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

Q: How do you fill your belly with 24 hours in Portland? A: You start with cheese & ice-cream…

Grilled cheese and ice-cream and donuts and duck and kale and figs and cider…this is my prescription to you for sustaining yourself through a day in Portland.

Do not eat it all at once. Do not expect it all to be in the same part of the city. Do not concern yourself with thinking about how you’re going to eat all of this and not end up a) the newest and squidgiest contestant on ‘The Biggest Loser’ or b) horizontal on a park bench somewhere clutching your tummy and whispering to yourself ‘How did I get here? How did this happen?’. Trust me when I say you will easily walk it off; in fact after 24’000 steps spent personally trotting around this oddly charming, hip and I-don’t-really-care-what-you-think city, I guarantee it.

When J and I put Portland on our road-trip map earlier this year, we were both really looking forward to seeing what it had to offer – it’s notorious for being a bit artsy, a bit hipster, a bit laid back – but I was especially excited because the food scene in America’s 29th most populated city has literally exploded over the past few years, leaving food trucks and independent cafes and world class restaurants in its wake. With literally too much choice for the time allowed, decisions had to be made about what we’d be eating otherwise, frankly, it was all going to end in my confused-and-overwhelmed-and-over-stuffed-tears.

With a critical harshness that would make Simon Cowell give me a slow hand clap, we ended up with the Grilled Cheese Grill food truck, Salt & Straw farm-to-cone ice-cream, classic-brioche-with-an-unexpected-twist Blue Star Donuts and Veritable Quandary, a local landmark in Portland’s restaurant scene since 1971.

This post is going to cover the little comers of Portland devoted to cheese and ice-cream so first, who’s up for the best grilled cheese of their lives at Grilled Cheese Grill, a nonchalantly-cool-but-casual converted school bus…?

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