Vintage Heaven and Cake Hole

Have you ever walked into a shop and thought you landed in Heaven??  Vintage Heaven is like that for me….

Piles and piles of vintage crockery, kitchenalia, linens and books. There is so much stock I find myself having to do several laps around the shop, just to be sure I haven’t missed something.  Apparently this is just the tip of the iceberg. They have a huge store in the basement of endless quirky little teacups, teapots, colourful vases, plates, napkins, and cutlery. Unfortunately you can’t go down there, probably just as well. Vintage Heaven rents out alot of stock for weddings, birthdays, and photoshoots too.  You pay a deposit (refunded when the goods are returned) with an additional 10% of the value of the goods which goes to a Tibetan charity.  They also supplied Nigella Lawson with crates full of stuff for her latest book, Kitchen.

Then when you manage to make your way to the back of the shop a little surprise awaits,  Cake Hole.Cake Hole is run by bubbly Louise.  It’s a family affair since her mother, Margaret, manages Vintage Heaven. The cafe has just had a new lick of paint, and some rearranging to open up the area, but it still has a comfy feeling about it. It serves great tea (from £1.50) and scones (£2.50 each) at a reasonable price.

They also serve simple sandwiches and cakes. Louise makes the cakes herself, they still need a bit of tweaking, but she is onto it, constantly changing recipes to get things just right.  Coffee is supplied by Monmouth and teas will be by The Drury Company. They also hire out the cafe for events such as baby showers.

So while your sitting having a pot of tea you can peruse the shelves of cups, saucers and teapots in the cafe, which are all for sale.  I was quite taken by all the vintage wall mirrors (gave me a few ideas of my own). Cake Hole is a cosy place to have a break from the heaving crowds of Columbia Rd Flower market on a Sunday. It is also open on Saturday, which is much quieter, as you can see.

I never leave Vintage Heaven without a rather large stash. I have heard husbands have banned their wives from the place! I will be impressed if you can come out empty handed.


Vintage Heaven and Cake Hole

82 Columbia Road,

London, E2 7BQ

Open Saturday from 1200-1800 and Sunday from o830-1700.


Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

I always look forward to a trip to Paris. The elegance of the French and their panache for fine food, and great bistros. I love to wander the streets and see where they take me.

Then a quick trip on the Eurostar and bam, your back in London. The holiday is over and it’s back to work.  If your lucky you might find a place that can take you back.  Head to Bistrot de Luxe.Bistrot de Luxe is celebrating 5 years this September. Brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin began the Galvin empire with Bistrot de Luxe.  Between the two they have worked at some very well respected restaurants such as, The Ritz, The Lanesborough, Ménage à Trois,  Orrery, Almeida, The Wolsely, Chez Nico, The Greenhouse, Oak Room and L’Escargot.

Chris spends most of his time at Bistrot de Luxe.  He and Sara (Chris’ lovely wife) want the focus of the restaurant to be one Marylebone locals feel at home in.  A place people can pop into during the week or on a Sunday night and enjoy some good french bistro fare at a good price. A set lunch for £17.50 and £19.50 for dinner is excellent value.

The birthday dinner was held down in Le Bar and hosted by Sara Galvin. Having worked at the Savoy, she really had some great stories to tell. Chris also pulled himself away from the kitchen to tell us about the Bistrot and chat about the dishes of the night. The aperitif maison was a classic French 75. The Bistrot de Luxe version contains Calvados, Champagne, lemon, and sugar. A very light and refreshing start to the evening.Our entree was a dish which was on the menu 5 years ago and still holds it’s place on the menu today. Terrine of Ham Hock and Foie Gras and Onion Confit. Not only did the terrine look beautiful, it tasted rich and meaty.  The sweet onion confit balanced out the dish perfectly.

Served with a Riesling ‘Brandluft’ 2006, Domaine Lucas and Andre Rieffel, a fresh mineral tasting wine cut with a lime acidity and mildly sweet.

