Posts Tagged ‘Lantana’

Blixen and a toasted banana bread to rival Lantana’s?! (London)

I love meeting people up in Spitalfields and wandering about the markets, but weirdly enough, I’m never eggcited to eat there. There’s so, so much yet nothing at all to eat – or at least, nothing of consequence.

That may have changed. (We shall see.)

I first read about Blixen earlier this year but only finally made it down last Friday for breakfast with my lovely K, and there honestly isn’t anything quite like brunch with a girlfriend to make the mother of all awful weeks just that little bit better. (When I say awful I mean AW-FUL.)

It really wasn’t crowded at all, but I dislike crowds anyway, so I was secretly very pleased by that, speshly since this meant that we got a really nice table by the window and got to bask in the sun!

The people who run it are the same ones behind Riding House Cafe (see post here) and I think the most telling sign is the decor, which, you will find, is very similar.

Menu-wise it’s a lot less extensive. The dishes are very specific, and by this I mean, you get blueberry pancakes or not at all. They don’t spoil you with countless options of what is essentially the same dish. (You know – Eggs Ben, Eggs Royale, Eggs Florentine…) But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing! Not at all! It just means that their menu is free of clutter, and you don’t have to work out what goes well with what because they’ve already worked it all out for you, with each dish carefully crafted out of components that really, really work.

 

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So these are just glasses of water but I was in love with their adorable squarish designs.

 

Cappucino (£3), Cortado (£3)

Cappucino (£3), Cortado (£3)

Cortados are my favourite coffee so I order one without hesitation whenever I see it on the menu.

(I apologise in advance for the weird shadows in the photos – it was that damn window-frame!!!!!!)

Pancakes with blueberries and whipped creme fraiche (£6)

Pancakes with blueberries and whipped creme fraiche (£6)

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The blueberry pancakes arrive in a great stack, very aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. As soon as they set it down in front of you, you’ll be able to smell the cinnamon. So if you don’t like cinnamon then do stay clear of this one, or ask them to hold it, but I do personally think cinnamon is an important component of this dish, so I urge you to try it with anyway.

The texture of the pancakes weren’t the best ever ever everrr but they were still soft and fluffy, though perhaps lacking a little in moisture. I love the flavors going on in this though, and particularly like that the blueberries took center-stage here. Not too sweet or cloying, cooked to a great consistency, and the generous dusting of cinnamon really coaxed the flavor out of the blueberries even more. The addition of creme fraiche was a nice touch as well.

Would definitely prefer these to most other pancakes I’ve had in London, bar Granger and Co’s ricotta hotcakes of course. (Duh.) Much better than the Breakfast Club pancakes, methinks. Plus thumbs-up for generous portions! (For other breakfast/brunch options, see post here – although that list really has to be updated soon, I think)

I couldn’t decide between the baked eggs (was intrigued that it came with lardons, confit duck and aioli, aka baked eggs with FAT, FAT AND FAT, aka the best possible combination) and the croque madame (which came with raclette, jamon and fried duck egg, 3 of my very favorite things). Hmm. So I asked the waitress for help and she recommended the Croque Madame, “hands down”.

And since she was unhesitating, so I was unquestioning. Croque Madame it was.

 

Croque Madame: jamon, raclette, duck egg (£8.50)

Croque Madame: jamon, raclette, duck egg (£8.50)

It arrived with a rather perfect, beautiful fried egg perched quietly atop.

Which just screams for more pictures!


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But enough of the eggsterior! Time for EATS.

Alas, few fried eggs are truly perfect. While this looked like an absolute winner, with a crispy circumference you can only get from a good amount of oil, and very evenly cooked white, I would have preferred my yolk just a tad runnier. Just a tad. I promise we were very almost there.

You see, half of the yolk was still desirably runny.

