Marylebone Faves: Nordic Bakery & La Fromagerie

Nordic Bakery

Off the main drag near Marylebone High Street, behind an unassuming facade with hardly even a sign, lies the second branch of the Nordic Bakery in London. (The first one is in Covent Garden.)

the boxes in the windows are rye flour

The window announces coffee, cinnamon buns and dark rye bread – all of which I heartily recommend.

I discovered it earlier this year while exploring my then new neighborhood and even though I wasn’t hungry ordered a cinnamon bun and a small brie and lingonberry jam sandwich on the signature dark rye bread because they looked too good to pass up. They were.

the sandwich

I have since popped in from time to time for breakfast or a snack and sampled various of their wares. My favorite remains the cinnamon bun but if they ever put the brie and lingonberry sandwich on there again it would be a close second.

latte, cinnamon bun and smoked salmon sandwich

Other highlights include the coffee, small smoked salmon and gravlax sandwiches, and for an afternoon snack the Boston cake which is made of the leftover cinnamon bun dough and topped with thinly sliced almonds. (No one could tell me why it was called Boston cake, though.)

The cinnamon buns are not what the average American (or Brit, for that matter) would expect.  Translation: they don’t look like the Pillsbury ones.  Instead they resemble pain au chocolats, but darker, and are made of thin dough rolled in many layers. They have that great spiced cinnamon flavor and are not too sweet. Recent experience also suggests that combined with a latte they are very effective for headaches after a Saturday night out.

another cinnamon bun, just for kicks

Fun related story: While visiting Fäviken in northern Sweden a few weeks ago, I met a Finnish chef, Sami Tallberg.  Over the course of the conversation he mentioned that he was a part owner in a bakery in London called, you guessed it, the Nordic Bakery. Naturally upon hearing this I exclaimed “Oh my God I love the Nordic Bakery!!” I’m not sure whether it was my enthusiasm or the fact that I knew it that surprised him more, but he and the two other guys in the room looked slightly startled.  Just goes to show the cinnamon buns really are that good.  Or maybe it’s that I’m obsessed.

inside

Vital Statistics:
Location: 37 New Cavendish Street, W1G 8JR, London
Tube: Bond Street
Website: http://www.nordicbakery.com/
Prices: £2 for a cinnamon bun or other cake, £4 for a sandwich

La Fromagerie

Another neighborhood fave of mine, conveniently located half a block from my apartment on Cramer Street, is a gem of place called La Fromagerie.

entrance on Moxon Street

As the name suggests, they specialize in cheese. However they also sell a range of gourmet items, prepared foods, gorgeous fruit and veg, all manner of artisanal dairy and other animal products, plus there is a great cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and tea. I particularly recommend their housemade goose rilletes.

summer fruit extravaganza

the fall (autumn) spread

When I went in recently for lunch with my family, I spotted these spiky chestnuts:

chestnuts

I am not sure what one does with them, but they looked amazing.

For all its many virtues, La Fromagerie is a classic example of a London restaurant that has not grasped the brunch concept. They only serve eggs until 12 and don’t start serving the main lunch menu until 12:30. I have often arrived at 12:05 only to be stuck in this awkward between meal limbo.

However, the food when they do serve it is delicious so they mostly get a pass. My recent lunch included a great roast pork with Charlotte potatoes and spinach, a delicious cannellini bean salad with tomatoes and roast peppers, and a nice confit of duck leg served with red onion marmalade.  All of which we washed down with some of their homemade elderflower cordial and fizzy water.

duck confit and cannellini bean salad

roast pork

Unfortunately we were too full for dessert, but we did take a tour of the cheese room.

i ♥ cheese

When you open the door of the cheese room, you are greeted by a wave of cool, humid air and a strong cheesy odor. They have just about any kind of cheese you can think of from the British Isles and across Europe and the very helpful and friendly staff are happy to recommend things for any palate.

Added bonus: right next door is the Ginger Pig, a really first class butchery and supplier of the pork for my pulled pork sandwiches earlier this summer.

Vital Statistics:
Location: 2-6 Moxon Street, W1U 4EW London
Tube: Bond Street or Baker Street
Website: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk
Prices: Main courses in the cafe £8-10, the produce and other foodstuffs are on the pricey side but very high quality

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The Sensory Lab: a coffee shop in Marylebone

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Recently, one evening returning from work I noticed a new store front on Wigmore Street, near the corner of Thayer Street, intriguingly called The Sensory Lab. It was closed but I stuck my face up to the glass to peer inside and saw a beautiful coffee bar – very minimalist with stools at the bar and shelves stocked with coffee beans and other paraphernalia. I could tell it would be great coffee, so a few days later on my way to work, I stopped in.

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Inside, there is a gleaming espresso machine on a long bar that runs the length of the shop, and if you drink in, the coffee is served in bright blue china cups. The baristas (baristos?) wear black trousers and plaid button downs and are very friendly.

My beverage of choice – a latte “for take away” (that would be British for “to go”) – was served with some beautiful steamed milk art, and was fantastic. Plus, it was just the right temperature when they handed it to me, so I didn’t have to blow frantically and risk burning off my taste buds.  It has quickly become a routine stop on my morning commute.

Sometimes you get lulled into the convenience of, well, convenience, and forget that Starbucks really isn’t that good, in addition to being a chain and therefore by definition impersonal, not to mention that most of what they serve isn’t coffee at all but rather some strange derivative involving complex descriptions that have to be said in a certain order like skinny-caramel-frappa-latte-extra-shot-no-whipped-cream. I mean seriously, would you like fries with that and the dressing on the side? (end rant)

Against this background, the five or so options on the menu at The Sensory Lab (with names like drip coffee, espresso, latte and macchiato) are a welcome alternative.

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Added bonus: while I waited I was served a small glass of water. It really is the little things in life that make a difference. They also serve a selection of pastries, muffins etc. as well as a varied assortment of coffee making gadgets, some of which look like they came from a chemist’s lab. I haven’t found out what they do yet … But if I do I’ll keep you posted.

Vital statistics:
Location: 75 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 1QD
Tube: Bond Street
Website: http://www.sensory-lab.co.uk/
Prices: £2.60 for a latte
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