Camden Markets and the Cereal Killer Cafe, London England

There’s a lot to love about the central areas of the city of London. Amazing skyline along the river, restaurants, cafes, theatres, shops, nightlife… there’s always something to do, something to see, and something to eat. If only London was cheaper, I could definitely see myself living there!

There’s lots to love outside of central London though, and the northern area of Camden Town is particularly well beloved by cool young millenials.

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Camden Markets are full of market stalls catering to various sub-cultures – gothic, steampunk, hippie, retro vintage, and more. There are stalls selling souvenirs for tourists, many second-hand bookstores, and food stalls as well.

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You can definitely spend hours just wandering around the markets exploring the different stalls. I loved looking at all the vintage tea sets and browsing through the shelves of the second-hand book stalls.

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I got hungry before long though and we decided to settle for getting some lunch from one of the food stalls on the north side of the market. There are other options though if you’re looking for more variety – a wealth of Asian cuisine in the centre of the market, and a million food trucks and temporary food stalls set up in an area by the Camden Lock.

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A Mexican food stall looked like the best of the options on the north side of the market – a vegetarian quesadilla for myself and a taco bowl salad for K which was actually presented in two taco shells rather than an actual taco bowl! The quesadilla and the tacos were quite flavourful and highly cheesy, but I think the real highlight were the corn chips which were so crunchy that it tasted as though they were freshly fried.

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However, forget the Mexican food. The real highlight of our visit to the Camden Markets was visiting the Cereal Killer Cafe for dessert. You’ve no doubt read various condemnatory articles about the ridiculous Gen-Y hipster-ness of this concept. A cafe that serves cereals from around the world and charges over $5AUD per bowl for the privilege? It’s an incredibly overpriced first-world concept but I’m going to be honest – it appealed to the over-privileged hipster in me!

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They’re not lying when they say that they offer a wide range of cereals – interestingly, healthier cereal options are few and far between as they cater to the nostalgic sweet dreams of millenials as they offer the most chocolatey, marshmallowy, honeyed, sugary cereals to be found. Their suggested themed cereal mixes (‘chocopottomus’, ‘double rainbow’, ‘feckin nut case’, mint choc cHipster’, ‘miss american pie’) speak for themselves.

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Beside cereal, they also offer other naughty ‘breakfast’ treats – poptarts, cereal-flavoured lip balms, and more. Their primary market is catered to throughout the cafe as well – the walls are decorated with Spice Girls wallpaper, Billie Piper and other 90s pop stars blast from the stereo, decorated cartoon lunchboxes line one wall, and old CRT TVs play 90s shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Millenials yearning for the innocence of their 90s childhood is who they’re targeting, and they’re doing it well.

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We were there for dessert, and I needed to choose one of their over-the-top hot chocolate concoctions once I saw the picture – this is a Stacked Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate. Served with overflowing whipped cream, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, puffed peanut cereal bits and rivers of chocolate sauce, I really shouldn’t have been surprised that I developed a sugar-related headache soon after I had this hot chocolate!

Structural integrity unfortunately is not a strength here – the hot chocolate quickly melts all the other elements and before long you end up with a sticky chocolate and peanut pond on the plate.

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We finished off with one bowl of sugary dessert cereal to share – a bowl of Unicorn Poop. This is made up of Ricicles, Party Rings, Marshmallow Fluff, marshmallows, hundreds and thousands and semi skimmed milk. Colourful it is and sweet too…I suppose that unicorn poop really would taste like this!

Visiting the Cereal Killer Cafe would only make sense if you’re a young person in your twenties and thirties with a healthy amount of disposable income, a yearning for the innocence of childhood, and an irrepressible sweet tooth. It’s something you might visit once to say that you’ve been there, and you’ve ticked it off your ‘food fad’ list of must-dos.

I did note with interest however that they hold parties and functions in the cafe after hours – this would be the type of place that I would want to hold a retro nostalgic 30th birthday party…which eep, is coming up in November for me!

Cereal Killer Cafe is located in Camden Markets and also in Brick Lane.

Review: The Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe, London England

A later-than-expected evening out with some of K’s chatty Irish relatives scuppered our initial plans to do a quick daytrip down to Brighton from London the following day. Alas rocky and pebbly Brighton beach, we shall have to meet another time!

We had to quickly scramble to come up with a new plan for the day – luckily London has a million different things to offer! We kept it simple with a stroll along the Thames, stopping every so often to watch the weekend street performers, kids at the skate park, as well as ducking into galleries and exhibition spaces along the way…a perfect leisurely winter’s day with blue skies above and the sun shining all the while.

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By the time lunchtime rolled around and we started feeling a little bit peckish, we found ourselves outside Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre so we ducked into the attached Swan London Bar & Restaurant.

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I won’t lie – it is a little bit touristy. During the day, they handle a lot of traffic from tourists doing the Globe Theatre tour, as well those visiting the nearby Tate Modern museum. If you’re dining as a couple or in a smaller group you won’t have any issues getting a table (be prepared to sit at the long communal table though), but make sure you make a booking if you’re with a larger group.

Belvoir lemonade and elderflower, 3.50 GBP each
Belvoir lemonade and elderflower, 3.50 GBP each

What we’ve been finding is that England is particularly good at supporting local producers. They may offer the standard Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite soft drinks on the menu, but most establishments will also offer a locally-made non-alcoholic alternative. In this case, we chose a Belvoir Elderflower drink (very fruity and sweet – tastes a bit like lychee juice) and a Belvoir Organic Lemonade (like a Solo, but not as sweet or fizzy – much more enjoyable as a result!).

