Steph explores… Peckham

It’s really no secret that N and I don’t get out much.  After a while of doing the same old stuff, you get in a bit of a rut… home, work, home, weekend (sleep), work, home, etc.  And when we do decide to venture outside on the weekends, we know where we like and we tend to stay in that comfort zone.

But last weekend was different–I decided it was time to branch out and explore new, uncharted territories in South London.  Area of choice?  Peckham.

Now, I’ll preface this by saying that when I first came to London years ago, Peckham had a bad rep (it still kind of does).  The area has undergone a bit of regeneration and, thanks to some fantastic shops, bars, restaurants etc, Peckham has a nice, almost village-like feel to it.

So what did we do in Peckham?  Well, I put the word out on Twitter last week asking people where they recommend we go and the response was crazy (thanks to The Peckham Peculiar).  People were tweeting me so fast that I couldn’t even keep up.  Out of all of the responses, there were two places we knew we had to visit:  The Begging Bowl (for lunch) and Frank’s Cafe (for drinks).

First stop on our jaunt in Peckham was Persepolis, a brilliant shop for all things Persian.  N and I have both been getting more and more interested in his Persian roots (on his dad’s side) and food is a big part of that.  We’d chosen two very Persian dishes to cook and try out last weekend–Gourmeh Sabzi and Koresht-e-Gheimeh.  We got most of the ingredients locally but N and I both knew of Persepolis and wanted to go there for some of the more specialist ingredients.

I loved this shop.  There were so many yummy ingredients around (plus pastries/sweets) and I just wanted to try a little bit of everything.  I have a feeling we’ll be going back soon, especially as we’re cooking more and more Persian food.

After our spree at Persepolis, we meandered around a bit and eventually found ourselves at The Begging Bowl on Bellenden Road.  We were starving at that point and ready to sit down to some gorgeous Thai street food–The Begging Bowl did not disappoint.

The idea behind The Begging Bowl is exactly the same as Spanish tapas only with Thai food–you order a bunch of little plates and share everything.  We only ordered three items (instead of the recommended five for two people) as it was only lunch and we were cooking up a Persian feast later that evening.  Dishes arrive when they’re ready so they’re always piping hot and fresh.  For £1 each, you also get unlimited sticky or jasmine rice.

Sweet Potato Fritters - so delicious we nearly forgot to take a photo!First up was our Sweet Potato Fritter with chilli sauce.  This bad boy was so amazing that N’s trying to wrap his head around how to make it–I see some experiments in the kitchen in our future.  The sweet potato was crunchy and gorgeous without being oily despite being deep fried.  The little kernels of sweetcorn were a nice addition.

Pork belly and fishcakes, both amazing!

Our other two dishes arrived one right after the other–fishcakes with sweet chilli sauce and pork belly with fried, crispy rice.  The fishcakes were nice but the highlight was the pork belly dish.  This was so scrummy that N and I ended up fighting (politely) over the bits of pork and crispy rice.  This is one dish I’d happily have again!

Price-wise, I’d initially gasped (inwardly) at the prices and the suggestion that we order five dishes, but we ended up actually paying probably what we’d pay had we gone anywhere else for lunch–especially as we’d stuck to water to drink.  If you’re out with friends and nearby, I’d definitely recommend The Begging Bowl for a nice, and quick, dinner.

After leaving The Begging Bowl, we walked off lunch by strolling down Choumert Road toward out next destination, Frank’s Cafe.  Choumert Road has a lot to offer–little boutique shops, bakeries, grocers and all sorts of other things.  Lois, a little shop that I’d been recommended to visit, had so much that I wanted!  N could see the gleam in my eye so steered me out quickly in order to protect his wallet.  I have a feeling I’ll have to go back and pick up the Verity Necklace though… that necklace really caught my eye!

We finally made it to the above ground car park where Frank’s Cafe is located and then… we got lost. Yep. We made it to the venue and then got lost… but we weren’t the only people who were confused and perplexed as to how to get up to the sixth story of the car park where the bar is located.  We cased the outside of the garage, thinking maybe there was a special (marked) entrance.  Nope.  There’s a metal door leading onto the stairs of the car park.  Truth be told, N and I were very apprehensive climbing those stairs–it looked and felt like something out of a bad, scary movie.

