Breakfast in the Sky

The only time I’ve been to Duck and Waffle was last November. My friend Robin from Gothenburg was passing through London on his way to ATP’s End of an Era festival. I promised him I would take him to one of the best brunch places in London; having not actually been to Duck and Waffle yet, this was a bit of a gamble. I was trusting the rave reviews of many friends and foodies on Twitter, as well as the fact that it has some pretty stunning views of London. Despite it being a typical gray November day, and despite us being stuck at a table in the middle of the room, we loved it. In the interest of not totally pigging out (and also because we were trying to be frugal at a very unfrugal restaurant) we ordered three dishes – one each to ourselves, with one to share. I scanned the menu again and again, wondering which mouthwatering dish to pick. It was clear that I would have to come back, possibly multiple times, to experience all the delights.

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Ginstock 2013

World Gin Day and Ginstock 2014 are just around the corner. Tickets go on sale this Wednesday, and you may be wondering, “Should I buy one?” Hopefully, these pictures can give you a preview and whet your appetite for wetting your whistle with that most distinguished of spirits.

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Takin’ it Easy at Big Easy

Fresh off the plane from my trip to America, you think that I would have immersed myself in all the things that London has to offer that I missed in my three weeks back in Alabama: good coffee shops, restaurants with carefully crafted small plates, bars that actually know what a Negroni is. But it wasn’t to be. Wilkes called me up a few days after I returned, just as I was recovering from an exam and still fighting off the fug of jetlag. Before my trip, he couldn’t stop raving about Big Easy and the ridiculous amounts of food you could have for the price; now that I was back, he insisted that I give it a try. So it was in this way that I ended up, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, deep in the cavernous recesses of Covent Garden’s newest restaurant.

The entrance to Big Easy in Covent Garden is announced with a brash, brightly lit neon sign, urging you down the tunnel into whatever culinary delights lie beyond. It’s vaguely reminiscent of tourist-trap restaurants such as Bubba Gump’s, and considering that they were capitalizing on a cuisine that is very near and dear to my heart (Southern BBQ), I approached it warily. The inside is huge, with an impressive wall of booze rising up behind the bar, requiring a ladder to reach the top rows. There’s just as much seating space downstairs as well. On a Tuesday lunchtime it was hard to imagine the entire restaurant being filled, but I’m sure it happens easily.

Once at our table, we ordered pretty quickly: I knew I wanted to try the lobster, which came with fries and a drink included; I also wanted to sample their array of barbecued meats, so we ordered the “Tastearama” platter as well. Wilkes got a Sazerac slushie to go with the lobster, and I went for my usual fare at any place that has it: root beer (but this time in the form of a float).

Dominion is one of the better root beers (though Abita is still my all-time favourite) and on a scale of “caramelly goodness” to “toothpaste”, it sits firmly on the “caramel with a hint of mint” side. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it, it brings out the sweet side even more. I happily sipped my giant, fizzy float until Wilkes’ Sazerac slushie showed up, complete with a stick of wormwood. Now, if you’re sitting there thinking “Alcoholic slushies? What a gimmick”, then consider this: alcoholic slushies are very much a New Orleans thing. You won’t find them in the dainty portions served here at Big Easy (arguably the only thing in the entire restaurant that comes in a dainty portion) but rather in 32 oz foam soda cups, served to you in a drive-thru. Yes… alcoholic slushie drive-thrus. (Normally these are found next to another south Louisiana staple, Raising Cane, a chicken finger drive-thru. My mom told me, with the shine of nostalgia in her eyes, of being a student at LSU and driving to get chicken and slushies sometimes after class.)

Anyways, the slushie was amazing. It had the sweetness of the bourbon and absinthe, with a delightful kick of booziness. Unlike lots of slushies, it was pretty well blended, so you didn’t have flavourless chunks of ice ruining the experience. My only qualm would be that I’d prefer to have quite a large glass of it instead of the size it is actually served in, but it would probably get dangerous really quickly.

Soon the waitress came back with the classiest of dining accessories: the single-use lobster bib. I’m sure there exist people in this world who have their own silken, embroidered lobster bibs, ready for every crustacean occasion. But for the rest of us, we have to rely on the bibs that are provided. With heads held high and dignity still somewhat intact, Wilkes and I tied our bibs on with a flourish.

