Sunday, 28 August 2016

WOTVM's food adventures in London - Part 2

Today we bring you the second instalment of our recent trip to London.  We woke late after a good night's sleep and headed out for some breakfast.  Brick Lane is not only famous for its numerous Indian restaurants, it also has some excellent places to pick up a bagel.  The salt beef bagels are a particular speciality, however Mr Vegan Man could not partake for obvious reasons and WOTVM was feeling the salt beef might be too much for a breakfast bagel.  We headed to Beigel Bake - something of a local institution - as WOTVM had been there before and swore by the quality of their soft, doughy bagels.

We arrived after the regular breakfast rush and before the lunchtime queues so were served very quickly.  WOTVM opted for a classic smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel, whilst Mr Vegan Man went for egg as his filling of choice.  The sheer number of bagels on display speaks to the popularity of Beigel Bake and we certainly weren't disappointed.


Sitting in a local park just off Brick Lane, we tucked into our breakfast.  The bagels were soft and satisfying.  Bagels are a food that divide our household, Mr Vegan Man is fairly indifferent towards them, finding them a bit sweet and a bit too chewy - he would usually plump for a crumpet or muffin if he fancied some non-bread baked goods for breakfast.  WOTVM, on the other hand, is a huge fan of bagels.  Even Mr Vegan Man conceded that Beigel Bake's bagels were top quality, not too sweet and with a lighter texture than the usual supermarket fare.  The egg filling was nice and hearty, though on reflection Mr Vegan Man should have asked for some mayo for extra lubrication. 


WOTVM's smoked salmon and cream cheese offering was superb - the smoked salmon was lovely and plentiful, especially at such a reasonable price.  The two bagels with a couple of cans of drink came to just over a fiver - exceptionally good value.


We headed off to Camden Town for a walk along the canal to Regents Park.  The plan was to stroll around the park for an hour or two and then head for some lunch at Honey & Co, not far away on Warren Street.  However, even at 2.30pm on a Monday the cafĂ©/deli was packed full and so we decided to save it for our next trip to the capital.  We instead walked on to Tottenham Court Road and visited Leon, a fast food chain with a difference, priding itself on fresh produce and healthier options.  Leon's branches are mainly to be found in London, although they are expanding outside the capital also.


WOTVM plumped for a fish finger wrap for her lunch, whilst Mr Vegan Man went for a sweet potato falafel hot box.  The portion sizes were generous and the prices more than reasonable for the food on offer.  WOTVM's wrap was tasty, good crunchy fish fingers and nice crisp salad with a good whack of tartare sauce. 


Mr Vegan Man's hot box was fresh and flavoursome, well-made falafels with rice and slaw.  As fast food goes, Leon is a good option - everything is fresh and although the food isn't likely to blow your mind (which, if we're honest, is not something you expect from fast food anyway) they have some nice, different lunch options that are hearty and tasty.

After our disappointment at finding Black Vanilla had closed down on our trip to Greenwich the previous day, we were in the mood for some gelato.  After a quick bit of Googling, we discovered that Covent Garden is something of a gelato hotspot and so we headed off hastily in that direction.  Before we could reach Covent Garden itself, we came across Udderlicious which was busy with customers filling up on ice cream.  Although not quite the gelato we had been after, we also love ice cream and Udderlicious looked good so we popped in for a sweet treat.

We committed something of a schoolboy error - we did not realise that the number of scoops you ordered equated to the quantity of the ice cream as opposed to the number of flavours you could have.  It was possible to have two flavours with a one scoop order but we didn't realise this until we'd already ordered two scoops each when another, more savvy, customer placed his order.  We can honestly report that two scoops of Udderlicious ice cream is a very, very generous portion for one person.  Very generous.


WOTVM went for a scoop of chocolate and peanut ice cream and one scoop of salted caramel - one of her favourite flavours.  Mr Vegan Man went for the trusty combo of dark chocolate and hazelnut as his two varieties.  The ice cream was really tasty, it had a nice, smooth texture and the flavours came through nicely, especially the hazelnut and salted caramel.  We'd definitely recommend a visit to Udderlicious but if you've already eaten, maybe stick to one scoop unless you're feeling especially hungry.

In the evening we met up with two friends for dinner, one of whom also happened to be in London from Norwich for the week and the other who is a Hackney boy (but former Norwich resident) who always helpfully suggests good food spots to try when we visit.  On this occasion, his first suggestion - a Japanese restaurant near Bank - was closed, but not to be disheartened we moved on to another of his suggestions, Pizza Union near Spitalfields, which was handy for us as it was just round the corner from our hotel.


Pizza Union have a great concept, dirt cheap pizzas in an authentic style with quick, no nonsense service.  You go up to the counter to order and are given a little device the lets you know when your pizza is ready to collect.  There is ample seating - in the form of long communal benches made of scaffolding, like a more edgy, urban Wagamama - at which to sit and enjoy your pizza, but the lack of table service (which includes taking drinks from the chiller to the counter yourself too) helps the cost to stay low and means no awkward trying to catch the waiter's eye if you fancy another drink.  We're talking 12" pizzas ranging from £4 to £6.50 low, which is incredible value.  Beers were cheap too at £3.50 a bottle and we enjoyed several.


Mr Vegan man opted for a Fiorentina with no cheese (since pizzas are made to order this wasn't a problem) and WOTVM went for a Stagioni (four seasons).  The pizzas were ready in about 5 minutes, possibly less.  The bases were thin and crispy and the toppings on Mr Vegan Man's Fiortentina were plentiful and flavoursome, the egg adding a nice bit of richness and protein alongside the iron-rich spinach and salty olives.


WOTVM loved her offering - being rather unfussy about what food she likes means often she finds it hard to make a choice, but here she could get four different pizzas in one! There was a good variety of toppings and each of the four sections of the Stagioni were really enjoyable.  The crispy, light base was a real highlight and overall it was a significant cut above the average pizza chain at a price well below most high street chains.

It would be fair to say that Pizza Union are doing a cracking job of turning out delicious food in virtually no time at unbelievable prices.  What more could you ask for?  Well, in our case we were given a free dessert pizza - a dough ring filled with mascarpone and Nutella - by the lovely staff because of the very small inconvenience of us having to move seats for about a minute to enable them to reach a vent above us in the ceiling.  That was an unexpected treat and a really nice touch, we weren't put out at all by having to briefly move.


We got back to the hotel and crashed out fairly quickly, tired out from the good food and good company.  We'd definitely recommend all of the places we sampled today, but Beigel Bake and Pizza Union were particular highlights.

Coming soon will be the third and final part of our food adventures in London.  Any comments or questions, please get in touch below or via email.

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