Munch Dat: Olive and Lemon Cafe, Stratford

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DJing can be stressful at times, I spend most of my evenings during the week glued to my laptop screen desperately trying to come up with a new hour of music in preparation for gig on Friday/Saturday night. The gig itself is fairly straight forward, especially if I’ve done the necessary work beforehand but there are times, however brief, when I’m heading into the fourth hour of my DJ set where I think to myself “is all this work worth the squeeze?”. And you know what, it is, especially the morning after when you try and figure out where you’re going to have your fry up aka full English breakfast. You wake up bleary eyed and still relatively drunk but somehow find a way of locating several breakfast cafes within 5-10 minute walking distance to spend your hard earned DJ money. It’s one of life’s truly magical moments, I can guarantee you that.

I did just that the other day and ventured off to Olive and Lemon Cafe just outside the main Stratford Shopping Mall. I say main because we all know the big shiny step sister that is Westfield, Stratford isn’t the original Mecca of teenagers and single mothers alike. Stratford has gone through some changes post London 2012 Olympics, some of the better (more bars and restaurants) and some for the worst (more bars and restaurants) but one of great lasting legacies is the increased foot flow in and around Stratford.

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Olive and Lemon Cafe is located just outside the Shopping Mall a couple doors before the big Wetherspoons, with ample amounts of seating outside, where most of the patrons were located even though it was minus zero degrees outside we decided to have seat indoors. We didn’t have to wait long for one of the attentive waitress to come over to our table and give a menu, which was fairly straightforward, thank god. The breakfast menu sat alongside various baguettes, ciabattas and wraps. I went for the ‘Full Breakfast’ because I’m a man but more importantly because I was hungover as fuck and desperately needed as much as carbs as possible in order to return to the land of the living. The brunette went for the ‘Mediterranean’ and by all accounts thoroughly enjoyed. I was quite surprised when my plate arrived, instead of a large porcelain white covered in greasy fried goodness I was presented with a fairly stripped back and dare I say “clean” plate of food. As you tell from the picture above everything looked and tasted fresh, the mushrooms were surprisingly nice. We also ordered a plate of chips (because why not) and they were perfectly cooked and with the addition of some of Himalayan sea salt (provided for free on each table) delightful. My only gripe were the eggs, they weren’t cooked as well as I liked, which I probably should have stated and I only got one instead of two and although the sausage was really tasty. Overall for £6.00 (including a coffee and two bits of toast) I was thoroughly satisfied and I’d be more than happy to visit again!

Score 7/10

Munch Dat: Yard Sale Pizza, Leytonstone

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The unbearable heat wave that’s wreaked havoc across Europe this summer so the last thing I wanted to do this weekend was go outside. I DJ’ed on Friday night so I was nursing a bit of a hangover Saturday morning, but like all good companions I made promise to venture to on outside for a walk n’ pizza that I had to keep. I wasn’t familiar with the Yard Sale Pizza empire before checking it out, the last “trendy” pizza spot I went to was Pizza Pilgrims back when they used to sling slices on Berwick Street market, so it’s a been awhile and I kind of thought I was over, but I guess I was wrong.

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Yard Sale Pizza, Leytonstone opened up a few months ago and judging by the reaction online it’s been a big hit the locals. It’s no secret that Leytonstone is coming up in the ranks, families and young people alike are willing to venture further East in the hope of securing more square-footage for their money. Naturally businesses are starting to follow suit and us locals are reaping the benefits! The restaurant itself is fairly small, it seats around 25 people with a few tables indoors and few more lined up outside where we spent our visit. We ordered 2 pizzas, the first was 11″ Popeye and the second 21″ Hell Yeah. Upon reflection we probably should’ve ordered both pizzas in a 11″ but as always with first time visits, our eyes were bigger than our bellies! The pizza’s themselves were great, the dough was insanely good, the kind of dough you just wanna dip in stuff and eat all day. Oh and whilst we’re talking about dips, we ordered the Garlic Herb dip and it lasted all of 5 seconds, it was very tasty! In terms of favourite pizzas of the two, I’d say I prefer the Hell Yeah, it’s a bit of a twist on the classic pepperoni but the added addition of guindilla chillies really set it off! All in all it’s a terrific little restaurant pumping out high quality pizzas and with great service to boot (waiters were a pleasure to deal with) and if you’re in the area I highly recommend you check it out!

