I am not entirely sure why, but I do love The Draper’s Arms. This local pub in a leafy, residential part of Islington, is welcoming, noisy and vibrant. And the food is always great too. We dined early, as I had a train to catch. We shared the salt beef with picked onions on a toasted loaf. I then had duck with peas and pancetta, the Princess had lamb pie and we shared some wilted, buttered greens.
There was no room for dessert. But next time. Their menu changes often, which makes return visits compulsory.
I was in London for research on a Saturday a few weeks back. Afterwards, I met up with the Princess at the Estorik Collection in Islington. From there we wandered to Ottolenghi, for cake. We found seats at the bar and ordered a chocolate tart with praline (her), and a lemon tart (me). The lemon tart was a truly fabulous dessert: sour lemon curd – the kind that makes your mouth pucker – with just enough sugar to take the edge off, encased in a crisp pastry shell. It was a precisely perfect 4pm-cake-uplift.
Ages and ages ago, or so it feels, even if it was in fact April, the Princess and I finally made it to Honey & Co. We went to the last weekend of Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the RA and then took a bus up to Warren Street, to have late lunch and cake. It was freezing, not spring like at all and rain fell intermittently but the only space available was outside and so we braved the weather.
We drank coffee and tea to warm ourselves and ordered the chicken with freekah and peas, and the baked lamb dish topped with creamy tahini that was to die for.
We saved some room for cake, obviously. And really, we had to order the chocolate krantz cake (a take on babka) and a pistachio and plum cake. Both were superb. Plus those serving tiles!
The Princess graduated last month with an MA and so the whole family descended on London to celebrate. On the Friday, post graduation ceremony (which I sadly missed, being en route from Denmark), we ate at The Ivy Brasserie in Kensington. The restaurant was packed and busy but we sat in a private corner at the back. The highlight was the dessert – a strawberry sundae with warm strawberry compote, ice cream, meringues and a shortbread.
The next morning the mothership and I wandered around Chelsea – we stumbled across a tiny farmer’s market in Pimlico and then went into William Curley, mainly for coffee (which in all honesty was not fantastic) and a milk chocolate raspberry entremet.
Then we wandered to Daylesford Organic and had an entertaining time examining all their produce. I loved the food garden they’re growing outside!
We met the princess at Duke of York Square market where it is possible to eat your way around the world whilst in the heart of London. We bought charcuterie, bread and cheese and canelés! I was super excited about these and they were delicious. Then we ate lunch at Polpo. We sat at the bar – everyone was queuing to sit outside but us Southern folk were far too cold to do such silly things. We drank the wine of the week and ordered various plates to share – arancini, asparagus pizette and ‘nduja bruschetta followed by risotto, duck and walnut salad and meatballs.
It was a super lovely way to spend a Saturday – wandering aimlessly between food places, snacking, looking, buying food for later.
I have been eating my way around London in the last few months. I’ve been down for research and to attend the Princess’s graduation and when my sister and I are together, we eat. It is our thing. When our parents join us, we continue to eat but with slightly better budgets. This is the first of a photo collection series of our eating adventures together. I’m starting in Hackney, where we spent a Saturday wandering purposely from food place to food place back in March (before we took the train back to Soho in pursuit of gelato).
We started our Hackney adventure at London Borough of Jam where we bought jam (for reals), and doughnuts. The doughnuts were filled with peach and saffron jam that was to die for. I recently made a vanilla cake filled with the blackberry and bayleaf jam I bought from here and it was superb (recipe coming soon).
Then we walked to Violet Bakery where we ate first lunch (avocado toast, and a divine ham and Comté quiche) and then cake. Violet is just as awesome as I imagined, and the kitchen space is much tinier than I ever thought possible. I’ve baked a ridiculous amount from Claire’s book in recent months too.
We wandered through Broadway Market, perusing all the goods, and popping into several bookshops along the way, and then wandered on to Hackney City Farm, because you know me, I love a city farm. I have never spent time in Hackney or the surrounding areas, but I enjoyed how it felt like a village.
