I have tried many, many London foodie spots since I started this blog - from the sublime to the mediocre to the downright overhyped, which is why I thought it was about time to compile some of my all-time favourites, presented to you in an easily digestible and concise manner, meant to encourage you to try them for yourself, particularly as friends and colleagues have increasingly been asking me for more specific tips such where to get the best Italian food in London, where I like to go for sweet treats or where I like to enjoy a great coffee. I hope you enjoy this new series and feel free to share if you agree with my top 5’s or if I missing the best spot London has to offer for each category yet! I for one am always on the lookout for the next number on the list!
Let’s start off proceedings with my favourite baked goods and where to find them in London because there is always time for something sweet, no matter what time of the day- especially when they are as good as these!
Fabrique is a stone oven bakery that originally stems from Stockholm and now has a few cosy branches across London, all selling their outstanding selection of Scandinavian bread varieties and pastries. I love their London flagship, located in a converted railway arch by Hoxton station, where everything is freshly baked on the premises and where they sell their outstanding selection of sweet buns.
There are vanilla and cinnamon buns (which are also fantastic FYI) but my all-time favourite is their cardamom bun which has a delicately aromatic note and which works so wonderfully when combined with its moist interior and perfectly baked exterior. My tip: grab a few buns to take home and warm them up for a couple of seconds. You can’t get a much better sweet comfort food on a cold autumn day than this and they are a steal at around £2.5!
On to another Scandi chain that has recently arrived in our city and which brings to London more amazing baked goods that I am not sure how we ever lived without! Ole and Steen hails from Denmark where they have been serving Danes delicious breads and pastries, made by hand, for over 20 years, with recipes handed down from generations. They have quickly expanded in London with various locations and their cafes can have a little bit of a upscale canteen feel about them (very minimal, with an element of Ikea canteen) but what they produce is bloody brilliant, with one baked good in particular having very quickly acquired somewhat of an online cult following in the U.K.
I am talking about their cinnamon social slice, a slice of heavenly pastry you can get your hands on for £2.5 and which is filled with custard and a gooey cinnamon mixture, topped with icing sugar and no exaggeration is one of the most moorish and delicious things I have ever eaten. It is far from your standard bun but instead a heavenly combination of everything that is amazing when it comes to baking. Once you have tried one you won’t stop dreaming of your next slice and trust me it won’t be a “social” or sharing occasion when you get yours, you will want it ALL to yourself.
What can I say, Ben’s Cookies are known to make the best cookies in town (if not the world) and I can’t disagree. I remember having my first one whilst visiting London with my dad on a day trip to go the National History museum and the sensation of biting into one of their freshly baked, still warm, slightly undercooked in the middle cookies will never get old. God knows how they make them because I have never gotten close to recreating them at home but maybe I wouldn’t want to anyway because to me Ben will forever be the king of cookies whoever he may be and seeing a red sign with his name at one of their many branches in London will always excite me even before I get a whiff of the gorgeous little things coming out of the oven.
I don’t treat myself to them too often (when I do its usually as dinner party dessert when I go for a box of 7 for just under £8 which is reasonable) but when I do my favourite has to be the Macadamia nut and white chocolate cookie, sweet and creamy from the white chocolate yet with a slightly salty note and crunch from the nut, it’s pretty hard to beat and any Londoner should be ashamed if you have yet to make your way to a Ben’s! It’s a ride of passage that is also damn tasty!
This was a recent discovery as I sipped on a perfectly made cappuccino at my favourite local neighbourhood café, Friends of Ours. They do a mean brunch here (review to follow) but as I hit a sugar low after a particularly draining week I saw a rather scrumptious looking cookie out on their display of baked goodies (all baked downstairs in their kitchen), so I went on to order what was labelled an ‘Anzac cookie’ not quite sure what to expect.
If you like me didn’t know an Anzac cookie is a sweet cookie, popular in Australia and New Zealand, made using rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda, boiling water, and desiccated coconut which makes sense as Friends of Ours has a Kiwi head chef and is firmly rooted in Antipodean coffee culture. It could have turned out a little bland or dry but oh this was like a long, wholesome hug in cookie form. Soft, yet with chewy edges, buttery and with a hint of coconut and so perfect with a cup of coffee that I had to stop myself from getting one every time I pop in for my daily caffeine fix. This little number is a dark horse in terms of its unassuming appearance but heck I think we should all be eating Anzak cookies if they taste as good as this one!
