cosmopolondon

native night/day work/play

The Modern Pantry

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Nestled on a quiet square in Clerkenwell, a short walk from Farringdon station, is the Modern Pantry. In the summer tables spill out of this old townhouse, and inside there are 3 levels to the restaurant (and the toilets are right at the top!). The ground floor has a bright, relaxed cafe vibe with a long sharing table in the centre; the first floor plays host to a similarly daubed restaurant along with some private dining rooms, and the second floor has more elaborate private dining rooms offer.

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I’ve been to the Modern Pantry twice for brunch, and it’s truly excellent. The baked eggs are exceptional, but I’m a sucker for the eggs-as-you-like and halloumi. I also have it on good authority they do a wonderful bottomless brunch at the weekends… so consider this review a “to be continued” because that definitely warrants a fourth visit!

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White crab, macadamia nut som tam, sourdough toast, pickled sea plantain and parsnip crisps

My third visit (and when I actually remembered to take pictures) was for dinner. The dinner menu is just as interesting as the brunch menu, and the portions equally generous. The chefs clearly favour eclectic ingredients – there were plenty of things on the menu that captured my curiosity. To start, I went for the white crab on toast with sea plantain. I think this dish is an acquired taste, and I’m not sure I would order it again, but I did enjoy it. If you’re not feeling adventurous, the smoked burrata salad looked a much safer bet.

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Tamarind & miso marinated onglet steak, shallot puree, sea beats, lemongrass braised cherry tomatoes; Persian spice, yougurt & garlic marinated lamb chops, jerusalem artichoke puree, radish, broad bean and parchment bread salad, spiced pommes Anna, goats cheese cream; on the side, cassava chips with creme fraiche and tomato salsa

For mains, I went for onglet steak which was melt in your mouth delicious, and perfectly paired with seat beats and lemongrass braised cherry tomatoes. My dining companion had a marinated lamb dish, and this was just as tasty. And I can’t stress how generous the portions are – you won’t need dessert. Which is actually a shame because the desserts look equally delectable.

Without a doubt one of my favourite restaurants in London, not to be missed.

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Casse Croute

Time for another Bermondsey Street special – there really are so many fantastic finds on this little road, it’s worth the venture from London Bridge/Borough. Once the new London Bridge Station is finished I imagine it will be even easier to access. If you work in the area, definitely pop along at lunch time for a change of scene.

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Casse Croute is a teeny tiny French restaurant with between 10 and 15 tables. Step inside and you are transported to a Parisian backstreet. The menu changes daily (check out their Twitter feed for the day’s offering) but frequently offers some French classics. There are three starters, three mains and three desserts to choose from. Don’t bother if you’re vegetarian though…

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Oeuf cocotte, girolles

I started with mushrooms and eggs in a kind of veloute. I’m not really sure how else to describe it – those with more culinary wisdom than me will no doubt glance at the picture and instantly recognise what must be a French delicacy! The mushrooms were really tasty but I’m not sure I’d order this again; I reckon it’s a one-off special. My dining companions had the other two dishes on offer that day – snails, and clams – all of which received rave reviews.

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Feuillete d’escargots a l’Aneth

For main course I went for the French twist on a beef wellington (with yet more mushrooms) and classic French beans. There wasn’t too much pastry, but that’s a good thing because it meant the main focus of the dish was on the delectable beef. The table also had the salted cod fish pie, which was enormous but looked and smelled delicious.

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Boeuf en Croute, haricots verts

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Brandade

We didn’t have room for dessert, but we did try some of the lovely wine and champagne. So, the basic message is: don’t come here if you want loads of choice, do come here if you want amazing French food. A voila!

Commuter Etiquette: Chapter Three – How To Stand

Sometime ago, Cosmopolondon gave you a simple masterclass on how to sit on the train, which I hope you’ve been putting to good use. Now it’s sticky summertime, the tubes and trains are unbearably hot (unless you luck out and get an air conditioned one… the elusive cool…) and, during busy times – which seems to be all times these days – I’m sure by now you’ve been standing far too close to a sweaty armpit for comfort. So, here are some simple tips of how to avoid causing yourself and others extreme discomfort whilst standing.

