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Category Archives: Lunchtime bites

Hungry in Hampstead

From time to time those of us living on the wrong side of the Finchley Road like to make the trip over the road and up the hill into Hampstead Village. And so it is that I have twice recently found myself in Hampstead at lunchtime. Both times we were looking for something light with room for coffee and cake afterwards. A sandwich lunch doesn’t quite merit having an entire post to itself, so here’s a 2 for 1, Ginger and White vs. Gail’s.

For it’s mismatching tables and chairs, focus on British food and Square Mile Coffee, Ginger and White is for me Hampstead’s #1 coffee stop. I’m hard to please when it comes to brownies, generally comparing them disfavourably to those heralding from my own kitchen. Theirs are exceptional and give a reviving sugar hit after a long walk up Arkwright Road with Gastrobaby dangling from his baby carrier (he sports an impressively chunky pair of thighs and is not light to carry!). So it was my first port of call when my sister and I decided to take a break from window shopping one day in August. We were pleased to get a table outside on Perrin’s Court and decided to share the goat’s cheese, mango chutney with baby spinach sandwich (£4.95) and the feta, beetroot and bulghur salad. The salad was frankly quite bland, with too much cos lettuce and not enough bulgur. The feta was good quality though, with a firm meaty texture. The sandwich was low on filling and too dry; the tasty chutney only partially redeeming something that could have been knocked up in any Hampstead yummy mummy’s kitchen. From Gastrobaby’s point of view, Ginger and White has a baby change facility though it’s short on space for buggies. He’s looking forward to sampling their kid friendly fish finger sandwich when he has a few more teeth.

With memories of this disappointing lunch still fresh in my mind, we walked past Ginger and Spice at lunchtime today and headed for Gail’s, part of the expanding bakery chain. As Gastrobaby slumbered in the buggy, we settled down at an outside table taking it in turns to head inside to study the extensive array of tarts, pastries, sandwiches and salads. The salads looked tempting but small, and we were hungry. Instead Gastrodad chose the chicken and roast fennel sandwich whilst I made the uninspired but safe choice of a ham and cheese sourdough sandwich. Both were toasted and came to £10.75. Unsurprisingly for an establishment priding itself on its breads, the sourdough was excellent. The filling was a bit mean though with no cheese at all in the first few mouthfuls. Gastrodad’s sole comment on his sandwich was ‘it’s good’, but the speed at which he gobbled it down suggested that he was pleased with his choice.

Chicken and Roast Fennel Sandwich

Ham and Cheese Sourdough Sandwich

As we finished our sandwiches, the beginnings of a cry came from the direction of the buggy, suggesting our down time was up! With no time for cake there and then, we pottered back to West Hampstead clutching a bag containing a raspberry bite (£1.20), a pistachio and chocolate bite (£1.20), and a pecan brownie (£3). The raspberry bite didn’t have enough raspberries in it but was moist. I enjoyed the chocolate and pistachio combination, but the brownie was too sticky for me.

So who wins? For superior coffee and cakes as well as a characterful interior, Ginger and White takes first place, but for a tasty sandwich at lunchtime, Gail’s will be my first port of call. Breakfast is still up for grabs, and judging from the enticing menus on offer at both, it looks like it could be a tough one.

Details:

Ginger and White, 4a-5a Perrins Court, London, NW3 1QS

Gail’s, 64 Hampstead High Street, London, NW3 1QH

David’s Deli

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I’ve walked past David’s Deli many times and never been tempted in, but with our original lunch plans having gone awry, we thought we would have a peek in. The welcome was warm and enthusiastic, and a glance at the food displayed in the counter convinced us to stay. This is a down to earth, unassuming café selling authentic Lebanese/Israeli food with friendly, confident service.

In the mood for a light lunch, we ordered hummus, which was sprinkled with sumac. The accompanying pitta was warm, soft and plentiful. Falafel was beautifully crisp and freshly cooked, drizzled with tahini sauce. A spinach salad with onion, tomato, mushrooms, peppers and olives was a nice balance to all the chickpeas, though we were unconvinced by the presence of tinned sweetcorn.

For the best falafel I’ve had in some time, characterful service and the added advantage of being just down the road from home, I’ll be back. Though not the smartest or cosiest of West Hampstead’s cafés, David’s Deli certainly holds its own on the food front and is a must-visit for locals.

Details:

David’s Deli, 341 West End Lane, West Hampstead, NW6 1RS

Food: 7/10

Rafa (7 months old)contentment: 9/10 (he slept for most of the time!)

Ladudu, Part 2: The Lunch

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Rafa and I had enjoyed a few coffee outings to Ladudu, West Hampstead’s most recent addition to the local food scene, and I was keen to progress to lunch. Our first attempt ended in disappointment when we arrived at the door on a Tuesday lunchtime, only to find they are closed on Tuesdays. A return trip the next day was worth the effort. This place puts West End Lane’s other Asian eateries into the shadows, delivering fresh, authentic and tasty food at noodle bar prices.

I was there with Gastrogranny, who is not a big eater, so we chose just one appetiser and two main dishes between us. The green papaya salad/Roi Du Du (£5.50) was perfectly crunchy, enhanced by the addition of chopped roasted almonds in place of the more typical peanuts. The sharpness of the lime was well balanced with a hint of fish sauce, leaving a refreshing tingly taste. I’m already planning further visits to work my way through the remaining appetisers, beginning with Vietnamese pancake (£5.50). We boringly drank tap water, which was iced and available in abundance.

