Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Beela Bakes London Food Diary: Part 1

Its already been few months now since I came back from a short trip to my beloved London. Still I've been meaning to share this post so here it is. Although the winter had already settled in when I was there, I'm glad to say I didn't let it deter me and I honestly had one of the best 'holidays' I have had since moving away from the city four years ago. Is it just me or is the city's food scene thriving more than ever before? Fine dining, cafe's, deli's, bakeries, markets, pop-up stalls - there seemed to be so much to discover everywhere I turned. Like most Londoners, I've always held a special place in my heart for the festive season, and I really think this contributed to my enjoyment of this trip even more. Hot street roasted chestnuts, the Harrod's window displays, and Christmas lights on Oxford Street are traditions which made winter in London what it was for me as a child. As I go back to visit over the years I'm always glad to see they are all traditions which are very much still alive, never failing to add that special atmosphere to this time of the year especially.

Obviously I arrived with a list the length of my arm of places I wanted to try, and even though I didn't get to try them all, there was certainly the odd day where I ended up eating three mini lunches just so I could fit in said places all in one go! Of course, as a self-proclaimed sweet-tooth there were also plenty of days when dessert naturally replaced lunch or dinner - the things we do as a food blogger! I admit, a few of the places I visited were based on other food blogger's recommendations, but I did try to add spots in of my own, and I also tried to visit some of my favourite places having grown up as a Londoner. Since there are too many to fit into one post, look out for a follow up post soon.

GAILS Artisan Bakery, Portobello Road

I made a point to visit Portobello Road and the Notting Hill area as its a part of London I used to frequent often during my school years as a teenager, and hadn't explored in a while. Gails was on my list to visit and I am so happy I did. They have a huge selection of in-house freshly made sandwiches, beautiful baked breads, baked sweets and pastries. I had the mini sesame bun with avocado guacamole and plum tomato, and a mini poppy seed roll with smoked wild salmon and chives (as seen in the first image). Both were out of this world - so so fresh, and I for one am not even a bread person. My only complaint is that I couldn't try more of their selection as this was lunch no.2 for the day. This is somewhere I definitely plan on visiting again and again whenever I am back.

Millies Cookies, Hammersmith Station

Foodies have always claimed Ben's Cookies as being the best, but I have never really understood this - if you ask me, Millie's Cookies is where its really at. As a school girl in Hammersmith, I had to navigate my way through the Broadway Centre everyday to get to the tube station, and buying cookies from the Millie's Cookies stall became a mandatory ritual. Sort of a welcome comforting respite after a long school day. So much so that an employee ended up giving me a special discount card reserved for ...shhh, Millie's Cookies staff. Guess who became the envy of all her friends? Fact.
So naturally when I found myself getting off at Hammersmith this time to change tube lines, I had to make a little stop to the same stall and reminisce over my favourite milk chocolate chip, and salted caramel and pecan. One each, just as when I was a school girl.
They're super soft, buttery, a little chewy but with an ever so slightly crunchy exterior. Whats great is they still taste exactly the same as they did all those years ago, and really, nothing made my tube journey home that much better.

L'Eto Caffe, Knightsbridge

Having heard so much about L'Eto Caffe from friends, family and bloggers this was the first stop on my list. A visit to the Knightsbridge branch for lunch was made to refuel post a gorgeous walk in nearby Holland Park with the husband. I ordered the Pumpkin and Feta Cannelloni with Roasted Butternut Squash Puree & Baby Spinach off their menu. I wasn't expecting the portion to be quite so small, but I genuinely loved it and especially liked the way it was presented. However I was totally in awe of their fantastic platter display and in hindsight it was a mistake to order off the menu. I would definitely go for their seasonal salads next time! For dessert I got their popular Honey Cake which had also been recommended to me by many, and it was definitely the best version I've tried. The dessert display is a real spectacle (even when compared to Dubai brunch dessert displays!) and I lost count at how many passers-by stopped to glare in through the window.

Tinseltown, Ealing Broadway

As a Muslim who only ever eats halal, it naturally became more difficult to find halal-friendly food that wasn't only Asian or Lebanese, once I was living away at university. So you can imagine how amazing it was as a uni student to discover Tinseltown, an American style diner which served halal burgers in the city. Tinseltown ended up becoming a great spot for birthday get together's as well as late night impromptu meals.

It only made sense then to make sure I brought my husband here during our trip. We decided to visit the Ealing branch, as it was closer to where we were staying, although my previous visits were always either to the one in Hampstead or Farringdon. We ordered a garlic chicken burger and a classic beef burger along with a side of fries, but no trip to Tinseltown is complete without a milkshake. They are especially known for these, which you can custom make from literally any popular chocolate bar you can think of. I know what you're thinking - aren't there lots of milkshake places like this now (Shakeism in Barsha, Dubai is my favourite) but back then (2007!) it was one of the only places to have this concept, at least in London. My milkshake of choice this time? The Wunder Kind - a Kinder Bueno and ice-cream milkshake topped with whipped cream, rich toffee sauce, chocolate sprinkles and a wafer. The perfect compliment to an American style diner meal.