For those in Australia interested in trying these drinks, I looked up our local supplier who can be found here. They’re mainly stocked in organic health food stores, or other upmarket grocery stores. I’ll certainly be looking them up when we return!

Roast Daphne's lamb leg with all the trimmings, 17.50 GBP
Roast Daphne’s lamb leg with all the trimmings, 17.50 GBP

We were there on a Sunday so naturally we had to order off their Roasts menu. I ordered the Roast Lamb Leg – and of course, all roasts are served with ‘all the trimmings’.

In this case, it includes a creamy cauliflower bake, roast potatoes, roast carrots, steamed kale, a massive Yorkshire pudding, and a little pitcher of gravy. I found the cauliflower bake a bit bland, but everything else was vastly improved with a liberal dash of rich gravy – lamb included which was roasted a bit more than I would normally like as it lacked the pink tinge that a good roast lamb leg should always have.

Roast Old Hall Farm pork belly with all the trimmings, 16.50 GBP
Roast Old Hall Farm pork belly with all the trimmings, 16.50 GBP

K’s choice of the roast pork loin wasn’t available, but the restaurant was able to sub in a Roast Pork Belly with all the trimmings. This was a little bit disappointing to be honest, with the crunchy crackling the only redeeming element. Everything else was overly dry and overcooked, losing the tender fattiness that should characterise good pork belly.

We walked out of the Swan a little bit disappointed by the quality of the roast meat – it’s not roasts the way we do them at home with lamb left a little bit rare and pork belly left dripping with fat. Roasts at the Swan are truly roasted right through, following British meat cooking techniques of twenty years ago – they haven’t modernised for modern palates yet. Improvements are needed – unless of course, you want overcooked meat the way your own old English granny used to cook it!

The Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe is located at 21 New Globe Walk in Bankside, London.

Review: Dinner by Heston, London England

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

The meal that I enjoyed at The Fat Duck in Melbourne in 2015 is still without doubt the best meal I’ve ever had – even when you take into account outings at Sepia, Tetsuya’s, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Steirereck and Amass. There’s something about the majesty and theatrical nature of Fat Duck experiences that’s simply unparalleled.

There was no real opportunity for K and I to visit the Fat Duck in Bray during our time in England. Time and budget wasn’t on our side. What we could try was a lunch at Dinner by Heston at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge. Dinner by Heston has now opened up in Melbourne now in place of The Fat Duck of course, so we thought a visit to the original restaurant would be a great way to get a taster of what we could expect from the Melbourne site.

There’s a few different ways that you can choose to have the Dinner by Heston experience – there’s a set lunch menu which K chose, or you can order a la carte as I did to ensure that you get to try some of their signature dishes. If you’re lucky, you can even book the chef’s table for a special tasting menu. On the day that we went, we chose these dishes:

Entrée

K: Lemon Salad (c.1730) with smoked artichoke, goats curd and beetroot (part of 40 GBP set lunch menu)

Me: Meat Fruit (c. 1500) with mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread (17.50 GBP)

Mains

K: Roast Pollack with Admiral’s sauce (c. 1830) with parsnip puree, shrimps, shallots, brown butter and capers (part of 40 GBP set lunch menu)

Me: Powdered Duck Breast (c. 1670) with smoked confit fennel, smoked beetroot and umbles (36 GBP)

Sides: Carrots and caraway (4.75 GBP) and triple cooked chuips (6 GBP)

Desserts

K: Marmalade Pudding (c. 1750) with blood orange, Campari, goats milk and lemon thyme ice-cream (part of 40 GBP set lunch menu)

Me: Tipsy Cake (c. 1810) with spit roast pineapple (14.50 GBP)

What do the dates mean next to each dish? Some of you will know that the whole concept behind Dinner by Heston is a celebration of traditional British cuisine, updated of course, to suit Heston’s modern techniques and tastes.

So my entrée of a meat fruit actually stems from an English recipe dating back to 1500, the time of the Tudor dynasty in England. It’s been updated by Heston to feature his signature ‘what you see isn’t what you get’ touch. Here, what looks like a simple mandarin is actually a delicious ball of creamy aerated ball of chicken liver parfait wrapped in a fresh citrus gel.

The same thing applies to all the other dishes – they’re modern interpretations of recipes that have been found by Heston in old housewives household manuals, royal menus, and other cookery books. If you ever wanted to eat your way through decades-worth of A History of English Cooking, Dinner by Heston has you covered.

My food highlight is the meat fruit of course for its moreish liver parfait – rich without being too rich, meaty without being too meaty, and just light enough to justify eating a whole ball of it on thick toast slices. I also loved the Tipsy Cake with its custard-soaked brioche pudding and caramelised pineapple – this is one dish I have to try making at home! If you prefer a lighter dessert, K’s Marmalade Pudding was a perfect light, fresh and palate-cleansing dessert – one perfect for a warm summer’s day.

Beyond the food, Dinner by Heston also offers some fantastic drink options. There’s an extensive wine list of course, but they also mix up some of the amazing infused juices that I first experienced at Fat Duck Melbourne. On this particular day, I had a startlingly spicy chilli-infused orange juice that had the two-fold effect of quenching my thirst while leaving a surprisingly hot chilli afterburn. I’d never really tried chilli and orange as a combination before, but this juice sold me on the combination!

So how has this experience set up our expectations for a future meal at Dinner by Heston Melbourne? If anything, I think we’re probably more excited about the possibility now – not only was the food and drink remarkable in its modernity given its traditional roots, but from all accounts, the Melbourne branch includes some interesting Australian offerings. It’ll be fascinating to see how they can interpret a traditional English menu with Australian ingredients.