And then the food arrived. The table of three guys next to us, who had barely made it through their own plates of burgers and fries with effortful groans, stared as two huge platters were set down on our table. They covered the entire surface and hung off the edges – it was a LOT of food. In hindsight, it probably could have fed three, if you could ever figure out how to split two halves of a lobster three ways. Our dignity retreated a little further away.

I didn’t mind so much though because the food was, for the most part, absolutely delicious. The chips were perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, but needed a bit of extra salt/spices to make them stand out. Thankfully, the lobster was perfect – the delicate meat had taken on a smoky flavour from the grill and only needed a squeeze of lemon and a tiny dip in the pool of clarified butter. We had originally ordered hollandaise as our dipping sauce, but it was a bit bland; the lobster didn’t need it anyways.

The “Tastearama” barbecue sharing platter was a behemoth of a plate, with ribs, chicken, pulled pork, potato salad, baked beans, and coleslaw. It was so massive that, after thoroughly enjoying my lobster, I only had room left to focus on the meats that were there. Wilkes said he enjoyed the coleslaw and the potato salad, though, so I trust his judgement. I’m not the biggest fan of coleslaw anyways.

The ribs had rendered almost all of their fat, so they were juicy and delicious, needing only a slight dip of bbq sauce to really bring out the flavour. The pulled pork was my favourite, with its soft, almost fluffy texture; it was rich, succulent, and burnt ends were hidden in the bowl for extra bursts of smokiness. Even though I could barely bring myself to eat it, I managed to try the chicken as well, which was also juicy and lean.

Our bill came out to just under £60, so £30 per person – and this was to stuff ourselves silly. That’s already a good deal for central London, so if you think that we easily could have gotten away feeding three people with the same amount of food, you could probably get out for around £20 per person.

In the middle of our meal Wilkes joked, as we squinted our eyes and stuck out our tongues while trying to crack into the lobster, that this was definitely not a restaurant to bring someone to on a first date. (I’d say the opposite: if they can’t deal with you wearing a bib at the table and or having a bit bbq sauce on your fingers because you enjoy the food so much, there’s probably a lot of other trivial stuff they can’t deal with and you’re better off without them.) Perhaps Big Easy is a great first date restaurant because, hey, you can only go up from there, right?

Despite its kitschy sort of facade, the simple fact is that Big Easy’s food is good. It reminded me of the tourist-trap restaurants simply because of its size; in reality, it also reminded me a bit of the small bbq joints you’ll see in Southern towns, just on a much larger scale. You’ll just have to get over the fact that eating here isn’t going to be a small, intimate, quiet affair. In my opinion, Big Easy is the perfect restaurant to bring a group of friends to so you can order a few platters and all dig in indiscriminately, hoping that through a team effort you’ll be able to finish the hefty portions of food. It might take a little while, but that’s ok. Order another round of slushies, eat to your heart’s content, and take it easy.

Design Museum

London is one of the best cities in the world for free museums. The British Museum, the Science Museum, the V&A, the Natural History Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Horniman Museum, the Geffrye Museum… I could go on. While some of the big names have paid exhibitions that come through, like the British Museum’s Vikings exhibit or the V & A’s highly anticipated Alexander McQueen exhibit, they also have permanent collections that are free to browse.

This autumn, the Design Museum will be taking its rightful place amongst its museum peers in South Kensington in a beautiful, newly refurbished building. Like the other museums in the area, it will have a fantastic, extensive permanent collection, as well as the series of rotating exhibitions it has become renowed for, and designers-in-residence. Until the Design Museum moves to its new home, though, you can get a great deal at the one in Shad Thames. Unlike other museums, which require you to pay for each showcase exhibition, when you buy a Design Museum ticket, you get to view all the exhibitions on offer. It’s a great deal, especially when you consider the shows that are on right now. Rob and I went this past weekend, so let me give you a little preview.

Following our visit to White Mulberries, Rob and I strolled back across Tower Bridge to the south bank just in time to see a ship pass through. People lined up along the bank, iPhones and DSLRs at the ready, as the leaves of this famous bascule bridge  swung ponderously upward. In my three and a half years in London, I have not yet seen any ships passing through Tower Bridge. I imagined majestic tall ships breezing through, pennants waving in the wind. Imagine my disappointment when a passenger clipper was all that went by. Oh well – there will be other days and other boats (and I won’t wait another three and a half years to come see it again).

