A hot spot for coffee and cake in Victoria…

image2 IMG_1055

If you’ve ever stepped out of Victoria station into the utter chaos that engulfs it and despaired of finding a quiet spot in which to rest your weary feet, feed your hungry tummy and escape the maelstrom of construction, ‘Wicked’ fan girls & frazzled commuters outside, then despair no more because I’m here to tell you that such a place does exist in the form of Coffee Geeks & Friends.

image3

Opened earlier this year to the delight of a substantial & loyal customer base created through their coffee truck business, Coffee Geeks is the baby of Robin San and Matthew Law, escapees from the corporate workplace turned professional coffee lovers, and is situated in the Cardinal Place Shopping Centre, a place thankfully just moments from both the bus & train station which is being massively invested in.

image6 image7

Visiting on a sunny Saturday afternoon, there was a pleasantly chilled vibe in the air along with the aroma of decent coffee – sometimes sadly harder to find than you might imagine – and these two things, coupled with stands full of cakes, stacks of magazines – Conde Nast Traveller & Vanity Fair were particularly appreciated as we whiled away an hour with our food & drinks – and a light, airy & minimally modern environment made for a welcome respite from the sort of central London humidity that can make grown men weep. Laptop tappers were using the free Wi-Fi & plug sockets on communal tables leaving us to perch on stools in the window, people watching those scurrying past.

A friendly welcome from staff who were more than happy to answer any questions – trust me, the Kermit coloured pandan cake will leave you with one or two! – was a good start as was having our food & drinks brought over to us. There was a small but delicious choice of sandwiches either on sourdough or in a wrap when we visited…FYI, the smoked salmon on sourdough was light & silky and the roast chicken & bacon wrap was generously filled, they were both made to order and, at £4 each, represented excellent value in a world often stocked with scantily dressed & scandalously over-priced sandwiches.

image5 image4

If you’re as much of a sucker for freshly made baked goods as I am and the homemade upside down nectarine cake is on the menu, elbow your way to the front of the queue for a soft, naturally sweet & beautifully fresh slice.

The dark chocolate, cranberry, macadamia & sea salt cookie bought for the journey home were also a smart buy, being chewy, light & utterly moreish. Hot chocolate was creamy and actually tasted of cocoa rather than the watery, vaguely chocolatey mess that often gets doled out elsewhere and coffee, from local London roaster Allpress Espresso, was deemed excellent by my coffee snob lunch pal.

image8 image9

As a non-coffee drinker, I may not know where to go for the best piccolo but I do know the significance of finding a good coffee shop in which to enjoy decent food and well-made drinks at a reasonable price & served with a smile. In a caffeinated landscape of globally impersonal chains, menus that require supreme effort to navigate and products that aren’t actually worth the inflated price-tag they’re stamped with, it’s lovely to find & be able to support a little corner of London that’s independent, inviting & delicious.

Glow with health & feather your culinary nest in the heart of Marylebone…

IMG_0139 (1)

I’m not going to lie…stepping into Daylesford Organic is a little intimidating. Pure, spotlessly clean, white walled & wicker basketed, the blonde wood & glossy lacquered tables will undoubtedly have at least one group of Lululemoned yummy mummies sat around them while chipper, glowing with health waiters glide between tables bearing carafes of cucumber water and bowls of green leafage. Yep, it’s definitely the kind of place that could make you hover fretfully across the street as you wonder if they’ll actually even let you in…

…if they weren’t so genuinely welcoming & friendly from the moment you tiptoe over the threshold. Arriving early afternoon, we were offered beaming smiles & seats immediately – they were even helpful enough to hold a table for us while we hungrily perused the deli area where gorgeously golden & squat homemade sausage rolls were piled alongside platters of seed sprinkled wholegrains, enormous bowls of virtuous salad and crates of beautifully fresh, crayola coloured fruit and vegetables.

IMG_0135 IMG_0138 IMG_0136

Although lunch dishes such as lemon splashed Dorset crab on toast and the always comforting corned beef hash with homemade brown sauce cooed at me from the menu, it seemed unthinkable to be in a place so organically flawless & healthy and not indulge in their offer of 3 heaping portions of salad for £11.50. The Daylesford Chicken Caesar with crispy streaky bacon, plump golden-yolked eggs, crispy seven-seed toasts & Parmesan curls was excellent & the perfect combination of indulgent and wholesome while heritage tomatoes with nuggets of Greek style cheese and a zingy lemon & mint dressing were sweet & juicy and a giant Israeli cous cous tabbouleh with pale green broad beans and feta was deliciously satisfying.