At the fifth floor, the stairs finished so we were left confused yet again.  We ventured out into the parking area and decided to walk up the ramp for cars.  As we walked through the garage, standing at the bottom of the ramp was a scary looking guy dressed all in black.  So we were more creeped out… until we realised he was a bouncer and checking bags.  Whew.  We live to drink another day!

When we finally made it to the bar, we were absolutely stunned by the panoramic view of London.  Really, it was quite special and beautiful.  Getting to see London laid out like that made me realise just where I’m living–every time that happens it takes my breath away.  And now, a few photos of the view (click for larger images):

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Canary Wharf and the 02

 

London Skyline1

 

London Skyline2

As far as drinks at Frank’s Cafe go, they were averagely priced.  I had a Dark and Stormy (rum, ginger beer and lime) and an Aperol Spritz (Aperol, white wine and seltzer).  They were ok–but let’s be honest, Frank’s appeal is the large outdoor space and spectacular view.  I’d go there again for another drink–but I’d want to take along a few friends.

We wanted to see more of Peckham but (as you can probably tell from the photos) the weather took a turn for the cool and drizzly and we were without umbrellas so headed home.  I know I’ll definitely be checking out more of Peckham in the future, so if you’ve got suggestions, bring them on!

Peckham

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

Steph eats at… DF/Mexico

DF/Mexico

In an effort to shake things up, H, K, P and I decided we needed something a bit different for dinner–eschewing the normal curries and pub grub, I suggested a new pop-up place called DF/Mexico.

DF/Mexico is run by the same people who are behind the genius Wahaca (which N and I are massive fans of–we even have the cookbook).  The concept behind this new endeavour is fast, fresh food with Mexican and Tex Mex influences.  In other words, it sounded right up my street!

DF/Mexico interior

The decor was pretty cool and fit in with the slightly industrial surroundings.

Though a fairly new restaurant located close to Brick Lane and inside the Old Truman Brewery, DF/Mexico already seems to have a massive following.  When we got there (around 8ish on a Friday night) we were told there would be a 30 minute wait.  By the time we’d ordered our drinks, our table was ready (hurrah, much shorter wait!).

The magic, sadly, ended there.

Just as we were being sat, the hostess let us know that they were out of tortas for the night.  What is a torta? A Mexican sandwich served New York style in a toasted brioche bun with smashed avocado, slaw and house pickle.’  The one menu item I had my heart set on was sold out by 8pm on a Friday night because they ran out of buns.  Really?  Better planning needed on that front, I think.

K is on a gluten free diet which DF/Mexico happily caters for–however we had to wait longer for the gluten free menu than we did our table.  If we’d known that the GF menu was the exact same as the main menu but just with gluten free bread, tortillas etc, we wouldn’t have bothered requesting one.

Regardless, we ordered GF veggie nachos, H and K both had GF veggie tacos and P and both had the steak burrito.

Ordering.  Well, that was interesting.  DF/Mexico don’t do table service, possibly because it isn’t ‘hip’ enough for the area.  After being seated and figuring out what you want, someone from your table then has to traipse all the way back up to the front of the restaurant to place the order either on the self service machine (yeah, really) or with a hostess (not actually sure what to call them).  You get given your drinks and receipt and it’s back to the table to wait for the food.  It’s all a bit… bizarre.  At one point the queue to place orders was fairly long, snaking around and through the myriad of tables.

DF/Mexico Gluten free veggie nachos

Gluten free veggie nachos

Our food came out fairly quickly… sort of.  H and K’s tacos arrived with the GF nachos, followed shortly by one steak burrito.  P, ever the gentleman, insisted I take the one that arrived and that he’d wait on the second one.  Ten minutes passed and no burrito.  Finally, we flagged down a food runner who insisted they only had one steak burrito on the ticket in the kitchen.  Thankfully we’d kept the receipt which he took back to the kitchen to get another one made.  Since P and I had the same thing, I split my burrito with him so we could at least have half each while we waited for the second half.

Finally, another ten to fifteen minutes later, the manager popped by the table to apologise for the lateness of the burrito (which finally came while he was standing there).  He offered us a round of free ice cream which we of course took him up on.

