Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The hottest couple in town

Sexier than Brad and Angelina, better pedigree than Peaches and Pixie Geldof, and doing more good deeds for humanity than Madonna and Guy, La Marzocco and Monmouth could just be the next ‘it’ twosome.

It is a rare thing indeed to have a sublime coffee experience in London and every time it has happened to me, I find myself in the company of Monmouth coffee and a La Marzocco coffee machine. Luckily, no paparazzi have caught on and I've been able to enjoy my coffee in peace.

Here are some of this happy couple's hangouts.

Fernandez and Wells, voted by Time Out as Best Coffee Bar in 2007, is a deli/wine bar/cafe split over two sites located around the corner from each other in Soho on Lexington and Beak St. Both sites are small yet still manage to feel light and uncluttered due to the high ceilings and bare fit out. The clientele are predominantly advertising and media types flitting in and out. You can see that the staff, who are incredibly friendly and unflappable for such a busy and space limited operation, take pride in their offering which is simple but of exceptional quality.

flat white 17 Berwick Street, Soho, run by two young Kiwi guys, gets an incredible amount of publicity for what is essentially a cramped, airless hole in the wall. Many high profile Australian expats living in London are quoted saying that they get their fix for good coffee at flat white. I'd even heard about it before I'd moved to London. The reason is simple - consistently magnificent coffee. I welled up when I saw complimentary newspapers and big jugs of tap water- a little slice of Australian cafe culture in Soho.

Monmouth at Covent Garden is something of a coffee mecca as it is the source of all my good coffee experiences in London. Below a tiny retail shop on Monmouth Street lies Monmouth's headquarters where they've been roasting since the late 70s. I could wile away many hours sitting and watching the baristas perform like well oiled machines.

Their Borough Market store is big by comparison but seating is still limited and I usually end up having a take away or a quick standup coffee at one of the benches mounted onto the wall.

London Review of Books is a very simple cafe attached to a famous bookshop near the British Museum. I sought out this place because a friend told me the coffee was good. I then discovered that it is managed by one of the regulars that I'm friendly with at Tom's - a fellow Australian called Terri. I'm starting to find that London is a small town in many ways too. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

There is no winter any more

It's official, I read it in the Daily Mail (what can I say, customers leave copies in the café at Tom’s). The Mail fuelled global warming conspiracy theories, reporting that the “burst of sunshine” London has experienced since the weekend “comes just days after one of Britain’s most respected horticultural experts [Dr Nigel Taylor] proposed moving the seasons by bringing forward the official start of spring”.

Quite a clever way of tackling the problem of climate change I thought.

I embraced the early (though I fear temporary) onset of warm weather by experimenting with some salad recipes for the café. This is quite a tasty little lentil number. I'll call it 'Dr Taylor's spring-is-the-new-winter lentil salad'.

1 cup Puy lentils
¼ red onion finely diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic crushed with salt
handful of cherry tomatoes quartered (or large tomato, deseeded and diced)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ bunch flat leaf parlsey chopped (could also use mint, coriander or all 3)
seeds of ½ pomegranate
handful of baby spinach
1 avocado roughly chopped

Place rinsed lentils in a saucepan with water - about twice the volume of lentils. Bring to the boil then simmer until tender- about 20 minutes. Make the dressing by combining oil, lemon juice, ground cumin, ground coriander and garlic in a jar and shake. Once cooked, drain lentils and while still warm, mix them with the onion and dressing. When ready to serve, combine with other ingredients.

I’ve also made this with blanched green beans instead of the spinach which I think I prefer but I had the camera handy for this version.