31 July 2015

Popup Cafe - Deal, Kent

When it was still cold enough to wear my winter coat (I know we all whinge but really, British summer isn't as bad as we make it out to be) I visited my very good friend Jess in Deal - a town I know well. Some of you may know that, despite having lived in Wales for the past 11 years (minus three years at university in Cheltenham), I was actually born in Dover, Kent, and spent the first 12 years of my life there. That's how I know Jess, and that's how I know Deal. But revisiting - for the first time in eight years - it was nothing like I remembered. The quiet town I had previously written off as boring now appealed to me as a place to discover all these amazing cafes, bars and coffee shops. I was in my absolute element.

Saturday morning I spent lazing in bed watching Friends while Jess went on a driving lesson. Attic rooms are the best for this, and I soaked up every minute of the rain tapping on the skylight window. But soon it was time to get up and brave the wind (Deal is a seaside town!) and head out for some food.

Jess insisted we go to Popup Cafe, a place that had initially opened as just that, a pop up. But it was so popular that it carried on - and I'm so glad. It wasn't too busy when we arrived at about 1 o'clock. We sat upstairs - a light and airy space that reminded me of an art room at school, with recipe books on the windowsill and tables and chairs dotted sporadically across the room. The decor was right up my street - stripped back but with dashes of colour and unique lampshades and a big mirror with writing on it on one of the walls.

A lot of cafes claim to make everything homemade these days, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're any good. However, trust me when I say Popup Cafe is genuinely good, homemade, quality food and drink. First there was the sausage roll and salad both Jess and I ordered...

The pastry encasing the sausage had the added treat of caramelised onions - clearly the way all sausage rolls should be done. It was served warm with a really tasty beetroot and fennel salad with red cabbage slaw - the flavour combination was spot on and servings were generous.

Of course I had room for more, so I ordered one of the doughnuts for which Popup Cafe is renowned. The choice was either jam or coconut and, as much as I love jam doughnuts, I wanted to try something new. I paired my coconut doughnut with a flat white - steamed to silky perfection, and polished it all off, no problem. When I think of homemade doughnuts I think of stiff, chewy spheres of dough, but these were puffed up and airy - like the best doughnut in the world, but better. The coconut cream was light and not too sweet, and I could probably have eaten five more.

I wanted to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here, but we had a few more cafes to go to during my short visit. The staff here were great, though, and I'll definitely enjoy a warm welcome back when I'm next visiting.

Popup Cafe is right in the centre of Deal - just a twenty minute's drive from Dover. Find out more here. You can also follow them on Twitter @pop_up_cafe.


16 July 2015

Nordic Bakery - Soho

Have you ever found a quiet place in London? Somewhere away from the tourists, the street-long shops, the noise? Nordic Bakery was my first such discovery.

Young mothers meeting friends with their toddlers clad in New Balance trainers and mustard cashmere sweaters didn't dissuade me from settling here for the afternoon. In fact, there was something quite endearing about the array of people coming in and out of the cafe. It felt like everyone was welcome, even me with all my books.

Turning a busy corner and stepping into the calm Nordic Bakery, it was love at first sight. In true Scandinavian style, the decor was kept to a minimum, but the selection of sandwiches and cakes came in abundance.

It was difficult to choose, but I opted for the brie and lingonberry sandwich. All bread here is rye, and it is so delicious you'll wonder why you ever ate any other kind (except French, of course. French bread always prevails).

I could have eaten another, but the main reason for my visit to Nordic Bakery was to try the infamous cinnamon buns. It came served on a miniature tray – very cute – and paired with a black filter coffee it was perfectly palatable, but I do wish I had trusted my gut and picked up one of those giant jam tarts, instead. 

I'd heard rave reviews about these, but they're not cinnamon buns as I know them. These are very heavy, bready and don't taste much of cinnamon, unfortunately. Perhaps that's the Nordic way, but I think I'll stick to the sugar-soaked offering my sister bakes which hits the spot every time.

I spent the next hour revising for some exams that are now, thankfully, completed and passed, and then met my friend Jess for a weekend spent in a town very familiar to me. Posts of our Saturday spent in Deal to follow soon :)

Have you been to the Nordic Bakery? If you're in Soho, I highly recommend a trip. It's such an airy, relaxed atmosphere you'll forget you're in London altogether. Find out more here.

