Monocle Cafe – More Than An Instagram Trend?

 

Monocle | Cafe | Nearest Tube: Baker Street / Bond Street | Map

Most of us on Instagram have come across a photo of the Monocle cafe and it’s trendy storefront. And if you haven’t…do you even social media, bro? Seriously, this place is a hive of iPhone activity every time somebody walks by. In fact, I would go as far to say that it’s been Instagrammed more times than it’s celebrity neighbour – The Chiltern Firehouse. Now that’s an achievement! And can you blame people when the facade is this lovely?

But wait a minute, isn’t this a cafe? People do actually eat here…right?

Monocle Cafe – More Than an Instagram Trend!

Contrary to popular belief, I have actually eaten at Monocle. I don’t just stop by to take a photo every few weeks. In fact I’ve eaten here several times, and I keep coming back for more. Much like it’s namesake publication, the cafe offers up a variety of eclectic and delectable treats. High quality, authentic Japanese and Scandinavian dishes dominate the menu, alongside cakes, pastries, and a really great drinks menu – (Allpress) coffee, wine, matcha, check!

The interior is ridiculously cool too, with Monocle branded goodies lining the shelves. You’ll always find the latest issue here, and you’re more than welcome to peruse it during your stay. Which is perfect, because you won’t feel pressured to rush here. Nor will you feel ‘out of place’ like some London establishments – cough, hipster cafe, cough – as the clientele varies greatly. The atmosphere is relaxing, and the staff incredibly accommodating. Can I talk it up any more? So go on, venture inside next time you’re nearby. After you’ve taken your Instagram photo, of course.

You can find the Monocle Cafe at 18 Chiltern Street.
Don’t forget to check out more of my Where to Eat in London series.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year in London

chinese new year in londonCelebrating Chinese New Year in London

I am always up for celebrating an occasion, particularly those that involve food. You might remember Chinese New Year 2016, where I visited Yauatcha. Yauatcha is a dim sum teahouse offering contemporary Cantonese dim sum, and patisserie inspired by European culinary techniques and Asian ingredients. And every year their top chefs create a special opulent CNY menu. This year is no different, as it sees a variety of high-end ingredients and techniques make their way on to the menu.

I decided to stop by again with VA (chopstickpanorama), to check out what they had to offer for the Year of the Rooster – 2017.
Find out what we ordered below:

To Start
  • Red Cocktail
  • Truffle Crabmeat Dumpling
  • Fried Wagyu Beef Dumpling
Mains
  • Mala Lamb Salad with Jellyfish
  • Lunar Chicken Pot with Cured Pork
  • Seafood Braised Rice in Lotus Leaf
Dessert
  • Jasmine Honey
  • Coffee Hazelnut
  • Coconut Lime
  • Apple Vanilla Choux

My thoughts…

As per usual I’ve bolded my favourite dishes above, to give you an idea of what I enjoyed and would order again. Whereas a couple of the mains were too spicy for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the dumplings and the rice. The desserts – as always – were a delight, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Yauatcha without sampling one…or two. Our meal came to just over £140 (£70 each), including drinks. It’s certainly not inexpensive, but I can understand people parting with their cash for a special occasion.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in London

Yauatcha will offer their Chinese New Year menu through 16th Jan – 11th Feb. As well as their CNY menu, the restaurants will be laden with glowing red Chinese lanterns. It’s not all about the interior though. A traditional lion dance, said to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck for the following year, will be held at Yauatcha City on 27th January and Yauatcha Soho on 29th January.

If you fancy celebrating Chinese New Year in London, head to Yauatcha to view their Chinese New Year menu and make a reservation.

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This post is in collaboration with Yauatcha however all views, photos and words are my own.

