No trip to London would be complete without a breakfast stop at one of the best cafes in town. Lantana specialises in good coffee and good food without pretense.
The sausage and egg sandwich is always my choice however as you can see their pancakes look pretty good too! Shelagh the owner also writes a great blog.
It would seem pretty disingenuous to describe Ottolenghi as a cafe, although ultimately this is what it is, albeit an upmarket one. I would recommend anyone who lives or is visiting London to search out one of their four branches and sample the delights. They offer both eat in or takeaway options except in the tiny Kensington branch.
More often than not Ottolenghi is a stop en route to friends, a guarantee of welcoming smiles, that is for the recipients not always the staff. But on this occasion I met a friend for lunch and we were looked after very well. The salads for which they are rightly famous for were as good as ever and a perfect rhubarb and ginger cheesecake finished things off nicely.
Monmouth has been the benchmark for London coffee for over 30 years and for a longtime has had little competition. More recently an Antipodean invasion has forced the standards of coffee ever higher and with a little effort you can now find good coffee in most London neighbourhoods. Of course there will always be those that rise to the top, The Espresso Room being my favourite. Yet Monmouth manages to hold its own in the ever more competitive market. A quick stop in the ‘cosy’ shop and cafe on Monmouth Street offered one of the best lattes I have had in a long time.
Leila’s Shop on Calvert Avenue is somewhat of an enigma to me. Now adjoined by her eponymous cafe which is always busy, the shop has seemed on many a visit little more than an oversized pantry, always stocked with the best of quality but on many occasions rather a bare offer. On this flying visit I stopped by and was immediately drawn in by the one of the few reasons to be cheerful in January, Blood Oranges. Once in temptation was too much. From picking up an orange I was then ‘forced’ to get a chunk of Comte and then while paying at the till was seduced by the large slabs of Valrhona cooking chocolate. This gave me an idea for what to use the oranges for. So a little lighter on cash and with my bag of goodies I jumped on my Boris Bike and headed home to make some pots of chocolate and orange ganache.
The final stop on my list is definitely not a cafe. A tip-off led us to Hammersmith’s River Cafe for a Winter special of 2 courses for £22. In context this is practically a freebie that you would be mad to turn down. The quality of cooking and ingredients is not lessened despite the special price, however having seen the full menu I was a little tempted by the Aberdeen Angus Sirloin (£34). Anyway I had a delicious chicken broth with fennel and a ricotta crostini, followed by spatch-cocked chicken and cannelini beans, (Calfs liver with cavalo nero, pictured) we shared desserts and fortunately the famous chocolate nemesis was on the menu.
I advise anyone with the ability the get out of work for a spot of lunch to head down to Hammersmith for a rare treat. (Offer ends March 31st)