Can you tell I like my cinnamon buns? Before you judge Bageriet's Swedish ‘kanebullar’ is totally different from the offerings at Fabrique or Ole and Steen and as bloody delicious so that I simply HAD to include it in my top 5.
The bun is made using a recipe that has been handed down the generation to pastry chef Daniel Karlsson, who started making pastries aged 20 in Gothenberg, and comprises of a heavenly mix of sweet dough rolled together with a sweet cinnamon filling, topped with sugar crystals for an added sweet crunch. They are utterly divine but that is not all, this tiny bakery and cafe (there are about 8 seats so be prepared to take away), hidden away from the crowds on a little side street in Covent Garden, also serves some other delicious Swedish baked specialities with another must try being the wonderfully named ‘prinsesst?rta’ or Princess cake – a green and pink cake fit for a sweet toothed princess which is constructed of a light sponge filled with raspberry compote, vanilla custard, fresh cream and encased in colourful marzipan – indulgent yes, but royally worth it!
I have to say I was utterly stunned by Bali's culinary offering. Every meal I had was so fresh, so delicious, so cheap and so beautifully presented that London’s eating out scene instantly paled in comparison. With Australia being so close to Bali you can definitely spot a culinary influence here, there being a plethora of Antipodean inspired brilliant brunch spots serving fantastic coffee (after all the Aussies invented the flatwhite) and coming with aesthetically pleasing modern interiors. Below are some of my favourite foodie discoveries which I have been yearning for ever since I left the island. Come hungry to Bali because boy will you want to make the most of every mealtime!
Crate cafe has a cult following and rightly so! Its open dining space is achingly cool- overlooking a rice paddy field, it houses a regularly changing art exhibition, a DJ playing a pleasing mix of hip hop tunes and all the other trimmings you’d expect from a metropolitan hipster spot (neon signs, mismatched furniture, polaroid pictures etc.). However, I am happy to report that it’s not style over substance here and that the food proved not only incredibly pretty, I mean even the water comes served with a stunning array of fruits and flowers to flavour it and is almost TOO photogenic to drink it, but is also super tasty and offered outstanding value for money. A main sized brunch dish will set you back under a fiver and Crate offers an Antipodean inspired menu that has so many delicious sounding options that we seriously struggled to decide what to go for. I could have easily come back every day for a month and eaten something different as it, to my delight, also offered an insane number of veggie and Pescatarian friendly options.
In the end, we decided to split our mains (best way to try as much as possible without seeming greedy) and settled for corn fritters with smoked salmon, poached eggs and a fresh tomato salsa as well as a more classic avocado on toast with halloumi, poached eggs and tomatoes. I also was more than curious to try my first smoothie bowl, a bowl filled with first with a thick smoothie layer and then topped with lots delicious mix-ins such as fruit, nuts, coconut you name it, so ordered their blueberry special which came with a thick blueberry smoothie base, frozen watermelon balls, coconut flakes and delicious granola. I was dubious about these bowls but I have to say I adored the fresh fruity flavours- I probably wouldn’t go through the effort of making one at home but while in Bali make sure you try one, especially at Crate where they are so pretty and damn tasty! Our savoury options were equally wonderful, with the corn fritters being the stand out dish, full of fresh flavours and different textures and with the eggs poached to perfection. The brunch we had blew any brunch I have had in London recently out of the water and Crate cafe is a place I would return to in a heartbeat. A must visit.
Shady Shack was my other ultimate brunch favourite of the trip and once again came highly recommended by many friends and blog posts. In contrast to Crate’s hipster tendencies, the emphasis at Shady Shack is on offering super healthy and wholesome dishes with tons of Vegan and otherwise only vegetarian options (sorry meat eaters!) which means if you are looking for a brunch that will leave you feeling virtuous and well nourished than this is your spot!