Golden rule – never ever EVER lean on the poles when it’s busy. Ever been leaning comfortably and looked around you? You see all those people swaying to and fro with every twist and turn of the line, giving you the evil eye? Who look like they would go flying down the carriage were they not packed so tightly together? Well, none of them can hold on because you are so thoughtlessly leaning on an entire pole. Four or five could enjoy blissful stability if you stood up and shared that pole. I mean, it’s not even that comfortable to lean on. Don’t hog the pole people!

Talking of the pole, to all you lovely tall people out there – I know you already have to ensure you don’t hit your heads on the poles / handles along the ceiling of the carriage / doors, but once you’re done with all that, spare a thought for the little guy. I can’t reach those handles up there – I’m vertically challenged. But for you, hey that ceiling handle is conveniently placed for a nonchalant hang. I promise not to lean on the pole in return.

Got a backpack? Please, take it off and place it between your feet. That goes for all bags unless they are small handbags. I do not want to go crowdsurfing because I’ve taken an unexpected ride on your bag. And whatever you’ve got in it is crushing my insides. Got tonnes of shopping bags because you’ve splurged on Oxford Street. Pack them all into as few bags as possible. Less bags, less stuff for others to trip over on their way out.

Are you standing in the doorway, but not getting off for a while? I appreciate it’s not pleasant having your body squished up against those doors, and every time they open it’s a genuine sigh of relief as you manage to exhale again, but, if you’re able and it’s in reach, do us all a favour and push the button to open the door (trains only people – life hack alert, you don’t have to push the button on the tube!). It will save me playing Twister around your limbs to reach it.

Plus, us Londoners are generally pretty polite (despite the urban legend that we’re all hard and rude and horrid). If you hop off and stand aside, and make it a little easier for those further in to get out, I guarantee at least one person alighting will smile at you (ok… maybe they won’t… but inside they will be!) and those still onboard will welcome you back with open arms into the hot and cramped underworld. Or, you could just take a walk…

Yauatcha

Yauatcha is an international outfit with restaurants in London, India and the USA. Comprised of a cocktail bar, patisserie and dim sum restaurant, if you’re not looking for the Soho branch you could be forgiven for missing it – unless you happen to notice to delectable macarons and chocolates in the display case, that is!

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Inside, there’s a multitude of hosts waiting to greet you and take you to your table. The tables and chairs are surprisingly low. The interior is crisp and clean, and there’s a giant fishtank along one wall filled with tropical fish. There’s also more tables in the basement which is a darker, more glamourous affair than the ground floor.

I met a friend at Yauatcha Soho for an early dinner before heading onto the cinema. We started off with cocktails: mine was the non-alcoholic Tokyo Cooler which was super light and refreshing, and my companion went for the bellini which was bright pink and topped with raspberries.

Venison puffs; wild mushroom dumplings

If you’re going for dim sum, I’d recommend getting 5 plates between you and see how you go. There’s 3 or 4 pieces of dim sum on each dish. We went for the wild mushroom dumplings, chicken cheung fung, chicken shanghai dumplings, the venison puffs and roasted duck and pumpkin puffs.

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Roasted duck pumpkin puff with pinenut

My favourites were definitely the venison puffs (an absolutely MUST HAVE) and the roasted duck and pinenut puffs (they look like cute little pumpkins!). Next time, I will definitely be sure to try some of the seafood dumplings as well. We finished off with a couple of macarons (lavender and praline) and chocolates. Yauatcha also have a branch in the City – I could certainly go for some late night dim sum after a hard day’s work!

Percy & Founders

Fitzrovia is an interesting area of London – I can’t quite put my finger on its character. When I was younger I thought “Fitzrovia” was a fictional area of London used in novels and films, because I didn’t think somewhere with such an odd name could exist in the capital. But, lo and behold, it does, and it’s home to some fantastic quirky bars and restaurants.

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Percy & Founders is tucked away on Pearson Square. It’s a large, high-ceilinged room with floor-to-ceiling windows. I felt like I was walking into a hotel lobby as I approached the host’s desk. To your left is a swish, bright and airy bar, and in front of you and to the right is the restaurant with another bar area in the middle, all doused in muted tones of gold, teal and taupe with interesting, off-piste art scattered over the walls.

