I think I may have found one of London’s most cheerful cafes.

I spotted Vanilla Black Coffee & Books on Instagram and knew instantly that I had to visit. Whilst yellow isn’t my favourite colour, it has got to be the happiest colour in the rainbow and it never fails to make me smile. How could I resist a cafe with a yellow espresso machine and matching yellow walls? So I made it my mission to head to Kennington before we moved out of Colliers Wood for good.

I had a really restless night’s sleep on Saturday night after being woken up by family checking that James and I were safe and sound following the horrific attacks on London Bridge. So I decided I might as well just get up early and head out for coffee and a walk in the sunshine, hopeful for a bit of a pick me up on a sunny but sombre day for London.

Vanilla Black is about a 10 minute walk from Kennington tube station and somewhere I haven’t visited for a while. I forgot that there are some lovely homes there and promptly got distracted on the way. Eventually I spotted a colourful row of shops and my coffee destination.

Neither my photos nor those over on Instagram give this cafe justice for how big, bright and breezy it is.

I wasn’t in the market for food as we had quite a bit at home but you can grab pastries and cakes and I think there’s a whole brunch menu on offer. Instead I ordered a coffee and took a seat on the stools by the window.

You might have noticed from the name and these photos that there’s more to this cafe than coffee and cake. The book shelves to the right of the cafe (on entering) are full of books to buy (all non-fiction I think) and to the left you’ll find children’s books and toys. There’s even a corner with a selection of stationary.

I don’t think you can peruse whilst you drink coffee or eat, but it’s an ideal place to grab a gift or two and even some inspiration for yourself.

My coffee arrived quickly (they serve Allpress) and I enjoyed it slowly whilst basking in the sunlight, watching the world go by.

The roads felt eerily quiet that morning.

If you want direct sunlight, there’s a lovely courtyard out back where they have a collection of tables for customers to enjoy. It could easily make for an ideal summer breakfast or brunch spot.

But I was quite content on my seat indoors, until I had drained my cup.

And decided I should head back out into the world.

Vanilla Black is certainly somewhere to go and lift your spirits and enjoy the sunshine. You can find it for yourself here.

One of the things I’m known for amongst my friends is my love of good coffee. It hasn’t always been this way, in fact I didn’t even like coffee until after university. But in the early days of blogging, when a wave of independent coffee shops were sweeping through London, I discovered an enjoyment for not only the taste of speciality coffee but the place offered to enjoy it in.

I wrote about my love of London coffee shops before. But there’s so much more good coffee to discover beyond the capital, seeing as it’s UK Coffee Week, I thought I’d share the coffee shops I’ve discovered outside the M25.

L I N C O L N – Coffee Aroma

Truth be told I wasn’t expecting to find any independent coffee shops in Lincoln, but I was getting into town an hour or so before my friends and thought it was worth a Google. I happily found Coffee Aroma.

Tucked down a small side street off the main high street, it looks like any other cafe on the outside but step inside and you’ll realise that these guys know their coffee. It’s warm and cosy with a creaky staircase, worn leather sofas and walls covered in music sheets (they do live music events upstairs.) Well worth skipping Starbucks for.

(As a cheeky bonus for you, I also discovered Makushi whilst we were there. Much more modern in style but equally good coffee.)

B I R M I N G H A M – Yorks

I hardly ever have much time to actually explore my hometown as I’m usually there to visit friends or family. But on the occasions my train pulls into the station with enough time to have coffee, off to Yorks I go.

Their newest and recently(ish) extended coffee shop is just around the back of the station. The bare brick, reclaimed wood interior fits in with the old corner shaped building. The coffee, which is roasted on site, has a light fruity note. And I definitely need to go back to try their brunch menu. But what I often like most is overhearing the brummie accent and the comfortable feeling of being ‘back home’.

C A M B R I D G E – Espresso Library

You’ll have seen this coffee shop before but I thought it was worth highlighting here.

With a town full of students and a reputation regular cyclists, it’s no surprise that a cycling-themed cafe can be found on the route between Cambridge Station and the town.

What I liked most about this coffee shop is that it’s a huge space and there’s loads of light. Obviously the coffee is pretty good too.

