Monday, 30 August 2010

A bus ride to nowhere in particular

The London Particular

I’ve often thought it would be nice to hop on any old commuter bus and sit on it for the entire route to see where it takes me around London. Sort of like going on a London Big Bus tour but without the tourists and the bad jokes.

A few weeks ago my friend Becky (former part time chef at Lantana) opened a café in deepest darkest south east London. The only thing that stopped me visiting as soon as it opened was the location. How the hell do you get to New Cross from west London? And then a serendipitous thing happened. I noticed that the bus that literally passes the end of my street has the words New Cross Gate on the front. I didn’t even have to bother with the route planner on TFL. Two birds. One bus.

So on a rainy Monday morning I sat myself on the No. 36 tour bus and took in the sights of Paddington, Victoria, Vauxhall, Camberwell and Peckham before arriving at the end of the route, New Cross Gate. After walking along a grim stretch of New Cross Rd from the bus stop I found a small cosy space filled with the aromas of baking and coffee, people chatting around a communal table, and at the centre of it all, Becky pulling a tray of blueberry brioche out of the oven.

‘London Particular’ was the name given to thick pea and ham soup in Dickensian times when London was famous for its heavy fogs, or 'peasoupers'. If you could create a hearty bowl of pea and ham soup in the form of a cafe, that cafe is The London Particular: warm, comforting, unpretentious and nourishing.

Becky graduated from the Royal College of Music and worked in that field for a couple of years before listening to her culinary calling and pursuing a career as a chef. Largely self taught, Becky’s love of food and her creativity shines through in the flavours, colours and textures of the food she cooks.

She decided to go with a bowl food concept for the café in order to keep the menu simple, informal and reliant on the quality of the ingredients. Its also simple by necessity as Becky is cooking everything served in the café herself in a space not much bigger than a shower cubicle.

It was a difficult choice but I went for the special of the day which was a courgette, rocket and feta salad served with a beetroot and white bean dip, toasted rye bread and chorizo (optional extra).

My friend had home baked beans with mushrooms

and the couple across from us had a pretty amazing looking sandwich with grilled haloumi, bacon, tomato and garlic mayo. I finished off with a lovely creamy flatwhite made by Jen (who Lantana customers might also recognise) and one of Becky’s buttery light freshly made brioche. All delicious.

There’s been no gentle easing in period for Becky and Jen who thought they’d have a quiet August to test the menu and put the finishing touches on the café. From the moment they opened the door, punters and reviewers have been steadily pouring in and Bex and Jen have barely had time to eat lunch. More proof that London is crying out for more cafes, good ones in particular. Well done Bex and Jen.

The London Particular: 399 New Cross Rd, SE14 6LA


ruairi said...

Wow- this is such a nice story! currently a student at the Royal College of Music like your friend was, its so nice to hear she has found her calling as a food creator :-)

I must venture over to this place soon. I, like yourself, am a bit of a westie though, I start to get headaches if I go east for too long... Lol!!! Beautiful blog, and pictures :-)

From Pia in Melb said...

Hey Shelagh
Good to hear that there's another great cafe in London -- with good coffee!!
A few cafe updates from the 'hood. Much as I love living just a little way down the street from 3A, the recently arrived Kultcha Kitchen on Glenlyon Road is great -- nice take on seasonal ingredients and they even offer to buy excess produce from locals' gardens. Also Pope Joan over on Nicholson St EB I understand does good coffee. A couple of cafes further up on Nicholson -- Milkwood and Va piano -- tiny, but good coffee and that comfy B'wick aesthetic.
We're enjoying getting around to them all.
Take care.

Chiara said...

I was so excited by the home baked beans dish. That sounds like the ultimate comfort food!

Shelagh said...

Hey Pia- love the sound of Kultcha Kitchen using produce from local's gardens (terrible name though!). I'm planning a trip home in Feb next year and sounds like I won't be short of new places to try. Lots of love, Sx

offmotorway said...

What a great place! And I agree with Chiara, can't wait to try the home baked beans!

themightywalrus said...

Hello there,

I've been trying to track down an old friend, Tim Dunn, and I came across your blog.

If you're still in touch with him, I would really appreciate if you could pass on a hello from me, and ask him to send me an email. My name's Kyle and my email address is-

Tim and I were great friends when we were teenagers living in France. My girlfriend and I will be in Europe soon, and it would be wonderful to see him again.

Thanks! And also, I really enjoyed your blog.



Anonymous said...

This places looks pretty impressive, although it is a little out of the way. Do you have any other recommendations for central London?

Scramblingeggs said...

There are lots of good places in central and East London. Fernandez and Wells, Milk Bar, Providores, Caravan, Tina we Salute You, Leila's, Taste of Bitter Love, Mouse and De Lotz, The Hackney Pearl...

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