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Coffee, Croissant and Heartbreak

22 Jan

It has been a while since l last posted and I am sorry to say but this isn’t for you the reader, rather therapy for me. I know there are many who do not appreciate the exhilarating highs and depressing lows that football can deliver but for me as I remain 3000 miles from ‘home’ it is a tangible handle on my old life.

Having a quality coffee shop close by has quickly become an essential signifier of any good neighbourhood. Thankfully mine is closer than most meaning that I can literally wake up and smell the coffee. I have no daily need for caffeine, rather it is a rare treat and hence I cross my fingers for the best barista.

Today it was a good one, a perfect cappuccino from my favourite coffee wrangler made me smile in the freezing cold. It was only a short walk to Floyds which as to be expected for such a big game was full and noisy by 8.30am. A tense first half low on incident was followed by drama, action, intrigue and finally devastation.

I left bewildered, unable to accept that from being so close to elation my day was now drowned by the despair of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. If an emotion can be melodramatic yet genuine then this was it. Not even an excellent chocolate croissant devoured on the trudge home would elicit an upswing in mood.

Now I am left with the Sunday blues and questions of what if???????



Milk and Honey NY

20 Dec
  • In my mind M&H NY has always been my favourite bar in the world, but until now I had only visited once before and as such it is difficult to rate it so highly without further evidence.

TThis was a Cherry Gimlet, absolutely delicious and the only drink I can remember the name ofhis place is even more secretive than the London Milk and Honey. It’s on a totally non descript street with barely any other points of interest and if you did not know what you were looking for you would have no hope of chancing upon it.
Just as in London there is a blank door on which you have to knock before it magically opens and you are beckoned in through some heavy curtains.
Once inside you could imagine yourself transported to just about any era from the 1920s onwards. The narrow room is lit by candle and the music so subtle that until we settled into out surroundings we could not tell if it was playing.
There are several things to love about this place, from the amazing drinks, friendly service to the intimate atmosphere.
All the drinks are made with freshly squeezed juices and premium spirits. They will make you just about anything so don’t waste your time with mojitos etc, just tell them what flavours you like and they will do the rest.

The only downside is that the place is small and without a reservation you have very little chance of getting a table (no standing room). However it really is the kind of place you know you want to go to in advance, either to impress a date or to enjoy drinks with friends without having to shout above the DJ.

For reservations click here. I believe the maximum number of people in any one party is 5, and there are only around 10 tables but you can stay as long as you like.

The drinks are by no means cheap at $16 each, but they pack a punch and considering the benefits of the place very worthwhile.

Special thanks to Miranda who first brought me and Nicky here many years ago, it really was as good as I remembered.

Schiller’s Liquor Bar

8 Dec

Schiller’s is part of the Keith McNally phenomenon that seems to be one succesful restaurant after another. The ex-pat Brit also owns Balthazar, Pastis, Minetta Tavern, Pulino’s and others. He is an incredibly succesful restaurateur as all the venues that I have visited are endlessly busy.

Balthazar has been a ‘go to’ place for me ever since I first visited NY, serving reliable bistro fare in stylish surroundings. So much so I have often wondered why he has not returned to the country of his birth to recreate some of his magic, (although there are rumours of a Balthazaar outpost in Covent Garden).

All this led me to believe that a Saturday night visit to his Lower East Side (LES) venue could be noting other than a safe bet. As with a lot of places booking is not possible so it’s the first come first served lottery that leads to the long wait times that is common in NY. With my sister in town for the weekend I decided it would be a good idea to hedge our bets, so while we had drinks at Freeman’s and put our name down on their list I also popped down to Schiller’s and got on theirs too. It turned out we had very little chance of getting a table at Freeman’s so after a drink we wandered through the LES to Schiller’s. there is a definite energy about the area and I am sad to admit that it is the first time in 6 yrs I have ventured their on a Saturday night. (No surprise to most)

Once there we were told that our table should be ready any minute so we took in the scene. The place was heaving, with the bar about 4 people deep there were some dodgy looking tables that were engulfed by drinkers. This however did not put us off, it was 10.30pm, we were hungry and the place really did have a great buzz. Once sat we ordered a couple of excellent cocktails and soaked up the classic 80’s soundtrack.

Vodka, lemonade,lime and fresh strawberries

The Delancy, Blackcurrant vodka, lime, mint and grenadine.

The drinks were really good, very strong and tasty, and perfectly accompanied by some seriously cheesy nachos, but this is where the fun ended. The service was pretty average perhaps not a surprise when you take into account how busy the place was, but the food was simply bad. A hamburger was limp, with nothing to make it stand out above a $5 Wendy’s version, the veggie burger was beyond limp, it literally fell to pieces and my steak sandwich was the best of the lot but still far from what I would expect of a McNally venture. We even found ourselves questioning whether the ketchup was Heinz, (it wasnt, although they protested otherwise).

The problem for Schiller’s is that McNally made his name by running very busy operations serving simple but tasty food in a theatrical environment, here the food was bad, and the service sketchy so all you are left with is the atmosphere. In my mind once the other two elements disappear all you are left with is a busy, noisy room.

There really was little point in complaining as I sincerely believed that the food we got was the best they could do in the circumstances, perhaps in a less manic moment the kitchen could get the simple bistro fare right but it strikes me as unlikely. I did speak to the manager and he assured me that it was a one-off and kindly offered us free drinks, however I cannot see myself returning to find out.

Alas at last there is a chink in the McNally armour.

NB. I visited Balthazaar on Monday to remind myself, and while I felt the standards may have slipped a little, it was still a million miles better than Schiller’s.