Saturday, 18 April 2009

albion at the boundary

the entrance to the albion is through an organic produce-cum-deli. shelves of biscuits, loaves of fresh bread, stands with cake and slices of fruit and sweet and pastry and most of all, fresh fruit and vegetable. pink rhubarb with small streaks of green. spinach and kale and other leafy greens. the usual suspects like potatoes and carrots were present too. the shop extends onto a long rectangular space that has a warm custard glow. an oven and kitchen run to one side.


pho is the vietnamese face of the fast proliferating far asian eateries that have come to populate london’s world food-scape. pho is functional, both in terms of its decor and its food. straight lines, white walls with round glass lights and red surfaced tables. bowls of steaming soup and a side of herbs and garnishes or stir-fries are served in white bowls emphasizing the colours of their contents.

fuzzy's grub

i have to confess that i have an inane addiction to fuzzy’s grub breakfast. over the last couple of days i have been unable to do a packed breakfast and inevitably find myself at fuzzy’s for a morning fuel. there are three things that i particularly love – porridge with honey and raisins, chunky brown or granary toast spread liberally with smooth or crunchy peanut butter or better yet a fried egg sandwich.

peanut butter is good period. i don’t really care if it is smooth or crunchy. it’s always welcome. at fuzzy’s grub they toast bread to a crunchy perfection, then spread it very generously with peanut butter on both sides, sandwich and slice it on the diagonal, wrap it deftly in thin paper and bundle it into a paper bag which bears pen marks ticking the specifications of your breakfast. by the time i get to my desk and peel back the paper the peanut butter has oozed from the sides and through the crevices. i love the slightly warmed and runny peanut butter. if i was home i’d add some honey to it too.

when it comes to egg sandwiches, i am slightly persnickety. i like my friend egg well done. [drippy yellow yolks don’t endear themselves to the etiquette's of eating food-at-the-desk at work]. also i don’t like any condiments aside from a seasoning of coarse pepper and salt but most of all my fried egg shouldn't be greasy. fuzzy’s grub manages to get all those in and more. there is thin granary toast, lightly toasted, the centre of which is a well-done fried egg. i watch the eggs being prepared on a skillet brushed with oil. the waitress often turns them over and gives them an affectionate pat.

i guess you probably aren’t surprised at this addiction. i’m a brekkie addict and fuzzy’s grub is my drug.

Monday, 13 April 2009

the providores tapa room

on the ground floor of the providores tapa room there are two semi-skinny high tables running the length of the space. there is the noise and clutter of conversation. the sun is shining in brightly and women sitting in the window are brunching over the sunday paper. o and i have a short wait outside the door before a cheery waitress comes and seats us. there isn’t much room for maneuver and the waitress skirts around the tables rather skillfully, all the while balancing crockery and cutlery. i have read much about the changa eggs – a turkish inspired offering. o settles on these and me on a tortilla that combines a number of my favorite ingredients. a teapot of earl grey presents itself soon after our order – i have come to love the serving of tea, a white tea cup holding a tiny jug of milk in its rotund base with a spoon aside. o is a smoothie lover and orders a tamarillo and kiwi fruit one. it is a delightful concoction of sweet and tang that has a dark pink grapefruit color and comes with a slice of kiwi wedged onto the rim of the glass.

food for thought

this tiny, mostly cramped and crowded veggie establishment has reputation on the veggie food landscape that is larger than the space it occupies. it offers an ever-changing daily menu, a host of salads, thickly sliced bread and scones. here is a sample from a number of visits. recently a black bean gumbo with corn bread – a bowlful of blackbeans cooked with tomatoes and a medley of veggies, some cheese and served topped with squares of corn bread.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

african kitchen

o and i wandered onto drummond street the other day. i was in search for asian food but strangely landed up at the african kitchen. this is a tiny establishment whose walls are home to a wealth of african masks. the space is tiny and often the warmth of the food and those eating it cause the window to fog over.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


i and i tried yumchaa yesterday. on the counter, there is a small army of white jugs which hold a small quantity of tea, waiting to be smelt. no doubt a tea lovers heaven and despair simultaneously. with so much to choose confusion reigns supreme. the trick therefore is to refrain from smelling too much. yumchaa's teas have innovative names. regent's park didn't do much for i and the chelsea garden smelt too pompous to me. soho spice was a tad bit too spicy. i chanced upon chai black and was taken. it is a strong black tea with notes of clove and cinnamon. meanwhile i had reached notting hill. once again a black tea but with notes of summer, flowery and fruity. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