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chinese new year in londonchinese new year in london

Hand Cafe – East Village London’s Little Secret

hand cafeHand Cafe | East Village | Nearest Tube: Stratford | Map

It is my firm belief that everyone should have a local cafe. Cafes are the perfect place to lose yourself in your thoughts, contemplate life, or just enjoy a damn good coffee. When we moved to East Village in Stratford, the cafe offerings were pretty sparse. And by sparse I mean the closest (decent) cafe was in Homerton. That cafe was 46b Espresso Hut.

I’d been a few times when I was in the area, but it wasn’t close enough to become a ‘local’. So you can imagine my surprise when one of the units near our apartment put up a sign saying a new cafe was coming. But this wasn’t just any cafe. This was Hand cafe – 46b Espresso Hut’s younger sibling.

Hand Cafe – East Village London’s Little Secret

I really have nothing bad to say about Hand, so this post is going to be one of those genuine glowing reviews, that don’t come about too often. They’re dedicated to bringing good coffee and high quality food (using local ingredients) to the people of Stratford…and anyone who fancies paying a visit really.

From toasties to shakshuka, it’s anything but the usual foodie fare. The colourful yellow and purple dish below? That’s bacon, avocado and egg on sourdough. They’ve got the ‘traditional’ dishes down, but they’ve added their own special flare to them. My favourite is the Hand Granola; the fruits change based on what’s available and in season, and the added touch of bee pollen and mint adds a whole new dimension of texture and flavour to this breakfast staple. Trust me, you won’t bore of the food here.

More than just coffee…

I visit at least once a week, and often see the same faces (as well as new ones). Eva and Dom spend a lot of time getting to know everyone, and always greet you with a smile. And it’s not forced. These are genuine people doing something they love, and sharing it with those around them. Their hard work and determination has really helped cement Hand as – in my opinion – the best cafe in East Village. Hand cafe is a gem amongst a growing community. I think I’d even go as far to say it’s the heart.

Check out more: Where to Eat in London

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Is Dominique Ansel London Worth The Hype?

dominique ansel londonDominique Ansel London | Bakery & Cafe | Nearest Tube: Victoria | Map

I headed over to Dominique Ansel London this weekend, much like the rest of London. Well, at least that’s how it felt when we saw the queue and the distinct lack of table space. Still, we waited it out, like the good little foodies that we are. But was it worth it?

Dominique Ansel London: Is It Worth The Hype?

  • Perfect Little Egg Sandwich – £5
    Looking more like a Filet O’ Fish when it arrived, I was skeptical. However this light sandwich was actually pretty delicious (no shade FOF). The flavours pack quite a punch, and are kinda quizzical at the best of times. But I liked it. I think…
  • Croque Monsieur – £10.50
    £10.50 (not incl VAT)! For a croque monsieur! I’m sorry but this is ridiculous, especially when you find out that it tastes no different to those you’ve had at half the price. Coming from a French chef/brand, this is a big let down.
  • Liquid Caramel Peanut Butter Mousse Cake – £5.90
    Not only is it beautifully presented, but it’s heaven for a peanut butter lover. The base fell a little flat (soft and wet), but I half wonder if it’s because we didn’t eat it until the evening. That said, I’d expect a freshly made £6 cake to last a couple of hours.
  • Lime Me Up Tart – £6.20
    This was recommended to us, and I can see why. The sharp flavours contrast perfectly against the myriad of textures. This is a fun one. You need to pour the mixture of sea salt, juniper and brown sugar into the groove and squeeze fresh lime over to make an instant caramel. Silly, unique, genius.

Final thoughts? 

The store is beautiful, the staff knowledgeable, and the menu enticing. However I can’t say I was majorly won over by Dominique Ansel London. I still really enjoy his fun and contemporary outlook on the art of patisserie. And it’s safe to say that you’ll definitely find something different on your visit. Your pockets will be a lot lighter mind you. The prices on the menu don’t include VAT! So if you want to sit in – if you can find a seat – it’s gonna cost you a bit more.

