Foodie Adventures: Damson & Co

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Birthday weekends. The perfect one is hard to achieve, but you can go a long way in the right direction with a good brunch. So on the day after my birthday Helen (my official brunch buddy) and I headed into deepest Soho in search of something delicious. We were actually heading for a bigger establishment, but met with the Saturday lunchtime crowds we wandered away and found this place instead.

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The menu was substantial, ranging from breakfast items through to various dishes more reminiscent of lunch – I believe meatballs featured – and we both had trouble settling on just one thing to order!

In the end Helen ordered a green shakshuka (a spinachy omelette thing, with the eggs baked whole rather than beaten) and I had the eggs royale (poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and smoked salmon on an English muffin). My food was really delicious and everything was prepared perfectly. I couldn’t really fault it.

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I also ordered a banana smoothie. The smoothie was okay, but to be honest it wasn’t as tasty as similar ones I’ve made at home, so I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. Helen had better luck with her coconut milk mocha – even as someone who doesn’t really appreciate coffee I can tell you it was amazing. Rich and creamy with a real depth of flavour, and beautifully presented.

Service was good and fresh tap water was generously provided – one of the little touches which really makes an experience better. The prices are on the steep side, but what you’d expect to pay in this area of London really.

The verdict? Definitely give Damson & Co a try if you get the chance.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Foodie Adventures: Bunty’s Tea Room, Lincoln

The first thing you need to know about this cafe is that it’s on a very steep hill called Steep Hill.  I just really enjoy that. I spied Bunty’s as we toiled up the hill into Lincoln city centre, and a couple of hours later when the inevitable murmurs of an urgent need for afternoon tea began, I steered us deftly back and in we went.

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There was a warm welcome, friendly service and yummy cake. We went for the Battenberg cake, the peanut butter and chocolate cake, and a fruit scone with jam and cream. All were delicious and presented on gloriously mismatched china.

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The teapots and decor were also really cool – a medley of vintage that was cosy and not overdone.  It just makes afternoon tea so much more interesting when it’d served in a variety of pretty bits and pieces. Oh, and they had a lovely sign made out of Scrabble letters. What’s not to love?

If you find yourself in Lincoln then I highly recommend that you check out this lovely little tea shop. You can find their website here.

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Everything is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Foodie Adventures {Warsaw}: a whistle stop tour

What do foodies do when they go on holiday? It’s honestly not a trick question. They eat. And we certainly made the most of our time in Warsaw last month, eating in as many different places as possible all over the city. Here is a whistle stop tour of some of the best.

Cheesecake Corner

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We spent several lovely afternoons watching the world go by from a cafe on Krakowskie Przedmieście, one of Warsaw’s prettiest streets. Cheesecake, a good book and a healthy dose of sunshine-soaked people watching — it doesn’t get much better than that, does it? This Oreo cheesecake was delicious. Creamy and rich, but not too sweet. The view from the white wicker chairs outside wasn’t bad either. Their website is here.

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Tapas Gastrobar

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This was a little way away from our hostel, but very much worth the walk. The decor was just up my street: white and blue dominated, combined with geometrically patterned tiles and vintage posters in shabby chic frames. The food was exquisite and the service was fast and friendly. A highlight was the salted pork belly – hot and delicious. The cold potato salad smothered in aioli was a little unexpected, but worked perfectly. Check it out here.

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Ceprownia

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The guidebook hit the nail on the head when it described Ceprownia as ‘hearty shepherd’s fare’: this is where we got our first taste of Polish food when we first arrived in Warsaw last year, and it’s the first place we visited when we returned this year. Homely stews, potato fritters, amazing fried goat’s cheese and more pickles than you could shake a stick at all consumed by lamplight in an interior made mainly of wood, this is Polish food at its most uncomplicated. Special mention goes to the creamy salad dressing that came with every dish. We had dinner there on our first night, and went back for lunch on our last day. Visit their website here.

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Cafe Vincent

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This was our favourite breakfast spot: a French- style patisserie on Warsaw’s main street. They had row upon row of every baked good you could think of, fresh from the oven, and a nice selection of drinks to go with them. We enjoyed the madeleines (already explored on this blog, here, and the boy’s favourite) and I had one of the best lemon tarts I’ve ever had! Very lemony, and the perfect level of intense tartness. I love breakfast on holiday… Cafe Vincent don’t have a website that I can find, but you can visit them at Nowy Świat 64, 00-357 Warszawa, Poland if you happen to be in the vicinity.

