Thursday, April 28, 2011

My tour of Great Britain: a Saturday morning in Bridgend

On Saturday morning after our first night in Bridgend I woke up early to book my Olympic tickets. I had left it to the last minute and was slightly paranoid that Tuesday would come and go and I'd forget all about them.

The quiet of the hotel at seven o'clock in the morning was very different to the party atmosphere at 12am the previous night. Eventually I found a waitress setting up the breakfast and ordered a coffee.

I sat in the bar on a big green sofa, the door to the decking outside was open with a fresh breeze was blowing through and the sun was shining outside.

My coffee came in a pot on a tray which allowed me to pour several cups and for it to keep warm whilst I studied which events I actually wanted to see at next years Olympics and which I was prepared to pay for!

Friday, April 22, 2011

My tour of Great Britain: the train from London to Bridgend

For the next 10 days I am on a tour of sorts around Great Britain. This morning I'm currently on a train heading to my first stop, Bridgend in Wales for Z from Universitiy's Hen Night. She lives in the North, so N (a friend from Uni also) and I are travelling separately from London.

We got to Paddington ahead of schedule so that we could go in search of breakfast. Paddington Station, like any other, is covered in those sub-standard coffee shops selling dried out croissants and coffee in horribly designed orange paper cups. We decided to leave the station and just around the corner on Craven Road we found Ef's.

Ef's is one of those Turkish café and sandwich bars that double up as your local kebab shop on the way home from a night out.

I ordered, a latte which came in a just the right size mug, with a saucer and a plate of sausage, egg and bacon; N ordered a tea which came with the teabag still soaking in one of those brown glass mugs and a sausage sandwich. It being quite a hot morning and after the wine we drank last night, I also ordered a Ribena and N a bottle of water. It all came to a reasonable price, which would have been at least double for what we had, had we stayed in the station.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I drink Champagne too.

At New Year we decided we didn't want to go out - spending half the night travelling and being cold - so K, N and I had some friends over for dinner and games. After we had prepped the smoke salmon & cream cheese canapés and mini toad-in-the-holes earlier in the day we set them to one side ready to put in the oven when guests arrived. I was charged with cooking the main course, a cream sauce recipe from Gino D'Acampo's book Gino's Pasta: everything you need to cook the Italian way, which N and I had decided to adapt by letting some spinach wilt into it just before serving.

It's always a bit of a juggle cooking and being part of the party, but as this was quite a quick meal - lots of pasta, salad and a heap of garlic rubbed ciabatta - it allowed me to feel free to leave it simmering away for short bursts of time. And for the moments I had to be at the stove, stirring the sauce at crucial moments, I had a glass of Piper Heidsieck to keep me in the party mood!

Everything turned out brilliantly and we had such a laugh playing games like charades and musical chairs which got more hilarious as the night went on (as you could probably guess). At midnight, we did our countdown to Big Ben on the television and then watched the fireworks on the screen and through our windows simultaneously. We finished the night with a walk around Tower Bridge and Potter's Fields, taking in the atmosphere and thinking what a great New Year. We will definitely be doing this again next year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Velvet sofas and the Disney 50 at the BFI Southbank

On Sunday afternoon we went to see Cinderella (1950) at the BFI Southbank as part of their Disney 50 season. It was a beautiful day and after watching the marathon runners go across Tower Bridge in the morning it was nice to get out of the crowds, so we hired BorisBikes and cycled down the south bank.

We met in the BFI coffee bar, a gloss black enclave with walls made of long black fringing and the squishiest velvet sofas, which were a little misplaced and didn't really allow for all four of us to sit within talking distance of each other due to their large armrests and varying shapes and sizes. It's better equipped for working by yourself (they have free wifi) or for a quiet coffee to get away from the hustle and bustle of the bank.

