11 October 2009

Some New — and Old — London Addresses of Note

The Google Spreadsheet I use to store lists of my favourite restaurants, cafés, bars and shops gained some new addresses this weekend. If it were ten years ago and the travel guide industry hadn't moved on, I would so be thinking of a way to take Bex Guides to London, New York and Paris public.

The service at Hix on Friday night was surprisingly slow, especially given that the sun was well over the yardarm by the time we arrived (almost ten). This was probably mainly because the very cool jugs from assorted whiskey distilleries which were used for the table water were so tiny that several members of staff seemed to be employed just to keep them topped up. Luckily, thanks to my cupcake sampling earlier in the evening, I wasn't quite at the stage of needing to start eating the menu just yet. The restaurant was in a large, stylish room with funking lights and a beautiful bar. The only problem with the building itself was that the ceilings were so high that the background noise of the conversation of others never quietened below that of a loud roar, which was a particular problem for a not-quite bilingual group with one person whose English comprehension isn't very good and another who lacks confidence in her spoken French (moi). Also, the lighting was low enough for most of the night that my photos all came out pretty badly.

Luckily, the food was very good. I had hanger steak with baked bone marrow (the steak was cooked beautifully and I even tried a bit of the marrow--it was quite nice but only if I tried not to think about the fact I was eating right out of the middle of a bone) and the boys had sole. We all opted for the special potatoes, which, on Friday, were some terribly healthy northern concoction: beer-battered potatoes. They were very good, anyway. The menu was very much traditional English with a few quirky variations--I wasn't tempted by the thought of lamb, kidney and oyster pie, for example. Ditto the puddings, although I wasn't hungry enough to try one--Autumn (not Eton) mess, blackberry and apple crumble, posh chocolate mousse, etc. Downstairs was a more casual bar, decked out to look like a boys' club room: deep leather sofas, a pool table and plenty of cosy little nooks. All in all, a good time was had although I would like to return when someone else is paying so that I could order the lobster (£39), fillet steak (similar price) or convince someone to share the whole roast chicken.

On Saturday, we only had a few hours before the guys had to head to Heathrow and Monsieur E had to go to Liverpool Street so that he could drop off a bag to some French lawyer friend so I diverted us afterwards to Clerkenwell for breakfast at Smiths. I wasn't exactly hungover but whichever red it was that Monsieur E chose the night before was a little heavy-going and so pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup was just what I needed--especially when combined with a strong coffee and a very healthful juice concoction, involving apples, watermelon and ginger, among other things. I wish Smiths was a little closer to Marylebone because it really is a great place for breakfast and/or brunch.

I do like the experience of eating out and so it was nice to do so twice in one weekend, even if did then force myself to survive for much of the rest of the weekend on bread, peanut butter, rice, peas and pancetta (not all in the same dish) to make up for the spending excess. I did, however, check out a new Fitzrovia cafe called Kaffeine—yet another of the stylish-and-frequented-by-urban-hipster-Aussies genre. The champion barista of Sweden was in yesterday barista-ing away so he made my macchiato for me. It was good though not necessarily any better than most of the other macchiati I've ever drunk—is Sweden even famous for their espresso-making prowess? I seem to remember they are known more for their über-thick, über-strong, black filter coffee than for their artisanal espresso-based drinks but what would I know? It's a nice place to hang out, anyway, and nice to have another one WeToCoRo (along with Lantana)—most of the other reliably good (i.e. Antipodean) coffee joints in central London are in or near Soho.

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