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Baked eggs with chorizo, avocado and tomato salsa

Long on my brunch lust list, I was joined by five friends on this terrible, wet June morning to sample the menu. Between us, we covered most of it. I went for the baked eggs with chorizo, avocado and tomato salsa which were the best baked eggs I’ve had. A friend had the variant with feta, spinach, tomato and herbs and was equally impressed. Note that this doesn’t come with toast on the side, but does have toasty croutons… I ordered extra toast anyway!

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The Full English

We also had the avocado and poached eggs on toast (with a side of sausage!) and a couple of Full English breakfasts, which also looked a great choice with no skimping on the tomatoes or mushrooms. For a sophisticated Sunday morning complete with eclectic juice mixes, great coffee and a chilled vibe, I’d definitely recommend this place. Worth a return visit for sure.

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The Sail Loft

Bank holidays are made for brunch and booze. For the late May Bank Holiday, I swapped brunch for tennis but couldn’t miss out on the booze, setting up shop in the Sail Loft.

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The Sail Loft is a pub that has recently been renovated on the Greenwich riverfront. From Cutty Sark station, walk towards the river and once on the promenade, turn left and you’ll find this glassy, modern pub perched only 5 minutes walk away.

The Sail Loft has a nautical theme (pretty much a requirement in Greenwich!) and a beautiful decking area which on a sunny day will be a stunning place to savour a nice cold glass of wine.

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The pub has two floors – the upper deck is mainly geared up for eating, but the lower level is more relaxed with high tables and big booth tables (but you can order food here too).

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Smoked duck, roquefort, poached pear, walnuts and watercress salad, with a side of polenta

The menu is more sophisticated than your average pub, but still offers some club classics like fish and chips and burgers. I wasn’t feeling too hungry, so went for the smoked duck salad with a side of polenta. All of my friends went for the burgers, and which were highly praised.

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Crispy buttermilk chicken burger, asian slaw, chips and cumin ketchup

We were treated to an absolutely incredible sunset that night which cast pink, purple and orange hues over the City in the distant West. I’ll definitely be returning here in the summer!

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Bring me that horizon…

Flat Iron

When you/your friends are on a no carb no sugar diet, there’s really only one thing for it. A big juicy steak. Sorry to all the vegetarians out there, but during lent I sure missed good steak – perfectly pink in the middle with not too much fat.

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Steak… voila

Flat Iron is all about the steak, and for the standard price of £10 you get a very generous cut of meat cooked to your preference. I can’t think of anywhere else in London that does such good steak at such a reasonable price.

The sides change with the season – we went for asparagus and aubergine baked in tomato, both of which were extremely good. All the sides, and all the wines for that matter, are chosen to go with steak so you really can’t go wrong here. I didn’t bother taking pictures of those though, because it’s all about the steak.

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We went to the Denmark Street restaurant, and arrived just after 18.30 in the hope we wouldn’t have to wait too long. Despite it being a Tuesday night, we were very wrong and told there was an hour and a half wait for a table. We shrugged this off and washed down the wait with some wine at a bar around the corner. It’s worth the wait (although note that you can’t put your name down unless your whole party is present).

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Padella

Sometimes, there’s nothing for it but pasta. There’s something supremely satisfying about good pasta – and when I say satisfying, I don’t mean being so full that you need to roll out of the restaurant. That, to me, is the sign of bad pasta – when the portion size hasn’t been controlled and I can’t remember how good the food was because I’m too busy bemoaning my pasta food-baby.

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Padella on Borough High Street opened recently and has been on every food blog and instagram worth following, so I thought it was about time I checked it out. And it’s very handy being only a 10 minute walk from my office. As a Friday treat, myself and a colleague ventured to find this hallowed pasta hall.

Be prepared for a queue. As is always the way with this area of London, it’s packed with tourists as well as city folk, and you can’t book a table at Padella. It’s not a very long wait though, and they only seat you if your whole party is present. The restaurant looks tiny from the outside, but actually there’s a secret stairway at the back leading to a more spacious and surprisingly lofty, bright basement restaurant with double the number of covers visible from the street.

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Burrata with Puglian olive oil and bruschetta with baked borlotti beans and salsa rossa

It’s a simple menu in the sense that you can choose from a selection of starter dishes and/or a selection of pasta. The pasta dishes change frequently, but no doubt some of the staple menu items such as pappardelle with beef shin ragu will always be available.