The whole thing just feels a bit anti-climactic. You could blame the cronut (which still sell out quickly here). Dominique’s sudden catapult to fame has left everyone wanting more, more more. And unfortunately I don’t think he can catch up. Still, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and try again. Maybe.

Check out more: Where to Eat in London

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Where to Eat in London: 155 Bar and Kitchen

155 Bar and Kitchen155 Bar and Kitchen | European | Website
155 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, EC1 3AD

Weekend brunch is almost a ritual for the typical Londoner. Whether it’s with your significant other, your friend group, or even a quiet one by yourself, it’s the perfect way to spend a morning…or afternoon. I’ll admit, I’m a serial bruncher. I do it at least once a week, so you know I’m seriously knowledgable. I just love it.

Where to Eat in London: 155 Bar and Kitchen

I like brunch even more though when I can pair it with window shopping. That’s why 155 Bar and Kitchen was the perfect location for me. Attached to trendy lifestyle store Clerkenwell London, 155 Bar and Kitchen offers up European food from breakfast to dinner. The stylish interior blends perfectly with the vibe of the restaurant.  I’m such a sucker for a good looking restaurant.

Of course I was there to brunch, and what better way to do it than with  a bottle of prosecco? Ok so we didn’t just dine on bubbly. In fact we tried a couple of dishes and shared them:

  • 155 Waffles
    At 155 your Belgian (the best in my opinion) waffles come with a choice; bacon & scrambled egg, or berries and cream. Savoury and sweet is my jam, so I went for bacon and egg. The waffles here are homemade, and are the perfect mixture of crunchy outer, and soft inner. Whilst the bacon and egg help even out the sweetness of the waffle. It’s truly a match made in heaven.
  • Classic English Breakfast
    This has to be the prettiest English breakfast I’ve ever seen. And that’s definitely the weirdest sentence I’ve written for a while. There wasn’t too much food, nor was it greasy – two of the main sins of a full English. In summary, not only did it look good, but it tasted pretty damn good too.
  • The coffee
    As always, a brunch spot is nothing without good coffee. If you fancy a bit of caffeine alongside your prosecco – coz you should totally get prosecco too – then don’t fear, 155 does not disappoint on this either.

Final thoughts? 155 Bar and Kitchen is a ridiculously cool and sleek restaurant, perfect for any foodie. Because guess what? It’s all style, and a hell of a lot of substance. If you’re in Clerkenwell, this seriously needs to be on your list of go-to places. And if you don’t? Then get off your sofa and head there straight away!

Check out more: Where to Eat in London

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Get Your London Freakshake On, At Soft Serve Society

london freakshakeSoft Serve Society* | Ice Cream, Tea & Freakshakes | Website
UNIT 35 BOXPARK, 2-10 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6GY

Last year one unique, insane, ginormous, sweet sweet dish, broke the internet. The freakshake. Piled high with cake, cookies, chocolate and more. People were going crazy for this milkshake on steroids. However at the time, they weren’t available in the UK. Luckily for me, I live in London – undoubtedly the food capital of England. And of course it was only a matter of time before London picked up on the trend…and made it their own.

Get Your London Freakshake On

So where do you get your London freakshake on? At Soft Serve Society of course! The new eatery has opened in one of Shoreditch’s favourite retail destinations, Boxpark. Offering up soft serve ice cream, cotton candy cones, sundaes, freakshakes, tea and more. If that wasn’t all, there are nods to the owner’s favourites, such as matcha and chiffon cake (homemade by the way).

