Christian Constant is a household name in the culinary world – a celebrated chef in Paris, writer of numerous cook books, and one of the judges of Top Chef France. Rue Saint-Dominique, a street in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, is also known as the “Christian Constant” district since it houses three out of four restaurants founded by Christian Constant. I was fortunate to dine at Cafe Constant, a no reservation Parisian bistro, on my recent trip to Paris. Cafe Constant is immensely popular and the wait for a table could be up to 2 hours. Lucky for me and my dining partner, we arrived at the restaurant at about 6pm, an hour before they “opened” for dinner. We sat downstairs, had a drink (beer for him, hot chocolate for me – which was very good as a matter of fact) and waited patiently for the clock to strike 7. We were the only ones in the restaurant and it was interesting to see the staff prepare for the dinner service. At about 630pm, other early diners started streaming in and like us, had an aperitif or two while waiting for the restaurant to open.
Everyone loves a little cosy cafe with good food and good coffee (free wi-fi always a plus too!). Well, at least I do. I’m going to let you in on one of my favourite Antipodean cafe/bar/restaurant/coffeeroastery in London. Caravan sits at the corner of Exmouth Market in Farringdon. In the warmer months, they extend the restaurant into the market by setting tables outdoors. The basement is where all the coffee roasting action happens (which you’ll get to see when you go to the restrooms). The restaurant serves breakfast on weekdays from 8am till 11am (hurray for early risers like myself), and an all day menu from noon. Brunch is served on weekends. The bar opens till late. The food served is, in their words “well travelled”. Thus, one can expect nothing less than exotic and interesting flavours from Caravan.
Baked Eggs with Yogurt seems to be a very popular new comer in breakfast and brunch menus lately, with breakfast/brunch places like Ottolenghi, Kopapa etc priding themselves in this dish. The baked eggs at Caravan came in a little silver pan with a tomato and pepper ragout and blobs of greek yogurt on top. I ordered mine with additional chorizo and a side of sourdough bread (as recommended by the wait staff). I thought the baked eggs were very good. The ragout was spicy and they were very generous with their chorizo. I’ve had baked eggs at Kopapa previously and despite it being very tasty, I could not finish it because the eggs were swimming in oil. Caravan however, did the baked eggs very well. The eggs were neither undercooked nor overcooked (yummy runny eggs!), and it was not too oily and rich. The sourdough bread was sufficiently toasted and tasted great when dipped in the baked eggs. You have the option of granary bread as well.
The Coconut Bread was excellent. Time Out names this dish as one of the top 10 dishes in London, and after having it at Caravan, I can see why. Grilling the coconut bread was an excellent touch – It made the bread very fragrant and the sides were crispy and crunchy. It came with poached rhubarb and a thick layer of lemon curd cream cheese. I usually shun rhubarb due to a previous bad experience, however Caravan changed my mind about this little vegetable (or is it a fruit?). It was slightly sour which complimented the sweet and creamy lemon curd. Don’t let the picture fool you, the lemon curd cream cheese is not as thick as it looks, and it wasn’t sweet and sickly either. Lovely dish.
The Coffee at Caravan is excellent and I’m very very fussy when it comes to my coffee (sorry I didn’t take any pictures of the coffee – you can see empty coffee cup in the above picture though. It shows how much I loved it! I finished the coffee even before the food arrived). I usually buy Monmouth Espresso beans, however I thought the Caravan Espresso was very good so I will be back for a bag once my supplies run out. I’ve been to Caravan a few times and have had a variety of drinks. The Picolo latte (for those who are not familiar with this, a Picolo latte is something like a double macchiato) and the flat white were both good. My usual go-to drink is the flat white though. The espresso blend used is a medium roasted blend with good balanced acidity. It has a dried cranberry and milk chocolate sweetness and when combined with milk, one can expect butter cookie notes and a caramel finish. Caravan does single origin coffees as well (they have a few options every day and it changes all the time). I’ve had the Gethumbwini AB Kenya blend (full roast, excellent excellent coffee, £3.20) and one of the El Salvador blends as well (medium roast, £2.80. Very good as well but I prefer the Kenya).
Caravan Exmouth is a lovely place to sit and relax, which reminds me a lot of cafes in Australia and New Zealand. However, it does get noisy when the crowds start rolling in. I will definitely be back, if not for food, definitely for the coffee. I heard that they do their own cocktails as well, definitely want to try that. I foresee a night with lots of small plates and a bottle of wine soon. BRB, Caravan.
P.S. Modern Pantry uses coffee from Caravan. Reviews for Modern Pantry here!
Japan is one of my favourite countries in the world and I am very fortunate to visit that country three times in the past ten years of my life. While I was in Tokyo in July, I stumbled upon a lovely home made udon eatery in Shinjuku and ever since the temperature dropped in England, I found myself craving a traditional piping hot bowl of udon. And boy, am I glad I found such a place in London…
The crowd – before and after (completely full!)
I was looking for a nice restaurant in Soho a few weeks ago, to have a pre-theatre dinner before my ballet at the Royal Opera House (Swan Lake was amazing. I’m not sure if there are any performances left for the season. If there are tickets available, I’d definitely recommend it – it was completely sold out the last time I checked). Having dined at her sister restaurants (Le Deux Salons (review in the new future) and Wild Honey – review here), I thought I’d give Arbutus a try! Arbutus was the first of the three restaurant to be opened by Anthony Demetre and Will Smith. It serves modern European cuisine (just like Wild Honey) and earned it’s first Michelin star in 2007. The restaurant is spread over two rooms. The first consisting of a long marble tabled bar and the second with regular tables and black leather seats.
Trying to find a quiet place to relax, or a decent (i.e. affordable) place for a meal in the City can be quite a difficult task, especially if you do not wish to grab a “to-go” sandwich and coffee. I recently ventured into the Clerkenwell the other day in search for somewhere to do my work before attending a meeting in the area and stumbled upon Modern Pantry…
The first thought that will pop in your mind when you walk past this restaurant is probably “Why is there a massive queue?!”. The second thought would probably be “What is the name of this restaurant? I have to try it!”. Barrafina is one of those places that you-either-know-it-or-you-don’t. Nothing on the outside gives any indication to what the restaurant is called, nor what they serve. Well, it is a Spanish tapas
restaurant bar located in the heart of Soho. It seats 23 people around it’s L-shaped bar with chefs cooking up a storm behind the bar. Barrafina does not take reservations so you’ll definitely be able to get a table…if you’re willing to wait. The picture above was taken at about 5pm, 30 minutes before the restaurant opened for dinner…
Having dined at its sister restaurants previously (Le Deux Salons and Arbutus – reviews in the near future), I was keen to dine at Wild Honey, which has been said to be best restaurant among the three. Wild Honey has one Michelin star to its name and it sits on Saint George Street in Mayfair, which transforms into a quiet area in the evening after the Bond Street shoppers leave for the day.