Score – 10/10

Why Madrid feels like home

Hello blogosphere it’s me again, your friendly neighbourhood ranter. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? For some odd reason, I’ve neglected the blog in favour of other social media channels. It’s funny because this is the one place where my unfiltered but extremely loud voice can live without fear of judgement (yay to disabling comments) and scrutiny (no-one’s gonna read it anyways, right?). Even though we are all inundated with streams of information hurtling towards at breakneck speeds, most of it unwelcome, I’d like to take 5 minutes of your time to tell you about my trip…

I just got back from my holiday in Madrid, Spain. The “brunette” friend was getting married so like the good lapdog that I am I decided to tag along for the ride. Embarrassingly it was my first time visiting the birthplace of the “brunette” and for once I did ZERO research ahead of time. Instead, I put all my faith in the “brunette” guiding me around her city and showing me what locals do. Thankfully the weather in Madrid was a bit better than it is back home in London, temperatures, for the most part, were around the 20-30 degrees range, perfect for a serial-all-black wearer like myself, not.

It’s fair to say I kinda fell in love with Madrid. I hardly know the language apart from the usual pleasantries like “Can i get another beer please I’m thirsty as fuck!” but it has to be said, they’ve figured how to live well over there. Yes the Spanish economy isn’t what it once was and unemployment is rampant in a city dominated by one political scandal after another, but you wouldn’t guess that interacting with the locals. Everyone is super chill maybe it’s partly due to the weather in the summer months, you can’t exactly “run around” in a city where the normal summer temp is in the high 40’s, you’d basically melt. And for the entire week I was there I didn’t feel rushed once.

Spanish people take their time doing everything, from ringing up groceries at the till, to ordering at a restaurant everything takes 10 minutes more than you’re used to, so be prepared for that. Take a deep breath and chill, do some people watching (they love that over there) or just admire the fact that you’re seating outside in the sun ordering some delicious food surrounded by people who love you, even if they don’t know you. I felt the love for sure.

I ate and drank a lot in Madrid I guess that’s what people do over there and to be honest there’s no shortage of options either. But we warned if you’re the veggie type do some research beforehand because for the entire time I was there I can count on one hand the number of greens I saw on fellow diners plates. They love meat over there more than anything and from the stuff I had, they have good reason too. I’ve put together a small selection of pictures of the food I ate for you to have a gander.

Oh and i forgot to mention, I’m gonna buy a house in Madrid, I guess enjoyed my trip.

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Patatas bravas

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Croquetas, trust me they taste as good as they look.

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El Económico, Calle Argumosa, 9, 28012 Madrid, Spain

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I feel in love with this tiny coffees, I had one everyday!

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Breakfast in Spain, simple and super tasty

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Lorena, Plaza de la Cebada, 3 28005 Madrid

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As you can tell, I love potatoes…

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The calamari baguette on the left was fucking insane!

 

Munch Dat: In-N-Out, Hollywood, CA

Upon descending in LAX last week, the foremost thing on mind was In-n-Out. I’ve long since dreamed of devouring a Double Double from this white and red beacon of hope and enlightenment, and last weeks pilgrimage did not disappoint. First things first, there’s always a queue, which you soon realise being a student of the food scene in any cosmopolitan city is a very very good thing. I visited this establishment on Sunset Blvd four times during my short visit, and every time there was a short queue of about 10-15mins. Once ordered you then had to wait additional 10mins for number to be called out. Worry not, the wait is worth it. Succulent beef patties, sandwiched between a combo of onions, cheese, tomato and a lovely fluffy bun, the recipe of which i will hunt down until the end of time. The fries i could do without. They had a weird cardboard-y type taste and once cool they tasted even worse than they did hot. Taking into account everyone else’s order i spied during my visits it seems like common knowledge that the fries are to be avoided at all.

If you ever find yourself in the land of stars and stripes, take some time out of your day and visit this mecca of all things burgers and refillable fizzy pop. Just make sure you stay away from the fries.

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Score – 10/10

Munch Dat: Chick ‘n’ Sours, Dalston

Apologises for the abrupt nature of this post, i have a tendency to lace anything i write over 100 words with vitriol, especially on the back of a negative experience.

The restaurant was full. We sat outside. We ordered drinks. They took 30 minutes to arrive. When they did we ordered food. Our starters took 20mins to arrive. We then waited a further 20-30mins for our main courses. We ate. I ordered House Fry. It was shockingly bad. The chicken was dry. The chips were average. The best thing on the menu is the Szechuan Aubergine. It’s a Chicken shop. We asked for the bill. We waited for 15mins for the bill. The bill included service charge. We made no fuss and paid. I won’t be going back.

