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Bea’s of Bloomsbury

So the weekend is quickly arriving and what is a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than having a tea and scone in the heart of Bloomsbury.  (Also be sure to check out our other post on afternoon tea including some of favourite tea spots in London.)  Bea’s of Bloomsbury is situated right off where Rosebery Avenue turns into Theobald’s Road before you reach Holborn if your traveling from Clerkenwell.  You won’t miss this cute little bakery because there is an immaculate wedding dress cake creation in the window calling you in promising delicious scones, cupcakes, cakes and other fun snacks.  They have a few outside tables which will suit any sun lover and I would suggest their tea and scone deal for just 5 pounds.  It even comes with a miniature size jar of jam which you may even be tempted to each straight out of the jar with the tiny tea spoon also provided.  These are probably some of the best scones I’ve had in London as well and for the price you are definitely getting more than value.  So go enjoy your tea and scone this Saturday!

Bea_s_of_Bloomsbury_1Bea’s of Bloomsbury

44 Theobalds Road WC1X 8NW

A Challenge to Ourselves

Following our last post about how much we’ve been slacking in the blog department, I pose a challenge to C and myself.  We will post one blog entry a day for the next two weeks–that’s right 14 new posts starting from tomorrow 31 May to 13 June.  In an ideal world/my fantasy world of having abundant amount of time I would like to post everyday, let’s be realistic shall we, that isn’t going to happen and I know I will be on holiday starting 10 June for 2 and 1/2 weeks so I doubt I will update much during that time too.  But Challenge On!  Hopefully this will make up for the lack of posts in May (I know the last actually one was on 3 May).  Bad sunshine…bad.  Post 1 of Challenge–see you tomorrow!

Best,

A & C

Camden Insider

We love the Camden markets and high street, and have been going there off and on for some time, but we met up with our Venezuelan friend yesterday who showed us two really great spots near the lock market that definitely deserve a blog entry.

Camden high street and its series of markets is an overwhelming and unforgettable experience, and you can go again and again and experience something new each time. The biggest thing you absolutely must be prepared for is crowds – lots and lots of people, but to be honest, if you let go and flow with it, the sheer volume of people and noise really adds to the experience. Though much more sanitised than it used to be two decades ago as it emerged as the centre of the punk scene in London, Camden has retained a grittyness and a weirdness and has refused to be shifted upmarket, like Spitalfields or Borough (not that I’m complaining about these two as they currently are!) May be a future post about navigating through it all, but in the meantime, go check out:

There are several main areas serving food in the Camden market area, and our new favorite food stall, located in the food stall area nearest the canal lock,  is Arepa, serving up the best Venezuelan food (and what yummy food it is!) in town, as verified by our personal friend and bonified Venezuelan native. An arepa is a type of cornmeal-based pita pocket tortilla bread thing that is TASTY. You order and they take a ball of the arepa dough, pat it into a circle about the size of your hand, and then grill it. Then, they slice a pocket into it and fill it with whatever combination you fancy – you chose from black beans, shredded beef, chicken avocado, grilled vegetables, grated cheese, and grilled plantains. There were four of us that went and between us we sampled combinations of all of the above and oh my lord it was all incredible – MAKE SURE you get the plantains though, whatever you do. Filling and fun, each arepa thing only sets you back 4 pounds. Warning: it will leave you craving that cornmeal base something awful! I’m going to have to go back asap…

So, there is lots of food to choose from in Camden, some of it good, and some of it well dodgy. Be a smart market visitor and avoid the gross food they sell in the permanent little booths that line the most crowded part of the market – whether it’s chewy pizza, scary Indian, or msg-ed Chinese – and find one of the two more temporary looking clusters of freshly made food, where in one of which you’ll find Arepa. To get there, go to Camden tube. Exit the station and turn right. Go straight down the high street weaving your way through the crowds until you get to the bridge over the canal and the lock market starts. Cross the street and turn left before the bridge (the big one, which cars can take) at the Starbucks. Go past the Starbucks to the footbridge over the canal ( you can’t miss it) – take that bridge and you’ll be overlooking the food area with the Arepa stall.

