crunch surrounding each succulent bite of chicken reassured you that it was. The avocado was plentiful, creamy & chunky without being mushy, the bacon was salty & crisp and the chipotle mayo added a slight tang and heat to each mouthful. Seriously not sure I can remember LBC – Life Before Chipotle – and whenever I do, it seems a bit sad & tame.

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When I say I could have easily eaten this again immediately, I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. Sharing it with the love of my life was a delightful memory to now have together; it was also exceptionally hard once the first bite was taken. If burgers have besieged London in all their their juicy, meaty, drippy glory over the past year, I’m gonna place a bet that fried chicken will be doing the same in the very near future. I would say it’s a gamble but if it’s Butchies that you’re eating, fear not, it’s less of a gamble and more of a dead cert that you’ll end up every bit as addicted as I now am.

http://www.facebook.com/butchiesstreetdiner/info?ref=page_internal#!/butchiesstreetdiner/info?tab=overview

Falling head-over-stomach in love with the Wildflower Cafe…

There are so many places to eat in London that if you’ve spent any time visiting or living here, you’ll know that there are times you find yourself in one of two predicaments; a) you end up going back to the same places you’ve been to before because you know you’ll get something you enjoy there (I’m talking to you Salvation Jane, you delicious little minx) or b) you end up staying in and eating cereal out of the box because the choice is just too overwhelming and if you go here it might be good but what if over there is better and you’ve missed out or what if neither are any good and you’ve wasted time and money in arguably the world’s busiest city and aaaaaagggghhhhhhh, it’s all just too much so pass me the Crunchy Nut and let’s forget the whole thing!

Either of these scenarios sound familiar? Ever experienced one or the other?

Yeah, I see ya. I hear ya. Sometimes, too much choice makes us wish we had less to begin with. It’s a first world problem but I’m here to give you one solution – the Wildflower Cafe in Notting Hill. Beyond charming with service as genuine & welcoming as if you were their best friend and not a hungry stranger, the only thing lovelier than the ambience is the food which is, frankly, a sincere & utter pleasure to eat.

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