All hail the Hippo…

Kiss the Hippo. What a name. I mean, who doesn’t already love it, this whimsical sounding place across the river?

Opened last year in the lush, royal leafiness of Richmond by entrepreneur Can Eren and a team looking to create the ultimate coffee experience, the imminent opening of a second branch in Fitzrovia meant I had to seriously bump this coffee shop up my ever-swelling list of places to eat in the capital – I have a slightly weird-but-charming/totally understandable-and-charming thing about visiting the original site once a place gets successful enough to expand. Thing is, I’m a North London gal which means that Richmond often seems like the sort of destination I’ll need maps, a packed lunch and at least a day to get to.

Reality check? It’s 3 lines on the tube…excellent. I survived the trip there without eating…remarkable. And it only took an hour…ace.

Flooded with sunlight on the sort of day when London actually remembered that it was supposed to be summer, there’s a open, light, airy feel to the place which heralds all sorts of blonde wood & concrete floor goals. It’s a little how I imagine sitting in the creamiest, fluffiest whipped cream cloud must be and how could that be anything other than glorious?

The in-house Loring S-15 roaster – one of the most environmentally friendly on the market thanks to precision heating and impressively low fuel consumption – sits at the back behind glass fronted door while, mere steps from the entrance, glass fronted cabinets display picture-perfect croissants, cookies the size of my head – again, glorious – and cinnamon buns, icing imperfectly swirled with a home baked touch that I loved.

Iced lattes are creamy with deep, fruitily spiced flavour and served by staff clearly skilled at their craft; current & former UK Barista Championship winners work here, their unwavering love for the bean shining out of each brew.

The Hippo Bun sees a croissant roll precariously sandwiching caramelised onion jam, slices of beef tomato and slabs of bacon together with a perfect, jelly-sweet yolked fried egg; take a moment, I beg of you, to ogle the tree trunk layers of lamination…I did.

Becoming a local here is unlikely; becoming one at the new Fitzrovia branch is much more probable given the geographical maths. That said, there are always friends in this green & leafy borough who deserve to be visited.

Often.

For breakfast and coffee.

Always coffee. 

The very best things I ate…February 2018

February, you were a minxy little trickster. In you rocked on day 1 with your crisp blue skies and your diluted dappled sunshine and then off you bombed it four weeks later in a huffing, whirling, squalling blizzard of lash-tickling snowflakes and bone-chilling temperatures.

Thanks. No really. You were an absolute sweetheart.

However, despite leaving us quilted in the sort of thick soft snow that never fails to send Transport for London into the sort of screechy, shouty, panicky meltdown usually associated with the contestants on America’s Next Top Model, you did bless us with some really, really, ridiculously good-looking food like this…

1. Vegan Cheeseburgers

We have an insanely talented bunch of development chefs at work which means that when lunch rolls round and it’s stuff they’ve put together, you’d be crazy to miss it.

So I don’t.

Ever.

These cheeseburgers were served as part of a vegan inspired lunch that was uniformly splendid but it was these bad boys with their melty, plastic cheese, their soft seeded rolls and their charred-and-smothered-in-special-sauce patties that really dialed it up ‘Hello? Oh hi, this is ludicrously tasty here!’

Looking like the burgers of your childhood and all the better for it – no glazed brioche buns or artisan leafy greens squatting here thank-you very much – I’d defy anyone not to seriously love them.

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2. Rhubarb & Cardamom Pastry at Pophams, Islington

Islington has long been sought out as one of London’s most delicious boroughs and now with the arrival of Pophams, a petite artisan bakery that specialises in beautiful sourdoughs and uniquely gorgeous pastries, it’s even harder to narrow down where you want to eat at any given time, day or night.

With a beautifully light & modern interior, crockery you’ll find yourself ogling & ‘gramming voraciously and a chilled vibe just the right side of being cool, Pophams is the sort of place you’d be proud to call your local…and I am.

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Their peanut butter-jam pastries are a feat of viennoiserie engineering excellence, their sourdough ham & cheese toasties are perfect snow-day provisions and their rosemary-sea salt plaits are as light & delicate as butterfly wings but it’s their stepping-into-Oz Technicolor rhubarb & cardamom custard pastries that are really worth nipping over for. Crispily, flakily edged and softly, sweetly middled, if you’ve found yourself obsessing over new ways to eat spring’s prettiest fruit, here’s one of the nicest you’ll find.

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Pophams; Islington’s best new bakery and a slice of homebaked heaven…

There’s something unbeatable about the combination of a sheet metal grey day so cold it freezes the tears that tiptoe down your face and a bakery where handthrown ceramic mugs of foamy bitter chocolate and feather light pastries become the very definition of cosy.

If I ever find myself in a world where I have to renounce a food group, all things kneaded, rested, proved & baked can rest easy because I’d sooner give up breathing than I would bread and all its siblings.

Seriously, a life without warm loaves that spill puffy clouds of steam into the air upon tearing into, without tangy sourdough and its soft gaping craters that beg for salted butter to drip through them, without viennoiserie whose almost transparent layers of gossamer fine pastry are the perfect place for plump jammy berries or darkly beguiling chocolate or sharp citrus curd to lay their heads…well, this is not a life worth living.

Dramatic? Moi?

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The recently opened Pophams in Islington is a peachy example of why I truly love this sort of food. It tastes wonderful, it’s satisfying and breathes life back into your body on the sort of February day that hibernation or emigration were made for and it’s pretty.

Oh. So. Pretty.

Puh-lease don’t come at me with your food bore chat of butter calories and back well off with your carbohydrate concerns…there’s a time and a place for leafy green loveliness but this, my friends, is not it. Read More