Before beginning I have to say that I am a long time reader, first time blogger. I was approached to put together a piece around the alternative dining options that we have around London during the London Olympics. You may have heard that London restaurants were hit hard during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations as everyone was partying in the street. That was only for 3 days. The Olympics goes for 3 weeks so we have been out to support as many places as possible.
London being the tropical hothouse that it is, a typical summer’s day never tips over 15 degrees, and always promises to be overcast and raining. As I am PhotoMonkey’s brother and WordMonkey’s soon to be brother-in-law, it’s my turn to have a crack at this blogging lark and provide a guest post for the site.
You needn’t be reminded that that London is a destination for all food lovers all over the world as you can find every type of cuisine within its many boroughs only a short tube stop away. My first post takes you to Brixton Village, formerly Granville Arcade. Literally a multicultural location like no other in the city of London.
Brixton Village has a dozen or so ‘pop up’ restaurants all with their own flavours and style all selling high quality fresh foods at half the price of most places you find around the city. It is also where restaurateurs and chefs come to test their idea of ‘the next big thing’ for London and see if it captures the imagination of the food-loving public. The great thing about all the restaurants here is that owners use all of the tiny space available to them, with people fighting for tables or sitting crammed up against one another only to the lively atmosphere. As you can see from this extensive list from Hot Dinners, there are a slew of new restaurants ready to open up to test the waters before they find a permanent residence in central London. Most have open kitchens, fun-loving staff always up for a laugh – they need to be to deal with the hungry punters – and you have the added bonus of being able to have a superb meal for under 10 Squids (around $15 of your Australian dollars). It was an ideal place to spend a rainy day “Plate Hopping” around London’s up and coming bright young things. As it says on the packet, I popped into a few different places during lunch or dinner, order only the staff member’s personal recommendation and then move. By the end of the adventure I would finish up having a three-course meal in three different places.
Before I took on my first sitting I made a beeline and grabbed a coffee while I wondered around choosing my first food stop around Brixton Village. I stopped off at Federation Coffee, which I last visited when Photo Monkey was visiting in January.
It’s a cosy place at the centre of the market that is always packed with a loyal customer base due to their top quality roast – “Contraband”, which I am told is an ever changing combination of coffees from Brazil, Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Sumatra. I have also noticed there is always a strong possibility of a perfect coffee when the barista has either a Kiwi or Aussie accent.
Since moving to London in August last year I have noticed that there has been a revolution in finding an edge over other places to create the best quality burger in town. I have heard that this change is in its infancy in Melbourne and Australia with a few dedicated burger joints trying to set themselves apart. I have enjoyed the likes of Lucky Chip (a much raved about food truck),
Pitt Cue & Co (which started its life as a food truck under London Bridge) which has a great great no reservations blurb.
and I will soon be venturing out to Meat Liquor (blood stained walls anyone?) and Hawksmoor in the near future. I had heard whispers about where London’s best burger actually can be found in heated discussions with chefs about burger joints they would recommend. Honest Burger had been come up ahead of the pack on many an occasion. So this was my fist stop on the list.
Honest Burger has a simple layout, small hole in the wall with an open kitchen, bare light fittings hanging from the ceiling (very Melbourne) with food served on military enamel type crockery.
I was happy to wait for my chicken burger on a glazed bun with mustard mayonnaise and triple cooked skin with rosemary-salted fries on the side. The burger itself was finger licking good and the juices just drizzled down my hands as I took the first bite. The chicken was succulent and the mustard mayo added a hit of moorishness. For a first time visitor you may be put off by the size of the burger itself (very similar to Huxtaburger I have been told) but don’t let that deter you as size doesn’t matter in this case. You leave satisfied knowing the burgers are top quality – they serve 35-day aged beef to be washed down with their home made fresh lemonade.
My next stop was only a few shops down; a family-run restaurant called Mama Lan - a petite Chinese restaurant.
As I took my seat at the bench in front of the kitchen I knew I had found a rare gem of a place. There in front of me was the one and only – Mama Lan – rolling the dumpling wrap for the spicy beef and onion dumplings I had just ordered.
I haven’t come across a place where you can order 5 well sized freshly hand made dumpling for 4 quid ($6). I finished off with the recommendation of their beef noodle soup, which was flavoursome and had a strong chilli kick to it. A great dish for a wet cold day.
My final stop for dessert, Ms. Cupcake, is known to be the naughtiest vegan cake shop in town.
Ms. Cupcake is a 1950′s style open plan bakery where everything is baked and decorated fresh onsite each and every day of the year.
Ms. Cupcake is renowned in London for its cookies, brownies, layer cakes, muffins especially the doughnuts.
Personally I couldn’t go past the chocolate and vanilla biscuit sandwich, while my partner in crime decided on the Malibu Cupcake. After chatting with the owner, Mellissa (aka. Ms. Cupcake), you get a sense of her pride and passion for her shop and for Brixton. I challenge you to leave this place without a smile on your face as her colleagues ensure you have an enjoyable experience.
So that’s my very first blog post. I would love to have any feedback you have – did you like it, hate it, too much/little information, or even places you would like me to visit or new cuisines you want me to hunt out before they make their way to Australian shores.
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