8 July 2015

Riverhill Coffee Bar – Glasgow

Voted Yelp's "friendliest staff in Glasgow" award in 2014. Isn't that enough to make you pick this coffee shop over all the others?

Wandering back into the city after my lunch at The Hanoi Bike Shop I headed to the Riverhill Coffee Bar. Teeny tiny inside – bar seating only – it's not really one for soaking up the morning with a good book, but for homemade food and a decent range of drinks (which, let's face it, is what it's all about), this is your stop.

I wanted the window seat, which offered a quiet view of the busy street outside, but a guy was perched, waiting, coffee in hand, for his girlfriend. My only criticism is of this 'take-away' atmosphere the Riverhill Coffee Shop emanates.

On the counter: a pleasing amount of cakes to choose from. Instinctively, my eyes went straight to the thing I'd never seen before – the nanaimo bar – but it was the salt caramel brownie I couldn't resist.

Decadent and fudgey, with generous swirls of deliciously salted caramel dispersed throughout, half the brownie ended up wrapped in a napkin to be eaten later.

The coffee, too, was delicious.

I liked it here. The staff were, indeed, friendly, the food and drink was yummy, and despite my fleeting visit, I think I'll go back to the Riverhill Coffee Bar to try one of their savoury offerings. I went to the Gordon Street bar but there are branches in West Nile Street and Helensburgh, too. You can find out more on their website.

These photos are somewhat unrelated - but I took them on my way to the coffee shop, and wanted to share them to show those who don't know just how incredible Glasgow is. Enjoy.

2 July 2015

The Hanoi Bike Shop – Glasgow

Even on a grey-white day, Glasgow's architecture is so pleasing to the eye. This photo was taken just off Byres Road in the West End of Glasgow - a short subway ride from the city centre and well worth the gander away from the overwhelming bustle of shoppers swarming the streets.

It's in the West End I recall some of my fondest memories. As my dad commented on my last post - nothing beats eating a pie in a roll (sausage roll for me) while walking down Byres Road scouting out old Broons books in Arthur's shop (closed now, sadly). If you're a fan of vintage clothing, junk shops and cute coffee shops, this is the place for you. It's like nothing ever changes here, except the addition of some even more brilliant gems - one of them being The Hanoi Bike Shop.

If you know me then you'll know I am a huge fan of Vietnamese food. The love stems from trying summer rolls on my sister's recommendation a few years ago in my first visit to Pho with my then boyfriend. We were hooked, and I have been obsessed ever since. You can find these summer rolls - also known as crystal rolls or rice paper rolls - in Waitrose and M&S. My mum made them for me for my 21st birthday and they were brilliant - ingredients all available at Waitrose, too, (if you have the patience for that kind of thing).

Unfortunately, Vietnamese food hasn't quite broke the UK's food market just yet - in fact, The Hanoi Bike Shop is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Glasgow, but I'm hoping that will change soon. From light pho (a kind of noodle soup) to zingy salads, it's such fresh, flavoursome food, it's impossible not to like it. 

After much deliberation I ordered two starters: Goi Cuon - rice paper rolls with prawns, omelette, herbs, pickles and noodles and the Cha Gio Heo - crispy pork spring rolls with nuoc cham. 

I loved the summer rolls (obviously) and the fish sauce, lime and sugar dip was amazing, but I was especially impressed with the pork spring rolls - they were crispy, packed with pork and paired with the chilli dip, an absolute dream to eat.

Impressively, The Hanoi Bike Shop makes their own organic tofu - something I didn't even know was possible - and everything on the menu is made fresh to order. Beautiful, authentic decor and an array of sauces and drinks to choose from makes this place worth visiting and visiting again, bringing someone new each time to share the goodness.

It's not cheap - I paid about £12 for two relatively small starters - but it certainly is tasty and way better than any chain restaurant you'll find on the high street and for that, I'm happy to fork out a little extra.

Do you think you'll give Vietnamese food a try? I highly recommend The Hanoi Bike Shop if it's your first time - the staff were super friendly and attentive and the food is fantastic. Find out more here.

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