Fasten your seatbelts, we’ve gone international. The following blog is broadcast live from London. Follow our journey via the wonders of the internets. Wot-ho old chaps!
One of the great things about visiting London this time around was that a few of our beloved coffee brands – in an attempt to make their names internationally known – have opened in the city. And not just anywhere, but in London’s edgiest suburb – Shoreditch.
This was the old Sharking stomping ground so I know it like the back of my hand. The area in and around Redchurch Street previously was an area that small places went to open and see if they could make it before moving on to larger scale premises. There are pubs, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, small art galleries and brick walls where up-and-coming graffiti artists start out. And now one of New Zealand’s best coffee roasters has opened up in the thick of it.
Inside Allpress Espresso the building it was heaving. It was late afternoon and the joint was jumping and with good reason – it was freezing outside and what better way to warm yourself than stepping inside a coffee house or taking a hot coffee for a walk to warm the hands up.
Inside they have their own coffee roaster and seemed to be convincing many a Londoner to take a bag of fresh beans home with them. And even though I didn’t get the chance to try the food, many a table were making good work of what they had received. Funnily I did a foodie walking tour here and even though it was just getting off the ground, they walked straight past Allpress without giving it a second thought. I did stop the guide to give her the Melbourne coffee spiel and possibly in the future they will make it a scheduled stop on the tour. But more on that in its own review.
As I mentioned earlier, the East End was my home for more than 3 years and when I do go back it would be hard to go past that fantastic area. Keep in mind the Olympics are in East London this year so the prices will most probably skyrocket. An interesting fact is that this area of London was ‘back in the day’ (Father WordMonkey loves that phrase) this was the absolute worst area of London to live. And what you would have found back in the 19th century was a marked line on Redchurch Street, which was known as the Boundary Line – a line that served as a reminder of the part of London that was policed and the other side, which every policeman knew never to step over into.
It is then apt that a hotel and café have opened up on that exact spot where death, crime and debauchery had an undisturbed home. The café is on the corner called Albion and the hotel, Boundary, has a fantastic roof bar, which is great to visit on the two weeks of summer London receives each year.
On our wanderings WordMonkey and my brother got hungry so we stopped off at a pizza place that had moved out of the Truman Brewery – where there was a lineup at every meal time to an unassuming spot along Redchurch Street. I had previously tried Story Deli and was not convinced so had never gone back but since the tummies were grumbling I allowed the team to enter and decided another chance was in order.
The shop literally has a stick instead of a sign out the front and seem to have made an effort to keep things simplistic inside. The kitchen open and seemed to have a corrugated iron backing which game the place some charm.
The pizzas have always been thin so that is what initially got customers through the door. We ordered the chorizo and mushroom pizza to have first. And to follow it up the prosciutto and pepper pizza.
My fears were well founded though and my pizza pet peeve was confirmed once again and reminded me why I did not rate the place. The centre of the pizza was the soggiest piece of food we have ever attempted to eat. Imagine you have dropped a soup on the floor and used a single tissue to mop it up. Now put said tissue into the oven with assorted toppings. Now take it out and try to eat it. If you are in London people get down to Brixton Market’s Franco Manca (again, more on him in another review).
To walk off the bad taste left in our mouths we wandered a few hundred meters to Box Park. Think the bar area just off Chinatown housed in what Melbourner’s describe as Cargo crates.
London has taken that to it’s extreme and stacked a number of cargo boxes on top of each other, shop fitted each of them and opened them to the world. It is the world’s first pop-up mall. What is ingenious is that the local council only grants business a one-year license to trade and then on that year anniversary a whole bunch of new traders are able to come in and make a name for themselves.
This is what London is known for and they have really pulled it off to great effect. Currently it houses a number of major brands wanting to get a bit more ‘edge’ to their name while the other half of the shops are small independents who will definitely more on to bigger and better things once they move on.
And with the Olympics passing through this area there is no better time to visit this fantastic part of town, just off the well-worn tourist trail.
To end I will leave you with a hipster craze that will eventually hit Australian shores in the next few years once London has moved on. I have been told by London friends that their bosses have actually turned up to work wearing one of these.
So my question to you – will you also be slipping into something a ‘little more comfortable?’