DF/Mexico Steak Burrito

Steak burrito

The food itself was ok.  I love Mexican food and burritos and I’ve eaten (and made) my fair share.  I’m fairly confident that both N and I could make a steak burrito that was better.  It wasn’t bad, it was just normal.  There was nothing overly special about it, nothing that made me want to get up and dance (like the burritos at Benito’s Hat).  The GF veggie nachos were fine too–again, nothing overly impressive.

I think DF/Mexico could be a brilliant place if it were ran a bit more efficiently like its counterpart, Wahaca. Again, the food wasn’t anything special but the location and the buzzy atmosphere make DF/Mexico an ok spot for dinner on a night out.

Oh, and the margaritas were pretty damn good.

I, sadly, give DF/Mexico a 2.5 out of 5.  Maybe I was there on a bad night, who knows?  I just know that unless I can be guaranteed a torta, I probably won’t venture back.

DF/Mexico
Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street
London E1 6QR
020 3617 6639 (FYI, just like Wahaca, there is a no reservation policy)
Mon – Sat:  11.30AM – 11PM
Sun:  11:30AM – 10PM

steph2

If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

Blog plans

Over the next several months, I’d like to get The London Diaries back to its roots and original purpose–a place for me to talk about living in London whether that be through personal stories, reviews or photos.

I’ve taken a long, hard look at TLD’s analytics and the most popular entries are London-centric as well as reviews (mainly restaurants) so I think it’s time to shift back to that. This will probably mean less activity here on the blog but better quality posts when they do go live. Bear with me… it’ll be worth it.

At the moment, I’ve got a few bits scheduled over the coming months:

  • Work through my London bucket list  (ongoing)
  • Review of my first experience working with FoodCycle Wandsworth  (end of August)
  • Trip to Seville in September  (mid-September)
  • Meatopia rundown (early September)
  • London restaurant reviews – to be titled ‘Steph eats at…’  (ongoing–first review tomorrow!)
  • Trip to Morocco (mid-October)

As always, I’m open to suggestions. What do you want to see here on The London Diaries?

steph2

If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

London Bucket List

As of later this month, I’ll have been living here in London for five years.  Five.  That’s half of a decade.  And what have I done here in London for the last five years?  Other than work, not nearly as much as I wanted.  There are loads of things I’ve always thought ‘oh that’s cool, I should do that/go there/etc’ but in the end the daily grind gets the best of you and before you know it, the years have passed.   Five of them.

So with that in mind, I’ve come up with a bucket list of five things I want to do in London before the end of 2014.  Obviously N will be along for the ride (most of it, anyhow) so if I were him, I’d be paying close attention to this post (*wink, wink… nudge nudge*).


Photo courtesy of Visit London.  Click for original article.

Photo courtesy of Visit London. Click for original article.

1.  Explore Crystal Palace Park

Ok, there are dinosaurs here.  WHY have I not been here yet? The dinos alone should be enough reason for me to get off my backside and go to Crystal Palace Park but throw in the maze and museum and I’m sold.

I honestly don’t know why we haven’t done this already.  There’s a bus right around the corner from us that stops at the park, so it’s not as if it’s not accessible!


Geffrye logo

2.  Visit The Geffrye Museum

I love a good museum and I love the fact that, beyond special exhibits/events, museums are free in London.  FREE.

I envision The Geffrye Museum being a lot like Locust Grove or Shaker Village back home, both of which I loved and found horribly interesting.  Might actually look at doing this one on my own next week during my week off!


E&P

3.  Have a drink at the Evans & Peel Detective Agency

Oooooh I love stuff like this.  The Evans & Peel Detective Agency is relatively new to the London scene but it’s definitely had a bit of a buzz around it, particularly as there’s role playing involved.  Noir crime/thriller films are my favourite (hello, Sunset Boulevard).  I wonder if it’s acceptable to rock up in costume?


Photo courtesy of Visit London.  Click image for full article.

Photo courtesy of Visit London. Click image for full article.

4.  Go ice skating at London’s Natural History Museum

N and I went to the ice skating rink at Somerset House a few years ago and I loved it… but skating outside the NHM just has a totally different feel to it.  I’m absolutely rubbish at ice skating, but that doesn’t stop me from trying!   Definitely looking forward to doing this in the winter.


