Sunday, 29 June 2014

Take Two: Naomi and Ellen take London.

Hard to believe that it was just over three months ago that I met the wonderful Naomi for the first time. As soon as we had made it back home from Birmingham we both agreed that we had to meet again and to me there seemed no better place than London. I noticed from Naomi's posts that she has travelled to London before and I will never tire of visiting. I love nothing better than jumping on a train, exploring the city from each tube station to the next and seeing the many sites the capital has to offer. 

So yesterday we both made the trip to London, admittedly I had a far easier journey than Naomi who had to travel 3hrs in comparison to my 40 minute commute. I parked at Leagrave train station and took the 8:32am train to London St Pancras, using the journey to reflect on my past experiences of my weekly commute prior to living with Richard as well as taking the opportunity to read my neglected book. 

Within no time at all I was at St Pancras International which is one of my favourite stations it must be said and one which I feel is massively overlooked, seen more as a passing point than a station of interest. As I made my way to the ticket gate I could see Naomi waiting for me and we soon discussed our exhaustion and both agreed we needed sustenance and quick! We headed over to my trusted pit stop when at St Pancras, the one and only Starbucks. Here we both picked up a tall filter coffee and had a good catch up on the past few months events. 

Feeling refreshed we made the short walk over to Kings Cross Station, which is another favourite of mine thanks to its wonderful architecture... and of course the Harry Potter attractions. The queue for the trolley strategically (if not oddly) placed at Platform 9 ¾ was incredibly long so we both agreed to move on and find somewhere for breakfast and come back later (this however failed when we saw the size of the even bigger queue in the afternoon).

In terms of finding somewhere to eat, Naomi and I had done our own research prior to visiting. I scoured Google for 'quirky' cafés that would provide great photo opportunities and reviews for our blogs. I stumbled across several 'unusual' destinations including one café that had bicycles hanging in the window and another that was a converted public toilet. One caught my eye and as soon as sent it over to Naomi we both agreed we had to go. 

We caught the tube from Kings Cross to Barbican and walked a short way to Timberyard, a small and unassuming looking café on Old Street. Along the same street was another café I had seen reviewed online called 'Look Mum, no hands' which is a café come cycling shop. It's cool design and great name was certainly worthy of a picture and just having a quick peep through the window, we could see it was another popular destination for locals and tourists alike. 

We carried on down the street and across the road we saw Timberyard. I say 'we saw' when in actual fact we nearly walked straight past it. It is so unassuming and basic from the outside it is surprising that TimeOut reviewed it at all. 

We had a quick peek through the window and were reassured to see that it had been voted London Coffee Shop of the Year. We headed on in and were immediately wowed by the intimate feel of the shop and the incredible rustic décor. 

We soon began um-ing and ah-ing over the exciting selection of food and drink on offer but in no way felt rushed or pressured by the staff. Naomi questioned one member of the Timberyard team on their selection of teas and he described each of them with care only then to produce samples for us to try which I thought was incredibly kind. I settled on freshly squeezed orange juice and a rhubarb crumble croissant before choosing a table right by the front of the shop that looked out onto the street, perfect for people watching and keeping an eye on the unpredictable British weather. I immediately headed off to the toilets which were placed down a concealed staircase which led me to even more seating. The toilets themselves were some of the nicest I had been into, each with their own individual style and great scent. Big thumbs up from someone who hates public toilets. 

By the time I made it back to the table our order had arrived and it was presented beautifully. This was clearly a café that pays close attention to detail and truly took their theme to the next level, from the wine bottle full of complimentary water and the rustic sugar pot all the way down to my stripy vintage straw.

Sure it all looks good but what about the taste?

Well there were certainly no complaints from Naomi and I who polished off our order in no time at all. I normally steer clear of croissants because I find that they are too much pastry and not enough flavour but this definitely swayed my opinion. The rhubarb was delicious and the cold custard made a great complimentary touch. The orange juice was also fantastic and had a nice sharp flavour with just the right amount of pulp. 

Rather begrudgingly we left the Timberyard and headed out into the drizzly rain and made our way back to the station for a bit of much needed retail therapy.

From Barbican Station we navigated our way to Oxford Circus which was very busy indeed and every window was full of rainbow colours. Soon enough I put two and two together and did a quick Google search to see if my suspicions were correct. They were. It was London Pride and it was due to kick off any time now. We managed to push our way through the crowds and had a look around big names such as Topshop, H&M and Forever 21 while the festivities took place outside. 

After exploring shop after shop we soon headed back to yet another tube station and made our way to Covent Garden to fill our stomachs with delicious food. In many ways Timberyard set the standards not only in terms of food but also in relation to venue too. We walked around for what felt like hours, stopping off every now and again to read various menus and critically look at their choices. We stepped into a great variety of places including one which looked like a bikers bar rather than a burger joint and we both agreed we were no where near 'grimy' enough to eat there. We finally found Shake Shack, an upmarket burger restaurant that spanned the length of what can only be described as a small warehouse and courtyard overlooking the shops and cafés below. 

It looked very busy so we spoke to one of the restaurants greeters who politely explained the set up to us and that the wait would only be 10 to 15 minutes. We were ushered in holding a menu and quickly had to decide on the spot what we wanted, with me leaving Naomi to give our order, whilst I queued for seating. 

It was a very bizarre set up in my eyes and not very British at all. You don't simply make an order, get handed a number and find a table. Oh no, you have to decide on the spot, leave your companions who queue to give your order, you then have to queue separately just for the privilege of having a table, the orderer is then given a 'buzzer' and accompanies you in the queue. Should you be lucky enough to be seated, you then have to effectively have one person guard your table while the other dashes up to a window to collect your food. When they have returned the other then has to go and squeeze their choice of sauce into a pot and hope that no one has jumped in their grave by the time they get back. Very, very odd. 

With this in mind the food had a lot of making up to do and luckily we weren't disappointed. In the very little time we had to glance at the menu and make a decision we both chose the ShackBurger and fries. When eating out the last food in my mind is a burger, which I appreciate sounds very pretentious but for me I would rather go out for a meal and choose something I ordinarily wouldn't have at home, than something I could get out of the back of a shady looking van. I bit into my burger with reservations but immediately was impressed and I have to say the ShackBurger has changed my view about eating a burger at a restaurant. The burger itself was thin and meaty and there was an excellent combination of lettuce, tomato, cheese and their ShamShack sauce. The bun too wasn't thick and stodgy which to me made it the perfect burger. The fries too were delicious and perfectly seasoned.

So would I visit again? Well I certainly would have a meal from them again but I think the venue would have to be different because it has an element of chaos about it and you are very aware that there are a queue of hungry people standing behind you just waiting to jump in your seat even before you have picked up your belongings. This is a feeling that is shared on TimeOut's review also. 

After a quick look around some of the shops in the Piazza we had another look around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Tottenham Court Road before deciding to make our way back to St Pancras for a well deserved drink and rest before moving our separate ways. We stopped off at Sourced Market where I grabbed a refreshing Orange and Passion Fruit drink by Firefly. Resigned to the fact our adventure was over we prepared to go our separate ways but not before vowing to meet up again and of course to take a picture or two...

I hope our London adventure has inspired you to explore your local city or even the capital itself. Remember, adventures out there!

For more information on the places we have visited please see the links below:

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