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Lots of our recommendations of where to eat came from the ‘In Your Pocket’ city guide, which was invaluable as we hurried about Warsaw. You can download it for free here – we loaded the PDF version onto M’s Kindle, which was super handy.

Listening to Kaleidoscope Heart by Sarah Bareilles, Apple Honey by the Woody Herman Orchestra and Take me for what I am from RENT.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie adventures: Beam Cafe, Crouch End

Last Sunday, I went for a wonderful brunch with one of my best friends in one of my favourite parts of London. Could a Sunday morning get much better? I love Crouch End for its abundance of pretty cafes and cute card shops – perfect for a weekend wander. Unfortunately it was a bit of a rainy morning when we headed to Beam Cafe for breakfast, so there was less wandering and more eating brunch in the cosy confines of this lovely eatery. Not a problem in the slightest.

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I ordered the Eggs Royale: fluffy muffins lightly toasted, topped with perfectly poached eggs, smoked salmon, delicately creamy hollandaise sauce and a tumble of chives. It was delicious. Thinking about it now (8pm on a Monday evening) I could eat it all over again. In fact, I’ve thought about this dish an unhealthy number of times since I polished off the last forkful. This is what brunch was invented for.

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Freshly squeezed orange juice: sweet and tangy at the same time with a pleasing amount of froth

My friend had the avocado, egg and bacon on toast — she enjoyed it very much. I’d thoroughly recommend this little cafe: the interior was simple and cosy and yet felt chic at the same time. Even a couple of tight-fisted northerners like ourselves conceded that the prices were pretty darn reasonable, especially given how genuinely exquisite the food was and what a nice part of London this is. We’re already devising excuses to return soon!

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Fork – ACTION SHOT

Listening to Holding Back the Years by Gretchen Parlato, Let’s hear it for the boy by Deniece Williams and Put the Gun Down by ZZ Ward. All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Regency Cafe, Pimlico

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Regency Cafe

I found Regency Cafe during a post-interview wander, which left me floating around Pimlico in search of a late breakfast. I was instantly intrigued by how retro this place looked; white block lettering against a black-tiled exterior, with red and white checked curtains at the windows. Correctly guessing that this kind of place would not take cards, I walked past initially, found a cash point, then went back. Inside, it really was like a time warp. Faded photographs and movie posters in frames lined the cream- tiled walls, and the tables were like the kind you’d associate with a canteen. Linoleum. The menu was spelled out in white letters on those black boards that used to display cinema times: slightly wonky and with some of the letters handmade where they’ve been lost or damaged. The food on offer instantly reminded me of home: the North of England has managed to keep far more of these ‘greasy spoons’ open, and so the fried liver on offer was reminiscent of the tiny cafe where I waitressed growing up. In London, though, there are very few of these places left. The ones that do exist tend to have a manufactured kind of feel, like they’ve been created to look like this kind of cafe, rather than actually being the real thing.

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Specials Board (+ builders’ tea; bottom left)

In my pencil skirt and blazer (remember, post-interview), I was suddenly conscious of looking very out of place: the cafe was mainly filled with working men taking their mid- morning break; all steel-capped boots, dusty overalls and fluorescent jackets. The service was rough and ready, but that only added to the warmth of the place — you order at the counter and then, when your food’s ready, they call out the order and you go up to collect it yourself. The man behind the counter had the kind of infectious friendliness that afflicts all of the best cafe owners; he seemed to know most of the people who came in and out, and by the time you left he bid you farewell like a long-lost friend.

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Condiments in technicolour

Builders’ tea; strong, milky and sloshed into plain white mugs, sat on most of the tables, accompanied by the full English breakfasts that you’d expect. Some people were tucking into large plates of rice and curry, despite the early hour: a chalkboard and the industrial-sized vat of mango chutney beside the till made it clear that this was the lunchtime special: Wednesday is curry day, apparently. The food was what you would expect: it was fresh, tasty and cheap. Definitely no frills, but this is the kind of place that shuns anything resembling frills at first glance. Standing at the counter and glancing at the menu, a man made a quip about Heston Blumenthal, that British gourmet chef famous for his weird, wonderful and very frilly creations (think, snail porridge) which I couldn’t quite hear. The owner replied jovially; ‘Oh yeah, Heston bloomin’ hell!’ It had been a long time since I’d heard anybody say ‘blooming’, and it reminded me instantly of my Dad, who is a fan of that particular exclamation of incredulity or annoyance. I’ve come to think of it as quite an old-fashioned phrase, and it made me realise that this cafe was filled with the invisible London which I hadn’t really experienced before.

