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).
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