The London eating scene is quite different from here in NY. It is certainly not that London lacks good food but that too much of it is concentrated on appealing to the masses.
Here they exploit the niche market so well. I do not know if it is because New Yorkers love food more than Londoners but it certainly seems that the chefs and entrepreneurs are much more willing to indulge in their own tastes. I really believe that more often than not if the people behind the business truly love what they produce it will taste better. Just in the last week i have visited three places that concentrate on doing very few things, but doing them exceptionally well.
These are doughnuts of the finest quality, all handmade in the bakery behind the tiny counter that makes for the shop front. I have never been to the Doughnut Plant on a Saturday before and probably won’t make that mistake again, but as you can see people are very willing to stand and queue for great products. As with many of these kind of businesses the idea came from the founders (Mark Israel’s discovering his grandfathers old recipes) desire to recreate a genuine product that had been bastardised by mass production techniques.
The results are amazing as i have told everyone since i discovered the place on a visit in 2008. The three doughnuts above are my favourites. The Creme Brulee is a small but perfectly formed little bomb. It has a sugar glazed top that is has the crunch of its name sake and then filled with delicious custard. The Tres Leche is a masterpiece made with milk, evapourated milk and condensed milk. The light dough is covered in the evapourated milk glaze and filled all the way round with condensed milk cream. Finally the strawberry jam filled doughnut. This is the first time i have seen it and it did not disappoint. Mark keeps things interesting by rotating through seasonal fillings so there is always something different to try.
(A note to all you London doughnut lovers, forget Krispy Kremes and head to Spitalfields on a Sunday morning. St John Bread and Wine make their own amazing doughnuts with either raspberry jam or custard fillings. They sell out and it maybe worth calling ahead to check they have them but i promise you will not be disappointed)
I also recently returned to Porchetta a tiny place dedicated to the Pork sandwich, they really pare it down. The sandwich comes with pork and only pork, no condiments no greens and it does not suffer for it. Just the delicious crunch of the crispy pork shoulder and lots of flavour from the garlic, fennel and rosemary. It’s definitely worth checking out if you are in the East Village and need a snack.
My latest discovery in the simple concept idea is Four and Twenty. This place was opened by two sisters devoted to all things pie. It’s not in the nicest part of town situated on 3rd Avenue near the Gowanus Canal. By all reports you do not want to be hanging around the canal on a hot day as the smell can be quite overwhelming….
The cafe is a pretty uninteresting square space with no decoration beyond the original features of the room. The main event though was the pie and it seemed perfect that apple was on the menu. To be precise apple and salted caramel. It was amazing…….a revelation, homemade all butter crust layered with perfectly cooked apple and caramel, a large slice of heaven..
Perfect apple pie
Being greedy and making sure that i was not missing out on anything i decided to get a slice to take home. I tried the buttermilk and maple custard and was again not disappointed.
This is my new favourite place. Now if only it was closer to home i would be very happy and a lot fatter…..