Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Northern Food on tour: New Year in London part 1

Mega-post alert. We spent three nights in London over the new year festivities, you might not be surprised to discover that eating was a very important part of the trip. By very important I mean that's mostly what we did, alongside the drinking of course.

I'll never get round to writing up each meal individually, so here's a warts and all round-up, good and bad, in mostly chronological order, of the whole lot.

To make things a little more manageable I've split the post into two, this first one covers the casual and the unplanned, the second post will be of the two slightly more upmarket places we ate at.

Ikea, Milton Keynes

You'll probably be aware that Scandinavian food is the hot ticket right now. The Nordic dining revolution has made the short voyage across the sea to our shores, and is making waves in London and the South-east. It's an intriguing mix, connecting food to culture with an almost palpable sense of place, ground-breaking in its sourcing and preparation of foraged ingredients, terroir on the plate in the most literal way.

What better way, we thought, than to introduce ourselves to this cuisine with a trip to a restaurant run by an organisation that's done more than any other to bring Scandinavian food to the people of Britain. So we went to Ikea in Milton Keynes for lunch. As you do.

I'm not quite sure how it came about, but it was something like this: no breakfast + bored on the M1 + traffic jam + discussion about meatballs + pouring rain making original outdoor plans unlikely = sod it let's go to Ikea for lunch.

The meatballs are an experience. Nice in a rubbery, filthy sort of way, but I'm not convinced by the weird milky gravy. And the lingonberry stuff is just crap jam. Crap jam with weird milky gravy isn't a great combination I don't think. Next time I might have my meatballs unadorned.

We had apple cake with vanilla sauce for pudding. I really enjoyed the cake, it was moist with good fat chunks of tart apple in. Scan-delicious! The sauce was rubbish again though. It had the taste and texture of Bird's custard after you've mixed the powder into the milk but before you've cooked it. Weird.

Would I go again? Yes, it's inevitable. Avoid the weird sauces. Cheap.


Bletcham Way
Milton Keynes


Baozi Inn Takeaway, Chinatown

Baozi Inn is a little Sichuan cafe in Chinatown, I've eaten there a couple of times but not for a few years. The good news is they've opened a little takeaway next door that sells nothing but skewers and buns.

The skewers (£1.00-£1.20 each) are boiled to order in a dirty great vat of spicy broth laced with salt, chilli and Sichuan pepper. The result is stonkingly good: tender morsels of meat or veg intensely flavoured from the broth. There are loads of varieties, I only got as far as lamb and enoki mushroom, both of which were great.

The buns (bao) are big fat steamed dough monsters stuffed with pork and onion, sturdy and filling for the harsh winters in Northern China (or to fill a 15 Ikea meatball sized space before a trip to theatre). Two quid each.


27 Newport Court

Princi, Soho

Princi is the sort of place I wish existed elsewhere in the UK, but just doesn't. This sort of thing only seems to work with the critical mass of London.

It's a big bustling Italian bakery-cafeteria-bar-takeaway. You shove your way to a space at the counter, shout out your order from an impressive display of baked goods, pizza, filled focaccia, salads, pasta, meat dishes and god knows what else, collect your drinks from the bar then elbow your way to any vacant space on the communal tables. Not the place for peace and quiet, but for a lively drink or two accompanied by some quality snacks (or a three course dinner if you feel like it) it's an excellent choice.

Pasta pesto and mozzarella and tomato salad were both very good. Beautiful milky cheese, tomatoes with some semblance of taste (which will do for me at the end of December) and grassy, herbal pesto. The pizza was just ok though, I'm never a fan of the thick rectangles of pizza a taglio stuff, not even in Italy.

Given the central location prices are reasonable. We paid just over a tenner for the food and a bottle of water.


135 Wardour Street


Princi on Urbanspoon

Full Stop Cafe, Brick Lane

A pleasant coffee shop with a few comfy sofas. The coffee, when it eventually arrived after nigh on twenty minutes, was satisfyingly robust. Yes I know that quality coffee isn't made in an instant, but twenty minutes is still too long in a not very busy place.

Still, at least we got to amuse ourselves eavesdropping on the conversation at the neighbouring table during the wait. This being East London hipster central it was mostly about their unbridled talent going unrecognised, this being the fault of others, his issues with anger and hers with Tatiana, ya? The joy.

£2.70 for a flat white. A bit much but probably par for the course in these parts. And still cheaper than Costa so on second thoughts that's good value.


202 Brick Lane
E1 6SA

The Breakfast Club, Spitalfields

We only ended up at the Breakfast Club as our original brunch choice was closed over Christmas and New Year. It was good enough to entice us back on New Year's Day for a hangover cure before the journey home.

It was an infuriating place though, with the makings of excellence being let down by shoddy execution in parts. The coffee was just ok, too milky and not very well made.

The bacon sandwich was also a misfire, but I shan't bang on about it having already done so here.

But the cinnamon French toast with roasted apples and syrup was bloody lovely, so much so that I voted it my breakfast of the year (and shared a plateful the day after, making it a contender for the 2013 award too!).

The half monty breakfast continued the trend. Beautifully poached eggs of unusually high quality (dark yellow yolks that actually tasted of something) balanced out by everything else on the plate being mediocre.

Breakfast plates are priced from around six quid up to a tenner, fair enough, but drinks are a little pricey. Service is brisk and the atmosphere verging on raucous, busy with loud music. Depending on your level of delicacy this could be a good or bad thing.


12-16 Artillery Lane
E1 7LS


The Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon


Luke Mundy said...

Is your Pizza Al Taglio dislike biased by carrying 2 massive boxes of it down a hill in Italy, being stopped by the Police as your try to commandeer a large wheelie bin in order to speed up your trip down the hill. Then threatened by some mafiaso types in beat up Fiat Punto, whilst your friend tries to fob them off with a Dumfries library card. Then another mate disappearing into a ditch and then emerging spurting blood all over said pizza from a huge gash on his hand that went down to the bone?
Or is it just the case that it's minging?

Dave said...

Mundy - it's just a bit minging. The events you explain so eloquently actually made me like it a bit more. Added a frisson of danger.

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