Bodean’s, L’eto Caffe & Salvation Jane (London)

Last weekend, W came to London for a night. Which really can mean only one thing: food.

Because her birthday is coming up, we planned a bit of a surprise for her. I ordered a gorgeous cake from L’Eto Caffe, and popped in to pick it up before dinner. The lady in L’Eto laughed when she saw what I had gotten written on the cake - pictures later! Wait for it! :D :D :D Anyway, as the cake was meant to be a surprise, I specifically brought my Celine out, because its massive square base and structured sides makes it the perfect vessel for carting around an entire boxed cake without arousing any suspicion.

After that, I skipped on down the road to Poland Street, as we had arranged to meet at Bodean’s. I love a good barbecue and Pitt Cue Co. does an amazing one but I don’t always fancy queuing for hours just to get in. Having said that, it’s not as if you can skip the queues at Bodean’s either, because you can’t, especially not on a Saturday night, but I would say that it’s not as bad. Plus, while waiting, you get to bask in the warm, cozy fug of barbecue and breathe in the scent of meat that hangs around the place like a thick, lazy, delicious cloud.

I arrived at about 645PM, put my name down for a table and was told that we had to wait until 730PM. Which was fine, really, because we got to sit outside under the heaters just catching up on one another’s lives. In fact, you can actually grab a drink at the bar while you wait inside, or on the benches outside until your name is yelled.

W said I literally sprung up in eggcitement when my name was yelled.

We sat in the deli section, which was packed, though there is the restaurant section downstairs as well that is reserved mainly for large groups. There were some seats facing the wall and, while I can understand the use of mirrors to make an enclosed space seem larger and more open, would I really want to watch myself while I’m eating barbecue?!?!?! Can’t tell you how awkward it was every time I looked up and saw someone watching me stuff my face – remember how I said I’m not a particularly pretty eater? In particular, there was this baby-faced man with small hands sat at the table opposite and he looked rather terrified as I tore away rather ferociously at my meat.

The ordering system here is very simple. Once you’ve perused the menu and made your choice, approach the bar/counter and place your order. You will have to pay on the spot, and make sure you retain your receipts because they may ask to look at them when they bring the food to your table. Do listen out for your number! We felt so bad for the wait staff, who were constantly yelling out numbers above the incredible noise.

Half slab baby back ribs (£9.95), with sweet potato fries (+£2.25) and coleslaw 
Half slab spare ribs, with normal fries and coleslaw (£13.95) 
I did some research and apparently baby back ribs come from the loin area of the pig, right next to the actual loin, while the spare ribs come from the breast part, next to the belly. Spare ribs are supposedly more meaty and fatty than baby back ribs, which therefore cook faster. 
Anyway, technicalities and foodnerdishness aside, smothered in a thick, sticky, tasty sauce and whacked on to a hot grill until gloriously glazed and burnished, both were delicious. The spareribs are a lot harder to eat though, and after a while, H (who was unfortunately saddled with them throughout the meal) very sweetly played mother and cut the meat off the bone for me. <3
BBQ Burnt Ends and Pulled Pork (£13.95), with sweet potato fries (+£2.25) and coleslaw 
The pulled pork and burnt ends were both very tasty and tender. My personal favorite, that I get every time I come to Bodean’s, is the burnt ends, which are really ‘slow-smoked chunks of beef brisket’, because I find them the most flavorful. The good thing about the pulled pork and the burnt ends both is how easy they are to eat – you literally only need a fork to engage in some heavy-duty shoveling action, and you’ll never have to get your hands dirty.

We all loved the sweet potato fries, which were great with the homemade BBQ sauces provided in squeezy bottles on the tables.

And finally, while coleslaw is not a particularly interesting item, I find that it is strictly necessary here as an accompaniment. The cool creaminess and slight crunch of the coleslaw helps all that meat and potato go down a bit more easily.

Corn Bread Muffins (£2.50)
The corn bread muffins were served hot with a bit of butter. Soft, fluffy and ever so slightly sweet, I could – and did – eat them on their own.