Disappointments aside, the weather was decent, with blue skies peeking through the heavy gray clouds and just enough sunshine to take a bit of chill out of the spring air, given that the wind wasn’t blowing. We approached the Design Museum, a building that stands out amongst all the others on this stretch of the south bank, with its sleek, white profile jumping out of the line-up of dark brick buildings.

The reason Rob was so eager to visit the Design Museum last weekend is because he knew that the In the Making exhibition was ending soon. Having received a Masters in Product Design, and generally being a geek for all things relating to all branches of design, he was especially intrigued by this exhibit which showed products at various stages in their manufacturing. What I didn’t realize until we bought our tickets is that, unlike the other major museums in London, buying a ticket doesn’t just get you access to one exhibition. At the Design Museum, the price of your ticket has always given you access to every exhibition showing at the time.

Currently on are three interesting and varied exhibitions with enough between them to pique the interest of both passers-by, casual design fans, and hardcore design aficionados and professionals: HELLO, MY NAME IS PAUL SMITH; In the Making; and Designs of the Year 2014.

Up the stairs, past the model of the new Design Museum building, we came first to the HELLO, MY NAME IS PAUL SMITH exhibition. At the front of it is a cubicle, 3m x 3m with barely enough room to fit two people in simultaneously, that represents the space of Paul Smith’s first shop in Nottingham. He opened it in 1970, and at first it operated only on Fridays and Saturdays – the rest of the week he was “doing anything to earn some money.” Another quote written on the wall really resonated with me: “It is important to have a dream but also to be able to support that dream.”

Past the tiny mock shop room, you were drawn deeper into the world of Paul Smith. Anything and everything having to do with his life was on display, from mock-ups of his current Covent Garden office and old sewing rooms; to a selection of collaborations he’s done with other designers, brands, artists, musicians, and more; to an impressive collection of art, photographs, letters, and other paraphernalia he’s accumulated over the years, which turns out to only be a small fraction of what he has. I enjoyed finding out that he is an avid photographer in addition to being a designer, and has even shot some of his own campaigns. I drooled for a few minutes over the Rolleiflex on display before Rob quietly herded me into the next room so he could drool over the Paul Smith x Talking Heads collaboration.

The last two rooms in the exhibition focused the most on his finished products as a fashion designer. First, we ran a gauntlet of some of his most iconic designs from throughout the decades. Finally, we entered a dark room to watch a video that Sony created specially for the exhibition. I was ready to move on to the other parts of the museum, but I’m glad we stayed. The video, shot in vibrant 4K HD at 60 fps (think the same technology that The Hobbit films used, but without that cheap, “uncanny valley” look), takes a look at all the preparation that went into his S/S 2014 Menswear show.

Overall, the exhibition is an in-depth look into the mind of one of the 20th century’s most recognizable fashion designers, which feels more personal than other exhibitions because of the first-person explanations written by him for each section of the exhibit. It genuinely felt like Paul Smith is inviting you into his world and giving you a friendly tour around it, which I’m sure is exactly what they were going for.

Next, we went upstairs for the two exhibitions Rob was most excited about. At the entrance to In the Making, curated by influential designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, was an imposing metal frame, vaguely reminiscent (to me at least) of those giant shark jaws that tourists pose underneath in towns along the gulf coast. It was, in fact, the front of a Tube carriage frame, “paused” 50% of the way through manufacture. The aluminium frame was unpainted, but still recognizable as the iconic front of the Tube. The exhibition itself was in a single, dark room with each of the 24 objects spotlit on pedestals.


Some of the objects on display answered questions: the marble ball, paused near the end of its manufacture, answered a lifelong question of how marbles are made; the elegant flute shape of an unfinished French horn brought to me a new awareness and appreciation of the instrument that I played for 6 years of my life in middle and high school. Some of the objects on display raised questions: the nearly finished 50 bills made me wonder at what specific point the bills acquire their value; the wine corks, cut directly from blocks of cork bark, raised concerns over the sustainability of such a practice.