B A T H – Colonna Small’s

Last year I was in Bath for a hen do and got there early to explore the town. Naturally, the first thing on my mind was coffee, so I made my way over to Colona Smalls (which I’d heard about it via Giulia.)

As I waited to put my order in I overheard the Barista talking to another customer and it was pretty clear how passionate he was about coffee and recommending what to have.

Set up in what I think must have been an old shop that extends right out into the back, it’s full of light and small corners to enjoy a coffee or two.

Colona Smalls now offer Nespresso pods so you can try their coffee without needing to leave London.

L E E D S – Laynes Espresso

My most recent discovery as I popped in there on Thursday! I was up north for an all-day session of sifting through the M&S Archive for work. Laynes Espresso is handily only a few minutes from Leeds station so I popped in before jumping into a cab.

The coffee was great and slipped down very nicely, the food looked pretty tasty too. It didn’t feel as cosy as the previous coffee shops here, but I was only in there for a short while.

 

So how do you find a good coffee shop in the UK? My first port of call is usually Brian’s Coffee Spot, his passion for good coffee ensures that if he’s been to a town, he’ll have sought out a cafe worthy of his visit. If the town isn’t covered I resort to Google and search for ‘independent coffee shop’ and the town I’m visiting. Then I might check the location out on Instagram,  most good independent coffee shops will be on there!

I’m always looking for other coffee shops to discover. Do you have any UK coffee shops to recommend?

Every year I get ridiculously excited (for a 30 something) about pancake day. I think the feeling is hard wired into my brain. For as long as I can remember, at this time every year, I couldn’t get home quick enough. No need to ask what’s for dinner, no enforced balanced meal, just as many pancakes as I could imagine and the toppings of my choosing. Even as an adult, when I could eat pancakes any day of the year if I wished, I get the same feeling.

Of course I do eat pancakes at other times of year. But lately, James and I have had a few brunches where the pancakes on the menu have run out. This left me with pancake cravings that only increased as we got towards today. So we decided on Saturday to go to Where the pancakes are. Pancakes guaranteed.

You can book, but I left it a bit late so we decided to go early instead. Like 9am early. Now you could call this meal breakfast but these days brunch seems to define the type of meal you’re eating rather than the time you’re eating it (unless you go down the route of brinner, breakfast dessert etc). So let’s call this brunch.

We ambled along the quiet streets of Borough before spotting a curious door.

You’ll find the pancakes in a place that’s just opened up – Flat Iron Square. A sort of indoor/ outdoor food area, with three restaurants, four street food vendors and a few bars. (I have a feeling it’s going to be popular when the weather warms up!)

It didn’t take long before we spotted the archway of choice.

(You’ll immediately notice the decor is Instagram worthy.)

We ordered coffees and checked out the menu. Although, we’d pretty much made our choices on the way there thanks to the internet and a hungry appetite.

In case you also wonder what a Spanish latte is, it’s a double espresso with condensed milk. A bit too sweet for me but James loved it.

We both went for the American, a stack of buttermilk pancakes, bacon, blueberries and maple syrup. I wanted to try something different like the ‘hummingbird’ with its cinnamon poached pineapple, but I wasn’t feeling adventurous and figured it would be a good excuse to go back.

Not much longer later a steaming stack of delicious pancakes arrived.

Light but more substantial in that buttermilk way. Hot so the maple syrup absorbed right in. Bacon just how I like it, crispy. I managed it down to one last bite, which I felt would tip me over the edge into being too full.

Satisfied our brunch pancakes cravings had been fulfilled, I got to plotting pancake day.

Do you love this time of year? Where have you had the best pancakes so far?

You can find Where the pancakes are here. Booking details, opening times and the menu are up on their website.

In case you’d prefer someone else to flip your pancakes, it’s open till 11pm for pancake day this year 🙂

As you might expect, London does the hotel restaurant quite well. Far from the buffet English breakfasts of the UK’s favourite hotel chains (the saviours of post-wedding hangovers), in the capital you’ll be able to find a more sophisticated offering. From the luxurious heights of Claridges, to the cosyiness of The Hoxton Holborn and the uber-trendy Ace Hotel. There’s something for everyone. But you don’t need to spend a small fortune in an overnight stay to sample the style each hotel has to offer.