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Tagliarini with slow-cooked tomato sauce

My colleague, the burrata-addict, predictably picked the burrata which she lauded as being very good, teamed with a bruschetta with baked borlotti beans and salsa rossa which was the stand out choice for her. But I couldn’t possibly come to a pasta restaurant and not have pasta! And, lo and behold, my absolute favourite pasta dish was on the menu. When it comes to pasta, I really do think simple is best, and, when done well, you can’t beat a good tagliarini with slow-cooked tomato sauce. I ate countless spaghetti pomodoro dishes whilst in Italy last year and adored every single one, and this was no exception. The tomato sauce was fresh and rich yet light, and the pasta was delicate and not in the least bit stodgy. Buonissimo.

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Donde

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Sharing is caring – maybe that’s the reason behind the unbelievable success of tapas. Traditionally a Spanish concept, you can now get French tapas, Italian tapas, Asian tapas – all sorts of tapas! Gone are the days are just ordering a dish for yourself and having to choose just one thing from a mouth-watering menu. Why not try everything? If you happen to order something you don’t like, there’s always something else on the table to try. Genius.

My latest local eats review is Donde, a simple tapas restaurant near Honor Oak Park station. It’s in good company on this little stretch of shops and restaurants – the pizza joint Mamma Dough is most certainly on my list to try. I went with a friend for a quiet dinner on a Tuesday night.

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A selection of Spanish cheeses (yay, manchego!) and quince

What this place lacks in refinement (the decor is a bit rough and ready) it makes up for with the food. To start, we had the Spanish cheese selection with quince; the cheeses were ace but they were a bit mean with the quince – more quince please! It also doesn’t come with crackers so order bread too.

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Pulpo – Galician octopus with vivaldi new potatoes

To follow up, we had a complete mish mash of flavours. Patatas bravas (a must at any tapas joint, if only for a point of comparison – these were very tasty), tender stem broccoli, honey glazed chorizo, and galician octopus with vivaldi new potatoes.  This was only a tiny sampling of what the menu offers, but all of it was good. The octopus was my highlight. How lucky am I to have such great local restaurants so close by? Another SE success.

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Pizarro

Bermondsey Street is a hidden gem just around the corner from London Bridge station. Pass under the long railway bridge and you emerge onto a narrow one-way street full of independent cafes and restaurants which is also home to the Fashion and Textile Museum. A favourite of locals and those who work in nearby More London and London Bridge offices, and refreshingly lacking tourists despite the numerous draws nearby (including Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London which are all within 20 minutes walk).

I frequently venture down Bermondsey Street for lunch – watch this space for a little feature on some of the independent cafes it has to offer which make a welcome change from Pret or Itsu – and after dark where, as well as the more obvious watering holes, there are some genuinely hidden gems (mainly in basements) to be found.

Jose Pizarro has two restaurants on Bermondsey Street – Jose, which is a tiny tapas bar and always heaving, and Pizarro which is a more substantial restaurant towards the end of Bermondsey Street. I’ve never been to Jose, but I’ve been to Pizarro three times for dinner and never been disappointed.

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Gambas al ajillo

The menu changes with the season, and on the particular occasion where I actually remembered to take photos (sometimes the food is just too good!), to start we opted for a mixed beetroot salad and gambas al ajillo (prawns, garlic and chilli). Also, make sure you ask your waiter/waitress for a wine recommendation because they are all exceptional but it’s incredibly hard to choose from such an extensive choice.

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Mixed beetroot salad with Picos de Europa cheese, hazelnut and tarragon

For mains, we sampled an aubergine cannelloni which was surprisingly light and flavourful, and cod served with salsa verde, kale and jamon. There’s something about fish and prosciutto or jamon which shouldn’t work in theory, but just does. It’s one of my favourite flavour combinations, and this offering did not disappoint.

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Battered cod with salsa verde, kale and Jamon 5J

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Aubergine Cannelloni stuffed with roasted vegetables and gratin payoyo cheese

The desserts are also worth sampling – they take a while to arrive once ordered, but that’s largely because each one is individually crafted by a dedicated dessert chef, as we found out sitting along the kitchen bar, watching one of the Jose gents perfect a white chocolate and raspberry fondant. One of many fantastic restaurants on this delightful street, but definitely not to be missed.