green and fortune

 we’re sitting at green and fortune at king’s place – a space which is home to the guardian newspaper as well. my fiancé will have you know that this is the mecca for north london liberals who are in his words guardian reading snobs (aparently i am one of them). the seating is comfortable; dark chocolate leather sofas and low circular stools flank most of the atrium. a long table runs across the further end with black mesh chairs. there is also outdoor seating that looks out onto the regent’s canal. sitting out there it is easy for one to forget that they are in the heart of a bustling city as it is so uncannily quiet, save for a noisy solitary duck. 
the food is very reasonably priced. my free range chicken, bulgur wheat and seed salad, for all its simplicity has a lovely summery taste. the leaves are fresh, substantial strips of chicken, pale yellow flecks of bulgur wheat finished with poppy seeds.
coffee came in a tall mug. i decided to test the filter coffee, which to me a good indication of how the rest of the more dressed up coffees will be. the filter coffee was remarkably good. it was a strong blend with a slight dark almost treacle like taste. o’s sweet-tooth gave us a toffee cupcake with a very heavy swirl of icing, the taste of which was reminiscent of the icing my mum would make to ice cupcakes or spread thickly of cakes. lots of sugar creamed with butter and then flavoured in this case with toffee. the cupcake was moist, and tasted of brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. i’d definitely recommend coming here to unwind, with the views either of the canal or the brightly coloured modern offices of the guardian. while you are at it, it’s well worth checking what’s on display in the gallery space below.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

the tea rooms

sunny april afternoon found i and i walking through clissold park up to stoke newington church street. dotting the length of this road are a host of curious caffs, coffee and sandwich shops and bakeries. we walked into spence cafe; and then into the parlour that had very innovative offerings for jacket potatoes only to be ousted by leisurely sunday brunch goers who wouldn't vacate any seats. we wandered back onto the street and seconds later landed up at the tea rooms. we had initially walked past it assuming that it wouldn’t have much to offer by way of savouries. i had a bowlful of carrot and coriander soup served with a wholemeal scone. the soup had an air of indian spice and tasted of it as well. the scone gave way easily into two halves and eating it revealed an after note of a hint of soda.

i’s goats cheese and butternut tart was full of warm earthy tones and comforting flavour. the pastry was exceptionally good too. i's afternoon tea and my earl grey came served in delightful british tea sets. glancing around we saw afternoon tea being served. a pretty little cake stand decked with small cakes, scones and finger sandwiches with tea served in the quintessential british tea set in white and blue is a good reason for a next [imminent] visit.

Thursday, 2 April 2009


yesterday evening turned out to be wonderful sunny one. standing outside the guardian office on york way the sun threw long slender shadows on the floor of the entrance. the lettering ‘the guardian, the observer’ bore shadow silhouettes. i was there for the word of mouth chocolate testing. armed with avery labels with our guardian user names printed on them [given in exchange for our golden tickets] we were led by suse through the offices of my favourite newspaper. i had this vague feeling of remembrance of the feeling i had when reading charlie and the chocolate factory. 

in the chocolate tasting room was a long white table bearing an array of broken easter eggs and chocolates – some in white dishes and others in baskets. all of them were familiar brands, the usual suspects of chocolate; nestle, cadbury’s, lindt, tesco, aldi, waitrose, throntons. the unusual one for me was daylesford organic which i’ve always associated with organic soups, veggies and produce. the best stuff came dressed up as a person, none other than paul young, a british chocolate maker who owns a lovely little chocolate boutique on camden passage in islington. it always smells of full bodied dark chocolate, spice and a fruity red wine. he gave all of us chocolate testers some tasting notes –

 the egalitarian in me ensured that i did some justice to the chocolate in the room before wandering off to paul young who had his own stand in a little cove around the corner. three of his offerings were on our testing list and as bonus points he had guinness and basil truffles, fennel chocolate and brownies to tempt us chocoholics. there was silver tip jasmine tea or sherry for those who preferred an alcoholic note to help smooth over chocolate fatigue. i had the tea which had a lovely, refreshingly summery flavour and a light floral note between my dabbling into paul young’s creations.