We ended the day getting ice cream (not in Hackney) at Gelupo in Soho. Pistachio gelato that doesn’t taste of almond essence for the win.
I was in London a few weeks ago, attending a sociology work group. One of the things I realised whilst at the group is that I am not a sociologist. I always find it odd when you meet people at conferences and academic study days and they tell you ‘I’m a sociologist’ or ‘I’m an anthropologist’. I’m always at a loss as to what to say here – firstly because I’ve never found self-defining through a discipline was my thing and secondly because I’ve never had just one discipline. It’s difficult when your subject of research (in my case food) is what defines you, and not the discipline in which you work. I’m a big fan of interdisciplinary work and thus don’t define as being particularly attached to one discipline or the other. So the day with sociologists was interesting.
To recover I met the Princess for dinner. We were planning to eat at Shake Shack but I was disappointed to find that most of the seating in their Covent Garden site is outside – not something you desire when it’s cold and miserable and there are pigeons eyeing you up so they can steal half your meal when you look away. I also had every desire for table service and a large glass of red wine and not having to carry my own food to a table. So we went instead to Byron Burger, just around the corner in Covent Garden, opposite Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. (A perfect place to eat if, by chance, you’re going to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) I love Byron. It’s cosy and the staff are friendly and the burgers are epic.
I have a confession about my burger eating habits though. I always order bacon and cheeseburgers. I sometimes deviate into bacon and blue cheese but almost without fail it’s bacon and cheese for me. (A homage, I like to think, to Supernatural.) Even at Annie’s (which I am going to visit this weekend and will thus write about soon), which has the most insane collection of burger combinations, I find myself drawn back to this classic. It never disappoints. But I broke the mould at Byron and ordered Le Smokey. The truth is, it was a bacon and cheeseburger with additions and it was fantastic. The perfect cure to a long day of head-spinning sociology. Bacon, smoked cheddar, fried onions and chilli barbeque sauce. I had fries and coleslaw to go with it – both of which were good too. And I may be converted to the idea that bacon and cheeseburgers can be improved. Just maybe.
To finish, and because we had time to kill before my train, we wandered back over to Shake Shack for dessert. It was quieter and we found a table inside. I had the Concrete Jungle concrete and the Princess had the Union Shack one. Mine was the perfect blend of peanut butter, fresh banana and insanely smooth and creamy ice cream. It was heavenly. Hers was like chocolate overkill which she loved but I didn’t. (I really don’t like chocolate desserts.)
So if you find yourself in London, with a burger craving and some time, head on over to Covent Garden because there’s more than enough choice and delight to be had.
Last week, the Princess and I celebrated her birthday by visiting Petersham Nuseries for lunch. Neither of us had ever been so we weren’t sure what to expect. We chose to walk from Richmond station, along the river, and past some cows in a field to reach the nursery.
We had lunch at the tearoom, not the Michelin-starred cafe. It was very relaxed and informal and the food was excellent. I had quiche (aubergine and ricotta) and a mozzarella and tomato salad. The Princess had a pasta salad and a potato one.
We ate in the one greenhouse, by ourselves which made it feel like our own private sanctuary. The nursery itself is incredibly well designed – all displays are pleasing to the eye and cleverly put together, so you feel more like you’re in somebody’s garden. We wandered around after eating and bought an assortment of seeds to take home to try and grow in the allotment. They have wonderful names like Flowers of Spring cabbages or Carter’s Golden Sunrise tomatoes.
We ended the afternoon strolling through Richmond Park before having tea at Pembroke Lodge, on top of a hill. It’s a brilliant way to spend an afternoon, you feel like you’re in the countryside even though you’re only half an hour from central London. I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to own a place like this – there’s a private garden where they grow fruits and vegetables for the cafe and tearoom, and there’s plenty of opportunity for education programmes. My mind is practically overrun with the possibilities…