07 December 2008

Mac, Cheese and the Milk Bar, Revisited

My friend and I went to Canteen on Baker Street for brunch, and I'm pleased to report that the macaroni cheese was excellent with enough crispy bits on top to keep me happy. He had also acquired two free tickets to special exhibitions at the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum and IMAX movies at the Science Museum, so I suggested we check out the Darwin exhibition, which is on at the NHM at the moment.

The exhibition was pretty good, although I'm not sure I would have paid £9 for it, even though they did have a real life green iguana called Charlie and a "pillow toad". Also, why do they use American and not British spellings throughout the exhibition? Would Darwin really have written about "neighboring" islands? I hope not but maybe they just didn't "realize." Also, some of the video clips in the evolution/ID debate section of the exhibition are identical to those in the Hall of Human Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

As South Ken isn't really my neighbourhood, we caught the tube back into the centre of town and checked out another of the coffee shops featured in Time Out's recent article on indie coffee shops--Milk Bar, which had been on my coffee to-do list anyway. Although I will never be able to shake the image of the Milk Bar in Dolgellau, the Welsh town where my parents celebrated their honeymoon and used to take us there on family several times a year. Dolgellau consisted of: a small restaurant called Y Sospan (yes, The Saucepan), a burned-down hotel, a walking/climbing shop (for those--usually us--climbing Cader Idris), a second-hand bookshop and a milk bar. I can't quite remember what a milk bar was (perhaps like the American Dairy Queen?) but I seem to remember thinking milk was obligatory and so always ordered a milkshake.

Milk Bar in Bateman Street has nothing in common with the milk bars of my youth. Aussie-run (as is standard in the majority of decent coffee shops in this city) and funky, with the art on the walls for sale, with ultra-friendly staff. I had an excellent macchiato and a tasty chocolate-orange brownie (I don't usually like fruit-flavoured chocolate but I made an exception as the brownies looked good). My friend's hot choc, served with a cocoa heart on top of the foam and mini-marshmallows for seasoning, also looked good. The cafe is also close enough to Leicester Square to prove very useful when good coffee and respite from the touristy hoards of the quartier are needed. In fact, the five parallel streets in the neighbourhood--Greek, Frith, Dean, Wardour and Berwick--along with Bateman Street running between them hold some of my new favourite coffee shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, which is quite impressive given their proximity to Leicester Square.

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