Then, for a perfect complement, check out what is officially our new favorite tea place in London (and damn, that is a hard place in our hearts to win!): Yumchaa. Yumchaa have been selling their amazing tea blends at various markets for awhile, and have recently opened up this place in Camden and it’s rumored on in Soho too? We’ll have to get back on that. At any rate, this tea place is perfection and I wish so much I was a student so I could go chill there during week days when Camden is much less crowded. It’s in the same place as the Arepa stall, just on the upper level. The best way to get there is again to cross the footbridge over the canal river and you’ll be on the second level. Go past the Lockhead pub (I think it’s called) and past the vintage store and then you can’t miss yumchaa. Beautifully decorated, there is an amazing and unique amount of special tea blends on offer, broadly sorted by black, green, red, and white teas. You get a full pot for 2 pounds! I had a blend called Courtesan, which was rooibos (red) tea flavored with raisins, spices and a bunch of other good stuff, while A had berry berry nice, a roobios flavored with you guessed it, a mix of berries, which we highly recommend, and our Venezuelan friend had a really cool rooibos blend called chili chili bang bang which had fruit, peppercorns, and chilis in it! The atmosphere is wonderful, the cakes are moist and tasty, and you get a great view overlooking busy Camden market below with its constant stream of people.

Enjoy – maybe we’ll see you there soon – cuz we’ll certainly be there a lot 🙂

Mother’s Day

Confused by the signs everywhere recently for Mother’s Day? Don’t worry, you haven’t forgotten – British ‘Mothering Sunday’ is a full two months before America’s Mother’s Day in May. Instead, go forth and buy the most British card you can find, preferrably with a bizarre saying and picture and definitely the word ‘Mum’. Your mother will most likely be very pleased by the novelty of it when she actually receives it in May. Furthermore, if you are still abroad in May (hands up!) you’ll be SOL for a card so do it now.

In the meantime, enjoy the plethora of online posts about what to do this Mother’s Day, like this nice list of afternoon tea places from TimeOut (our two favourites, the Orangery and Louis Patisserie, are on it so we’re inclined to trust the rest of the recommendations).

Chain Spotting: Part 2 – Restaurants

As stated in our post about Pret and Eat, for better or worse, London has seen a growth of city-wide chains in recent years. Chain spotting labeled posts are our guide, whether you want to avoid chains, embrace them, or balance your consumption of local and chains (our usual approach). There is such high competition that often if an establishment has made it enough to become a chain, that means it’s usually doing something right. That said, these are chains – what’s great and awful about them is a dependable, mass-market appeal. We welcome hearing about your experiences…

Strada – Strada is decent Italian food, and if you hit them up for a lunch or pre-theatre dinner menu special, really good value. If you are American and love up on the Olive Garden, you NEED to go to Strada because you will love it and this will show you what a proper Italian restaurant chain should be like. If you think the Olive Garden is crap and you only eat Italian food in Italy or a super authentic local place, Strada is probably not the place for you. However, it’s a reliable and nice experience, nice atmosphere, themed without being Disney-esque.

Giraffe – this the place to go when one of you wants Chinese, one of you wants Indian, one Mediterranean, and one wants American/British: solution! Everyone will be happy at Giraffe. They bill themselves as world food, and they live up to it. It’s still a chain and the quality is of the mass-appeal dependable level – I’ve had some good dishes at Giraffe but also some just okay dishes. The menu does have great variety though and killer Morrocan-style mint tea that comes in a lovely fired clay teapot. Two recommendations for when to go Giraffe: Mondays – Thursdays from 5 – 7 pm. They have a great 2 course menu for around 8 pounds and all cocktails are 2-for-1. A recommends the fruity mojito, it might be called the Mexican Mojito she’s not sure but it’s amazing. Second time to go: for brunch or breakfast! Breakfast menu til noon every day, brunch menu til 4pm everyday. THEY HAVE PANCAKES. REAL PANCAKES. That is all I should need to say.

Pizza Express – Dependable, decent quality pizza. Some fun creations and menu items, salad and pasta items are limited but you’re really going for the pizza anyway. Much closer to Italian-style pizza than. say, pizza hut. Their pizzas make for a filling meal and are never too greasy. It can get very noisy in most of their restaurants, especially because they pack in as many tables AS POSSIBLE but it can be a very pleasant experience off-peak times.

Masala Zone – We love Masala Zone.  Yes, we are constantly told over and over again that this is commercialized and chain Indian food and not authentic but we can’t resist the Thalis.  There really isn’t anything wrong with eating Indian food at a chain—and don’t worry we do get the real stuff on occassion as well.  If you’re ever in Brick Lane or the East End then you definitely need the experience of bartering out the best deal from the endless line of Indian restaurants that will bombard you once you hit the street.  However, this blog is about chains so here we go.  At Masala Zone, the best option is the Thalis where you get your choice of curry–any of the chicken, lamb or veggie options and then in little cups around the big silver tray is selections of vegetables, lentils, and chutneys with rice.  It’s the perfect meal where you can get a taste of different types of Indian food.  Also, this place is a good start if you’ve never had Indian food and Brick Lane seems a bit too intimidating.

