Food & drink

  1. Breakfast at Fortnum & Mason

    Fortnum & Mason, a poncy food store for posh people and imbecile tourists who can't tell how expensive everything is, also serves breakfast. I've been trying to have breakfast there ever since I moved to London just because it felt like something one ought to do, as a Londoner.

  2. Breakfast at St. John Hotel, Leicester Square

    Update: St. John Hotel has since closed. St. John Hotel is tucked away behind a building site near Leicester Square station; to reach it you have to pass scaffolding and netting as you slosh through puddles of construction gruel. Maybe once they've finished building Leicester Square the area will be nicer but for the moment it's a grim, discouraging spot for breakfast.

  3. The Bull, Highgate

    My first attempt at going to The Bull didn't go well. I'd been wandering around trying to find a pub that wasn't packed on a Sunday afternoon and I found one; it was The Bull. It was deserted; I wasn't even sure it was open. I cautiously approached the doors and peered in, seeing fridges filled with bottles of Becks and a couple of dead-eyed staff staring out, their blank stares seemingly willing me to come in and give their day and their lives some meaning. The place had all the charm of a branch of Foxtons, and if things are so bad that you're looking to me to give the place some life then frankly the battle is already lost.

  4. The Victoria, Highgate

    The Victoria in Highgate is a nice little gastropub that probably goes overlooked as it's up the north end of the village, past plenty of other notable pubs such as The Red Lion and Sun, and The Bull. It can lack atmosphere during the week but is worth checking out for the food.

  5. A Starbucks Experience

    My usual chain coffee establishment of choice is Caffé Nero; the coffee is good enough, they sell those little praline chocolates, the premises are generally clean and the background music tends to be of a pleasing Italian theme. Essentially it's somewhere I can go to feel like an Italian without being molested by Berlusconi.

  6. Nopi, a new Soho restaurant by Yotam Ottolenghi

    Nopi is a new restaurant in Soho by Yotam Ottolenghi. Normally I wouldn’t care about a new restaurant in Soho because an important part of being a hermit is not giving a shit about new restaurants in Soho, but I’d recently purchased a new shirt with an actual collar and buttons and shit so it seemed like a good opportunity to test-drive it.

  7. Breakfast at Côte, Highgate

    Côte is a chain of restaurants serving decent French food and is where you go when you feel that you've out-grown Café Rouge. A branch recently opened in Highgate so I thought it worth documenting now it's within easy walking distance.

  8. Decaffeinated

    Feeling in an experimental and somewhat jittery mood, I decided to stop drinking coffee for a short spell, to see what would happen.

  9. Borough Market

    Recently I visited London's Famous Borough Market for the first time. I've lived in London now for nearly two years and it was only ever a brief Tube journey away (as brief as things can be on the Tube, that is), but then I'm someone who lived in Canterbury for five years and still only visted the Cathedral during my final month, so the jaunt to Borough Market is still pretty rushed by my standards.

  10. In Defence of Chains

    We hear a lot about how generic English town centres are due to the proliferation of chain stores and restaurants, and I've complained about this in the past. Today, partly because I've just had a nice lunch in Café Rouge (nearly 100 branches throughout the UK) and am sitting in a comfy brown leather chair in Café Nero (over 300 branches), I'm going on the defensive. Is a generic English town centre actually as bad as we're led to believe?

  11. Pizzatarian

    For the last 18 months or so, I've done fairly well in avoiding fast food and takeaways, and I'd like to say that this was due to will power, but it isn't, it's almost entirely down to laziness --- so long as the effort involved in getting fast food delivered to me is marginally greater than simply cooking some pasta, I was safe. Domino's Pizza has, tragically, discovered a chink in my armour --- they allow me to order pizza via the internet. Bastards.

  12. Tea and Chocolate

    The transition from Summer to Autumn in the UK is usually a fairly swift one; one week the sun is blazing high in the sky, the next week everyone's wearing three layers in order to dress for both hot and cold temperatures, and finally this is followed by that week of unusual stillness, where the sun is out, there isn't a cloud in the sky, and you can see your breath fogging up the air before you. Then it rains for the next three months.

  13. The Perfect Steak

    I have recently spent some time refining my steak cooking technique, and am now documenting it here for future generations and myself if I happen to forget. Please note that this is a way of cooking my perfect steak --- your perfect steak will undoubtedly be completely different (and, obviously, completely wrong).

  14. Unhappy Food

    So I've written about junk food and I've written about health food, but it's time now to explore a different category that I've only lately realised exists; unhappy food, i.e., food that, when eaten, causes the eater to be unhappy.

  15. Café Culture

    When spending a significant amount of time in a town or city, there are two things I like to be sure of; one is where I can get a decent cup of coffee in nice surroundings, and the other is where I can go to the toilet. I'm about to write about the former, because an article about the latter would just list 'Debenhams; by the Covered Market; underneath Magdalen Bridge', and wouldn't be much of a read.

  16. Five Times a Day

    Nutritionists, politicians and the entire food industry all agree that we should all be eating a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables every day in order to prevent death by happiness. Five portions a day, plus keep your salt intake to below 6g a day and your fat intake to below 90g; have any of you actually tried to do this? It's just not that chuffing simple!

  17. Taste the Difference

    If you live in Oxford then you probably shop at Tesco. This is not a social comment, it's just that with a Tesco Metro serving the whole of East Oxford and a large out-of-town Tesco serving the rest, you're not left with much choice in the matter. While there are other options --- Marks & Spencers for the disgustingly wealthy, a miniscule Co-Op for the smelly hippies and two blink-and-you'll-miss them (yet horrifically busy) Sainsburys in the middle of the town centre, Tesco is where most Oxford residents will find themselves, time and again.

  18. Willpower

    I can be fairly strong-willed at times. Though my increasing supply of gadgets might suggest otherwise, that's just because it's what you can see. If you could see all the crap I don't buy, well, you'd be dead impressed.

  19. The Big Bang

    Although Oxford has pubs and shops and restaurants in abundance, like most English towns it's overwhelmed by chains. Though a certain amount of snobbery has kept the likes of Woolworths and Wilkinsons away from the centre and safely tucked away in the surrounding smaller towns, the central retail areas still lean dangerously close to generic.

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