Again the menu was so vast, comprising of at least 10 pages, that I seriously struggled to pick – there was everything from more lunch / dinner type Buddha bowls (the halloumi bowl in particular sounded fantastic) to smoothie bowls to more classic egg based brunch type dishes. In the end I went for their Onzen cooked eggs, a traditional Japanese low temperature way of cooking the egg which means the egg retains a unique texture in that the white tastes like a delicate custard and the yolk comes out firm, but retains the color and creamy texture of an uncooked yolk, on sourdough with an array of roast veggies (sweet potato, asparagus, tomatoes and leeks) and an utterly delicious sweet chilli relish on the side – it may sound simple but every perfectly cooked component shone in its own way.
This the kind of food I love cooking in London for myself, taking humble vegetables and making them the star of the show, and which you seldom find when eating out, too often restaurants wanting to overcomplicate things. This was fantastic healthy cooking and a brunch I would love to have available in London, where eating out does not have to mean instant guilt or overindulgence. Even my smoothie bowl, lacking a little of the sweetness that surely had been added via sugar to my Crate bowl, was absolutely delicious and showed me that keeping as true to the original ingredient as possible doesn’t have to mean bland and boring health food, us too often seemingly used to overly seasoned and sweetened food. Another must visit Bali brunch spot.
I only went in for a coffee at this beautifully designed café one morning to do some work bits that needed to be done, social media never sleeps after all, but was still left impressed with Koloni. My cappuccino was beautifully presented and very expertly made, and as I perused the super healthy Californian inspired menu (think vegan Huevos Rancheros, fish tacos and carrot cake waffles) I was rather sad that I couldn’t squeeze in an eating occasion here. One worth checking out.
The best cup of coffee of this trip was undoubtedly at Coffee N Oven, a cute little café, specialising in artisan coffee, freshly baked bread and fine pastries in the heart of Canggu. Their 7 islands espresso blend is specially roasted for them and offered complex taste notes of dark Chocolate, roasted peanuts, caramel and strawberries, with every sip of my flatwhite being miles above the burnt beans and watery end result which I've had in some supposedly artisanal and very overhyped coffee shops in London (naming no names).
Their beautiful array of pastries and cakes, to be admired behind a glass display, was equally convincing and on par with the finest of patisserie I have had in Paris, with particularly their take on a lemon meringue pie impressing us, it being a creamy zingy piece of heaven, encased in perfectly baked pastry. This is the perfect place for a caffeine pick me up and sweet treat, especially if you are coffee snob like me.
We headed to Milu by Nook on my first evening in Bali and I was instantly won over by the fresh produce used here to create Asian fusion inspired healthy dishes that scream feel-good food! The interior is no less impressive, filled with a gorgeous array of typically Balinese style furniture and homeware (think bamboo chairs and low hanging lamps). You can also take in the lovely views across the rice paddy fields adjacent to the restaurant if you wish to dine on their outdoor terrace as we did to make the most of the Canggu’s evening breeze and listen to the local wildlife as we tucked into our dinner.
To kick things off we shared a gorgeous vegan starter of stir fried vegetables in peanut sauce which was an utter delight before picking out our mains. I chose the fillet of grilled Mahi Mahi, a local white fish delicacy, in a spicy sauce served with more stir fried veggies and a fresh salad which was absolutely delightful, full of flavours but without a hint of stodginess and so perfect for the humid weather, while Josie had mushroom coconut satay sticks, a kind of mushroom and coconut paste that had been shaped around a stick and fried, served with a delicious coconut sauce and a side of, you guessed it, more flavoursome veg, both of us over the moon about the fresh and imaginative takes on classic Asian flavours we were being served. I also tried the local rose wine which at £2 a glass was not only great value but a perfect accompaniment to the dinner. 2 glasses of wine, a starter and a main cost me under a tenner here and the entire atmosphere of the place combined with the standard of food made our dinner here an absolute delight that perfectly set the scene for the rest of my trip.
Lupé is a little more of a casual affair when it comes to dining out in Canggu. Run by an expat Kiwi, it specialises in serving all you can eat buffet fare. with different culinary focuses each night. We went on a Wednesday which is veggie night over at Lupe and for around £5 you can basically eat all your heart desires. There were yummy roast vegetables, pasta, soup, some Asian dishes, salad and an array of breads and dips. This wasn’t haute cuisine but honest and great food and particularly suited to those with a big appetite and small budget. For those travellers missing home, there also is a roast dinner night every Sunday with Yorkshire puddings and the lot!
