London. Covent Garden and Soho
Do you believe some cities are never completed? Go to London then – it truly never is. No matter how many times you visit, the only things that seem to never change over the years are the constantly towering cranes and people dressed in construction gear. Places to eat, popular supermarkets for supper ingredients, breakfast coffee places and restaurants touted as the next big thing – they all change, but London is never completed, and I don’t think it ever will be. In any shape or way – to be honest, there’s no other place I’ve ever experienced as much improvement and change in food as in London.
The good news is – as it’s all in progress, the progress is in the right direction. Of course, there’s still a bunch of those classic tourist traps, dreadful deep-fried fast food, gaudy cupcakes and dishwater coffee, God only knows where that comes from (and it’s most probably best to not know), but everything else changes. Over years, ever over a few months. And to the best.
A true London gem for lovers of great food, from pizzas to local seasonal produce restaurants and much more. The cosy courtyard literally dazzles with its colours (it has buildings in yellow and blue and in green and red) and flavours. Wild Food Cafe (14 Neal’s Yard; wildfoodcafe.com) only serves vegan food – there’s a salad of the day, packed with vitamins and nutrients, raw shakes, gluten-free and raw cakes. Neal’s Yard Remedies (15 Neal’s Yard; www.nealsyardremedies.com) is the place for those who like a bit of sourcery with herbs and powders and pampering your skin with some top notch care products. Camu camu, maca and spirulina powders and dried herbs, spices, oils, shampoos – you’ll find these treasures and much more at their shop. Homeslice Pizza (13 Neal’s Yard; www.homeslicepizza.co.uk) – perfect exactly the way it is. Big pizzas, big flavours, big atmosphere. Cheese lovers should be wary of Neal’s Yard Dairy (17 Shorts Gardens; www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk) – they have the perfect selection of British cheeses, from fresh and soft goat’s milk cheese to ewe’s and cow’s milk cheeses, aged for 3 years. Around the corner for all your coffee needs is the charming Monmouth Coffee Company (27 Monmouth Street; www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk) – all the coffees here are made of carefully selected and locally roasted beans from around the world. A great place for grain lovers is 26 Grains (2 Neal’s Yard; www.26grains.com), where breakfast and lunch dishes are made of lots and lots of various grains (yes, 26 kinds altogether) in mouth-watering combinations. Also try the charming French or Italian cafe (they’re both located side to side) and Nat•ive, the British restaurant across the courtyard (most of the time it’s fully booked though).
Address: 3 Neal’s Yard; www.eatnative.co.uk
At the Fabrique bakery you can sit back, close your eyes and slowly inhale aromas and life – both in Sweden, where this family business originates from, and in London, the cafe in Covent Garden, with design as authentic and charming as its Stockholm counterparts. The sexy and gorgeous sourdough loaves are in good company of yoghurts, Swedish and English natural juices, the famous cardamom, vanilla or cinnamon buns, brownies (available at all their London locations), nut and seed slices and also sandwiches. The smoked salmon, cream cheese and pickled fennel sandwich was the best I’ve had in a long time. There are also great options for meat-eaters.
Romantic and cute dishware, teas served in heavy old-time glasses, and good coffee. That’s what they have here and what you’ll be happy to enjoy. Although the big loaves of bread are indeed huge, it’s a good idea to take one home (it keeps well, and at home you just warm it up before serving). But if you’re having just one thing here, pick the cardamom bun. There’s no going back home for you if you haven’t tried one!
Address: 8 Earlham Street, London; fabrique.co.uk
He was a pastry chef at various London restaurants, while at the same time baking Swedish treats for friends, until one day his friends convinced him to open his own cafe. And Daniel Karlsson did exactly that, opening a super-small and super-charming place on the tiny Rose Street – called Bageriet. Even if it started out as a favourite for Scandinavians, now the bakery and the cafe is so beloved by the English that they cheat on their traditional birthday cake choice with Daniel’s classic Swedish Princess cake (a sponge cake covered in green marzipan). Everything looks so delicious, but make sure you try the fantastic cardamom cake and the cinnamon buns. And the cookies and tartelettes.
Address: 24 Rose Street, London; www.bageriet.co.uk
Kaffeine is one of the trendiest coffee places in London. At least that’s what the locals like to say. Anyway, no matter whether it’s the trendiest or just trendy, Kaffeine is the place for very, very good coffee. And not just that, because besides coffee, roasted here and turned into drinks with silky foam and a delicate taste, they also have excellent food.
For breakfast you could choose a croissant filled with Taleggio cheese and cured ham or one served with various jams, or a healthy nut bar or a pastry. For lunch everything changes here (the only thing that stays is, of course, the wonderful coffee) – the counter is filled with salad bowls, sandwiches and buns. The locals love it here, it’s always full, and there’s really no reason for it not to be, with everything being so delicious. P.S. Kaffeine has two locations not far from each other (in case you’d like to go back and maybe try the other one).
Address: 15 Eastcastle Street, London; www.kaffeine.co.uk
There’s barely anyone these days who hasn’t heard the name of Yotam Ottolenghi – the guy from Israel who changed the food scene in London years ago, by offering dishes London had never seen and combining local flavours with those of the Middle East. The best known place is the Ottolenghi deli (several locations in London – try them, if you see one), but lesser known, yet no less excellent is his restaurant NOPI, located close to Oxford Street – locals come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Uniting the flavours of two worlds, using as much local produce as possible, new experiments and the very fresh result – that’s what people love about this place. It’s very true food in generous servings, but most importantly – it’s so delicious.
If you’d like to finally taste a great shakshuka, breakfast at NOPI is a must for you – theirs is just divine. Just as the black rice, coconut milk and jaggery sugar breakfast porridge with mango, as well as the scrambled eggs with salmon and sourdough bread. If you’re into the worldwide juice craze, you’ll love the carrot and ginger juice or the kale, cucumber, apple and lime one.
Address: 21-22 Warwick Street, London; www.ottolenghi.co.uk
In cooperation with www.airbalticblog.com
Photos: Armands Meirans