Wagamama – You really can’t be in London long without someone dragging you into a Wagamama in great excitement. In fact, this is the first restaurant C remembers being taken to when she studied abroad several years ago. To be honest, C still loves wagamama. It’s just…so yummy and interesting, and the long tables where you’re squished next to others make for a real ‘city’ feel. Don’t forget the free green tea! Another great one to take international visitors to – it’s memorable, in the good way. The menu is all Asian/Japanese inspired, and pretty much everything is very tasty, from the udon noodle dishes to the coconut soups. It’s a little bit more expensive than the rest of these, but a main dish can be had from 7 – 15 pounds, which given dinner prices is darn good. A good date/meet with friend spot. Full disclosure: A came down with food poisoning once after eating here and hasn’t been able to go back since, but she’s still really sad about that.

Yo Sushi – Converor Belt sushi at its best.  You get to sit around a long rectangular table with a constant revolving line of sushi options marked by price on colored plates.  The best part you can eat as much as you want and when you want and even eye people down if they dare so touch the sushi you’re waiting to come around.  However, the price can easily get out of hand if you don’t pay enough attention to the amount of plates you grab.  If you’re not sure what stuff is and you’re not daring enough to eat a surprise sushi roll there is a menu or you can ask the servers in the middle of the table.  I like to start with a plate of edamame, then move up through the california rolls and spicy tuna rolls to the fancier range of sushi.

Zizzi – Definitely cheesy with its themed decor and ‘I am a nice restaurant’ mock atmosphere – candles, crisp table linens, menus in fancy script with many categories – the food is still pretty good and good value for what you get. C’s parents loved this place when they came and C wasn’t at all unhappy to go several times with them! Mediterranean/Italian, the Antipasto Zizzi sharing platter and the Risotto Verde are highly recommended.

There are other chain restaurants that are common but that we haven’t been to or can’t think of right now – your thoughts?

Once in a Blue Moon there is a Flying Dog–Rake Pub Shout Out

Calling all American ex-pats!!!  If you are missing beer from back home, the home across the pond, then head down to this tiny but charming pub near Borough Market in London Bridge called the Rake.  They have a stock load of American micro brews like Flying Dog (you must try the IPA) and my nostalgic 6 pack favorite Blue Moon, which was on tap when I first visited (also do insist on the orange–blue moon and oranges are inseparable).  You can also find Sierra Nevada and more–they even have micro brews that were featured in Beer Exposed.  My only request (and if the people from the Rake read this–this is my plea) is to import Magic Hat from Vermont.  I desperately miss Magic Hat No. 9 from my days at uni.  So yeah, if you are feeling a bit home sick or just looking for a change–head over to the Rake for some great American brews and a great selection of specialist beers.  Another fun reason to go is that they have a mini garden outside with umbrellas and space heaters to deal with any unpredictable London weather occurrences.  If you still don’t believe us check out the Time Out review.

Mucho Mas (oops, Chilango)

Mucho Mas (oops, Chilango)

Do you miss burritos like nobody’s business?  Do you often wish there was a place you could get a cheap burrito quickly made from fresh and well-spiced ingredients?  Do you crave Chipotle or Moe’s like crack?  Well, look no further come to Chilango’s on Upper Street in Angel.  We fondly and will always call this burrito joint Mucho Mas, which it was called from up till last week when they reopended with new decorations and a new name Chilango. We’re not gonna lie, one of the major factors that influenced where our current flat is was that Mucho Mas would be just down the street. True to form, we all go 2 – 3 times a week.

Why? The burritos are amazing.  You have a choice of steak, chicken, pork (carnitas) and veggie (which includes free guac!!!) all wrapped up in a warm large tortilla with black or pinto beans, choice of mild (C’s preference), medium (A’s preference), or hot salsa (very daring) with the usual fixin’s.  Best part it is all under six pounds and they have free water pitchers to quench the spiciness if you can’t handle it.  Don’t be afraid though, the mild is not spicy at all and the meat is pitch perfect in seasoning.  We even have a favorite corner which we like to think is reserved for only us, loyal Mucho Mas customers—the round table in the back of the upper floor.  (Unfortunately, this has now been replaced with rectangle tables—but we’ll still claim the back).

A final note, don’t go to Tortilla. It is a cheap and horrible rip off of Mexican burritos.  Everything there just can’t compare to Mucho Mas (Chilango)’s quality, taste and atmosphere.  DON’T GO!!


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