I believe there comes a time in one’s life (in my case quite frequently it would seem) that change is necessary and good in order to stimulate the mind and body.

This thought process is what prompted me to “up sticks” and move to North East London recently and the wonderful pastures new of Stoke Newington.  Ah and what a good choice it has been!  Aside from having the pleasure of more creative minds in closer vicinity to my new abode, I also have a wealth of cafés, restaurants and bars to become more familiar with!  What a holiday!  It feels akin to the throes of a new romance where everything is so ‘unwritten’ and I walk around with such a rosy blush in my cheeks from the incessant smiling, induced by every new corner I turn around and want to explore!  In order to share my awakening, I wanted to share some treats I have experienced from the past week.

London Coffee Festival

An impromptu visit but nonetheless with its own revelations, I decided to purchase a ticket to the 2nd appearance of the London Coffee Festival over in the Truman Brewery.

After some aimless wandering around, I found myself drawn initially to the enticing display of Pumpkin & Linseed rye bread at an independent specialist called Viviane’s.  Titbits of this bread were provided with a most pleasing Vanilla Pear Jam (which made such a good first impression I returned to buy a jar homeward bound).  Some other samples were a Spring Vegetable Pickle, Dukka on spelt (an Egyptian Rub) and a large variety of eye-catching cakes. Vivian is yet to establish her own shop but a thumbs up of encouragement from myself and as many troops as possible will bring Viviane’s to our doorstep so let’s hope for more support.

Viviane's breads

Matthew Algie (an ethically sourced independent coffee roaster) was my first coffee at the festival; an Americano provided a tasty mule-kick buzz, however, on arrival of a Hungarian friend, she failed to share the sentiment with her flat white (although working for Monmouth Coffee sets her at an unfair advantage.  High standards indeed).  I continued my quest with a Vietnamese Coffee – very much uncharted territory.  Mellow and almost like a ‘tea’ version of coffee.  Refreshing but not punchy enough for your morning cup.  An Orzo shot was forced upon me around another corner, but on learning it was decaffeinated and apparently all the rage in Italy (I can’t help but doubt that) I lost interest and moved on.

 

Americano Numero UnoDrip Style Vietnamese Coffee

My best cup came from Jamaica in the end; Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee sent my palpitations to jittery heights however it was a delight amongst the host of fairly average coffee providers (Why oh Why did Costa have a stall).

It seemed more of a food festival with various stalls providing home baked muffins, artisan gelato, shiny picture-perfect baklava and even a whole area dedicated to feeding the masses ranging from Wallah Wallah to the Arancini Brothers.  One hopes next year they keep the commercial aspect “ristretto”.

Molly's Bakes

However for the record, I have happily discovered a divine coffee house only 5 minutes away from my own road.  Fred and Fran, thank you for opening 6 months before my arrival!  My Long Black is infinitely the best calibre caffe I have supped so far and I long for my next one already!

Inauguration Night

My Portuguese friends were my companions on my first proper evening out as an Eastern citizen, so I obliged them on a Gallery trail as it was in keeping with the 1st Thursday antics of the art world (copious galleries opening their doors whilst people saunter in looking preened and pensive whilst analysing the meaning behind a taxidermy horse lying on its back, wrapped around a giant red plastic shape).  The dangling carrot comes in the form of free alcohol which tempts the drifters in….

Refreshment was needed after an adequate induction to some key galleries and I suggested Happiness Forgets which I had yet to visit.  With a good pinch of luck on entry (we pipped another 3 that came in only a minute after us), we sat down at the bar to the attention of flat capped and brace-adorned barmen who keenly provided the cocktail menu.


Art Inspiring AlcoholE10Jovial Barmen haunt at Happiness

Rita and I picked the French Daisy (vodka, yellow chartreuse, grapefruit, lemon and ginger ale) which was most refreshing and slurped up far too quickly, whilst Joana opted for the Mikey Rivers (a cocktail “for the inspired artist” it read on the menu) which was also tasty but I was happier with my daisy.  Delicious snacks are provided in Asian-themed form, ensuring you are not distracted overtly from the more important cocktail list at hand.  Due to a tardy start, we opted for the bill shortly after the last sip, a speediness which the barman commented on (though I did implore with him it would not be our last visit!).

Casita

Onwards then to Casita, a small Mexican offering from a chap called Tommy who owns a well known Mexican restaurant based in San Francisco (which I’m told sells over 300 types of tequila).  One must have a Margarita when in Mexico and a very encouraging effort it was!  Interestingly no triple sec, just extra tequila and agave syrup with lime juice.  NO salt as that’s “how Tommy makes it”.  I would have to agree with Tommy, sodium levels are high enough I find.  The friendly chap at the bar served up drinks without rushing me for payment as he wanted to ensure the other customers had a drink in their hand before settling up.  Quick, tasty and more than enough of an aperitif so the belly growl now had next choice.

Margaritas!

Pizza East

A common stalwart but nonetheless useful for a quick fix of food, I have been to Pizza East a few times before so was aware that their diverse, crowd-pleasing menu would promptly calm the beast in my stomach.  A little fact that might enlighten you is if you ask at reception for a key ring, sign up your email and this key ring entitles you to 50% off entire food/drink bill on a Monday night (Sunday nights apply to the Notting Hill branch).  Useful in an impoverished state.

I went on to spend the next day at work in a dulled state of euphoria based on the beverages I had over indulged in the night before, however, I do so enjoy this state of being the day after a splendid evening.  It sends such a static crackle through the senses!  And so to an early bed, but not before sampling another Pho en route via Kingsland Road, where I now have the comfort of Vietnam to gently soothe the negative effects of alcohol.

I stopped by Viet Grill, something I would describe as a slightly more ‘upmarket’ Vietnamese in comparison to its more informal neighbours.  I was immediately humming with contentment when my Grilled squid with Okra arrived.  General (quietened) groans of pleasure accompanied my chewing and I was ludicrously satisfied with my Pho which came with poached beef and spiced perfectly. I came back 2 days later.  And the next day after that.

Yumminess

Perhaps I am in a honeymoon phase, however, even with the continual rain and infrequent bursts of sunshine, I know this entire area will be able to keep my over-demanding self continually stimulated with its range of possibilities.  The East is indeed promising and with so much more to come……

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