Vauxhall may not seem an obvious place to find a riverside bar on a sunny day, but there are a couple – Aqua River Brasserie and The Riverside. They are directly on the river in St George Wharf, and are sun traps when the weather is good, however they are both rather soulless. I would pass them by and go for a more quirky venue, namely Tamesis Dock a dutch barge permanently moored on the Thames, with a fabulous view of the Houses of Parliament.
Tamesis Dock is not that much of a gourmet experience (the menu is mainly wraps and burgers), it’s basically a floating pub, in a great location that regularly hosts live music events. It is opposite the Plaza Riverside hotel, which houses the rather good Chino Latino Restaurant, so my recommendation would be to have an inexpensive drink or two on the barge before heading over the road for dinner in Chino Latino.
Had breakfast at Gastronomica in Pimlico, a cafe/deli that advertises itself quite rightly as Piemonte in Pimlico.
Actually Gastronomica is a lot more that just this one cafe/deli. They have several market stalls (including one at Borough Market) and another couple of cafes in Wapping and Manchester as well as a wholesale food business.
The cafe in the heart of Pimlico is not that pretty from the outside, as it is located in an unattractive red brick block of shops behind a rather garish red awning.
Inside it is much more attractive, the Cafe area consists of a couple of large wooden tables and a few smaller ones, surrounded by shelves of Italian Wine and cabinets full of wonderful meats and cheese. The menu is quite small, mainly Italian sandwiches, cheese and meat boards and salads, but everything looks really good.
My breakfast was just a simple ham and cheese tostado, served with a really good cup of coffee. They also had a selection of cakes, which were inviting enough for me to want to make a return visit to try them along with another cup of that coffee. It’s always good to find an alternative to the ubiquitous Starbucks and Cafe Nero coffee shops.
This place captures the best of Italy. It’s very laid back, I particularly liked the way they went off menu to please a family that just wanted toast and jam for their kids. You definitely don’t see that in Starbucks.
UPDATE : January 2011, returned for coffee and cake, had a piece of strawberry and pannacotta cheese cake, and another cup of their great coffee. I also bought some Delizia Mandorla (Almond Cakes) which are lovely with a glass of Amaretto.
The Fig & Olive in Islington is a busy venue with a nice friendly buzz. The cakes displayed by the door (which are also available as take away), look stunning, and if the bakewell tart I had was anything to go by, tasted good too.
This is not just a venue for Coffee and Cakes though. They also have a varied menu covering everything from English Breakfasts to Sunday Roast, and a selection of wines and cocktails.
We had heard good things about Inopia, but were not sure it would be our scene, as it seemed a little too trendy and lively for our tastes, but we decided to give it a go. Following advice from other food bloggers we arrived early (about 7:30 to avoid the queues) the red rope was raised and we got the last two seats.
The place was already buzzing, food bloggers were clearly in situ, armed with cameras and note books. For such a busy place the service was exceptional, friendly and efficient.
Here is a short video:-
As you would expect with the el Bulli connection (Inopia is owned by el Bulli’s dessert chef, Alberto Adria), the food quality and service was definitely well above your average tapas. We were happy to follow the waiters recommendations, sampling top quality tapas favourites like Patatas Bravas and ham croquettes, along with other dishes such as the Russian Salad and the Tuna carpaccio, we had about 7 dishes in total, washed down with a couple of glasses of Kalimotxo and a refreshing complimentary liqueur.
UPDATE November 2010 – Last weekend, the last tapas were served at Inopia, co-owned by Alberto Adrià, who is said to have been too busy working on another project to mourn over the closing, the place is soon to reopen under a new name, Lolita.
For a bit of everything Del’Aziz the Mediterranean Delicatessen and Brasserie is great, they have their deli counters (of course) and a really good selection of cakes (portion control is a problem though, sometimes bigger is not better!). I have only been to the ones in Bankside and Fulham.
UPDATE : September 2010 – I passed by their new outpost in Bermondsey Square yesterday during the annual Bermondsey Street Festival and it looked good.
UPDATE : May 2011 – Finally tried the Bermondsey Square branch, it has outdoor seating at the front and in the Square, which is a great little sun trap. Identical formula and quality level as the other branches of Del’Aziz.