Accompanied by a tumbler of fresh almond milk – surprisingly moreish – this was one of the most squeaky clean dining experiences I can ever remember having but, unlike many ‘clean eating’ establishments, this one didn’t leave me feeling out of pocket & hungry, just with a inexplicable urge to take up yoga…I gave in to the restaurant, I’ve yet to give in to the Lycra. One step at a time people, one step at a time.

IMG_0140

Once your appetite is fully sated, what better way to pass a little time than wandering the neighbouring shops & charming storefronts of Marylebone High Street? If you’ve ever lost hours of your life to the make-your-heart-beat-faster-because-they’re-that-beautiful kitchens of Pinterest, you’re probably aware of the location I’m about to divulge to you but if not, then listen up and listen carefully because I’ve some dangerous insider knowledge to share…

…there is a shop, a place, a land where those kitchens of your dreams can start to be brought to life…

…and they call it Divertimenti.

Stood quietly & unassumingly at the top of Marylebone High Street, this is a store where glowing copper pans nestle side by side with creamy painted Agas, chunky wooden boards stack up next to piles of gleaming silverware and quirky gifts to tickle the chef in your life sit alongside enough fabulous glassware to stock the ultimate Don Draper drinks cabinet.

The perfect place to start planning your fantasy kitchen – you will frankly want to bulldoze your entire current one and start again – this is also a knockout location for finding delightful gifts that are small on price but big on charm so don’t be put off by the aspirational window displays because if you need something for the gourmand in your life, this is the kind of place that you can’t afford to neglect visiting.*

*The author of this review can in no way be held responsible for the unexpected lightness of your wallet post expedition…

Gold medal al fresco dining at Dinerama…

image4

Exciting, authentic street food. Smoky, sparky bonfires. Communal, dining benches. Passionate, buzzing atmosphere.

If any of these sound even vaguely appealing – and if they don’t, maybe lay a finger on your pulse and check it’s still working, hey? – then you’ve got until October 4th to arm yourself with wallet, jacket, sunglasses (this is England so maybe throw in the factor 50 & some snowshoes too) & your most impressive appetite and get to Dinerama in Shoreditch.

Located a straight-as-the-crow-flies 10 minute walk from Liverpool St tube or a hop, skip & jump across from Shoreditch Overground, Dinerama boasts some amazing street food offerings with 6 diners, 6 bars, 5 shacks and 2 trucks all set under a canopy of bulbs that glow gently as dusk falls, the sky darkens and the sky-scape of East London lights up around you.

image2

Now good folk, you must prepare yourself for the fact that a wall of incredible scents will lovingly smack you in the face as you enter; taste-buds will perk up, stomachs will rumble, mouths will water. Your dining options are laid out in an open courtyard surrounding long wooden picnic style tables and whatever your food drug of choice, something here will give you the fix you’ve been craving. Crispy baja fish tacos? Done. Sweet pulled pork? Sure. Pizza, steamed buns, wings, brisket, burgers? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

image3

As someone who’s been looking to try poutine for a while, it was Cheeky Italian’s stall that hooked me in; sadly I wasn’t as bowled over as I thought I would be – chunkier chips, thicker gravy & extra cheese would have made it more the comfort food I’d been day-dreaming of – but if I was left a little underwhelmed by my first course, the second one from Birdbox hit a home run with a heaped portion of freshly chopped & glossily, stickily roasted chicken snuggled up to bite-sized, crunchy, roasted, skin on potatoes & whole cloves of sweetly golden garlic.

FYI I am rapidly becoming addicted to roasted garlic. Seriously. This kind of addiction is what interventions were created for. Anyone else feel my fragrant & lusciously delicious pain?

image6 image7

The aroma of Birdbox drew me in…their food left me a total groupie; washed down with generously boozy Big Kahunas in candy-cane cups and eaten one greedy forkful at a time, this was gold medal al fresco dining.

image8 image9

And for those who lay their cap at the altar of sweetness, a tub full of salted caramel licked, cinnamon kissed, crispy edged yet softly squidgy pillows from You Doughnut! will leave your inner glutton sugar lipped & oh so happy.

image10

If you’ve ever thought you’re not hip, cool or bearded enough for Shoreditch, believe me when I say you are. Suited & booted corporates mingled with plaid shirted, designer hand-bagged & high street dressed crowds and by 8pm, the place was packed with people taking full advantage of a glorious Thursday September evening. Every dish I saw was under £10 and portions were generously served by people who were proud of their food and excited to share it with new diners…as someone who is constantly enthusing about this dish or that meal that you SIMPLY MUST TRY, it was nice to be on the receiving end for a change.

So if you’ve a hankering to try something new but don’t know what, if you want to soak up every last drop of sunshine before it disappears into British myth & legend once again, if you fancy dipping into food without the formality of walls, linen napkins & service charges, Dinerama should be on your London ‘must-do-must-eat-must-try’ list this September.

image5