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House Fry

Score – 4/10

Munch Dat: Londek Cafe, Stratford

Whenever I travel abroad I’m always amazed by the quality of food on offer at local hole in the wall spots. Usually these places are untouched by the hand of tourism and can be found at the bottom of some shifty looking street, where curious glances from locals can be interpreted as surprise, that you said tourist, decided to stray from the beaten path and into a place they call home. And whenever I come back from such experience I always promise myself that’ll do the same thing once I get back on home turf, but as serial procrastinators will know too well, saying you’ll do something and actually following through with it are two completely different things.

Ever since I moved to Stratford I’ve found myself exploring more of my surroundings than I ever did when I used to live at home with my Mum in Canning Town. In terms of numbers I guess there’s far more restaurants – proper sit and eat places where lamented menus and Poundland LED candles are the norm – opposed to the ten-a-penny chicken shops you’ll find along Barking Road. And the great thing about Stratford is that such a cultural melting pot; that literally within a stone’s throw of my flat I can sample foods from Thailand, Indian and Brazil for about £15 per-head. Pretty cool!

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On this occasion we decided to sample the culinary delights of Poland, at this great little café/restaurant called Londek. I’m not the least familiar with Polish food; the closest I’ve come to it was either in Berlin or Prague where I’m sure there’s some sort Germanic influence in their love for a boiled potato or two.

You hear a lot of talk of ‘authenticity’ especially if you binge watch episodes of Munchies on YouTube, but usually that just means a bare bones menu and basic ingredients. Or better yet a sort of call action in response to the often over-elaborate self-indulgence of the restaurant glitterati. That’s all well and good, more power to them, but justifying your average burger & chips meal as authentic because the guy making it loves a burger  or that meat was bought from a butchers around the corner is neither good reflection of taste or legitimacy. Food is either good or bad; no amount buzz word drenched hyperbole can hide that fact.

Londek is as honest and authentic as it comes. The majority of the menu is written in Polish with brief translations in English to accompany most of the meals. But don’t expect anything too detailed and if you’re really worried about what you’re going to order, there are pictures on the wall, similar to Chinese takeaways, but if you’re feeling really adventurous you could always ask the friendly waitresses, who helped us pick out what we wanted.

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After much deliberation – on my part, I always revert to type when it comes to ordering – we agreed to start with a plate of () which is basically a Polish dumplings, stuffed with all manner of things, the ones we ordered were half cheese and onion and half beef. They were a bit bland for my liking and I’m not the biggest fan of potatoes substituting pastry dough. But for £8 you get a big plate of 8 fairly large dumplings.

For our mains we opted for a 2 schnitzels, 1 was Chicken with Potatoes (ha) and the other Pork with French Fries; both were delicious and considering they come up to about £9 a plate it was a really good deal. All in all my first Polish experience was a pleasant one and considering Londek is 100 meters away from my flat it’s safe to say I’ll be visiting again for a cheat day binge!

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Score – 7/10

Munch Dat: Kongs of King Street, Bristol

I was in Bristol last week for work, I love Bristol. I went last year for the first time to run the Chippenham Half Marathon. I decided on a whim i wanted to race sometime in September and as luck would have it the Chippenham Half Marathon was on and it was super cheap. Entry fee, travel and accommodation set me back around £60 and considering some races in London are around £30-50 for entry alone, it was money well spent.

Bristol is a great little town to get lost in and for a serial solo traveller like myself its perfect. I didn’t get much to time to wander seeing as I was on the clock per se but the venue where I was working – Kongs of King Street – was right bang in the middle of all the crazy fun stuff Bristol has to offer

The great thing about Bristol as I was kindly reminded by a graffiti artist, is that no bar/pub worth its salt would survive in Bristol without craft beer of some sort and Kongs not only had it by the tap but also by the dozen. I helped myself too a couple pints of cider, which went down pretty well, wish for the life of me i could remember the name of it, but i guess the fact that i don’t says’ a lot about the alcoholic contents – hic.

Anyways, onto the food. Short for time and rushed off my feet i went for The Kong pizza which was spinach, bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes, finished with a fried egg on top. On paper it’s my kinda pizza, great balance in flavours but taste-wise it was lacking a bit of punch. I expected the bacon to be fried and super crispy instead they tasted a bit bland and dare i say boiled? The egg was cooked to perfection and splitting the yoke with a knife and allowing all that rich yellow goodness to ooze all over the pizza was definitely a highlight!  Look, it wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever had but £9 you get a pretty big pizza and an even bigger selection of beer to keep you occupied.

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Score 7.5/10