Whether it inspires or answers questions for you, the In the Making exhibition opens the door on product design and manufacturing, something that the majority of people don’t think about. Much like many people go through life not understanding how food goes from animal/farm to store to table, the way products are manufactured – even the most common day-to-day ones – remains shrouded in mystery. Thanks to Barber and Osgerby, you can at least come away knowing a bit more about the production of 24 objects such as Macbooks, optic lenses, tennis balls, Thonet chairs (a design classic), injection-moulded sofas, football shoes, £2 coins, and the 2012 Olympic Torch (designed by Barber and Osgerby themselves).

Last but certainly not least, we browsed the Designs of the Year exhibition. This prestigious award, now in its seventh year, shows off the best the world has to offer in all branches of design. Industry experts nominate designs that have caught their eye throughout the year, from which a panel approves a shortlist for the exhibition (76 for this year). During the exhibition, finalists for the seven categories (Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphic, Product, and Transport) are chosen by a judging panel; from these 7 finalists the overall Design of the Year winner will be chosen.

In addition to showcasing some brilliantly simple solutions to some of today’s problems and breathtaking visions of what the future could hold, the scope of the exhibition reminds us that design touches every part of our lives. It is present in every moment of every day. The computer or mobile device you’re viewing this site on? Design. The platform I’m publishing on, the code that runs the website, the fonts you are reading? Design. The water bottle/soda can you’re drinking from? Design. The apps you use. The transport you use. The chair you sit on, the bed you sleep in, the table you eat at, the desk you work at. The magazines you read. The buildings you walk past or into every single day. The clothes you wear. All down to design. The problem with design is that it is so prevalent that we forget that everything, everywhere is only here because a designer or team of designers thought of it.

In a cheeky dig at this non-recognition of the importance of design, a poster for the exhibition says: “Someday the other museums will be showing this stuff.” It’s true, that when every single thing we use in our lives is considered design, that only the truly revolutionary things will stand out and be seen as noteworthy to future generations. So here is your chance to see the noteworthy objects of the future right this very instant! Lucky us, right?

One of my favourite moments in perusing the many stands was to find a piece of design very much relevant to my everyday life featured. Citymapper, one of my indispensable London apps, was apparently created quite recently. It was the sort of app that just seems to darn simple, amazing, and necessary that I assumed it had existed for a long time, and I was just a late adopter.

Basically, Citymapper is the only app you’ll ever need for getting around London. It pinpoints where you are with your GPS, and when you input where you want to go, it gives you a variety of options to get there. If you want to walk, it tells you how long it will take at a certain speed, and also how many calories you’ll burn; if you want to cycle it will give you quick/safe routes, the nearest Barclay’s cycle hire points, and the number of calories you’ll burn; if you want to take a taxi, it will give you an estimate of how much it will cost; if you want to take a bus, it’ll give you a variety of bus routes and combinations of bus routes, as well as a count down to when the next bus is arriving at the nearest stop, and how much it will costs on Oyster; if you want to take the Tube, it will show you all the combinations of routes and how much it will cost on your Oyster card. It even knows when lines are shut for engineering works. Basically, this is the app that does what the TfL Journey Planner does, but way better than the TfL Journey Planner has ever done it (especially in TfL’s new, buggy iteration). Bottom line? If you’re a Londoner, or tourist, there’s no excuse to not have Citymapper. It’s free. Go get it. Now.

This watch was also very intriguing. The Bradley watch is meant, first and foremost, to be a watch for the blind – however, the designer wanted to make something not only functional, but beautiful, something that sighted people would want to wear as well. The ball bearing in the groove (magnetically held in place) is meant to travel around the watch face like the hour hand on a normal watch. That way, a blind person can feel the ball in relation to the hour marks on the watch and know what time it is, while sighted users can glance down and see the time presented in a simple way. The titanium timepiece is elegant, and presents a simple solution to a problem (as all good design does).

Cyclists who bemoan a lack of chic but functional kit would be happy to see this collaboration between footwear designer Tracy Neuls and Tokyobike. The beautiful, rubber-soled shoes all have reflective strips built into them so that cyclists can wear them off the bike, knowing they look fashionable, and on the bike, knowing they provide extra protection on the road.

Fashion design is also highlighted in the exhibition. My favourite pieces were these metallic, futuristic gowns created by Sadie Williams for her MA course at Central St Martin’s. She essentially created a new textile by heat-pressing neoprene to create a stiffer fabric, adorning it with metallic yarns. Her “Totemic” collection was inspired by motorcycle culture in America and Japan.

