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Chilli Down Me Trousers

22 Jun a jar of hoxton beach chutney

Blog-neglect, childcare and stained trousers.

I’m a terrible blogger, I have been neglecting my blog, I will never do it again, I’m sorry. I do have an excuse; I am the proud father of a new tiny Tommy Rumbles who has put paid to endless hours of flanneurism and bloggology, the little so-and-so!

I was in Clissold Leisure Centre with the baby strapped to me, trying to prevent him waking up. We were waiting for his mum to finish her swim and I was too scared to venture far, cos I’m not equipped to deal with a tummy-rumbling two month old. So I thought I’d venture into the Hoxton Beach Café which is the new(ish) misnomer for the in-centre café.

I like what I found! They bake their own sour-dough bread on the premises, make their own pizza and serve some delicious Lebanese specialities. I had a falafel wrap, it was massive and delicious. Packed with tangy pickles and chilli sauce which I managed to drip all down my trousers and over my shoes, but that was because I was standing up to eat. I was not trying out a new standing-up-eating regime because I was in a leisure centre, but because the little tinker strapped to me kept stirring when I tried to sit down.

Top tip for the Hoxton Beach Café falafel wrap, sit down and enjoy it.

Hoxton Beach Café
in Clissold Leisure Centre
63 Clissold Road
London N16 9EX
www.hoxtonbeach.com
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Fred and Frantastic

28 Feb nice coffee

Irresistible culinary creations on Kynaston Road.

This is one of the most beautiful looking cakes I have ever seen. I don’t think the photograph can do it justice but have a look at this Middle Eastern orange cake with pistachio, candied fruit and rose petals. Amazing stuff. You won’t get this anywhere else because its been created on the premises by the proprietor of Fred and Fran. She is a very talented baker indeed. I saw this cake and just had to try it. No choice. It’s made with almond flour so it’s gluten-free (you know, for coeliacs), but don’t let that put you off! It’s as delicious as it looks.

Amazing cake!

Amazing cake!

If you haven’t tried Fred and Fran yet you should. It’s been going less than a year and is far enough from Church Street to have a local, unhurried, not too busy atmosphere (for now), but as word spreads it can only get busier and busier. They are showing others in this vicinity, not least the House café in Clissold Park, how it should be done. Keeping it local, homemade and top-quality.

The place is quite small but well thought-out, so it feels bright and spacious. Lots of nice quirky touches like the crumpled plastic-cup stools and the vintage milk bottles used as water jugs. But what really makes this place a unique experience is the care that goes into every cup and every morsel of food.

Fred and Fran
55 Kynaston Road
London N16 0EB
www.fredandfran.com

Isn’t That a Pip!

12 Jan

The Russet, tucked away in Hackney Downs, is doin’ it and doin’ it and doing it well.

Scary Ginnel 1

Scary Ginnel 1

Hells yes! The Russet is one of those places that gets it right on every level. First of all it’s a discovery, you have to search it out, it is tucked away on Amhurst Terrace amidst the newly established Hackney Downs Studios. Whichever way you approach the place you have to walk down a scary ginnel to get there. The exterior is in contrast to the surrounding buildings and appears like a oasis in a desert of unloved industrial units. The Russet is also in an industrial building but they’ve given it a handmade facelift with a beautiful arch made of scaffold boards.

Inside more imaginitive and creative space design, a corridor formed of old joists allows you to see into the café space but leads you to the counter, where the first thing you see is a nice, shiny La Marzocco coffee machine. The next thing you see is how big this place is. Unlike a lot of new startup coffee places this is spacious, it’s still comfortable and cosy even, but it’s in no way cramped.

La Marzocco at the Russet

La Marzocco at the Russet

I ordered a long black, not too long. The difference between a long black and an Americano, as any fule kno (RIP Ronald Searle), is the order that the water goes in. For long black the water is already in the cup to which the espresso shots are added. The trainee barista didn’t seem to know this (clearly no fool), but his trainer put him straight, and also told him that the first thing we need to hear after a coffee order is the grinder. Fresh.

Front of The Russet

Front of The Russet

I was happy with my coffee, they use Union beans, which (whisper it) I happen to use at Tommy Towers, so it was a pleasingly familiar taste, served in a nice simple cup with saucer and a cool little spoon. There’s a sandwich menu, cakes and pastries too. The Russet is serious about local produce and seasonality, they do their own chutney, cakes are made with what’s in season, so there was the smell of mandarins in the air. They have plans to grow their own produce too in a garden area at the back! Oh yes, and get this, they make their own cola!!! Yes I said it. I just had to get some of that, takeaway though cos coffee and cola is too much even for me. I can’t wait to crack it open.