Wow! Pithiver of Wood Pigeon and Quail, Chantenay carrots and a red wine jus. I think  I have mentioned before that I love puffy pastry. Seasonal game of wood pigeon and quail, wrapped in caul and packed inside buttery puff pastry, a delicious dish. This was also a dish on their menu 5 years ago.  We were very kindly given the recipe to try at home. What a great intimate dinner party dish it would make. If only I could make it look as professional, practice makes perfect!

A delicious Corbières Classique 2008, Château Ollieux-Romanis, Languedoc was served to complement the richness of the pigeon. A blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenach to give a soft full bodied wine.
Dessert needed to be some thing light. Roast Figs with Lavender Ice-Cream was just that. The figs were so so soft and sweet they left my plate in no time at all!

I have eaten at Cafe a Vin and was impressed with the great value, fine food they served. I was equally impressed at Bistrot de Luxe. Jazz Sunday (the first Sunday in every month) at Bistrot de Luxe also sounds like a fun way to end the weekend on a high note.

Happy Birthday Bistrot de Luxe! I’m sure you will be around for many many more!Ms Macaroon was invited as a guest of Bistrot de Luxe.


I had walked past Zucca as it was being constructed, after it opened and still after all the hype, I hadn’t ventured in. Walking past on a whim one day , I was curious to find out what the fuss was all about…

I managed to get a last minute table at 1230, as they opened. The restaurant is housed in a small space below some new apartments.  The owner and chef, Sam Harris, has chosen to furnish the place in a sleek manor.  Simple white tables and chairs, minimal art adorning the walls and an open kitchen.  The lush brown carpet did soften the surroundings somewhat.  It gave me the feeling that Sam had been inspired by the surroundings and open kitchen at River Cafe. Little did I know he had done a stint there sometime ago. He has also worked at Bibendum, Harvey Nichols and as an inspector for Egon Ronay.

The airconditioning was cranking and I was feeling chilly. I guess it can get quite warm when the stoves and grills are firing on full in the middle of service. The team were friendly and the menu fairly simple. I finally made my choices.

Sea Bream Carpaccio arrived looking quite rustic. The bream was very thickly sliced, peppered with mild chilli, cracked black pepper, rock salt and olive oil. I have to say I really struggled to finish it.  I felt it was drowned in the olive oil and I found it unpleasant to crunch into chunks of rock salt. I’m not sure about thick carpaccio either, kind of didn’t feel right.I like to order specials, if a restaurant is offering. Today’s was pasta,  Fresh Tagniatelli with Guanciale. The pasta was perfect, not over cooked and deliciously rich. The guanciale (cured pigs cheek) had been crispy fried and tasted like a salt bucket. I caught a bit of the cured pork flavour but was too over whelmed by the salt component to enjoy it.The dessert menu is recited by the waitress. I’m not sure why, as the menu is printed on simple paper which could be updated daily. Never the less I couldn’t fit much more in and decided on a simple Affogatto. The icecream was creamy and the vanilla bean seeds were densely scattered throughout.  You can’t really go wrong with affogatto (it would be a sad place if  they couldn’t get that right).

So three courses with a bottle of water came close to £20. The place is not expensive, the food is ok but I wasn’t inspired or over whelmed by anything. The tables are quite close and the gentlemen beside me were loving every dish, as alot of other people have.  Maybe I didn’t get the best from Zucca that day but I didn’t enjoy my meal at all.

As I sat there I saw the restaurant fill and they were turning people away. I couldn’t understand?? Is it the novelty of a new place to try on Bermondsey St, the need for reasonably good food at a good price in the area or all the good publicity it has been getting? I’m still not sure but I wont be knocking on their door again anytime soon.


Every now and then someone tells you about a little gem you have never heard of.  Bingham, in Richmond, had just earnt its first Michelin star, earlier this year, when a friend suggested I should check it out.  The newly refurbished, Bingham Restaurant is part of a boutique hotel overlooking the Thames. Head Chef, Shay Cooper has worked the kitchens of Putney Bridge, Juniper in Altrincham, The Vineyard at Stockcross and Endsleigh in Devon, where he was awarded 3AA rosettes.

