13 January 2022

The Caffeine Chronicles: The Gentlemen Baristas, Piccadilly

The original Gentlemen Baristas has been one of my favourite coffee shops in my neighbourhood — Bermondsey and Borough — for over seven years. While spending a lot more time closer to home over the past few years, I've been stopping by more often, usually to get a piccolo to go. If you like your coffee shops to combine cosiness with dapperness, this is the place to go.


6 January 2022

The Caffeine Chronicles: Rosslyn Coffee, Moorgate

The original Rosslyn Coffee has been one of my favourite London coffee shops since I first visited in 2018, thanks to its consistently excellent coffee, warm hospitality and gorgeous design. It's through Rosslyn that I discovered artist Melisa Dora, whose mugs and other ceramics adorn my shelves at home, and it was also thanks to them that I first heard about Saint Nine Coffee, now also a favourite of mine.


3 January 2022

Five Travel Stories from 2021

For the second year running, rather than picking my top five leaps of the year, I've picked five stories that sum up my travel highlights of the year. It has, of course, been a year with very little foreign travel. It's also the first year in 15 years where I haven't been to New York a single time. I miss the city so much and can't wait to return. But I'm grateful that I was able to travel to one new country (Malta) and one new European city (Porto), as well as taking short trips to Edinburgh and Canterbury. I've also spent time with family in Oxford and Walsall, and spent a little more time in Birmingham, usually on the way to Wolves matches. My motto for the second half of the year was carpe diem — if a trip or event was possible, I would try to do it as soon as I could, before the situation changed again.

1. Leaping into Malta's Blue Lagoon
Like many people, I had to cancel a lot of travel plans last year, including seven international trips, as well as a few more within the UK. As such, I couldn't quite believe that I was finally able to leave the country for the first time in 18 months until I arrived at Luqa International Airport in Malta in September. I spent nine gloriously sunny days in Malta, including a city break in Valletta, and a stay on the island of Gozo. Malta is a beautiful country with stunning landscapes and geological features, and a fascinating history. But nothing could compete with the feeling of leaping into the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island. At last, I was able to enjoy some of the R and R that I had been craving for so long.


1 January 2022

My Top 5 Books of 2021

What with one thing and another, my 2021 end-of-year round-ups have been slightly delayed, such that it is now already 2022. In this post, I'm highlighting my five favourite novels that I read in 2021, as well as five more that almost made the shortlist. 


30 December 2021

Bex's Coffee and Food Awards: 2021 Edition

Welcome to the 11th edition of my annual speciality coffee and food awards, where I am highlighting some of my favourites from the coffee shops and eateries that I visited for the first time this year. For obvious reasons, I travelled much less than normal this year, although I did manage a holiday in Malta in September, as well as city breaks in Porto, Edinburgh and Canterbury, and regular visits to Oxford, Wolverhampton and Birmingham. As such, just like last year, I've rejigged the regions covered in each category so that I can showcase as many of the places I've loved closer to home and further afield. As the pandemic continues to disrupt life as we knew it, it's more important than ever to support the hospitality industry — respecting all local guidelines that may be in place, of course.

If you're keen to read more of my speciality coffee recommendations, you may find my London coffee guide to be a useful starting point; there are currently more than 150 coffee shops featured. For coffee suggestions both in London and the wider world, you can find all of my posts here. And you can read all of my food-related blog posts here.

Coffee

1. Best new London coffee shop

Nostos Coffee

It's no coincidence that my favourite new London coffee shop of 2020 and of 2021 are both places where I found a sense of connection and community in these COVID times — as well as excellent coffee, of course. In fact, it was from Laith at Saint Nine that I first heard about Nostos Coffee, a wonderful neighbourhood coffee shop near Battersea Park. At Nostos, they pride themselves on serving coffee you can't have anywhere else and indeed, they always have a well-curated selection of coffees from different roasters, expertly brewed as espresso-based drinks or as a pourover. You'll also get a very warm welcome from Edison and Anna.


20 December 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Where's Fred's

On my way back from the Borealis light installation at Guildhall Yard on Thursday evening, I happened upon an A-board for a speciality coffee shop and wine bar tucked away off Old Jewry, just around the corner from Bank Station. Intrigued by the name, Where's Fred's, I stopped by the following day. I didn't find Fred but I did find some very fine coffee and brunch in the handsome, townhouse setting on a certain Frederick's Place.


2 December 2021

How To Spend a Long Weekend in Porto

My second, and almost certainly last, foreign trip of the year was to Porto last month. I spent just over four days in the Portuguese city and was treated to warm weather, blue skies and bright sunshine. It was a welcome break from the near-constant rain and greyness of November in London. I've already written about the great speciality coffee spots I found in Porto, but read on to find out what else I got up to, and where I ate, drank and shopped.