{28/03/2012}   A day of cake and caffeine in Soho

Yesterday, a friend and I ate and drank our way around Soho, with a brief foray into Bloomsbury. I am thinking this is my 30s equivalent to my 20s’ pub crawl. So today was my first cake and caffeine crawl. Bring it on!

My friend, N, and I started at Nude for a takeaway coffee in Soho Square. Excellent start as their coffee is wonderful. We also examined their food offerings and, while the cookies, for example, looked chunky and tasty, we agreed £2 is excessive for a fancy biscuit.

Our next stop was accidental. N was drawn to a window display where the hot cross buns spelled out Gail’s, the name of the bakery on Wardour Street. She got chatting to perhaps the owner, lovely friendly bloke, and ended up bagging us a free hot cross bun. As I had the bigger bag (clever), I looked after it. Sadly we forgot about it so I ate it all this evening. Gail’s Bakery make the fluffiest, most delicious hot cross buns I have probably ever eaten. Yumtious. Really.

We then stealthed diagonally across the road without being rumbled by lovely Mr Gail’s (I will be going back there for hot cross buns and lemon meringue fairy cakes) to Princi (I can never remember the name of this place, largely because I can’t read the scrawl that is their name on the signs outside). It’s a very lively, very Italian cakery, bakery and foodery. Baking is done in view of the dining area. We went a bit mad and decided this was a pre-lunch stop. We ordered a side of salady things, ie a selection of two dishes. We ordered salmon with fennel and pumpkin with ricotta. Also ordered a knobbley bread stick rammed with olives. The latter was salty and quite hard on the outside (as it should have been) and tasty, though not something I’d order again. Both salad things were nice but not as spectacular as I’d hoped. We also ordered cake, a cheeky pistachio and peach number and zuppa inglese, a stripy fruity, syrupy, custardy sponge cake with almost lemon meringue style meringue on top. The pistachio peach was really good, the zuppa inglese was also good but very sweet. While both were lovely, fortunately so considering each cost £4.20, neither are worthy of being new favourites. On the down side the service was annoying. Wrong teas, wrong milk, confusion over whether to wait or have it brought to the table and neither of us thought the staff behind the counter knew the food well enough.

Then lunch. We went to Spuntino, an American South diner of sorts that reminded me of somewhere in Lucca, Italy. All bar stools, lovely shabby decor, friendly staff and a selection of largely small dishes. We ordered battered aubergine with fennel yoghurt dip, fried chicken and a prawn po’boy. It was all served in enamel dishes and we also got an enamel mug of chilli popcorn (v good!) on arrival. Great place for a savoury snack fix and I expect the more substantial dishes would be good too.

Our final stop was the London Review of Books cafe. I had an oolong tea and N had Assam. That was good, though slightly alarming to be warned that ideally you won’t break the teapots (attempting their fancy but effective tea pouring process) as they cost a lot but we wouldn’t be charged for breakages. I had a beetroot and cherry kind of crumble cake and N had carrot cake. I may’ve ordered the best dish, subtle beetroot with bursts of cherry and a really nice dense crumble texture. N thought the carrot cake wasn’t cakey enough but we agreed it tasted lovey. Lots of nuts in it, so value for money in terms of different textures! Their cakes are always good though and their teas are well sourced and presented.

And there our bellies declared no more could be consumed! Thanks, N, for a fantastic day of foodie fun!


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