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My egg woes aside, this was kind of a perfect sandwich, a great take on the classic Croque Madame. Some of you purists may think that the ingredients sound rather eggstravagant for what’s meant to be a simple sandwich but  I completely disagree. The raclette, jamon and fried duck egg are admittedly an eclectic mix, but it definitely works. Raclette is known to be good for melting, and jamon has so much more complex a flavour than normal ham (though I would happily change my name to Stephamie), and er apparently 1 duck egg has your entire day’s worth of cholesterol, so how can you possibly say no to that?!?! Plus the bread had a crispy crust and a sweet egginess that I really appreciated against the intense savoriness of the jamon and raclette.

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Approve. I’ll happily order this again, although I do wish it came in a bigger serving as I liked it so much I was begging for more hehehe. Ok I shall stop now.

Anyway, I ordered a mint tea because I love to eat and drink clean like that.

Mint tea (£2.50)

Mint tea (£2.50)

LOL. No, I actually just needed something for my cold. And to prepare my tummy for…

TOASTED BANANA BREAD!!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean, I HAVE to have both a savoury and sweet option for brunch whenever possible. It’s only right!

Actually scratch that. When toasted banana bread is on the menu, I need make no excuses. I’ve waxed lyrical about how much I love love love toasted banana bread, and Lantana’s is always great (btw, the Old Street branch that used to be called ‘Salvation Jane’ is now called Lantana as well, see post here and here). But very few places offer it, so I was incredibly excited to see this on the menu, and wanted to see how this one stacked up. The question is: Can it rival Lantana’s?!?!

And the verdict? Yes it can. It really can. 

 

Toasted banana bread with whipped vanilla butter (£3.50)

Toasted banana bread with whipped vanilla butter (£3.50)

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It comes with whipped vanilla butter but of course I had to ask for maple syrup and proceed to drown the banana bread in it. As should you. Banana + maple = awesome.

 

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It comes in thinner slices than Lantana’s banana bread, which meant that the crisp-outside-to-moist-interior ratio was better. But portion-wise probably works out to be the same since here they give you 2 thin slices and Lantana gives you 1 fat slice. The aroma of the banana is stronger in Lantana’s but the taste was definitely present here as well. This was slightly sweeter, but what really made it stand out is the accompanying whipped vanilla butter, which is generously dotted with vanilla specks, and is distinctly savoury (they probably used salted butter), which makes it a great contrast to the sweet banana bread.

And so I can say that I would quite happily recommend this as well.

Overall, I can definitely see myself returning. I don’t know if I’ll be able to try anything new, because I may very well order the Croque Madame and toasted banana bread again. I don’t know if I can give this place my ringing endorsement quite yet, because I have yet to try much here, but as far as first impressions go, I’m very impressed, and, for what it’s worth, am far more likely to come here than Riding House Cafe. Service staff here are very attentive and pleasant as well. Also it was really quite cheap. Oh my, I’ve just realised that the toasted banana bread here is A LOT cheaper than Lantana’s. Hmm……………….

But ok I’m still very loyal and will always love Lantana – do go check it out if you haven’t yet been!

If you happen to be around Spitalfields some time, do come and try their breakfast menu! But if you dare order granola, end up disliking it, and writing to me to complain, I swear I will kill you, dehydrate and bake you to a crisp, coat you in the sticky syrup of your own congealed blood, and have you as a topping over yogurt which I will harvest from the milk in your livers (um, milk-livered = cowardly, in case you were wondering lol). Ok that took an unexpected turn. But yeah Pet Peeve Numero Uno.

Let’s just say Im no longer afraid of having brunch in Spitalfields.

 

BLIXEN

65A Brushfield Street
London E1 6AA

 

Later on I met H in Covent Garden to soak up the last of the afternoon sun. We were just looking for somewhere to chill when we walked by Kopapa, which was extremely empty, so I decided that we should go there as it had been ages since my last visit!

We didn’t have a proper meal here but just for your reference, the items I like off the brunch menu here are the Turkish baked eggs, the chorizo hash and the French toast! I haven’t tried the rest of their menus so I can’t vouch for them.

BUT I CAN VOUCH FOR THIS.

