On Our Radar



     
 
Smarter Than the Average Bar
Business/Location: Total Chi Yoga Bar
Address: 243 Baker St
City: London
State: England
Post Code: NW1 6XE
Phone: 020 7486 4676
Website: totalchi.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Total Chi Yoga Bar
You'd think that a yoga class would be relaxing, invigorating maybe, but definitely a mindful experience. Yet so many classes today are crammed full, with little one-on-one attention to make sure you're not doing yourself damage, and of course, always that girl (or guy). You know the one, clad in Lululemon, effortlessly weaving her limbs into binds which make the rest of us want to give up. We know, we should be focusing inwardly and not comparing ourselves to the rest of the class, but it happens. Total Chi is not one of those places. Classes contain no more than six people so you get the sense of actually being tutored and the two small studios are wonderfully light and warm (another bugbear of mine -- freezing cold community halls). I had an incredibly reaffirming yin yoga session, frequently and wrongly identified as "the more relaxing one" -- holding those postures is tough! But even though I hadn't attended a class in some months, my teacher Fern Ross guided me through with humour and gentle strength, getting my muscles supple so I felt safe with my practice whilst also getting lost in the flow. I left feeling suitably stretched but lighter on my feet. Oh, and it's called a yoga bar because you can pick up a delicious smoothie/coffee/kombucha upstairs on your way out.


Religious About Coffee
Business/Location: Saint Espresso
Address: 214 Baker St
City: London
State: England
Post Code: NW1 5RT
Website: www.saintespresso.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Saint Espresso
I had an interesting conversation with someone recently where they referred to "hipster coffee" with a derisory tone. "What do you mean 'hipster' coffee?" I asked. "Oh you know, all that agonising over fresh beans, provenance, what temperature it is, what pressure you use..." they responded. "Oh, you mean 'good' coffee?" I said. Because there is this misconception that this is a hipster thing when really, this kind of love and attention to detail has been going on for decades. It's just one of many things that hipsters have "discovered" and to be fair, they have probably contributed to the evolution of coffee as we know it now. I don't have a problem with it, I would just rather people acknowledge that this means "good" coffee. Baker Street is a terrible place for a Londoner to find herself: hordes of tourists search for Benedict Cumberbatch; it is a boulevard of chain eateries with the odd independent hanging on for dear life. Thank god for Saint Espresso then, where I can get a decent cup of joe, before bracing myself to face the masses like a salmon trying to swim upstream. The day I went, they had Alchemy beans from Guatemala in the hopper. Hey, it's hip to be square when it comes to coffee.


A Storm and a Teacup
Business/Location: Postcard Teas
Address: 9 Dering St
City: London
State: England
Post Code: W1S 1AG
Phone: 020 7629 3654
Website: www.postcardteas.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Postcard Teas
There is nothing more of an affront to your status as a Londoner than knowing about a place but never having been there. Postcard Teas is one of those places for me. It's been around about as long as I've lived here and I've heard it referred to in hushed tones amongst those in the know but didn't even realise it was an actual shop (you can order teas online too). In fact, this is one of those shops that people travel specifically to London to visit. It's not on a street that you may walk through regularly so stumbling across it as you search for a less congested route through the city (as I did on a wretched tube strike day) gives it an added aura of magic. It had actually started to tip it down as I arrived in what looks like a gallery space. The shopkeeper, taking pity, offered to make me a brew so I could sample my selected tea until the rain had passed. I've recently developed quite a taste for Pu-erh tea and discovered that trading in these leaves is a little bit like being part of a secret society. They come in different vintages according to age but for my entry level tastebuds I bought a caddy of Mr Liu's Nannuo Shan Cooked Pu-erh. Now you know about it--go visit.


