The Counter, Cafe, Hackney-Wick London

NOTE: I am in London until the beginning of October, for Berlin Posts, please visit my Berlin, Favourites page or Places I’ve Eaten In 

I was doing some accounts today listening to Desert Island Discs (as is my habit).  Nick Clegg this time. After choices such as Prince singing ‘The Cross’ for song number three to take to a desert island, David Bowie ‘Life on Mars’ at number 6,  things went wacky with his choice for number 7: Shakira Waka Waka. “Because my one year old loves it.” He explained to Kirsty Young.

Aha. Just the teensiest bit sceptical about that.

Shakira on the radio prompts my father to drive hands free so he can clap as the car veeres perilously between lanes. “I love Shakira! I don’t know why?!”Someone close to me is more specific. As Waka Waka comes on the car radio, the heavy metal fan turns it up. I give him a shocked side ways glance. “When she sings certain refrains I feel a tingling in my balls.” He grins sheepishly. “See listen…”  (Sorry, I did search for an elegant way to say that but failed)

He cranks it up.

“I don’t have balls”. I reply. Turning it back down.It’s all doom and gloom here: wettest June since records began; Olympic lanes with £130 fines for driving in them; surface to air missiles; ‘shambolic’ G4S Security.  The list is long.  This is a congested city, people are fighting for space on the sidewalk or the tube without the extra 4 million visitors due for the Olympics.  So I’m thinking that maybe what London needs is a Shakira song (like the one that she did for FIFA 2010).  At least to get the boys on board.  For the girls…  Ryan Gosling squinting and flexing should probably do the trick.

My sister took me to Counter Cafe in Stour Space for brunch on Sunday.  Across the river from the cafe we could see the Olympic stadium.  Which if you don’t have a ticket is as close as you can get.Even without the looming Olympic Stadium, the Counter Cafe is a nice brunch spot.  With seating over two floors and outside by the river and no reservations there is usually a bit of a wait for a table.  Which is somewhat alleviated because you queue against a cake laden counter watching the barista make coffee, it really gets your appetite going. Read more of this post

London: Day 1, Monmouth, Kopapa, Yauatacha

2 years after having my daughter and being at her beck and call constantly and exclusively, I went away for the weekend, alone for the first time. With plans to eat, drink and be merry.

The first two days I was giddy with euphoria and loving the freedom to do as I pleased, sleep uninterrupted and eat food that was still hot. By day 3 I was missing her a lot and turning most conversations back to the subject of how wonderful, clever, fill in the blank she is. By day 4, I wanted to go back in the mommy cage (gilded though it is). That is the conundrum of mother hood. 
I had the most ludicrously long and unrealistic list of things I wanted to see, places I wanted to eat at and people I wanted to meet. First up on my list was the newly opened Kopapa, a cafe and restaurant by Peter Gordon.  I once did a 14 hour stint of work experience for Peter Gordon at the Providores on Maryelebone.   I remember being very surprised that 70% of the kitchen staff were petite females and that the kitchen was miniscule with allocated workspaces of less than 50cm per chef!  There were plenty of ingredients in his kitchen I had never seen before and I took copious notes to look them up later (‘barba di frate‘, palm sugar are two examples).  Their dishes were refreshingly original and weird riffs on classics, like vegetarian dolmades filled with quinoa and herbs (of which I made over 100). Read more of this post

The Barn, Coffee, Mitte

If you’re a mother you know the love that you have for your child is like no other.  You also know, that the few hours you can carve out for yourself in the week are more precious than gold.  No, it’s not an overstatement.

I have some friends that strive to over-achieve even in these hard to come by hours, going to the gym or doing a little personal upkeep.  Not me, I want to put my behind on a chair and read an article all the way through.  Every weekend, I take a magazine and head down to a coffee shop to just exist in the singular. Last weekend it was Espresso-Ambulanz on Oranienburger strasse, this weekend the break in the snow meant I headed out a little further to The Barn; one of my favourite coffee shops in Berlin.

Read more of this post

Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Prenzlauer Berg

Bonanza Coffee Heroes caught my eye the first time I walked past it.  It has a distinctive white neon sign, a distressed “we will be ready to open any day now” interior and of course the eye-catching sign outside that proclaims “Don’t die Before Trying” - no exclamation point.  They are very serious about coffee here, no chocolate milk, no decaf. They do coffee, a strong, dark coffee with delicate acanthus-like designs in the foam.

I have since come across loads of write ups for this place.  It uses a synesso cyncra which invokes a “Wow!” reaction in coffee geeks world-wide.  Apparently there are only 3 of these machines in Europe, according to Berlin Unlike.  Bloggers positively rave about it, like Cafe Kultur Berlin or the reviews on Bean Hunter.

And YES, they do make some wonderful coffee and in the words of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure - “We are not worthy…” of the über slick machine.

But you know what?  The service can be abysmal!  I just don’t understand why often in Berlin if you are a cool, coveted, trendy ”           ” fill in the blank shop, the perception is that you have carte blanche to behave like an idiot? Read more of this post


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