food personal restaurants

The best coffee in London

The UK is different to Melbourne in that it doesn’t have many Italian migrants, which means that there is not much coffee culture. In my current job I get out and about quite a bit and people often give me coffees. These are some of the best and worst, judged of course on 1 single cup which is probably very unjust.
1) cheapest good quality cappuccino
Algerian Coffee House on Old Compton Rd Soho – £0.95. A little bit bitter for my taste but good!
2) Lovely bar man
Beach Blanket Babylon, Shoreditch
when I thanked the Italian barman for the lovely cappuccino he said arrrr that, that was nothing, I’ll make you a proper coffee. And he did, it was mild and the coffee had chocolate notes (we had just discussed that I prefer my coffee mildly roasted but not too much milk) & it was great!
3) Nice all rounder
Chris at the Corner Store at Covent Garden made a mean cappuccino with their Izzo or something extremely impressive shiny stainless steel machine
4) Great coffee
Directly opposite Bar Soho on Old Compton St biased a little to the left, small, but nice coffee

Name & Shame
1) the absolutely worst coffee in London is Sketch – maybe I got them on a bad day, but my ‘cappuccino’ tasted like watery instant and the white froth on top tasted like water too….
2) Box – I think they left their milk out too long….


RIP Tiffany

My poor little pud expired recently. She was only 19. I thought she had a few more years in her 🙁


I HATE TESCO’s!!!!!!!!!!!!! (a letter from me to them)

Dear poor sod who has to read these letters,

I am not happy for several reasons.

I ordered wine from your wine club, one case of which I really wanted, 3 cases of which I thought might be useful. First I had to go through the rigmarole of being bounced back to the book a delivery slot page because one of the cases I ordered was not in stock. That’s ok I like entering my mastercard details on ‘secure’ websites several times because your programming departments are not capable of putting in a bright red error message ‘attention one of these items is not in stock’, whcih every other online store does manage.

And today it arrives, after a week’s delay & lo & behold, the one case I actually wanted to drink is not amongst the delivery ‘sorry but it’s not available today’. Now correct me if this is an unreasonable expectation – but surely my order from Weds last week reserved me one of the cases that were then most definitely in stock! Could you not have contacted me to let me know that my order would not go through because that item was missing & give me the option of taking a part delivery today or pushing back my delivery date even further, as most responsible retailers manage to do?????

Now whilst I’m already complaining, I’d like to cover a few more points about your online retailing and your in-store experience.

Why was it impossible for me to order the wine club wines & groceries together? I could have both shopping baskets running concurrently! I have to say that although you may be cheaper than ocado on 1000 items or something, they do not charge me £5 delivery for £20 of groceries as I can make a wine order at the same time.

Also why is it on the ‘contact us’ page of your website you list all number of telephone numbers, postal addresses, but no email address – could it be that you’re afraid of being swamped by a tidal wave of complaints, by people like myself who do not feel like waiting 10 minutes on hold to make their complaint?

Now getting back to the organisation of your stores I have a few small suggestions based on my experience of shopping at the hell hole known as Surrey Quays: please put the herbs & spices in one aisle, pick an aisle, I don’t care which, but I have so far located them in 4 different places in your store, which makes it very difficult for me the shopper to get what I want (a result of which is that I currently buy my groceries exclusively through Ocado, as entering your store causes me several hours of rage); and two, this one is really simple, please put the items in the aisles where they’re listed on the overhead signs. I’m not a mind-reader, how was I to guess that cream would not be located in the cream aisle, but in the ham aisle?

Ok, that gets all that off my chest, however I’m left with 2 cases of wine I didn’t particularly want & not the wine I want. I should really have heeded all the online information about avoiding Tesco.

Kind Regards,
Helen Coker


a link to my brother Russell’s blog

My brother


Hello world!

Well I’m sitting here at the desk looking out onto the dripping Eco-Park, I figure it’s as good a time as ever to start my blog. I’m feeling a bit hyperthermic, as I’m trying to dry 3 loads of washing in the lounge-room using the heater. It’ll be a great day when we finally get a washer dryer with functioning dryer!

I landed in London the day before yesterday, everything’s back to normal, as long as you consider waking at 5.30am & passing out at 9.30pm normal… Yesterday we had a chilled out day around town – after rising we ambled on down to the ferry to discover ours just zipping off. So we sat & read the Guardian (provided by the ferry company) by the river. ALthough we got a ‘river roamer’ (daily ticket) we only went the one stop across the water to Canary Wharf, destination Paul’s boulangerie…. Truly my favourite London bakery (although admittedly in view of the shortage of bakeries this isn’t saying much) – I love the place because it’s got beautifully rough looking flans & tartes, a great hot chocolate in a fairly average looking continually stirring glass warmer thingie, perfect croissants (my petit pain au chocolat was a delight – crisp pastry enclosing chunks of good quality dark chocolate, mmm) and canelets…. I have to go back & resample their canelets because after the petit pain they did seem a trifle sweet, but I’ve been dreaming of them ever since the day I first discovered them in a parisian bakery in 1995. On the downside the French/Algerian/Spanish staff are clearly hired for looks & cheap wages rather than huge amounts of skill, but hey, who’d try to order a Macchiato in London??? We’re talking a town where people buy their coffee in vac packs, the Tchibo representative I spoke to said that although they began offering what the Germans demand (freshly ground coffee beans at the right level of fineness for their individual coffee making machine), they have decided to never again try this in England, as they threw out more than they sold 🙁 When I was in Australia I got the right beans correctly ground even in Lilydale (of all places), which tells you a lot about the difference in coffee cultures. But I shall deal with my pain in silence 😉

Then we went across to Wapping to visit the Wapping Project – a very cool old hydro power station, that is now a nice little restaurant with an all Australian wine list (including 1998 Grange & 1991 – if my memory is correct – Hill of Grace). I decided to go for something tried & true so the 2002 Balnaves CS it was, well integrated oak that served to give a backbone to the fat fruit rather than overpower it. The fruit itself was very ripe and sweet, a sort of compote of the black berries with a slight bloodiness and a little bit of green to balance out the power. I probably would have preferred it a little older, but c’est la vie, a 1998 was also on the wine list so my mistake! I started off with a plate of really very nice Spanish charcuterie, the highlight for me was probably the Pata Negra chorizo, although the plain chorizo was also excellent. It came with caper berries (love that texture with the seeds – it reminded me of why I like Okra) and olives, and the second waitress even came around to ask if I’d like some bread to go with it. Julian’s salt pepper & lime calamari was lovely – perfectly cooked. For mains I had a slightly rare vanilla glazed duck breast (did they let it sit a moment before serving?) topped with strips of deep fried ginger (actually very nice) & a grilled half peach (now I know what to do with the next lot of ‘ripen at home’ rock hard tesco fruit). And for dessert I had a sorbet of elderflower & stone fruits which was lovely, especially as I was feeling pretty full at that stage! I teamed that with a completely inappropriate 1978 Calvados, because I love calvados – which was absolutely amazing – it had the nose of a really ripe apple, very sweet and in the mouth it tasted like Kingston Black for my palate (and potentially my memory of the Kingston black cider, which is what I’m drawing this from is a little hazy) with its balance between sweet fruit & tannins from the oak. And then a lingering finish too, mmmm. I could only watch as Julian devoured the Valrhona chocolate fondue, though I couldn’t resist the chocolate dunked blackberry.

Ambience: 10 (crisp linen table cloths, light & airy, spacious)

Food: 8 (competent ‘Mod Oz’ style using great ingredients)

Service: 9/5 (one score for each waiter)

Then we continued cruising up & down the river – a truly relaxing way to start my time over here.