We saw other people drinking milkshakes but couldn’t find it on the menu so I just asked at the counter and was told that they offer vanilla, chocolate and honeycomb milkshakes, so W got a honeycomb one.

 

Overall, Bodean’s is always a fail-safe place for meat-lovers who want real, proper meat, the sort you can sink your teeth into. It’s for people who are fed up with delicate food and pomp and panache. Also, I recommend going ONLY with people who already love you and whom you are completely and utterly comfortable with. Why? Because you will NOT look pretty eating this. And truthfully, because the messiness is part of the experience, you won’t want to look pretty anyway.

They do have desserts here but we somehow managed to get out of there without having any, without arousing any supsicion on W‘s part, which was quite a feat.

Back home, we made her take a shower so we could get the surprise ready, and when she opened the door prematurely, I screamed at her and kind of fell out of the door to block her view into the room, bruising my knees in the process.

Which brings to mind this old favorite that you simply MUST play now that you’re reading this because it’s such a feel-good little ditty!

Got bruises on my knees for you and grass stains on my jeans for you… Really brings me all the way back to SECONDARY SCHOOL, this :’)
Anyway, as I had earlier mentioned, I ordered the cake from the L’eto Caffe website. It was really easy. Literally just choose the flavor, the shape and size, and add a message. I’d ordered it 2 days in advance though you really only need to order it 1 working day before. It was very reasonably priced. It is £27 for 4-6 slices, £30 for 6-8 slices, and an additional £5 to add a message. And trust me, these are big slices.

I had to resist the strong temptation to get the honey cake. Instead, I chose a chocolate cinnamon cake because the combination of chocolate and cinnamon is one of my favorites and it’s difficult to go wrong with a chocolate cake for a birthday.

The finished product was beautiful. I like simple designs and often eschew the garish in favor of dressed-down, understatedly elegant cakes, so this was perfect.

And now, the million-dollar question: What did I have piped on the cake? 

 

‘You Go, Glen Coco’ – definitely the BEST line from Mean Girls.

I had wanted to have this piped on my own birthday cake in June but the lady at The Chelsea Teapot was so unfriendly that I chickened out and just got a conventional message instead. And as ‘You Go, Glen Coco’ is a phrase that has special significance for W and myself, I just had to live my dream of having this on my birthday cake vicariously through her.

As you may have noticed, the last ‘o’ in ‘Coco’ has been replaced by a Milkybar button. The cake had gotten a tiny bit smushed about while we were traipsing around central London, and we couldn’t give W a cake that said ‘You Go, Glen Coc‘, now, could we?? So in a sudden fit of inspiration we replaced it with a Milkybar button, et voila!’

Tall, dark, handsome and rich. That is how I like my…
Chocolate cake. I am unfortunately a very asexual being, so a good-looking chocolate cake is to me what a good-looking man is to a nympho. This one here was delicious. The cake layers were soft and spongy and the filling in between each layer was smooth and creamy. I do believe the frosting had a bit of cream cheese added to it as it had a somewhat gelatinous texture and a slight tang. The flavor of chocolate wasn’t too dark or intense, and the hint of cinnamon was great, though I would have preferred it to be a bit stronger. (That may just be because I am known to quadruple the amount of cinnamon required by any recipe.) There was a layer of berry compote close to the top and while I did not love the gratuitous and rather disruptive injection of a fruit component, I think people who actually eat fruit would enjoy it.

And now, finally, we come to the morning after.

W had a train to catch so we trooped out to the nearby Salvation Jane to have breakfast.

Salvation Jane is the sister cafe of Lantana and while I’ve always known of its existence, I haven’t bothered to check it out because it hadn’t seemed necessary since their menus are more or less the same and I’d become very comfortable with Lantana over the years. Now, however, I think my loyalties may have shifted – not that it matters anyway, since they are part of the same group – and I’ll go out on a limb here and say I actually prefer SJ to Lantana.

There’s really only one reason though. See, what I like about SJ is that, while Lantana is rather stuffy and cramped, particularly when you dine on the basement level, SJ is bright, open and airy.