Luckily I was invited down to try some of their menu, with my friend Vanessa. As concise as the menu is, it’s still pretty tough to choose just one thing. So of course Vanessa and I went for a few. And shared, coz clearly we’re not animals. We chose:

  • Matcha Freakshake
    I was so eager to finally try a freakshake, so when I saw my favourite flavour on the menu, I knew I had to have it. You’d be surprised at just how devourable this really is. Most people would suggest eating it between 2, I say go all out and keep it for yourself. It’s that good! The chiffon cake is airy, and the pocky/cookie and cream are the perfect dipping companions. The milkshake itself carries the perfect hint of green tea; sweet and surprisingly light.
  • Matcha Madness | Soft Serve Sundae
    A must for any matcha/green tea fan, especially if you want something slightly more portable than the freakshake. The sweet azuki beans are the perfect compliment to the slightly bitter (but not too much) matcha. Whilst the mochi adds texture alongside the soft serve. Basically it’s got flavour, it’s got texture. It’s the perfect sundae.
  • Espresso Yourself | Soft Serve Sundae
    I loved the sprinkle of coffee on top of the sundae. It added a slight crunch, and a shot of flavour. Any coffee fan (aka me) will adore this sundae. Out of all of the sundaes we tried, this is the one I can see myself buying on a regular basis.
  • Where’s My Honey | Soft Serve Sundae
    This one is for the sweet toothed out there. The oats and waffle add some extra oomph, but personally I would prefer something with a slightly bitter or salty topping, as the honey and soft serve are pretty sweet. But I know not everyone is down for that. If you love sweet stuff, this is for you.

Overall I loved Soft Serve Society. The draw may be the freakshakes, or the cotton candy ice cream, but it’s a lot more than that. This is the perfect addition to any foodie’s Summer.

Check out more: Where to Eat in London

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Good and Proper Tea – The New Afternoon Tea in London

afternoon tea in londonGood and Proper Tea* | Brunch/Afternoon Tea in London – Cafe | Nearest Tube: Chancery Lane | Website

One of my favourite anecdotes from my time in Japan is the afternoon tea tale. Whenever I met someone for the first time (who had not been to the UK/had any British friends), they would without fail ask me “what time is afternoon tea?” This question came up again and again, and I quickly realised that people genuinely see afternoon tea as a part of everyday life in the UK. Unfortunately most of us Brits know this isn’t the case, but I do love to indulge a little every now and again.

The New Afternoon Tea in London

For me, brunch is the new afternoon tea, in London anyway. I love to spend a weekend morning – or a weekday if I’m feeling particularly luxurious – just relaxing with a cup of coffee, and a decent selection of hot food and pastries. In fact I enjoy it so much, I’m constantly searching for new brunch places. Luckily for me, I was invited along to the launch of Good and Proper Tea‘s new Leather Lane store.

Crumpets and Tea!

Ok let’s get to the food! VA and I shared a selection of G&P’s famous handmade crumpets and cakes:

  • Egg, Mustard, Ham and Cheese Crumpet – Subtle flavours on top of a pillowy crumpet. A unique take on the Croque Madame!
  • Marmite & Cheese Crumpet – Melted cheese oozes over a soft crumpet, whilst everyone’s favourite yes-no condiment adds a tangy edge.
  • Blood Orange & Poppy Seed Cake (vegan friendly) – Sweet and a little tart. Stodgy, but in a good way. I could eat this everyday.
  • Honey and Orange Madelines – These were so delectable and flavoursome. They are definitely my favourite sweet treat at G&P.

Alongside our food I tried the Dragonwell Tea and a Chai Latte, both are personal favourites of mine. Dragonwell tea (aka Longjing) is a roasted green tea. It went extremely well with my breakfast, as it isn’t too bitter or strong a flavour. My Chai Latte was made using milk, however dairy-free versions are available, which I do appreciate. It was a little spicy, and very creamy. Just the way I like it.

Let’s round it up

First things first, I’m the realest… Wait no, that’s not right. The decor! The decor is insanely gorgeous – there are some definite #interiorgoals going on here. Luckily Good and Proper Tea are as much about substance as they are style; as is reflected in their food and tea offerings. We may have gone for brunch, but you could easily while away an afternoon here chatting with friends, “working”, or of course, for afternoon tea.

You can visit Good and Proper Tea in Clerkenwell, Old Street and Brockley Market (find them here).
Read more: Where to Eat in London | A London Life

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