 

Sea salt caramel smoothie (£4.50)

Sea salt caramel milkshake (£4.50)

 

I was craving something cool and sweet and this really hit the spot. It tasted like a melted-down caramel-flavored vanilla ice-cream (which I stress is different from full-on caramel ice-cream, which would just be meh and too one-dimensional), with a good texture – the smoothie was not too thick or icy. The best part was the salted caramel drizzle around the glass, which I was using the end of the straw to scoop up. I’m definitely ordering this again.

And to go with a sweet, creamy smoothie, what else do you crave when the sun is out in full force?

Rosemary fries (£3.70)

Rosemary fries (£3.70)

 

Fries, of course! The bowl that it comes in seems pretty small but there is actually quite a lot in there, and for me to think it’s enough, I’m pretty sure it’s enough for you too. The rosemary aroma and flavour is quite strong.

I promise I’ll do a proper Kopapa post sometime. Can’t think why I’ve never done one.

 

KOPAPA

32-34 Monmouth Street

Seven Dials, Covent Garden

London, UK WC2H 9HA

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.
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Favourite Breakfast/Brunch Spots (London)

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. (John Gunther)

Truth.

Now, let us turn from the words of one esteemed journalist and writer to someone with far more credibility…

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” 

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” 

 “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. 

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

(A. A. Milne)

Oh, breakfast is SUCH a thing. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. With the weekend fast approaching, everyone must be making breakfast/brunch plans, so what better time to answer one of the questions I get asked the most: where does one go to have brunch in London? Must say, one thing I envy Elaine for is that the brunch culture in Sydney is so much stronger than it is here in London, which makes me sad because I do so love my brunch. Still, there ARE some real gems, and I’m always on the prowl for more!

1. Granger & Co 

When I visited Elaine in Sydney last Easter, one of the first places she brought me to was the much-raved-about Bill’s, and it really didn’t disappoint. So imagine how ridiculously happy I was when I found out that Bill Granger has a restaurant in London as well!!!!!! I still remember stumbling upon that golden nugget of information while not-listening in a lecture in First Year. Needless to say, I made plans for breakfast the very next day, and to this day still go pretty frequently.

There are only two things I order at Granger & Co.

Ricotta Hotcakes, Banana & Honeycomb Butter (£11.50)

These are so fiiiiiiine… Thick and fluffy and literally like eating clouds. The ones here always seem to be even fluffier than the ones I had in Sydney, even though I would never have thought that possible. And when you get that odd sliver of ricotta that didn’t quite get mixed in, and it melts on your tongue all smooth and creamy? HEAVEN. As per proper pancake etiquette, you must drench the hotcakes in the entire pot of maple syrup provided… and then ask for more on the side for dunking.

Sweetcorn Fritters, Roast Tomato, Spinach & Bacon (£13.50)

I love having both a sweet AND savoury option when I eat, and this is the savoury option I always go for. These are crispy and extremely tasty, the flavors being almost reminiscent of “cucur udang” (local prawn fritters in Singapore and Malaysia).

Granger & Co can get really crowded so be prepared to stand in line. The longest I’ve ever queued was just under an hour on a freezing Saturday morning, so don’t go hungry. There will be lots of regulars, some of them Australian, and every one of them perfectly willing to queue because they all know how DAMN WORTH IT those ricotta hotcakes are.

But hey, queuing is always a great opportunity to make friends!!!!!!!!! :D :D :D Tell your fellow queuer that you like his shoes, or that she has purdy hair. I love the brunch crowds because they are my kind of people – laid-back, carefree people who love food enough to wake up early and make time for a leisurely breakfast, and who care enough about the people in their lives to want to sit around and chat over good coffee.

On another note, I don’t know when it was exactly that hipsters hijacked the brunch scene but they seem to form a huge section of the brunch demographic, to the extent that one would think brunch an unquestionable hallmark of hipsterism. Anyway, I tend to steer clear of hipsters, because I am so terribly mainstream that they would just think me supremely uncool and won’t want to be my friend. :'(

GRANGER & CO
175 Westbourne Grove
London W11 2SB

Opening hours:
Mon-Sat: 7AM to 11PM
Sun: 8AM to 10PM

*breakfast is only served until 12pm, but the ricotta hotcakes and sweetcorn fritters are also on the lunch menu

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