We were keen to try the Spicy Beef Noodles/Bun Bo Hue (£7.50) but at 1pm it was still being cooked and was therefore disappointingly not available. Instead we had the now ubiquitous Pho, which proved a worthy substitute. The mellow flavour of the star anise came through beautifully, present but not overpoweringly so. I would have liked noodles with a little more bite, but the stock was spot on.

The day’s lunch special was Crispy Skin Chicken/Co’m Ga Da Gion (£7.00), which lived up to its name with sumptuously juicy, crispy skin, full of flavour. The mound of rice accompanying the chicken was a bit dry and only warm not hot, so defeated us in the end, but the pickled vegetables were a welcome complement.

The comfy leather seating with plenty of cushioning provided a perfect little playden for a full of beans seven month old, but by the end of two courses, Rafa’s patience was wearing thin, and we beat a hasty retreat with no time for pudding. I have however already earmarked the Pandan pancake with coconut filling/Banh Trang Ngot (£3.50) for next time.

As an Asian food loving NW6-er, I arrived at Ladudu eager not to be disappointed, and disappointed I was not. This is a welcome addition to the West Hampstead restaurant line up and is set to become my local lunch of choice.

Details:

Ladudu, 152 West End Lane, West Hampstead NW6 1SD

Overall: 8/10

Rafa contentment score: 8/10 (soft seating ideal for rolling)

Ladudu Part 1: Coffee

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My excitement over the opening of a Vietnamese restaurant on West End Lane, just minutes from our house, has been bubbling away since the Ladudu sign first made its appearance. Vietnamese food easily makes it into my top three world cuisines, and NW6 suffers from a drought of quality, authentic Asian food. My heart went out to owner, Teresa Le (follow her on Twitter @ladudufood), when I spotted a sign in the window on the restaurant’s inaugural day, announcing that due to a delay in the gas installation, no mains could be served. A restaurant with no gas?! Hardly the all singing all dancing opening every restaurateur would hope for! This problem has not been speedily resolved, and it is only today that Ladudu is finally closed for the said gas installation to take place. Yet they seemed to have rumbled along, still attracting custom with offerings of Vietnamese coffee, cakes and deserts, and with the help of an electric ring, even rustled up a few select mains each lunchtime. I popped in yesterday to try out West End Lane’s newest coffee venue and will be returning post-gas installation for the full works.

On entering Ladudu, there is an immediate sense of space and calm. The decor is contemporary Eastern style, with an abundance of dark wood and walls adorned with photographs of Vietnam. The Vietnamese phrase books and pots of herbs on the table add a quirky touch, and leather bucket seats were perfect for wedging Rafa in. Whilst he happily rolled around and desperately vied for attention from other customers, I enjoyed a latte and a pain au chocolat. Not a classic Vietnamese snack I have to concede; I drew more on the traditions of Vietnam’s former colonisers this time. The coffee easily beats that of the big chains just across the road (did you know Vietnam is the second largest coffee exporter in the world?), and my pain au choc came freshly warmed with the delectable crispiness that comes from an oven not a microwave.

Service was chirpy and enthusiastic and demonstrated knowledge of the way to win the loyalty of any new mum: comment on what a gorgeous baby they have 😉

I will miss the food trials next week as I gorge myself in the Loire Valley, but my mouth is already watering at the prospect of savouring fresh Vietnamese food on my return.

Natural Kitchen

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After a coffee meeting in Green Park, I found myself facing the conundrum breastfeeding mums find themselves faced with frequently: the next feed is fast approaching and I am 40 minutes from home. Do I make the dash back to West Hampstead and weather the unfriendly stares of fellow bus passengers as Rafa screams his way home, or do I find a breastfeeding friendly coffee shop? Of course, all coffee shops are theoretically ‘breastfeeding friendly’ on legal grounds, but when faced with a crowd of Mayfair office workers, ‘sore thumb’ is the phrase that comes to mind. My own rumbling stomach saw me opt for the second option, but cutting my losses in Mayfair, I marched speedily to the yummy mummy heartland of Marylebone High Street, straight into the welcoming arms of The Natural Kitchen.

Here I knew I would find a quiet table at the back, and perhaps even more importantly, a disabled toilet with a baby change, because Mummies need to go too! Should any doubts remain that mums and babies are welcome, the presence of various organic baby foods on sale should go some way to dispelling them. The food was less impressive than the amenities. Their salad selection is the crowd puller, but at my past few visits, the choice of salads has been thin, dominated by grains with a notable absence of fresh vegetables. I ordered falafel and hummus, accompanied by a barley concoction and a carrot and cabbage salad. The falafel was reheated and lacked the crispiness they have when fresh, they were also a little dry. The barley salad was nondescript and marred by pieces of an unidentifiable hard rubbery cheese.

The carrot and red cabbage salad however was tasty and added a pleasant crunch to the meal, if it was a little uninspired. And though I did not indulge my cake habit this time, previous experiences make me keen to return for a sweet treat, though I will probably give the salad a miss next time.

Mummy friendly score –10/10

Food – 5/10

Rafa contentment score – 5/5 (helped by the presence of milk)

Details:

The Natural Kitchen, 77-78 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5JX