Something to Look After
Business/Location: The Travel Cafe
Address: 139 Westminster Bridge Rd
City: London
State: England
Post Code: SE1 7HR
Phone: 07941 051 050

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   The Travel Cafe
By their nature, areas around major train stations tend to be transient places with all kinds of stragglers and the residues of society present. Cheap, poor quality establishments take residence and take advantage of hungry and thirsty people arriving and departing. It often feels like a warning not to enter into the city where you find yourself, a joke on the part of the people who live in the wider environs. This was the case for Waterloo up until fairly recently. Lower Marsh has always had potential -- a cosy little community, like an undiscovered lane filled with small, local businesses and very few chains, that defies the norms of high streets up and down the country. Thankfully, for us and for travellers alighting here, the area has experienced rejuvenation in the past few years with vibrant cafés, restaurants and bars popping up and a regular street food market taking place. In fact there seems to be a particular focus on welcoming travellers with Four Corners café, Travelling Through bookshop and café, and now The Travel Café (which actually spills out onto Westminster Bridge Road next door to Sista Barista). A Korean enterprise which also organises tours in Korean and Japanese, the café is a breath of fresh air -- the perfect spot for a hit of caffeine whether you're on your laptop, reading a book or meeting a friend. In fact, I have no doubt that this is the kind of place where like-minded people will make new friends. As I left, I was asked to pick out one of the tiny potted succulents on the counter to take home, because, "People who live in London usually don't have something to look after." It was such a lovely sentiment and I am indeed looking after my new little friend.


Grape Stuff
Business/Location: The Remedy
Address: 124 Cleveland St
City: London
State: England
Post Code: W1T 6PG
Phone: 020 3489 3800
Website: www.theremedylondon.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   The Remedy
I wish there was a branch of The Remedy on every street corner but then perhaps that's why it's so special--because it is so rare to find somewhere that is this passionate about what they serve and that delivers. Of course, wine is the speciality here but this is not the place to come if you want your regular serving of Cab Sav. You can ask the waiter for a safe option but he is likely to offer you something that will challenge your tastebuds (in a good way). I had seen a chilled red on the blackboard which I fancied but the waiter quickly turned me on to a different one from a small producer who uses biodynamic methods. "Eets a leetle beet...funky so maybe you like to try first," he helpfully explained before pouring me a good glug of Adonis from the Loire Valley. It was indeed funky but I liked it. He let me finish the taster before pouring a full new glass. This is what wine drinking should be about, trying new stuff and not having your pants bored off by someone who spouts off about 'minerality' and 'oakiness' etc. Having tried something new on the libation side of things I stuck to the tried and tested on the food front and had an incredibly satisfying Toulouse sausage and chips followed by a more than perfect panna cotta but the seafood oriented specials and oyster 'happy hour' demand another trip.


Mi Casita su Casita
Business/Location: Casita
Address: 5 Ravey St
City: London
State: England
Post Code: EC2A 4QW
Phone: 020 7729 7230
Website: www.casitabar.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Casita
Do not come to Casita on a Sunday. I repeat, do not come to Casita on a Sunday. I'm kidding, you're a grown-up, you can make your own decisions. But seriously, you WILL get merry in this place and you might have a sore head on Monday to prove it (this is in no way based on what happened to me by the way). The cocktails are generous and the bar staff will keep you entertained, plus they're not joking when they describe themselves as a 'cocktail shed' so you will definitely be forced to speak to other drinkers--a perfect formula for fun. Casita's famous tequila con verdita must be sampled and may just make you change your mind about the much-maligned liquor. It's a tequila shot followed by a pineapple, coriander, mint and chilli shot, which will do a little dance in your mouth. And all this in Shoreditch! Who knew? I didn't because I gave up having to wade through people talking about being a model/DJ/writer/musician whilst checking their hairdo in the nearest reflective material some years ago, but apparently lots of people do know about Casita and love it. So I'm late to the party, so what? It's a bloody good party.


Not Too Tatty
Business/Location: Tatty Devine
Address: 236 Brick Ln
City: London
State: England
Post Code: E2 7
Phone: 020 7739 9191
Website: www.tattydevine.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Tatty Devine
When I first moved to London, Tatty Devine jewellery seemed to symbolise everything that was attractive about the city: shiny, colourful and witty. Ten years on and I'm not sure I still think of London being those things (maybe something else rhyming with 'witty'? I'm kidding!) but Tatty Devine certainly still has it's allure. It's a wonder then that the Tatty Devine workshop is only just now offering jewellery-making parties as it seems an obvious choice for such a playful brand. This week I sampled the joys of making one of their bunting necklaces at a breakfast workshop and I can't tell you how cute and fun it was. Playing with the colours and coming up with my own design was almost meditative and the TD girls were on hand to give helpful tips and make sure we didn't bodge things up. Even better was the sense of achievement I felt when people said, "Love the necklace," and I could respond, "Yeah, made it this morning." The party package includes material for 8-12 people to make a necklace or charm bracelet, Fentimans drinks or prosecco (depending on which package you choose), popcorn, sweet treats, and 15% off jewellery on the day plus you can make your own playlist to groove along to. I'd get your mates on board and organise a party even if it's no-one's birthday or hen.