Homemade cola and ginger beer

Homemade cola and ginger beer

Saturday at The Russet is the Cider Sessions, where they have live music, real cider, local London Fields ale and a big old party.

There’s so much to say about this place, from the music, to the space, the design, the name (if you’ve been paying attention to my blog you’ll know that russets are my favourite apples), the care and attention to detail. They’ve only just opened but it looks like they’ll go from strength to strength. Seek it out, it’s literally. Off. The. Shizwang.

Scary Ginnel 2

Scary Ginnel 2

The Russet, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT.
www.therusset.co.uk

House about that then?

4 Jan

Clissold Park House opens with upmarket café.

Oh I forgot! In all the wind, rain, fare increases and back to work malaise of yesterday I forgot that Clissold House café opened its doors for the first time in it’s new guise. I happened to be passing this morning and saw the tables set up on the west terrace which jogged my memory. I didn’t have time for a full reccy but there’s always time for a double espresso.

The House logo

The House logo

The house and the whole of Clissold Park have been undergoing refurbishment for well over a year now and things are starting to take shape. The contract to run the café in the house was awarded (with some controversy, but not much) to Company of Cooks, who run the hospitality concessions at some of London’s most glamourous locations including The Royal Opera House, Kensington Gardens, Kenwood, Regent’s Park, Hyde Park etc. The controversy was that local providers were effectively excluded by the council as they only opened the tendering process to organisations with turnover of £1million+.

Anyhoo they’re in now so let’s see what they got. The coffee menu (printed on an ‘A’ board outside) is old school. No flat white, long black, pour-overs or aeropress, they do offer a ‘three cup cafetiere’ alongside the usual americano, espresso, cappuccino and latte. Prices, despite the grandeur of the venue, are reasonable: £1.65 for a double espresso, £2.10 for cappucino or latte.

The House west terrace

The House west terrace

The door on the west side of the building is a bit on the sticky side, so I wasn’t sure if they were open or not. A very friendly waiter opened up and told me this door was only for take away, or seating on the terrace. Fine, I was pushed for time, so I ordered my double espresso and took a chilly al fresco seat. When the drink arrived I was very impressed. What a crema! It was a thing of beauty, and served in a nice chunky espresso cup without the faff of a saucer. Great. Drinking it was a little dissapointing, but only a little. It was a very smooth and tasty cup, but not strong enough for my taste. It just lacked body. The flavour that was there was pleasant and lingered nicely too. For £1.65 delivered to the table this was very, very good. I will definitely be back. Next time I’ll go in the front door, I didn’t realise that the main entrance is on the front of the house (duh!), and try the food too.

According the the Company of Cooks and Hackney Council press release we should look forward to seasonal menus including local produce. I’ll be very interested to see on my next visit how much of the food on offer is being sourced in Hackney.

The House, Clissold Park, London N16
 
Nice crema!

Nice crema!

Tommy is Pacified

16 Dec

Big flavours mean big bubbles don’t spoil this laid-back little coffee place.

Tommy loves nothing better than a great cup of coffee and something delicious to go with it. If you’re that way inclined too and find yourself in that no-man’s land between Clapton and Hackney Central then Pacific Social Club is the place to go.

No stressing allowed. This place has an atmosphere as chilled as a sleepy sloth lazing on a lilo. Something about the layout, the furnishings, the bookcase and the music combine to hit all the right relax buttons.

They’re using a La Marzocco coffee machine and Climpson and Sons’ coffee, so they

Bubbly flat white

Bubbly flat white

care a lot about what they’re doing when it comes to coffee. Despite that my flat white was not exactly perfect when it arrived. The milk texturing seemed to have gone wrong and it was delivered with a head on it more like a pint of craft ale, the bubbles were way too big. However the problems were largely aesthetic as the coffee itself tasted good.

What also tasted good was the chipotle and apricot jam, with cream cheese, on toast. That was a taste explosion. Sweet, spicy, smoky and warming it is an unusual and memorably delicious plate of food. I understand that the jam was made by the proprietor and it has an artisan feel to it. Some mouthfuls are spicier than others and it all adds to the charm of the dish and of the place.

I also got a freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice which had big flavour too, sharp as a tack and an incredible pink colour. When they say pink they mean pink.

This is a top spot for a relaxed thoughtful approach to coffee and full-flavoured delicious snacks. A bit more attention to detail when making a coffee would be good, but on second thoughts maybe this is part of Pacific Social Club’s charm. They care, but they’re not stressed.

Pacific Social Club, 8 Clarence Road, London E5 8HB
Pacific Social Club

Pacific Social Club