Now let’s talk about the grub.

 

I got a black coffee and W got a chai latte, while H got a really delicious pot of lemon, honey and ginger tea (£3) that I definitely recommend. It was gently sweet and very soothing, a wonderfully warming drink, perfect on a cold morning.

Naturally, I had to get the toasted banana bread. You’ll remember it from this post so I shan’t go on about it. I’d thought I was clear enough when I ordered ‘the banana bread’ that I meant the banana bread, i.e. the toasted banana bread on the menu. But the waiter misunderstood me and brought me a slice of plain old banana bread instead. I managed to disguise my alarm though I was about to explode in a panic and told him I! wanted! the! toasted! one! in very measured, muted tones like the adult that I am. He very kindly rectified the situation, and said, as he set it down on the table, “You’re right, this one is so much better.” 

Toasted banana bread w sticky date caramel and praline (£6) 

This was the ‘hot smoked’ salmon on organic dark rye toast w poached eggs, chive creme fraiche and rocket (£11).

The ‘hot smoked’ salmon was perfectly cooked and nicely flakey, wasn’t too salty, and you won’t smell as strongly as fish later on as if you had had regular cold smoked salmon. I would have preferred a thicker, more substantial type of toast, personally. Overall, this was good but I wasn’t too crazy about it.

But this. This I was crazy about. I’ve tried the coconut French toast before at Lantana, and it’s so, so good, but this is even better, not least because I love maple anything.

Maple French toast with caramelized banana, bacon and candied pecans (£11) 
The French toast was thicky-sliced so that the end result was anything but the sorry, soggy pieces of bread that disappointing French toasts usually turn out to be. The eggy crust on the bread was perfectly cooked so that there wasn’t any raw egginess or, on the other end of the scale, overcooked rubberiness. Instead, it was soft and light and fluffy. The crisp rashers of bacon had absorbed the flavor of the maple and had developed something of a warm maple-y glaze, and you know I love, love, love the combination of maple and bacon. I’d thought initially that I didn’t want the banana because I don’t eat fruit, so I casually flung it onto the plates of H and W. But then I tried it. And took back the slice that I had given to H. Hehehe. A caramelized banana is a rather beautiful thing. And those candied pecans? Sugary-sweet, slightly sticky and mercifully, crunchy – I hate it when people give you nuts that are not crunchy because it defeats the whole purpose of the exercise – they were a real treat.

I liked the bacon so much I decided that I would order a side of bacon just to see if would be the same. When I asked the server if it was the same, he just laughed and said yes, but I ordered some maple syrup on the side as well just to be safe.

Unfortunately, the side-order of bacon was not as crisp as I would’ve liked. But it was still good. I mean. Hot, freshly-fried rashers of bacon, still glistening with grease, to be picked up with fingers and with fingers only, baptized in maple syrup, and then conveyed to mouth in one fell swoop, the excess syrup still dribbling off the ends to make a sticky mess on your chin… This should be a menu item in its own right. I call dibs.

Turn now to that special someone you love and repeat after me: You are the maple to my bacon.

On a side-note, we were talking about how most men working in cafes have beards. Perhaps there is a positive correlation between the amount of facial hair there is on the baristas and the quality of the coffee. Who knows. Maybe I could make better coffee if I had a beard… Oh wait, that’s sexist. And also borderline racist even, since Chinese people find it harder to grow facial hair, true story.

I have now added Salvation Jane to the Breakfast/Brunch List, since I think I am more likely to come here over Lantana in the future. I also propose that they change their name from Salvation Jane to Salavation Jane because that maple french toast (and of course the toasted banana bread) is drool-worthy.
10 Poland Street
London
W1F 8PZ

Opening hours:
Mon-Sat: 12PM to 11PM
Sunday: 12PM to 1030PM
*DO check the website for information on the other branches in Clapham, Fulham and Tower Hill
55 City Road
London
EC1Y 1HQ
Opening hours:
Mon: 730AM to 4PM
Tues-Fri: 730AM to 10PM
Sat & Sun: 9AM to 4PM

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