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

Lunch in The City Part 2: Street Kitchen

Another bright spot on the City lunch scene is Street Kitchen. Their shiny aluminum tube of a van appeared one day a few months ago outside my office near Broadgate Circle and I lined up the very first day to check it out.

the van

I have since tried just about every dish they make and the main challenge these days is deciding which one to choose! Each day the menu changes and offers three options: one meat, one fish, one veg. Each one is served with a selection of salads like beets, potatoes, greens and kohlrabi. The star might be their take on a chicken Caesar – grilled chicken with nice crispy skin, served over greens and warm potatoes with croutons, bacon and a creamy dressing. But the grilled salmon, pork shoulder, roast lamb and the roast squash and aged Winchester salads are all solid choices.

chefs at work

Plus they make a mean dessert. Earlier in the summer it was Eton Mess with strawberries, and now they’re doing a yogurt mousse with rhubarb or plums and a crunchy crumble topping. It is delicious.

chicken caesar + eton mess

Street Kitchen was started by two London-based chefs – Mark Jankel and Jun Tanaka – with vast and varied experience in top restaurants across the city.  Everything they serve (really, everything) is locally sourced from organic, sustainable sources, and they maintain direct relationships with all their suppliers.  Mark spent a year traveling around the UK to establish the supply chain and he has also founded The Food Initiative which aims to open a permanent restaurant this year that will further promote local, sustainable produce in the London market.

prepping the salads

Sole criticism: it’s a bit expensive. The vegetarian salad runs £5.50, the meat and fish options about £7.50, and the Eton Mess is £4. That said, it’s quality food and you know you’re supporting sustainable farming and local business.  Also, all the packaging and utensils are biodegradable, so you’re being extra friendly to the environment.

Added bonus: the other day as I went to grab some napkins, I coudn’t help but exclaim over the funny looking purple vegetable acting as a paperweight.  “Is that a purple kohlrabi?!”  They were so excited someone had finally recognized it, I got a free Elderflower pressé.  Who knew vegetable knowledge would come in so handy?

the kohlrabi

Vital statistics:
Location: in or around Broadgate circle
Tube: Liverpool Street
Website: http://streetkitchen.co.uk
Prices: about £10 for a salad plus drink or dessert

the menu

Check out Lunch in The City Part 1: Verde & Co.

Lunch in The City Part 1: Verde & Co.

In the wasteland that can be The City lunch experience, I have discovered a few choice locations to help ease the monotony of Prets and EAT.

The first is Verde & Company in Spitalfields, conveniently located about a 10 minute walk from Liverpool Street Station at 40 Brushfield Street.  It makes for a nice little walk to clear your head from that stale office air and fluorescent lighting.  From the outside, it’s not entirely clear what it is – gourmet food shop? chocolate store? maybe possibly some lunch? – but with a line out the door you know it must be good, which is how I discovered one day back in February, wandering the neighborhood in search of something from a non-chain restaurant.  I’ve been a convert ever since.

Verde specializes in salads and sandwiches – the menu is the same for both, it just comes on top of a green salad with sunblush tomates, or between two pieces of bread (brown, white or baguette).  Depending on size and ingredients, they run 5-7 GBP each.  You can also mix and match ingredients to make your own.  Highlights include suckling pig with piquillo peppers, bresaola (which I usually pair with fresh mozzarella) and smoked chicken with guacamole (and bacon if you’re lucky!).  The salads are served with vinaigrette dressing ladled out of a large olive oil tin with the top cut off.  They also serve two homemade soups every day – recently tomato and piquillo pepper served with fresh basil and parmesan – and mini-quiches, as well as an assortment of Bakewell tarts, brownies and other goodies.  There is also a fridge with Pellegrino and Panna water and a selection of fresh juices.

bresaola and mozzarella sandwich

Most people get it to go, but you can also eat in at the handful of high chairs dotted around the tiny interior of the shop.  And if the weather’s nice you can sit outside on one of their bench seats with convenient little table-trays built in for your lunch or coffee.

Pretty much everything you see in the store is on sale – the homemade marmalade on that shelf over there, the fresh pasta in the window, the wooden tea caddy, even the silver teapots.  There’s actually a good selection of specialty and gourmet items – mostly Italian – and they usually have some fresh produce for sale.  The cherries and peaches in the summer were to die for.

The seating area

Jam for sale

But best of all is the Pierre Marcolini chocolate.  If you’ve never had it, you are in for a treat.  Based in Brussels, he makes a range of yummy truffles as well as sinfully rich chocolate plaques (they aren’t really bars) that come in all different chocolate flavors (Zimbabwe, Cosa Rica, etc.) They don’t come cheap but they are worth every penny.

The Chocolate

And to fortify you for the long afternoon at the office that now lies before you, grab one of their fab coffees on the way out.

Vital Statistics:
Location: 40 Brushfield Street, E1 6AG London
Tube: Liverpool Street Station
Website: http://www.verde-and-company-ltd.co.uk/
Prices: £7-10 for a salad or sandwich and a drink

Check out Lunch in The City Part 2: Street Kitchen