February 2017 marks the sixth anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!


Friday, 22 July 2011

Canapés, Cupcakes and Cocktails goes to...London

Spending a weekend catching up with city-slicker pal, 'H' traditionally constitutes the following; great company, venues that have what I refer to as the ooh-effect, a great deal of top-nosh and a mandatory cocktail or two! To that end, read on to learn of the foodie frivolities beheld when I took 'Canapés, Cupcakes and Cocktails’ to…London!

Date and Time: 16th and 17th July 2011, morning, noon and night!
Location: Central London
Reason for Visit: Timely catch-up with a fabulous friend within the razzle dazzle Londonia's finest!

Day One:

Meeting around midday on London's busy Oxford Street, our foodie journey began (as is customary for the onset of each meet-up) marvelling at the spectacular array of foodstuffs in Selfridges' Food Hall. After a quick coffee from city chain, 'Eat', H and I made our way to Leicester Square with the intention of checking out the new M&Ms World Store (the first of it's kind in the UK). This was, without a doubt, a sight to behold - spanning four floors, this ode to a candy offered interactive areas, photo-opportunities (with it's colourful M&M characters) and a vast selection of purchasable merchandise to satisfy every whim; from measuring spoons to money boxes! I loved that you could choose any colour of M&Ms from the self-service area but couldn't believe how much it cost for such a small amount. Furthermore, I was disappointed that you couldn't get the other variations of the candy that I had discovered elsewhere, where were the pretzel filled M&Ms, the extra-crunchy or those filled with peanut butter?! Humph!
 

 








We travelled to Putney for lunch and found stylish bistro, Moomba. Kitted out with plush, rich-coloured furniture which tastefully contrasted the demur swirl of monochrome wallpaper, this venue's interior was as classy as it was comfortable. Focusing on its purple hues the décor was accented with vases of fresh lavender and neon violet lighting which glowed from behind the bar. The space is intimately arranged though and somewhat toasty but luckily H and I were seated close to a window which was open just enough to create a little breeze! The service was courteous, perhaps a little too polished, but it certainly completed the effect; I just don't find myself addressed as 'madam' often in Bristol! We ordered the meat board to share (£13) which arrived with reasonable quantities of salami, parma ham and chorizo. These carnivorous aspects were supplemented with olives, hummus, sun-dried tomatoes and warmed pitas which were overall, well received. Although the parma ham was a little fatty and the pittas hard, the chorizo had a beautiful smoked flavour and a melt-in-the-mouth texture, thus the highlight of the meal for me by a mile! To compliment all this savoury action, H and I headed to Neuhaus Café Chocolat for dessert where, it has to be said, I was served the best hot chocolate I've had in ages. The aptly named 'chocolate lava' (£3.40) was basically warmed liquid Belgium chocolate, so thick that I required the aid of a teaspoon to finish it - pure indulgence I can assure you! In fact, H got into the spirit of the Blog and in three words, described this venue as 'a chocoholics paradise' and rated it 10/10 – praise indeed!
 


 







For evening drinky-poos we headed to Clapham Junction's busy common to Souk, a Moroccan themed bar which was charismatically edgy; opulently furnished with latticed panels. brightly coloured lanterns and cushy pouffes. Glowing incense sticks filled the space with a spicy aroma which added to the dense atmosphere brought about by all the bodies! Yet, despite proving somewhat claustrophobic, Souk certainly warranted a top-end cocktail experience as the drinks themselves (although pricey) were expertly created. And now, a confession...let's just say that with drinks costing £10 a pop, dining to mop up the significant alcohol content had to be affordable and satisfying. Thus, the guilty pleasure of Domino's Texas BBQ pizza ticked both boxes – I’m sure you won’t judge me because, after all, we've all been there and yet, not everyone admits to following up a sophisticated watering hole with something so downright dirty!

