Monday, February 13, 2012

London - Where we ate and what we did - part 1

We thought we should do a round up of the other London gems we enjoyed visiting over and over again during our 8 month stay in London last year. Places to grab an excellent coffee, book shops, art supplies stores, cafes, museums, galleries, odds and ends plus more. So this is part 1 of our to do list* next time we're in Old London Town focusing on places to eat, drink and be entertained. Part 2 will be a loose round up of the art and embroidery supply places we found and designer-y based finds and other places of note.

- London Fields Park: Not as large as Hyde Park but definitely not small either. There are huge chestnut trees that are home to a few sometimes friendly squirrels - for those curious folk that find them as cute as my boyfriend does - as well as enough space to fit hundreds of picnic goers on any given sunny day (actually didn't have to be all that sunny for it to be full some weekends). One end lies next to the entrance to Broadway Market whilst the other corner houses a lido (I never felt hot enough during my stay to try out it out which is a bit of a shame as it's meant to be wonderful).

- Broadway Market & it's saturday street market: maybe accounting for how popular the next-door London Fields park is on a weekend is this great little street lined with cosy pubs (Cat and Mutton and The Dove), excellent cafes serving some of the best coffee you can find in London (l'eau à la bouche, Climpson and Sons), book stores selling great design, art books and magazines (Artwords Bookshop) and tons of other great shops that you'll soon discover. On Saturdays one of the best street markets takes over Broadway Market selling a huge variety of food from different cuisines, baked goods, fresh fruit and vegetable, fishmongers, butchers and delis as well as stalls selling vintage goods, clothing and assorted miscellanea. Our favourite stalls that we constantly returned to were the pie shop (our pick is the chilli beef), the stall in the middle selling marinated olives/stuffed peppers and dips, the fruit and veg stall near the end that became our fresh plum supplier and the vietnamese food stand also at the Cambridge Heath end. If you go there try their bbq pork roll with caramelised pork skewer. There's usually a line but please don't let that turn you off. Service is pretty quick and after trying a few other vietnamese pork rolls in London (we like to think we know a good one) this was by far our favourite.

- Hai Ha on Mare Street (if you live locally or are after Vietnamese and in the area this is our pick of the numerous Vietnamese eateries that line Mare Street. We recommend their mixed vermicelli noodle with pork & spring rolls and the crispy pork belly noodle soup (which isn't vietnamese but I tried it on a whim and it was amazing).

- V&A, Natural History Museum, British Museum, Tate Modern: How awesome is free admission to amazing galleries and collections? We spent many a day drooling over amazing ceramics, minerals, antiquities and masterpieces and still only scratched the surface of the permanent free collections on offer.

- Ping Pong: Their all day/night yum cha-ish dumplings are nice if a bit expensive compared to what we're used to in Chinatown but I had to add Ping Pong for their yummo cocktails. Yum cha with asian inspired cocktails is a pretty spectacular combination and i'm hoping someplace similar in Sydney pops up soon (Melbourne already has Golden Monkey)

- The Book Club & The Hackney Pearl, Railroad Cafe, Wilton Way Cafe, Nude Espresso: besides the cafes on Broadway Market already mentioned these cafes were regular coffee stops for us. Railroad Cafe and The Hackney Pearl are a little out of the way but offer quirky settings and great coffee for the former and a pretty mean Corn Fritter for the latter. Oh and the Hackney Pearl don't lie when they say they serve the best Bloody Marys in town (other cocktail to try is the Gem Garden) Wilton Way Cafe is also home to the London Fields Radio

- Hackney Picturehouse: this opened a few weeks before we left and was literally only down the street from our apartment. It is one of our huge regrets that we weren;t able to enjoy the Picturehouse. We watched Ides of March there and it was honestly the best theatre we've ever been in. Full stadium seating with chairs that all recline...sigh. Also for cult classics and themed nights the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square is amazing. They show an ever changing line up of old favourites, themed series as well as new releases. We went there for a screening of Empire Records that featured drinking games, a dress up contest and sing-alongs.

- Drink Shop Do: Part cafe, shop and gallery. Drink Shop Do is craft and board game friendly. A lovely place for a spot of tea and sandwiches or cocktails at night when the cafe switches it's daytime charm into a nice and relaxed bar/lounge.

- Columbia Road flower market: It gets pretty busy here on a Sunday but it's an enjoyable crush. I enjoyed listening to the stall holders advertising their flowers just as much as the flowers themselves. On one of the side streets we spent a nice break from the crush listening to buskers splaying jazz and with a few cafe's lining the road and shops selling home wares and art there's plenty to do if you don't feel like joining the flower buying tide. Most of the shops on Columbia Road though are closed on non-market days so it's best to check ahead.

*in no particular order

1 - 4 Broadway Market Saturday street market
1: Vietnamese food stall at the Cambridge Heath end
2: Outside l'eau à la bouche cafe
4: Violet Cakes

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