I ordered a latte which came in a tall white mug and rough cut sugar cubes in a kilner flask - I don't take sugar but it was nice to know that the cubes wouldn't be left out in the open air. N had a croissant & sparkling water, K had a diet coke and we shared some chunky wedges which came really quickly as they new we didn't have long before the start of the film.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Saturday afternoon in Borough Market

On Saturday afternoon I met P and A from work for coffee in Borough Market - they'd been to the new Miró exhibition at the Tate so it was a bit of a late lunch. We settled in Patisserie Lila on Bedale Street, an eclectic wood furnished café with an iron spiral staircase at the back.

At the counter were macarons, huge lilac meringues and an assortment of cakes on stands of all different sizes. I had my laptop with me and was promptly told that working at it was not allowed - I hadn't intended too and it pleased me to hear that this was an establishment to purely enjoy coffee, tea, cake and time with friends.

We sat upstairs next to the large window which flooded the room with light. I ordered the spinach tortilla & a latte served in a beautifully large porcelian cup, P had a mini mushroom quiche & an espresso and A had a generously sliced piece of carrot cake & peppermint tea from her own individual teapot.

Patisserie Lila also does afternoon tea.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The coffee after the night before.

No matter how late I get in the night before, all I need is a cup off coffee to put me to rights the next day. One such late night/early morning (whichever way you look at it) we all ended up back at N and D's house. They were then living in Shepherds Bush at the time and they didn't have much in the way of a good coffee - N's not a big hot drinks drinker - so C and I went in search of good coffee along Goldhawk Road.

This is where we came across Zippy's Diner. Love this place, walls covered in menus, photographs of the owner & selected 'famous' people and mirrors with small lamps at intervals down each wall, giving it a real cozy and well loved atmosphere. 

C and I sat in one of the little plastic red booths which ran down each side of the long room whilst we waited for the owner's wife to make our drinks as she chatted to one customer who was propping up the laminated wooden bar. It didn't look like the decor had changed for the last 20-30 years, but that didn't matter.

The coffee was good even if it did come in a polystyrene takeaway cup, but I can forgive that when it was such a comfort to sit in one of Zippy's booths. It's only a shame that N and D no longer live in the area, I have no excuse to go back there. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A quick stop at Peyton and Byrne

When I don't have time to bake cake myself or I need to take cake to an event at short notice I make a quick stop by my local Peyton and Byrne in St. Pancras Station. They make the most beautiful and tasty cakes for any occasion, from carrot cake and victoria sponge (sold by the slice or whole cake) to swiss rolls and mini banoffee pies (my favourite).

They also do loose leaf teas and biscuits for gifts that need to travel!

I took these to a triple birthday gathering last night. They don't look very pretty (well maybe the heart shaped raspberry sponge does), but they're very tasty. Larger than you're average pastry or cupcake, they are a great sharing size for everyone to just dive in with a fork.

I ordered: Chocolate and cream swiss roll, lemon curd swiss roll, banoffee pie and fresh raspberry and cream sponge sandwich. These must be stored in the fridge if not eating immediately.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Let's just stop for a coffee..?

My Dad likes coffee, when we're on holiday or on a day out the phrase that's always said within about 20 minutes of the last coffee is "shall we stop for a coffee?".

Drinking coffee at a little table outside a little café on some piazza has been the image I conjure up when I think of most of my family holidays. I guess it was only inevitable I should become a coffee connoisseur too.

Living in the centre of London, away from where I grew up, I don't get to see my parents at home so much. Coffee gives us an excuse to meet up. My Dad travels around the centre of London with his work, so he's always finding a new coffee spot away from the centre of things to do a bit of paperwork or just take a moment to relax.

Allans Patisserie on Duke Street does cake which is more of a dessert and must be eaten with a fork. Lunch there is also good, with salads and savoury tarts on the menu too. The French country-style interior is covered with shelves of produce for sale.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

To post, or not post recipes...

I'm not intending this to be a recipe blog, but where I can remember the recipes for my cakes I will try to include them.

I don't have one recipe book that I turn to all the time, I prefer to choose the source depending on the type of cake I want to make, how long I want to spend making it and how many ingredients one recipe has compared to another.

I do have some failsafe places to get recipes from: BBC Food, Jamie Oliver, the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and finally for decorating tips and tricks, YouTube.
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