Besides Citymapper, my favourite piece of design on display was the brilliant Chineasy. This appealed to me as a future teacher of English as a foreign language – while the entire world seems focused on learning English as a language for global communication, Chinese is a strong contender as well. The sheer amount of people that speak Mandarin (not factoring in Cantonese) already outnumbers both native and second language English speakers by a few hundred million. Yet it remains a daunting challenge to learn Chinese, because of how different it is from almost any other language – instead of each pictogram representing a letter, they represent whole words or abstract notions. Literate Chinese speakers have memorized and can easily recall around 4,000 characters.

The purposes of Chineasy are many. First, the creators wanted to make learning Chinese less imposing and more fun to those who are put off by the thought of memorizing thousands of complex characters. The cute pictures make it more likely that the pictogram and the concept associated with it will stick in the learner’s mind. Secondly, the creators wanted to bridge the gap between China and Western cultures. They wanted to present Chinese culture through the lens of the language (and each section of the book is chock full of cultural and linguistic tidbits) in a way that was uncomplicated by manipulation and bad translation. In the words of the creator, ShaoLan: “I am demonstrating the beauty of this deep and broad culture with a modern interpretation by creating sleek modern design.”

In that room were many more thought-provoking designs that I could begin to cover in one blog post: a floating school designed for Lagos, Nigeria; a wheelchair designed to adapt to its users and put them at face height no matter if their peers were sitting or standing; a sustainable phone designed with replaceable parts to combat our throwaway gadget culture; an art book with instructions to draw drone shadows on the ground, which the artist has done in major cities, designed to make people think critically about what is happening in countries thousands of miles away; a mobile game app that is impossible to finish in one lifetime and must be passed down to your children as a digital inheritance; and an optometry app created for doctors helping patients in rural areas. You’ll just have to visit to see all the amazing designs and read about them in person.

Rob and I left the exhibitions with our curiosities both sated and piqued, which I feel is the mark of a great museum experience. You want it to answer questions you have (which is why you go in the first place) but also open up new avenues of exploration for you to undertake in your own time afterwards.

I’d urge anyone who is in London to visit the Design Museum this weekend while all three of these exhibitions are still on. In the Making ends on May 5th, while HELLO, MY NAME IS PAUL SMITH runs til June 22nd and Designs of the Year runs til August 25th. It’s a great cross section of the world of design in all its forms, presented at a price that is hard to beat at any other museum.

Design Museum
28 Shad Thames

Open daily 10 am – 5:45 pm

Ticket prices here.

White Mulberries

I’m going to tell you about one of London’s best kept secrets. Well… okay, that may have been the case last week, but I guess I can’t really claim that anymore. White Mulberries recently won London’s Best Coffee Shop in the (seemingly out of the blue) Coffee Stop Awards and has been featured on the Evening Standard and London Live. Awards aside, though, White Mulberries is the kind of coffee shop that was quietly puttering away in their own corner of London, not making much fuss, but doing things very well. It was a hidden gem of a shop, and though those of us that knew about it before may grumble at the potential rush and lack of seats, I won’t begrudge them their newfound fame and increased revenue. It’s still very much a gem, just not so much a hidden one anymore.

One obstacle you have to face when visiting White Mulberries is navigating the potentially confusing maze that it St Katharine’s Docks. It’s ok, I got your back. Let me show you:

Being a Southerner (both in the US and in London), I approached St Katharine’s Docks by walking across Tower Bridge, admiring its beauty in the spring sunshine.

Just over Tower Bridge, you’ll see a set of stairs going down to the riverside, right next to the Guoman Hotel. You’ll be faced with a choice, dear coffee drinking friend – there is a Starbucks right there, staring you in the face. Walk past it to the left, into the dock area, and continue on towards the forest of boat masts.

Follow the path as it curves left, sticking to the water’s edge. Soon enough you’ll be faced with another choice – behold! Another Starbucks. But your iron will shall soon be rewarded, if you continue on but a little further. Cross the bridge just beyond the turret-like cafe and you’ll come to a twee little row of shops and restaurants looking out over the assembly of yachts. Congratulations – you’ve made it past the gatekeepers and passed the test. You’ve found White Mulberries. You have chosen…. wisely.