Artist Residence was the latest boutique hotel to catch my attention with its restaurant The Cambridge Street Kitchen. It takes its name from the street where you’ll find the hotel, tucked away in the lesser explored neighbourhood of Pimlico.

James and I booked brunch there all the way back in August, when the leaves were full of trees and the sun shone high in the sky (doesn’t summer seem like a lifetime ago). I had decided that brunch would be my birthday meal of choice. Since we could book a table at The Cambridge Street Kitchen (only a week or so beforehand) and the reviews I’d seen around then were pretty positive it was a no-brainer.

High on birthday love from family and friends, I practically skipped my way to brunch. I was only stopped in my tracks by temptations to walk amongst the tall townhouses of the area. But after a short walk from the station we spotted the red striped awnings and stepped up our pace.

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The Artist Residence in London offers just 10 rooms, befitting of its boutique status. I’ve longed to stay in one of its three locations (you’ll find them in Brighton and Cornwall too), the interiors are modern yet cosy and they’re all in great locations. (Check out Giulia’s post for a sneak peek and her usual brilliant food photography.)

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We took our seat by the window.

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And ordered coffees.

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They use Allpress at Cambridge Street Kitchen and I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint.

As for the food menu, I’d chosen what I was having long before I’d arrived. So it was just down to James to make his choice. Whilst he pondered a menu full of fresh, organic and locally-sourced (wherever possible) produce, I enjoyed our surroundings.

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The warm wood and brown leather, against the white wash walls, seriously cool lighting, colourful prints and soft furnishings made it feel warm, cosy and welcoming whilst being modern and fun.

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It’s enough to distract you from hunger until your food arrives.

I predictably went for the star of the breakfast menu – banana pancakes, vanilla cream and maple syrup.

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Once you’ve seen a stack like this you’ll find it hard to resist. They have certainly perfected the american-style pancake, producing the lightest and most fluffy pancakes I’ve had in London so far.

James ordered eggs benedict with a side of sausages and although regretting his choice after seeing my dish arrive, he thoroughly enjoyed his all the same. With no photographic evidence to provide, you’ll just have to trust him on that one.

The service was good, the atmosphere was relaxing, the prices were affordable and the food was tasty. Overall, a London brunch you should try at least once.

Have you had a good brunch worth recommending lately?

You can find Cambridge Street Kitchen here. You can take a look at the menu and book online through their website.

It’s Thursday, which means I’m getting pretty thirsty for the weekend. Are you?

Most of my weekend will be spent trying to choose where to go for this year’s Open House London and getting in a bit of chill time to myself. But tomorrow night I’m hosting a small cocktail party with some friends and it reminded me that I needed to tell you about Seymour’s Parlour. A much more decandent lounge than my own, offering delicious cocktails that its owner is well-known for, just a heart beat away from busy Oxford Street on the quieter streets Marylebone.

I came across it as I was looking for somewhere to have a birthday cocktail last month. I’ve been meaning to go to the cocktail lounge at The Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell for ages, it always gets rave reviews but I never seem to be able to make my way over there. I couldn’t believe that the hotel had opened another branch right under my nose in Marylebone. Just a 15 minute walk from the office and with a cocktail lounge equal to its established sibling. So it was settled, Seymour’s Parlour it was.

Like its sister in Farringdon, the entrance is unassuming and could be mistaken for any other lovely home in London (which I’d no doubt be posting to Instagram without hesistation).

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I hesitated for a minute, before carefully opening the door into a cosy lounge.

I’d booked a table in advance because I wanted to guarantee a seat, but at 6pm there were a few other tables free. I was with Lucinda and we got caught up in a usual post-work natter, before taking a minute to concentrate on the menu.

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I’ll admit I had to google a couple of those ingredients under the table before choosing. But with a little bit more knowledge it was a surprisingly tough decision. After a debate over our choices we put in our order and got back to catching up on life of late.

Eventually, we took a moment to have a look around at the kitsh interior. A sort of upmarket shabby chic, perhaps an aquaintance of Mr Fogg.