i started on the basil truffles; they were smooth and round, smelt dark with a hint of red wine. when it broke open in my mouth there was a flood of cooling flavour that felt like mint on the tongue but tasted distinctly of basil. paul explained that the centre was water based, with the basil being infused in water. the trick is to let the basil infuse for long enough to get the flavour without any added bitterness. i went off to the tea room for a pause after the basil truffle – next came the stem ginger and black cardamom pave with its strong spicy fragrance and the bite of ginger. the trick with chocolate testing is to let it melt slowly so as to pick up the individual flavours as well as see how they come together. next on the list was mint chocolate. i am not a fan of mint in chocolate. it generally leaves me feeling like i’ve brushed my teeth or worse still had one of those ultra strong chewing gums that wrigley and then eaten some chocolate but since attendance demanded tasting i attempted the dark chocolate with streaks of green mint. i was pleasantly surprised at the match between the two. the mint was more like a breath of spring breathing through dark chocolate and it smelt like a freshly washed sprig of mint. definitely worth the trouble of trying. nearing chocolate fatigue but still curious about the infamous brownies and guinness truffles i went on to sample both. the centre of guinness was very smooth and clean on the palate, not heavy and creamy like most truffles tend to be. encasing it was a shell of dark chocolate, sweetened just enough to complement the cacao. i liked it. the brownie was decadence personified. dark, dense and with a texture of firm batter it melted almost instantly on the tongue. it smelt of butter and dark chocolate. it was seriously upscale, an elite version of its american counterparts that are chewier and slightly glossy on top. 

i haven’t omitted the more daily and comforting versions of chocolate that we had come to sample. truth be told, being a dark chocolate junkie makes it hard for me to revert to milk or white chocolate. white chocolate to me is a sad excuse – i’d rather eat condensed milk instead. milk chocolate can be good, say for instance green and blacks studded with almonds is good. but for the most i much prefer dark. it’s a fuller experience and smells what chocolate should smell like. it is fantastic paired with a cafetiere of coffee, a fruity red wine or as i discovered yesterday – a blackcurrant coloured port. hotel chocolat’s bizarre concoction of strawberry, white and milk chocolate eggs was so high on the sugar i felt giddy afterwards. and dayleford’s foray into chocolate resulted in something that melted pleasurably enough on the tongue but tasted curiously, of nothing. divine chocolate with its core of macadamia nut turned out to be very good. the usual suspects – cadbury and nestle tasted like their old familiar selves. the ones that you reach for when you’re broke, sad and blue. the ones that never fail to comfort. chocstar brownies that made an appearance right at the end sent memory to the us of a and to the home made betty crockers mixes that we’d often indulge in. whoever thought that stuff out of box could taste so sinfully good? 

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


north london is supposed to be home to a fair number of turkish restaurants. i happen to have two of these on the road that i live on. one on highbury park and the other up blackstock road. a saturday afternoon found me at iznik, in the company of o and i. there is no mistaking the turkish identity of iznik. its décor bears the unmistakable stamp of turkish tiles and lamps. the lighting is dim and gives the space a tavern like feel.

 what i love about turkish food is the wholesome flavors, usually emphasized with very little spice save salt, some herbs and lemon. the turks love yoghurt and will use it to add a creamy and yet tangy taste to their foods. o’s warm mezze of courgette and feta cheese fritters came with a yoghurt dip with cucumber, garlic and mint; a turkish rendition of greek tzatziki or asian raita. i started with a lentil soup pureed to smoothness with a hint of stock and finished with a swirl of olive oil and a scattering of herbs.

 our mains were substantial and we found it difficult to finish everything. i had the tavuk sis. bite sized pieces of chicken on silver skewers rubbed in a marinate that tasted distinctly of lemon, a hint of oregano and very good quality olive oil. the chicken itself was really tender. a green salad tossed in a tart vinaigrette accentuated the simple flavors. the rice was drizzled in olive oil and lightly salted. i loved the simple flavors and good quality ingredients that went into the dish. on the other side of the table o was having a similar experience with a signature dish, very similar to mine but made with marinated chicken breasts. for drinks i had mint tea, fresh mint leaves stepped in boiling water. o had a turkish yoghurt drink called aryan; a slightly salt drinking yoghurt with some oregano.

 although the dessert menu was tempting we had virtually no space for guily pleasures. perhaps next time.