Coming to London as an Oxford graduate, I’ve experienced a very particular face of the city. The posh bars and cafes, the professionals I meet when I go for interviews, and the other graduates who I spend most of my time with. But this cafe, and the people saying ‘blooming’, are more like the community I came from originally; using slang, and drinking tea from plain white mugs in cafes that only have two choices of bread (white or brown) and aren’t interested in any kind of smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I love rye bread and passion fruit smoothies, but I also miss the simplicity of the small, rural place where I grew up.

When I went to Oxford, I was surrounded by people that mainly (not everybody!) spoke very stereotypically ‘British’ English; they were ‘posh’, I supposed you’d say, for want of a better word. Most people spoke very similarly, and I was instantly mocked for my deepened vowels, and the way that I said certain words, like ‘butter’ or ‘grass’. And even though most of it was just friendly teasing, it made me feel like I stood out. So without really realising I started to disguise my Northern accent; I didn’t let my vowels get too deep, and I rarely relaxed into the richness of slang and sayings that I’d grown up with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the way the people in this cafe spoke reminded me inescapably of home, and that was really very nice.

Well, that turned into something of a tangent, but it comes down to the fact that if you’re looking for two eggs, chips and a Diet Coke for £4, then this place is ideal. And its friendliness is only enhanced by how rough it is around the edges.

Listening to: Warpath by Ingrid Michaelson, I Will Never Let You Down by Rita Ora, Strong and Wrong by Joni Mitchell.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: The Haberdashery, Crouch End

Last weekend, my lovely friend Helen came to stay. We share an ardent appreciation of all things vintage, pretty and higgledy-piggledy — we spend a lot of time exchanging links to beautiful tiles and extravagant baking projects. Mainly on Pinterest. You get the picture. And so when she arrived off the train at King’s Cross from my home town, I really wanted to make the most of having her in London and go somewhere adorable and awesome. A quick Google search of something along the very predictable lines of ‘cosiest cafes in London’ yielded The Haberdashery: the name had me instantly hooked. It was only an easy half hour bus ride from where we were to Crouch End, so off we went.

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I didn’t manage to get my own photograph of the amazing interior; this one is from the cafe’s website

We loved it! The interior is stunning; vintage and chintzy in all of the best ways with excellent use of Victorian fireplace tiles and coffee bowls (yep, we saw people getting hot chocolate in what looked like breakfast bowls, heaven) hanging eccentrically behind the till. Our drinks came in glass bottles, and our food arrived on charmingly mismatched vintage plates. AND our butter came in an ancient looking ceramic tub that once contained ‘Sainsbury’s Freshly Made Bloater Paste’, which it turns out (thanks, Google) is a kind of fish paste made from Bloater fish, which is traditionally eaten on toast for afternoon tea. No actual fish paste on offer, sadly, so I had a Breakfast Roll with bacon and egg. The bread was lovely —  exactly the right level of toasted — sweet and chewy. The egg was fresh and cooked to perfection — the bacon just as good. I know, I know, it’s an egg and bacon sandwich. But that just seems like a massive understatement: it really was unlike any I’ve ever eaten.

I also had a yummy Elderflower Soda Jar, which of course came in an actual chunky jar with a handle. Again, it was like Elderflower cordial I’d had before, but just somehow better. The cakes looked amazing, but we were just too full after our delicious mains to sample any! I have vowed to return for afternoon tea very, very soon. Here’s the website: if you ever find yourself in Crouch End, definitely pop in. Actually scrap that, it’s worth making the journey especially, if only just to avoid another soul- destroying “Oh, I suppose we’ll just go to Starbucks, then” moment. I’ll certainly be back!

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

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Elderflower Cordial in a handy-handled jar

Helen with 'The Colonial' Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

Helen with ‘The Colonial’ Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015. Except the first photograph, which is from The Haberdashery’s website here.