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Our cocktails arrived not too long after. Lucinda ordered the Valaiz Fizz and I went for Le Sphinx.

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Of course we both had a sip of each other’s. Both were really refreshing.

We carried on with our conversations and once our drinks had been drained went in search of food. We both agreed that although getting someone’s attention to order drinks had been a little slow, we definitely needed to head back after work again in the near future to work our way through a few more cocktails on the menu. I have a feeling it will be even more cosy once the nights draw in and perhaps the fire in that fireplace is roaring.

Have you been to either of the cocktail lounges at The Zetter Townhouse? Have you been to any new cocktail bars that I should try next?

Seymour’s Parlour can be found here. It’s open until midnight Sunday to Wednesday and 1am Thursday to Saturday. All the details can be found on the website here.

When Summer rolls around I whip out the wishlist, eager to start ticking off my favourite activities in a season that feels short but oh so sweet. Although street food can usually be done all year round, in *almost* any weather, there’s something ridiculously satisfying about being able to eat in the warmth of the evening sun. So as soon as there was a glimpse of better weather ahead (back towards the end of May!) James and I went slightly South-East to check out Hawker House.

Last year, Street Feast found a fourth home in Canada Water, filling a cavernous warehouse with thirst-quenching drinks and tasty dining options. I didn’t manage to get there before the temperatures tumbled and social hibernation began, but when I heard it was planning to take on a tropical vibe for summer I was keen to squeeze it into a bit of a busy summer schedule. So the begining of summer it was!

We arrived before 7pm to find the place virtually to ourselves.

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Plenty of space to consider each option without the worry of having to make a quick decision and join a big queue. We were starving so we started small with street food favourites, Breddos.

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Crispy fried chicken on a soft tortilla, topped with crunchy carrot and onion and a spicy sauce.

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The combination of textures and flavours was delicious.

Before we carried onto our next dish we wandered around, Hawker House (or any street food event) is a great place to people watch. Doesn’t everyone seem so happy enjoying street food?

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Bob’s Lobster won the award for snazziest set up.

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But I had my eye on Yum Bun from the start.

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Who can resist those fluffy buns and that super succulent pork belly?

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James was ready to move on to his main pretty quickly and joined the queue for Smokestak.

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Naturally I had to sample the juicy meat and salty chips, whilst I sipped on my cocktail. (Blogger research purposes and all that…) The meat was lip-smackingly good. The rum cocktail got me into the summer vibe.

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Before I made my mains choice I made sure I double checked all of the options available, returning back inside…

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And examining the tiki huts outside.

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I was keen to try some street food I hadn’t had before so I went for Yu kyu.

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I could have eaten all of these options but when an ample portion of fried chicken and potato wedges was handed to me, I realised there was no chance I’d squeeze in pumpkin croquettes too. If only you could temporarily grow a bigger belly for greedy occassions like these.

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It did make a nice change to the pulled pork I’m often drawn to on evenings like this, but I struggled to eat it all. I was also tactically saving space for dessert. There was no way I was going home without trying Chin Chin’s nitro ice-cream.

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It was like watching a science experiment, seeing dry ice swirl up form the food mixers and blow torches burn marshmellow topped hot chocolates.

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(I’ll be going back for one of those come autumn!)

But the end result was more delicious than anything I’d have managed at school.

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Burnt caramel ice-cream sandwiched between a cookie/brownie sprinkled with flecks of salt. Yummy! I definitely need to go to their ice cream parlour in Camden now.

Fully satisified and carrying a decent food baby we left the revellers to enjoy the rest of the evening and wandered back towards home in the sunshine.

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A lovely early summer street feasting. I’ve definitely got the taste for it again. I’ve got my eye on Little Market before the summer’s end (Read Jessi’s review here!)

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Hawker House is pretty family friendly early in the evening and great for groups later on. It felt much more spacious than the ones I’ve been to that are closer to the city, which gives it a more laid-back vibe.

It’s open Friday (5pm to late) and Saturday (Noon to late). It’s less than five minutes away from the tube station, on the Jubilee line and Overground.

Have you been street feasting yet this summer?