Archives for posts with tag: Marylebone High Street

When I travel I like to plot my list of food shops to visit on a map so that I can focus my energies in the right areas. You generally find that there are some key streets or areas that become the focus for great food places and once you wander around you find others to inspire as well.

In London, my favourite is Marylebone High Street, closely followed by Columbia Road on a Sunday. It’s Abbot Kinney in LA, La Boqueria in Barcelona and a tour of the vineyards off the beaten track in Cape Town. You get the idea.

This weekend, we were at lunching at friends who live in Clapham and it’s not generally an area I know well. But I have read about many places that seem to centre around Northcote Road and my cake-making crony was waxing lyrical about a new patisserie that had opened on her doorstep, so I went to investigate before lunch. She was right – this is one to add to your food discoveries.

Firstly, all the craft trades are well represented on the Northcote Road, with butchers (Dove & Hennessy’s), bakers (Breadstall) and cheesemongers (Hamish Johnston) all doing a great job along with the historic market which dates back to the 1860’s. But more interestingly is the fact that many new concepts are launched here. The original Jamie Oliver’s Recipease was created nearby on St John’s Road and Franco Manca is a centrally situated serving up their signature sourdough pizzas which was the first outpost of the original Brixton Village pizzeria.

Queuing for the marvellous meringues

Queuing for the marvellous meringues

The new place to discover is Aux Merveilleux de Fred. You can read about the history of these creations on their website, but needless to say, there is a very good reason why they translate into ‘wonderful’. The concept originated in Lille and now has two outlets in London, the second one here almost on the doorstep of my friend’s house! Here you have two perfect meringues bound together with cream and coated into a perfect ball of sweetness that seem to be incredibly popular, if you note the queue of people waiting to pay £1.70 for a mouthful of meringue. They are created in front of the customer and make the most perfect gift with beautiful boxes just like all the best French patisseries.

Les Merveilleux assembled front of house for all to see

Les Merveilleux assembled front of house for all to see

A wonderful meringue, made at home

A wonderful meringue, made at home

Luckily enough, my friend is in her own right an award winning cake maker and she told me very clearly not to buy anything from there as she had made her own, so after an indulgent long lunch we were treated to her version which disappeared in a melting moment. When you are as talented as she is, you too would conclude that you could do it yourself for a much better price, but my skills are not in that league, so know that you can find Fred’s on the Northcote Road or in South Kensington!

IMG_2266

These meringues are only one of a few French patisserie outlets that have crept over the pond recently. The other one I have visited in the past weeks is La Patisserie des Reves at the top of Marylebone High Street (my fave – remember). This is an impressive shop with bold domes of patisserie screaming from the central table, although I have it on good authority that the pastries are not baked fresh, but only baked off, so not as wonderful as their Parisian counterparts.

Clever domes of patisserie grace the central table here

Clever domes of patisserie grace the central table here

Nevertheless, they are pretty impressive and sit alongside the revival of doughnuts, the cronut imposters, the macarons and all the other classic French pastries that have been inspired by our renewed interest in baking. Thanks Mary Berry. We like this fashion and look forward to ever more concepts travelling across the channel.

A dome of Tarte Tatin

A dome of Tarte Tatin

London town

I have some friends staying with me who are visiting from New York and given the high standard of food over there I have been feeling the pressure of trying to showcase the best of London eating in my recommendations.

It is always difficult to suggest places as opinions differ but the truth is that cream always rises to the top and some things are just great whatever your personal preference. My friends arrived on Thursday whilst I was working away from home so fended for themselves in the most impressive way. I am not sure if it is their youth or their enthusiasm but jet lagged or not, they hit London full on from the moment they arrived.

Afternoon tea at Sketch

In terms of food, they wanted to embrace the best of British and really couldn’t have come at a better time with all the Jubilee and Olympic activities going on. So far, they have eaten fish & chips, authentic Indian, afternoon tea, Modern British, Borough market and casual street food at Pitt Cue with Heston’s Dinner coming tomorrow night before they get on the train to Paris. How good is that?

Today, I finally had a day to show them some of my happy places and as it was a Sunday, it was clear where to go. We started with the bacon sandwich at St John Bread & Wine which is a great value hefty breakfast made to fill you up all day. Gloucester Old Spot bacon chargrilled to perfection and sandwiched between two hunky slices of griddled and oiled sourdough bread. To be honest, this is a sandwich for sharing as it really is too much for one and it’s only £5.95. Brilliant. It demonstrates wholeheartedly why we can edit choice. Why offer anything else when there is something this perfect on the menu?

The best bacon sarnie … ever

Then we perused Spitalfields market before embarking on the long trek up Brick Lane. Once home to the Jewish population with Beigel shops lining the streets, it is now dominated by the Bangladeshi community and some of the best examples of Indian food. The colours and smells are fantastic. Not to mention the markets, vintage clothes and just great photo opportunities.

At the top we wended our way through Hackney homes to the bottom of Columbia Road and the flower market. This is a must on a Sunday morning for many reasons. It is vibrant, full of flowers, music, people and lined with unique retail shops. I love the stall holders yelling “two for a fiver…get your tulips ‘ere”…. could this be the nearest we now see to East End life?  It is definitely a battle to progress down the centre of the stalls but worth it for the armful of flowers you can walk away with.

Two for a fiver

After that we made our way back to Shoreditch and Leila’s, Pizza East, Albion, The Boundary (sadly the roof garden doesn’t open til August) and then onto Foxcroft and Ginger at Boxpark. We all agreed that the shopping there was more trendy male than anything else but the Nike ID is one to look out for. Such an incredible retail experience.

Then it was a bus trip through the city past the Gherkin (or Pickle as my US friends named it!) and the impressive St Paul’s then onto Regent Street and beyond. I took them through the calm of St Christophers Place and up into Marylebone High Street which so often gets overlooked by tourists – thankfully. That meant it was a calm escape from the bustle of Oxford Street and we could peruse La Fromagerie, Ginger Pig, The Natural Kitchen and Rococo chocolates without any issues at all. This has to be my favourite street in London.

By now, I was pooped so I left them to finish off in Selfridges before their Indian meal tonight.

They just got back and crashed to their beds. Knightsbridge/Kensington tomorrow before St Pancras and that magical train journey through the tunnel. London really is a great city.