 Gourmet Traveller and I had decided to meet, for the first time, over lunch, of course. The whole menu looked inviting to me and we were both indecisive. Thank goodness the waiter suggested the set seasonal lunch menu.

Immersed in conversation with Gourmet Traveller, I deleted the best of the entree pictures. The Chilled Pea Soup, scottish girolles, Parmesan royale, and herb oil does look beautiful though. The chilled soup was a perfect temperature accentuating the fresh summer pea flavour. The Parmesan ‘custard bake’ provided a different texture to the dish along with the tiny salty Parmesan crisps. You didn’t see the bottom of the bowl but the glaze on the bowl was beautiful too.Organic Sea Trout, celeriac and vanilla, razor clam, pistachio and bacon.  Another beautiful presentation.  I really enjoyed this dish and thought the inclusion of the bacon really brought the dish together.  The sweetness of the celeriac, vanilla and razor clam benefited from the balance the bacon brought. The sea trout was not over cooked and a surprise roll of samphire underneath it pleased me even more.There were two choices on the set lunch menu. Strangely I didn’t feel like the lemon tart, which I generally hold a fondness for, but chose the vanilla parfait option.  The vanilla parfait, strawberry sorbet arrived to have the raspberry and thyme consumme poured into the bowl at the table. The parfait rolled in ground gingerbread was really too creamy for me, even with the tart raspberry, and strawberry sorbet it wasn’t enough to cut through these dense creamy little rolls. Gourmet Traveller opted for the mint tea with petit fours. There were quite a few, so I stole a tiny blood orange jelly. lovely.

I have to say my whole experience at Bingham was lovely, yes Gourmet Traveller and I had lots to talk about too!  Bingham have a large bar area with tall french doors opening onto a terrace, somewhere you could imagine whiling away the afternoon hours.  The staff were friendly and every thing was served in a timely manner. The set lunch menu was a steal at £23 for 3 courses and  the A la Carte menu £39 for 3 courses.  I hope the people of Richmond are making the most of the Bingham. I wouldn’t hesitate to.


The Ladbroke Arms

On a rare balmy night in London….….. I was catching up with a friend. She had cycled past a pub that caught her eye and we thought we would give it a try. We were very pleasantly surprised. The usual “why haven’t we been here before” rang true in our heads! But that’s London, you never know what gems you might find around the next corner.

Wanting to have a girlie catch up and not impose the obligatory food photography, I opted to leave the camera in the handbag. By the end of the meal I knew I had to come back to gather the evidence for you all (not because I wanted to eat there again at all)!

I was a little disappointed the Scottish Langoustines with aioli had left the menu from last week, but I guess that shows they try to buy good fresh produce for a decent price (smart pub management, I say).

The suggestion, for a light starter, from the waiter, was the Baked Crottin with hazelnuts, watercress, baby spinach, pears and honey vinaigrette. I thought it looked inviting and it tasted quite delicious. I would have liked the vinaigrette to have more bite though, a bit more sherry or cabernet vinager would have done the trick nicely. But I’m not complaining, it was not too overdressed and the cheese was delicate.Roast Halibut, girolles, peas, broad beans, Jersey royals and mint. The halibut was beautifully cooked and the cutlet style portions are perfect for relaxed pub fare. I have to say though must have been a reasonably small halibut. Delicious and meaty none the less, with the surprise of a few artichokes in the vegetable accompaniments.It had started to rain lightly so I headed inside. The staff didn’t seem to worry and promptly found where I had huddled away. Dessert?? feeling full I opted for the strawberry and mango sorbets.A perfect end to the meal on a humid summers day. The mango sorbet was certainly the winner for me and I enjoyed the simple almond tuile.

This pub was a great find! The wine list is simple, but good, with a variety of regions, old and new. You need to leave your card behind the bar to order food and are warned on the menu that there may be a wait due to the small kitchen. I didn’t find either a problem. My first visit was on a very busy Saturday night and the next for a quite Friday lunch. I thought the wait for food on each occasion quite reasonable. As you can imagine it is popular with the locals! Like Me!!!