No Reservations
Business/Location: The Palomar
Address: 34 Rupert St
City: London
State: England
Post Code: W1D 6DN
Phone: 020 7439 8777
Website: thepalomar.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   The Palomar
"Shall we go in?" we looked at each other doubtfully. It was 6:15pm on a Thursday night and the dining bar at The Palomar was already rammed. I almost abandoned the idea because I hate this "stand-at-the-bar-while-you-wait" culture which is so common now (you can book tables at The Palomar but it takes months to get one). We stood scrunched up against the wall agreeing that if we got through the first drink and there were still no seats available, we would go somewhere else. But within about 20 minutes, we were shown to our places - a front row seat in the theatre that is the open kitchen at The Palomar. And honestly, listening to and watching the banter amongst the chefs is worth the wait alone, every so often, the head chef singing along with Elvis playing on the sound system, slightly discordantly, but with such chutzpah you can't not smile. You can't not smile when you taste the food either--the humble butternut squash risotto was elevated to another level, the octo-hummous was compelling, and the onglet steak (with latkes, fried egg and bone marrow) sublime. I was slightly disappointed by the shakshukit (deconstructed kebab) as it was quite oily and heavy but perhaps the bar had been raised too high as I also found the halva cream brownie relatively underwhelming. Dinner wasn't cheap at £57 each but that included two cocktails apiece and service. I will definitely return and wait patiently for my seat at the bar.


Picture This
Business/Location: Picture
Address: 110 Great Portland St
City: London
State:
Post Code: W1W 6PG
Phone: 020 7637 7892
Website: www.picturerestaurant.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Picture
I don't like restaurant critics. They're always snarky. Anger issues. Passive aggression. If I don't like somewhere, I just won't review it. So that's the first thing to get off my chest. The second thing: I'm not overly keen on 'small plates'. I don't like sharing which is what people tend to do with small plates. So Picture, because it's being reviewed here, must be at least good to outstanding, and also, must have converted me to this way of eating. Picture is that rare thing: a quietly confident eaterie in central London that has both style and substance, and it's also pretty damned reasonable for the quality of food and service you're receiving. The tasting menu is six courses (that's six small plates each) which may seem daunting but each dish is so carefully considered and the service timed so well that you never feel overwhelmed only excited about the next course. I couldn't say which was my favourite, everything was cooked to perfection; however, the sea bream elevated a dish which has become ubiquitous yet so often badly done. Closely followed by the pork cheeks. And the sublime chocolate mousse. An a la carte menu is available if you're after a quick bite but I highly recommend the Spring tasting menu. Simple food and flavours done perfectly.


Sweder Than a Cinnamon Bun
Business/Location: Scandinavian Kitchen
Address: 61 Great Titchfield St
City: London
State: England
Post Code: W1W 7PP
Phone: 020 7580 7161
Website: www.scandikitchen.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Scandinavian Kitchen
If you're a lover of the Swedish cinnamon bun or have graduated to the cardamom bun, then the semla (or semlor in the plural) will blow your mind. A cardamom bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream, the semla was traditionally served on Shrove Tuesday. Back in the day, it was a humble bread bun served in hot milk but at some point, like everyone else, the Swedes got fed up with this ascetic regime and the semla as we now know it was born. This pimping of the tradition proved too delicious and semlor became available every Tuesday until Easter. Then they started popping up soon after Christmas--not unlike the Cadbury's cream egg. Let's be honest, Mardi Gras is pretty much the stretch from Christmas through to Easter: after that the days start to get longer and we become aware of our less-than-svelte figures. I can't think of a better place to exercise winter eating than The Scandinavian Kitchen. With its open sandwiches, buns and cakes, and the stash of imported goodies at the back of the café (they have Smash! from Norway! Only the best salty-sweet chocolate hit EVER!), I'll happily take a 'tretar' (translates literally as 'threefill' or third cup) of Monmouth coffee.