Gino’s East, Chicago, USA, April 2013
We weren’t able to be in States this year for the 4th of July for the first EVER! Here are all the things we’re missing:
Funnel cake from the town festival
Fried everything (especially pickles)
Nachos at a baseball game
Cheese fries from Kennywood
Ice cream cones from Twist & Shake
We love supporting local businesses, especially when they’re great! Here are some of our favourite places in the Battersea/Clapham Junction area.
We’re big fans of brunch and luckily we have lots of options in our neighbourhood.
The newly opened Breakfast Club on Battersea Rise (you can read all about our love for it here or here) is our top pick for brunch. Like many places in the area it’s busiest on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Our tip: Why not take a cheeky weekday breakfast before work they open at 8AM? After all breakfast is the most important meal of the day ;)
We’re also big fans of Powder Keg Diplomacy's breakfasts. Good portions, reasonably priced and you can make a reservation. Powder Keg is perfect for catching up with friends over a boozy brunch. We love their decor, conservatory dining room and signature lemonade. No cheeky weekday brunches here - they only serve breakfast on the weekends.
Powder Keg Diplomacy’s vegetarian full English breakfast
Tamra on Northcote Road is another great place to grab breakfast on the weekend- if you can get a table. While quite small, they do have a larger outdoor seating area that comes with blankets. They also recently started serving Lebanese meze and wine in the evenings.
What do you do when you’re craving fish n’ chips, but are too lazy to make the 8 minute walk to the chippy on Northcote Road (which happens to be one of favourite fish n chip shops in London)? You call the Fish Clubon St. John’s Hill (they have a Clapham High Street branch too) - they deliver straight to your door. We’re particularly fond of their beer battered halloumi and sweet potato fries.
Our first trip to Indian Moment (preserved for posterity here) was just the start of our love affair. With free delivery and easy online order system - we tend to order from here at least once every three weeks. My favourite dish is their motter paneer and I could eat their poppadoms all day long. During peak times on the weekends you can tend to have a long wait - so order ahead! It’s also a great place to eat out at and they tend to do great deals during the week.
When the Cattle Grid on Northcote Road relocated to Battersea Rise, we were left wondering who would fill their space (and hoping that it wouldn’t be another estate agent). We were pleasantly surprised that Brixton’s Franco Manca was opening another outpost. While we’ve visited the restaurant, one of guilty pleasures after a long day at work is to place an order as soon as we’ve gotten off the train at Clapham Junction. We have the walk timed perfectly to reach Franco Manca just in time to pick up our pizzas to enjoy at home!
Want to grab a quick bite before catching a train or just out for a leisurely walk? The Breadstall on Northcote Road has a great selection. Their sausage rolls are ranked among the best in London, we love their fresh pizza and sandwich selection and have we mentioned their desserts?! Try the salted caramel cherry brownie, the carrot cake or just about anything. They also serve Monmouth Coffee and bagels from Bricklane.
We can’t really say enough about the Draft House (but we tried to here). We love their love food and the service is always great. Mondays you can grab a burger and a pint for £10. We can’t get enough of their mains and to make a special trip to try their desserts - loved them, especially their brownies.
The Draft House’s Beirut Burger
The Plough is one of the first places we found when we moved to the neighbourhood. It’s a great place to grab dinner or catch up with friends on a weeknight. They have a wide selection of small plates and sides that are great for sharing. If you’re feeling really hungry their mains are great too. What’s great about the Plough is that they change their menu up every couple of months, which keeps it fresh (although I’m still mourning the loss of the blackbean sliders). We also love that they have Meantime on tap!
Ben’s Canteen on St. John’s Hill is popular for their brunches and roasts. We love their dirty burgers and the menu provides us with a little taste of home! They host different events like craft nights and pop-ups. And they have great deals like 2 for 1 cocktails on Tuesdays and a Sunday night burger saver.
The Byron on Northcote Road was our first introduction to the chain. I’d always see them in trendy areas and viewed them as boozy burger joint. However, that is not the case with this location in the center of Nappy Valley. This Byron is almost always full of families with children running wild (really). If you’re looking for a great place to take a date on Friday night this isn’t it. That being said, we do prefer their burgers over other chains (especially GBK). And if you’re looking for a family friendly dinner in the area then this is your place.
When I moved over from DC three years ago I had the froyo bug and was waiting for London to catch it. When we moved to the area two years ago my prayers were answered - there was a self serve froyo shop located just an 8 minute walk away. Samba Swirl has several locations (Angel, Chiswick, & the lovely Northcote Road) and have six flavours to choose from that change daily. While a bit of a froyo purist (give me the original any day) they do great seasonal flavours - we were pleasantly surprised by the watermelon recently. They also have a great loyalty scheme.