 

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

5.  Picnic on Primrose Hill/visit Open Air Theatre

There’s nothing like a bit of romance–and a picnic dinner in Regent’s Park on Primrose Hill followed by taking in a show at the Open Air Theatre sounds gorgeous to me.  OAT will be showing To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my favorite books of all time, later this month.  As much as I want to go, tickets aren’t cheap and most of the performances are already sold out.  I have to say, overpriced theatre tickets are a real shame.  This one may have to wait until next season, but it’s going to happen!


So that’s my current London Bucket List for 2014.  Is there anything I’ve left out?  If you’ve got any ideas, give me a holler!

steph2

If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

July 2014 Book Wrap Up

I’m pretty sure I broke a record this month… I made it through a total of 11 books, a lot of which were for reviews.  Many reviews won’t be posted until later in August or closer to publication date for several books.

July Books

Books Read:  11

Books Abandoned:  0

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spend August reading nothing but what I want!

steph2

If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

Yo, July Book Wrap Up, I’mma let you finish…

I was totally set to post my mega July Book Wrap Up today and then this happened…

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My Judging Covers review of Jojo Moyes’s super brilliant The One Plus One was quoted in the paperback edition which came out yesterday. Total shock to me, so massive thanks to Twitter for clueing me in and giving me a great Friday surprise.

To see the full review, click here!

Normal service will resume tomorrow. Time for a cheeky, celebratory beer!

Steph x

My ‘Real’ London

The view of Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park.  (Photo my own)

The view of Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park. (Photo my own)

Last Saturday, I was running super early for work and decided to stop and have a coffee before going in.  Hey, I’ve been working loads of extra hours lately!  So I grabbed my extra strong cappuchino from a chain coffee shop and sat outside with my book, ready to indulge in 45 minutes of reading time.

And then I noticed this guy, standing on the sidewalk, smoking… and staring at me.  ‘Oh jeeze,’ I thought.  ‘Here we go.  Don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact.’  As that mantra went through my head he approached and asked if he could sit.  Nice person that I am–‘Oh of course, feel free.’  I mentally face-palmed myself and tried to make it well known that I was absorbed in my book.

And then he started going on about how he was visiting from Canada and where was I from?

‘Kentucky.’

‘Oh, that’s not too far from Canada!’

Clearly this guy had never looked at a map.  On the same continent, yes.  Nearby?  Ehhhh, not so much.

So then he asks me what there is to do at that time in the morning (pre-7.30AM).  He wanted to know where he should go.  The only thing I could think of, partially because it involved him getting on the Tube and getting away from me was Leicester Square.  Guy had no clue what that was.  I explained Leicester Square to him, told him Soho was great, the whole area was quite famous, particularly to tourists.

Nope.  He wasn’t ‘into that.’  He wanted to know where the ‘Real London’ was, what the ‘Real London’ was like. I honestly didn’t have an answer.  I wasn’t about to tell him what my ‘Real London’ was like.

My ‘Real London’ is

  • counting the days to payday
  • spontaneous dinners in the park because the flat is too hot because there’s no such thing as A/C here
  • nights out with friends that inevitably turn messy and beyond late
  • going to pub gigs and singing along to an Ed Sheeran lookalike belting out his cover of “Baby One More Time”
  • early morning wake ups to be at work by 7am
  • sirens at 2am
  • a tiny studio flat that you share with your partner that you’ve managed to fit your ENTIRE life into (and you won’t upgrade because you can’t afford anything in the area you live in which is the most PERFECT location EVER)
  • competition… for everything.  Jobs, seats on the bus/Tube, the last leg of lamb on 50% off…
  • tourists everywhere and people assuming you’re a tourist because you’ve got an American accent
  • getting made fun of for being American by your co-workers
  • never knowing what the hell the weather is going to do and forecasts never being right
  • hour long phone calls home every Sunday afternoon
  • occasional bouts of homesickness, sometimes chronic
  • curries so hot they make you feel sick
  • takeaways because you can’t be bothered
  • fresh flowers every Saturday (I’ve trained my husband well)
  • wandering the West End or Oxford Street with friends on shopping trips and ending up in All Bar One instead
  • the Montague Pyke in Leicester Square which seems to be the meeting point for nearly every night out
  • everything being super expensive
  • feeling sort of like a badass for living here

That’s only a fraction of my ‘Real London.’ How could I tell this guy that?

And then he asked me where he could get a drink.  At 7.30 in the morning.  Go hard or go home, I suppose.

steph2

If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.