White Mulberries is the kind of cafe that feels homey the instant you walk into it. From outside, where a smattering of tables and chairs offer waterside coffee-drinking opportunities, you can see that most of the small shop is mostly taken up by their counter with its array of cakes, pastries, cronuts (oh yes), and small savoury offerings. There are a few seats in the window at the front and a few along the lefthand wall, which is currently home to a few pieces from the Coffee Art Project.

Owners Peyman and Rana and their friendly baristas pull their shots on a gorgeous enamel white, 2-group La Marzocco FB80. Their V60 and Aeropress array sits behind them on the counter, quietly waiting and ready in case you decide to try one of their filter coffees. Their grinders, three for the two different espressos and one for decaf, are not labelled with coffee varieties or roaster names that may be unintelligible for non-coffee nerds. Instead, they are helpfully labelled with tasting notes to help you decide which you might want in your coffee.

Noticing all the big, beautifully labelled Koppi bags lining the shelves, I went with that choice for mine and Rob’s lattes. This is a new espresso blend from Koppi called Red Clay, comprising 20% Costa Rica Santa Rosa and 80% Brazil Don Nenem. The resulting drink was a latte where the bold, full-bodied, smooth espresso shone through despite the amount of milk. It had natural sweetness, notes of toffee and almond, and a cheeky boozy, bourbon-like aftertaste. It reminded me of the bourbon caramel latte I had back home in Auburn at Mama Mocha’s, except this was simply the milk and coffee tangoing together in tasty harmony.

The milk is steamed to perfection – not too hot or too cold – and even though we let our lattes sit as we chatted, they never became bubbly. Our lovely latte art stuck around right until the very last sip.

Though this is a shop dedicated to that lovely stuff we call “coffee”, staunch British tea drinks need not fear. They’ve got that down pat as well. “So very English”, indeed.

Whether you’re a coffee or tea drinker, I highly recommend making the pilgrimage to White Mulberries, especially on a sunny spring day like we’ll (hopefully) be seeing a lot more of now.

White Mulberries
D3 Ivory House
St Katharine’s Docks

Mon – Fri 7 am  – 6 pm
Sat 8 am – 6 pm
Sun 9 am – 6 pm

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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M1lk, Balham

Food on social media is a double-edged sword. It can tantalize and inspire, like when Clerkenwell Boy posts endless montages of picture-perfect brunches or THOSE donuts; or it can be a sad, washed out train wreck of ill-lit food, which may or may not have looked appetizing before it was attacked with an iPhone – we may never know. In both cases it can be equally as torturous to take in such images. Personally, I had been waking every weekend to such torture in the form of M1lk’s Instagram feed, filled with mouthwatering descriptions and carefully styled photos of their pancakes. Never the same from week to week, I watched a parade of these beauties pass before my eyes:  “buckwheat pancakes with bananas, caramel, toasted almonds, Nesquick mascarpone”; “buckwheat pancakes with blood orange jam, hazelnut popcorn brittle, vanilla bean mascarpone”; “buckwheat pancakes with banana, Oreo mascarpone, almond macadamia brittle, Nutella caramel”; “buckwheat pancakes with burnt apple, milk marshmallow, lemon verbena, lavender”. Clearly, there’s a mad genius locked away down there in Balham, churning out these pancake combos like no one else in London. My will power failed me last weekend and I decided it was high time to go check out what was going on all the way out in Zone 3.

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Kimchinary first came to my attention last year at Taco Wars. Of all the delicious tacos on offer, this one was a masterpiece that captured my tastebuds like no other: succulent slow-braised bulgogi ox cheek supporting a piece of soju- and gochujang-battered cod cheek, hidden under a blanket of homemade kimchi, and finished off with a teetering pile of toasted seaweed, chives, chilli powder, radish and sesame seeds. I was instantly hooked.

Over the next few months I happily stuffed myself with every iteration of toasted burrito to be found at the cheerful red food stall. The hefty burritos, with their multi-textured and wildly flavourful contents, are swaddled tightly and turned on a griddle to give them that slight satisfactory crunch. Inside, the main ingredient of choice (slow-braised bulgogi ox cheek, pulled pork belly ribs, or aubergine and braised kale) nestles comfortably with gochujang-slathered kimchi fried rice, apple slaw, spring onion sour cream, sesame seeds, chilli powder, etc… and at £6.50, it’s one of the best value-for-money street food items you can find in London. Are you drooling yet?

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