We really are spoiled when it comes to sweet treats. Oddono’s Gelato opened up last year and is one our favourite places to stop on a warm day walking back from Clapham Junction or when we’re out for evening stroll.
Another staple of Northcote Road on Saturdays is the Dessert Deli. It’s hard to resist walking by it’s overflowing stall with dessert shots, cakes, pies and some of our favourite brownies.
We’ve always wanted to visit Chicago so we took a quick 3 day trip there recently. While visiting family & friends in Pittsburgh we decided to take the overnight train. Besides leaving at the at the inconvenient hour of 11:59PM, it wasn’t that horrible. We arrived around 8AM the next morning and slept most of the night on the train. The seats are wide and recline plus there are plugs so you can keep your phones and tablets fully charged.
View from the train into Chicago
We arrived bright & early in the center of Chicago at Union Station. After we explored the station we set off to see the city as we couldn’t check into our hotel until 3PM.
The great hall at Union Station
From Union Station we headed over to the Shedd Aquarium. On the way there we passed several Chicago landmarks including the Chicago Institute of Art and the Buckingham Fountain.
The Shedd Aquarium is located on the Museum Campus along with the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum right on the banks of Lake Michigan.
The queue outside of Shedd was ridiculous. Literally hundreds of people. We definitely recommend getting the Chicago Pass - you can skip all the lines and its cost effective for hitting all of Chicago’s highlights.
Our favourite part of Shedd was the Beluga whale exhibit and the dolphin show.
We then made it by the skin of our teeth to the Field Museum to see Sue, the ‘largest, best-preserved and most complete’ T-rex skeleton.
By this point we were crashing due to the overnight train journey and walking around all day. We started the trek to our hotel, but first stopped at Millenium Park to see the famous Bean.
We also passed by the Tribune Tower that has fragments from buildings around the world - including the House of Commons!
Our hotel, the Mile North, was right off of Michigan Avenue. We booked the it through Expedia. We were a bit disappointed because we were unaware that it was under-construction and we had some issues with our room (the internet was down & the blinds in the city-view room wouldn’t open). The staff were great though and quickly upgraded us to a suite on a higher floor. Overall the hotel turned out to be the perfect location for a quick trip to Chicago - and we really enjoyed our stay.
That night we met up with a friend from university for dinner and drinks at Gilt Bar, where we picked out several dishes to catch up over.
We topped off the night with cocktails at the hotel’s rooftop bar.
View from the top of the Mile North.
We’ve always been big fans of the Breakfast Club - and we just became even bigger ones. In mid-May a new south of the river branch (with a bar!) was opened on Battersea Rise - minutes from our place!
The Battersea Rise location is larger than the Angel and Soho branches (we’ve never been to the Hoxton branch) and is home to the King of Ladies Man bar hidden behind a shutter. They also take reservations (all day Mon-Fri/ from 5pm on the weekends). The space is light and airy with a 1950s kitchen theme. The front opens up on to an outside seating area providing a nice breeze when the weather is cooperating. There are also several large booths in the back room and two island seating areas.
This new location has proved to be dangerous for us - we’ve been there several times since it’s opened (even twice in one week).
We’re big fans of their smoothies, shakes and fresh juices, especially the Mango Go smoothie.
The Full Monty complete with bacon, sausage, black pudding, eggs, home-style fried potatoes, mushrooms, beans, grilled tomato AND toast, is one of the best full English breakfasts in London - we particularly love the sausages.
These home-style fried potatoes are one of our favourite things on the menu - crispy on the outside and fluffy inside.
Being from the States I can’t pass up American-style pancakes. And the Breakfast Club’s pancakes and berries with maple syrup and vanilla cream make me forget that I don’t even like maple syrup (blasphemy, I know).
Take me to any restaurant (doesn’t matter how fancy it is) and if there is some combination of pasta and cheese I will order it, even if it is a breakfast place. The Breakfast Club managed to combine three of my favourite things - pasta, cheese and hot peppers - with their Mexican Mac n’ Cheese. I did find it a tad too greasy and had to take half of it home with me because it was very filling, but I did love the kick from the red chillies and jalepenos.
The applewood smoked cheddar, mushroom burger with caramelised red onion chutney is a good, but very messy.
Burritos and breakfast are also two of my favourite things and surprisingly I’ve never had a breakfast burrito. Eggs freak me out sometimes and I always worry that the burrito will be too eggy. Luckily this was not the case with the Breakfast Club’s veggie breakfast burrito and it had a great spicy kick to it.
Needless to say we’re very glad that the Breakfast Club decided to come south of the river and we’re happy to welcome it to our neighbourhood. We’ll definitely be regulars and need to check out their happy hour!
What’s one of my favourite things to do when I’m in need for catch up with a girlfriend? I head to Ladurée in Covent Garden for tea, macaroons and gossip!
If the weather is in your favour - sit outside on the balcony overlooking the piazza.