The Peanut Vendor

In London, as the months march on and draw further away from the peak of summer, we have to enjoy whatever periods of sunshine we are given. I think we’ve been especially lucky this year in regards to weather—in my 5 (!!) years here, I can’t really remember a nicer summer. But the last week or two we’ve had premonitions of autumn: a cloudy, rainy day that makes us begrudgingly take out our umbrellas, followed by sunny days that have that particular crisp, clear tang of summer sliding into fall. Outside Euston station, the giant trees have already begun to carpet the park in various shades of rust and gold.

Forgive me if I’m pointing out the patently obvious—of course anyone else in this city is going to be heading out this weekend to enjoy the weather, as it is meant to be glorious. But I did have a particular recommendation in mind, one that had been on my radar for a few weeks that I had ignored until last weekend. I don’t want you to make the same mistake.

Victoria Park is a popular destination for East Londoners on the weekend, as is readily evidenced by the crowds of people at the boating lake and the Pavilion Cafe. I’m sure many people who visit the park think of it as the only place to stop and have an al fresco iced latte in the sun, and before this summer they would have been correct. Now, though, there’s a new option, hidden a bit further down towards the Bow end of the park: an option for those who want to avoid the throngs of people around the pavilion and enjoy their latte quietly over a copy of their favourite weekend supplement or novel.

The Peanut Vendor sits sandwiched between Old Ford Road and Hertford Union Canal, surrounded by blocks of flats that manage to feel vaguely Scandinavian despite the fact that they are in Bow. Perhaps it’s the influence of viewing them from inside the furniture store-cum-café, which would feel perfectly at home on the streets of Copenhagen or Gothenburg. Though The Peanut Vendor has existed since 2008, they have only been in this space since this year, moving from Newington Green. They specialise in vintage furniture, dotted through with modern home comforts such as Meticulous Ink notebooks, Compagnie de Provence soaps, and succulents in a variety of receptacles. If you had only seen the perfect curation of The Peanut Vendor’s homewares side of the store, you might think it obvious that they would be able to open a beautifully-designed café. But even the most gorgeous cafés aren’t worth much if they don’t have the coffee bite to back up their design bark. Thankfully, it is clear that the owners did their due diligence and research in the world of coffee.

Here you’ll find coffee provided by Alchemy—in my personal opinion, one of the best roasters in London that you might never hear about unless you live here—and some of the creamiest, most delicious milk in the entire UK from Northiam Dairy. Head barista Piotr Markowski, formerly of Prufrock, has made sure that the entire staff of baristas is well-trained: even though he was not in when I visited, I still received an excellent coffee. In addition to the coffee, The Peanut Vendor keeps standards high in offering a selection of Good & Proper teas and pastries (including that kouign amann) from Yeast Bakery. For anyone visiting around lunchtime, I would urge you to not leave before eating the kimchi grilled cheese on sourdough—one of the most perfect sandwiches I’ve ever had, absolutely bursting with strong flavours—though perhaps not paired with your coffee.

Many cafés strive for that perfect combination of quality, design, location, atmosphere, service, etc… Where they excel in some aspects, they can fall short in others, often in ways that are too glaring to overlook. When you find a café that seems to tick every box, then it’s worth shining a light on them make sure they get the attention the deserve. Luckily, my visit to The Peanut Vendor was as close to “contented weekend perfection” as I could get, and it’s close enough to be considered my local. If you’re looking for a new café in which to while away the hours, or a place to score your caffeine hit before a pleasant meander through Victoria Park, then I’d encourage you to head over to The Peanut Vendor and experience it for yourself—especially while we Londoners are still allotted our seasonable sunshine.

Birmingham Two Ways: Part 2, BLOC Hotel & York’s Bakery

If Hotel du Vin isn’t your thing, or you’d like a cheaper alternative for your stay in Birmingham, then BLOC Hotel might be the answer you’re looking for. Might. Ah, what to say about BLOC? It’s a very interesting concept: adapting ideas from the best design in hotels around the world, and distilling down into a more cost-effective option. BLOC seeks to offer pared-down chic at great prices.

When Chloe and I went to book our rooms for the SCAE superheat, it was very last minute. Checking price comparison websites for hotels in Birmingham turned up a pretty scary spread – most of the hotels were over £70 at this point, even the Travelodge. I’ve stayed in Travelodges before and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I’m not paying £70 for the “privilege”. I was pointed in the direction of BLOC Hotel and to my surprise, their rooms were much cheaper than almost anywhere else we could have stayed that didn’t look totally run down and scary, or was 30 minutes outside of town. I booked it, told Chloe our rooms were sorted, and prepared myself for 4 intense days of photos.

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Birmingham Two Ways: Part 1, Hotel du Vin

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting England’s “second city”, Birmingham, for the UK Barista Championship “superheats” (which I covered for Sprudge with Nico Halliday – read about it here, here, and here). I also had the pleasure of staying in what is possibly Birmingham’s finest hotel: Hotel du Vin. What a name – it conjures an image of luxury already, doesn’t it? The “boutique” hotel chain is anything but your average chain. Each hotel is sui generis, true to the particular history and architecture of its chosen city and location, from Grade II-listed warehouses in Bristol, to a former asylum in Edinburgh, to the former home of a shipping company in Newcastle.

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Postcards from Eastbourne

I was tired of London.

I’m aware of the Samuel Johnson quote. But he also said, “A man’s mind grows narrow in a narrow place.” London may be one of the biggest, most active, and most diverse cities in the world; however, when your passion is to travel, any place can feel too small if you stay for too long. After a long, cold, and rainy winter that was beginning to tread on the toes of summer, I felt trapped. I felt that my mind was growing narrow – London began to feel narrow. I didn’t like it one bit, and in a fit of desperation or wanderlust, I booked a train ticket to the south coast of England.

One of my friends had recently taken a trip to Seven Sisters and I was transported by the pictures they took of the cliffs. The stark, beautiful coastline was something entirely different to the golden, sandy coastlines I was used to from a childhood spent taking trips to the Gulf of Mexico. To me it was something wild and foreign, a new sight to experience; this was exactly what I needed. I needed to be somewhere besides London, somewhere where I could stretch my legs and look for miles and not see a single building.

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A Cotswolds Wedding

In a wonderful twist of fate, covering the Spit and Roast Jamboree back in February led me to a new photography job. I’ve begun to assist Nick White (one half of Orange Buffalo) as a secondary photographer at some of the weddings he is shooting. Wedding photography is a very hard nut to crack. You’re completely responsible for capturing the memories of one of the biggest days of someone’s life. The pressure is incredible, and I have a new found respect for anyone who can do wedding photography well. I would love to photograph weddings as the principal photographer one day, but for now I am happy to assist and learn.

My very first wedding was on May 11th in a gorgeous country setting in the Cotswolds, in a small village called Moreton-in-Marsh. Becky and Ray’s wedding was a pleasure to photograph, with the weather putting on its very best show for almost the whole day, and some great unique touches such as a sweets bar at the reception and a baby blue VW camper van as the day’s transport. It’s hard to blog about someone’s wedding, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Congratulations Becky and Ray!