Moana Fish Eatery as you can guess by the name specialises in all things seafood and has a rather impressive menu that ranges from poke bowls to seafood pasta to crab burgers to more local dishes like Nasi Goreng and is a fish lovers (me!!) dream with it’s sheer selection of enticing sounding dishes. After a long deliberation, I went for their famous tuna poke bowl topped with their special spicy sauce and wow it was truly incredible, way better than any I have had in London, not only in terms of the quality of tuna but also in terms of the sauce (god knows what was in it but I could have eaten it by the spoonful) and yummy toppings. Everyone else’s dishes looked equally good and we washed it all down with a rather nice and affordable white wine. A must visit for seafood lovers and great if visiting in a bigger group!
This was my favourite meal of the entire trip. Firstly because if you visit Kembali Bumbak on a Friday night the entire food menu is half price and I mean EVERY Friday (something you just couldn’t imagine in London unless it is the soft launch of a place) but secondly because the modern fusion food with healthy edge served here was truly outstanding both in its flavour combinations and presentation with something of a similar calibre (in my eyes perhaps Ottolenghi when it comes to the way vegetables were elevated into something truly special here) easily costing ten times as much back in London.
We all went a little crazy on the ordering front, after all it was all half price, so I decided to go all out with a starter, main and dessert. To start I chose charred greens & leaves (broccoli and kale) which came served with chilli, feta, smashed chickpeas, pistachio dukkah and lemon tahini yogurt and came from their “from the garden section”. This turned out to be a mind-blowing combination of fresh flavours and was served in a very generous portion that easily gobbled up. When it comes to mains there are your classic steak and meatier options (also all half price) which you can have with a side of sweet potato for shoestring fries with smoked aioli or you can go for one of their impressive looking burgers, served in a black charcoal bun- whether you like the sound of the tempura soft shell crab one, served with mango chilli slaw (I nearly went for this) or want to give their veggie alternative a go (an equally tasty sounding spiced chickpea and halloumi number served with red curry tahini and sesame slaw), but what got me really excited was the healthy bowl section of the menu, especially as, slightly hungover on the evening, my body was craving all the nutrients it could get. I was tempted to get another tuna poke bowl but in the end went for their cauliflower rice bowl served with halloumi, beetroot hummus, pistachio dukkah, avo, horseradish cream, a poached egg and a perfectly cooked fillet of house smoked salmon. It not only looked stunning but showcased true cooking expertise, a lot of strong flavours combined into one incredible bowl- nourishing, satisfying and like nothing I had ever had before.
Eating this left wondering why London restaurants don’t try to create more healthy YET fully satisfying dishes like this that don’t make you feel like you are missing out on the good stuff because here I definitely was over the moon with what I was served. I did go a little unhealthy at the end, I mean who can say no to a slice of cheesecake for under a pound and the peanut butter and praline cheesecake we were served (most of our dinner party could also not resist) was no after-thought but an outstanding end to an utterly outstanding meal. I would have happily spent a good chunk of money on this kind of meal in London, which makes it the more ironic that the anyway decent prices were halved when we ate here that Friday. Drinks do stay full price but with wine around £3 a glass one really cannot complain. If you follow only one of my tips trust me and go for dinner here. One last thing - make sure you book your table via their Facebook page, expats know this little gem and frequent it, as I would, most Fridays.
Lastly, if you are after some fun cocktails away from the young crowds of backpackers that can dominate the nightlife in Bali, I would fully recommend this hidden gem. And with hidden I mean that the Black Cat bar is genuinely located through a fridge door that reads broken at the back of a working mini mart, where drunken dwellers can be seen stocking up on crisps and bottles of the local beer Bingtang all night long. Once through the door you find yourself rather bizarrely in a small and darkly lit speakeasy style bar with dance floor. Cocktails are Quentin Tarantino themed, well made and for Bali standards very affordable (most people stick to beer so you can’t actually find cocktails that easily) and there is a pleasing mix of hip hop and electronic getting everyone moving on the dance floor. I had one of the funnest and most unexpected nights out here in a long time and can only recommend it to anyone after a little different when it comes to Bali nightlife!