Day Two:

I was riding solo on day two and therefore, couldn't decide where to visit from my humongous bank of favoured locations. I concluded that it would be criminal not to grace The Hummingbird Bakery with my presence, especially as I had learned, via Twitter, that the week's cupcake theme was 'traditional sweets' - perfect! Opting for the Soho branch (over it's Notting Hill equivalent), I wound my way through China Town to find my destination almost empty – this is almost unheard of as there is often a queue that snakes half way down the street. Consequently, I figured that London's cupcake-loving population must have been hiding from the rain and happily tucked into my sweet peanut cupcake in the café’s (unusually peaceful) pink-purple setting. The cupcake itself was wonderfully textured, light and nutty with a sweet cream-cheese frosting which, inspired by peanut brittle in terms of its flavour, had been adorned with just that! Although more than I'd consider paying for a cupcake back home, I couldn't resist purchasing another for 'the road' and so, I had a black-bottom cupcake put in a cutesy presentation box to take-away for later on!
I chose Covent Garden for my next stop and after climbing (and counting) the 193 stairs from the tube station to the street, it was difficult not to reward myself with yet more sweet treats. Bypassing the likes of 'Ella's' and 'Candy Cupcakes' where more beautiful creations caught my eye, I made my way to 'Cyber Candy' which, if you are not familiar, is basically an emporium of candy from all over the word. Despite Covent Garden featuring its flagship store, it's remarkably squishy so browsing is a no-go. Luckily I knew what I wanted and went away with my paper bag of 'proper' peanut butter M&Ms (that, if you remember, I couldn't source the day before) and Pretzel Flipz which are salted pretzels covered in white chocolate fudge - the salty-sweet contrast of which is seriously good…trust me! I'm sure you will recognise a pattern emerging here whereby being left to my own devices results in the proceedings being somewhat dominated by my sweet tooth. Subsequently, I thought it best to incorporate something substantially savoury into the equation and yet I wasn't quite ready to do so. A shame…considering how tempting the giant wok of paella cooking in the lower market space was; it's Mediterranean spices following me all the way back to the station….
Heading back to the hustle bustle of Oxford Circus instantly created the feeling of wanting to leave it again and for that reason, I headed to St. Christopher's Place. There are a couple of ways to access this area but the best and undoubtedly the quirkiest, is to find the tiny passageway which, just a stones-throw away from Selfridges, you could measure in its entirety with outstretched arms. This leads to a quaint courtyard where cafés and restaurants plentifully edge it’s focal monument and bubbling fountain – obviously we’re not talking absolute tranquillity but in my opinion, it’s attractively calmer than the nearby High Street. I chose Apostrophe for a bite to eat, a small chain boulangerie, patisserie and café serving a lovely range of sandwiches, soups, stews and salads, not to mention some very naughty-looking pastries that on this occasion, I avoided! I loved that this venue put as much emphasis on the bread constituting it's sandwiches as the fillings within them and for that reason couldn't resist the 'chamonix' (£3.95 to eat-in) which combined goats cheese, oven roasted peppers, rocket and salsa rossa in a multi-seed sourdough loaf - yum!

And so my time in the big city had come to an end and I left with both a light purse and a heavy stomach! With an inexhaustible supply of cafés, bars, restaurants and every genre of fast-food imaginable, you really have to wade through the convenience-driven pap to find the gems which actually do exist within each square of the city's patchwork quilt effect. Chains certainly have their place here, and there are some really good ones, but as I found with the grimy Starbucks that I bought in a hurry on my way to the coach, safety in numbers may mean that they don't have to work as hard, thus scrimping on the quality you may find elsewhere. Would I swap Bristol for London? No way! But, I do love to explore the foodie playground which exists here and at times, indulge in a spot of corporate gluttony – well, who doesn't?! Overall though, I'm lucky to have a brill friend and London know-all who has put in the preliminary work and sussed out a multitude of venues that she knows I will love - thank you H, until next time…

References:
http://starbucks.co.uk/

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