The Liberty of Norton Folgate, Liverpool Street

We stumbled upon this beautiful minimalist coffee shop whilst trying to seek refuge from heavy rain. The focus here is on serving a high quality selection of coffee and teas, as well as a variety of sweet treats. We both ordered a hot chocolate made with Koko Deluxe - a hot cocoa brand which uses some of the worlds finest cocoas and all natural ingredients. The result was a rich drink which certainly had a true chocolate taste, and was the perfect respite from the cold weather in the late afternoon.

Novikov, Berkley Street Mayfair

I have to admit I had never heard of Novikov until we were invited out to dine here for my aunt's birthday during this trip, and I was hugely impressed. The Mayfair fine-dining establishment is divided essentially into two restaurants - the front half a pan-Asian mix serving Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian, and the back focused on Italian. We were booked in for the Asian, but what is great again here is that the food served in both rooms is halal. They have a huge market-like display of fresh seafood and vegetables, along with an open plan kitchen, and their waiters were extremely knowledgable in helping us select our fish for the mains. Being used to choosing mocktails off dining menus in the UAE also meant I was happy to see they had a large selection of non-alcoholic drinks to choose from, other than just the usual juices. These were visually beautiful in themselves.

For our starters we ordered a variety of dim sum including spicy prawn moneybags, chicken buns and sashimi. I was especially taken by their grilled asparagus and even the non-veg eaters amongst us were captivated by its seriously delicious marinade. The ginger and soy steamed seabass was the star of our mains, alongside pak choi, sweet and sour chicken wings, Singapore noodles and prawn fried rice. Although this is what we settled on, I honestly would have chosen pretty much anything from the menu as nothing makes me more happy than good Asian food. Everything was so well prepared, cooked and presented.

Yes it is on the expensive side, and it does mostly serve a 'certain' crowd but the food is stellar and its just the kind of place if you're looking to celebrate an occasion with good food. I can't wait to bring my parents here for our next trip to the city.

Jaimie's Italian, Kingston

I'm ashamed to admit here as a foodie that I had never actually been to Jaime's before this visit. Apart from the huge faux pas made when the waiter served me and my friend alcoholic instead of the non-alcoholic drinks we had ordered, the food luckily made up for it. We started with the Italian Nachos - crispy fried ravioli stuffed with three cheeses and served with arrabiata sauce, the type of starter perfect for sharing and every bit as good as it sounds. For mains I had the Vegetable Rotolo Al Forno - seasonal pumpkin, squash and spinach rolled in fresh pasta sheets, baked with tomato and topped with herby parmesan crumbs, and it was perfection. My friend had the Prawn Linguine which she loved, and her young son had the fish fingers with crispy potato wedges from the kids menu, probably the most appetising version of the classic kids meal I've seen. Dessert was a beautiful Chocolate, Pear & Honeycomb Pavlova, one of those combinations you just know you have to try.

Granger & Co., Notting Hill

Australian chef Bill Granger needs no introduction and this was a place I solely visited due to blogger recommendations. I went on a mid-afternoon weekday and yet the casual dining restaurant was packed and bustling with diners, so much so that I had to perch myself on the ample-spaced bar top, albeit quite happily. I ordered their Quinoa, Sunflower Seed, Beetroot, Chili and Feta salad, which was extremely generous, wholesome, filling and full of interesting textures and flavours like any salad should be. As odd as it may sound I had this along with a hot chocolate - the real reason behind why I was compelled to visit, its made with hot milk poured over Callebaut chocolate drops. Though it was definitely good, it probably wasn't the best combo with my salad, and also teaches me to maybe not so blindly always follow other blogger recommendations..! The dessert display here was another feast for the eyes and its a shame I didn't have space to try what was on offer.

Read part 2 of my London Food Diary here


  1. yummy! i am going to be going in May, will be sure to reference this. x

    1. Awesome! May is a perfect time to go :) look forward to seeing what you get upto as well. xx

  2. Amazing blog post! I love all the pictures. I haven't been to London yet, only as a toddler. Will definitely be saving this to my travel board on Pinterest.

    1. Thank you love! I hope you get to go sometime soon :)

  3. Gosh - you took your research seriously! Great round up of a food-led trip.

    1. Thank you Sally :) London is home so I thought it was time I did a dedicated foodie post!

  4. LOVE your pics! I've never been to London and can I just say - I cant wait to check out your recommendations. Bookmarked!

    1. Thank you so much Nancy! Its a great city, and I hope its not long before you get the chance to go!

  5. You are such a talented blogger, I simply loved everything in this blog. It seems like you took us to this amazing drink and food tour, along with you.
    I can't wait to try them myself during my visit to the beautiful city.

  6. I was searching for this information . cake shop hammersmith Thank you for providing this information


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