A Birthday Tour of London: Chocolate and Coffee

It being my birthday, we decided to head down to London and check out a few places we hadn’t had chance to make it to yet, taking in a bit of art along the way. With a wealth of great options it was difficult to decide where to go for breakfast, but after some deliberation Lantana Café was chosen, owing to the combined quality of food and coffee.

Lantana Café

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Taking up a sizeable quiet spot on Charlotte Place in Fitzrovia, there’s a lively buzz going on inside its monochrome exterior, as we step in and take our seats on the high table towards the back of the room. Lantana is busy, but everyone looks in a fine mood snapping away and instagramming their food. The staff are busy too, but very welcoming and impressively attentive, considering the ratio of staff to customers. First things first we order a long black and a cappuccino before we browse the food menu. The coffee here is a house espresso blend roasted by Alchemy, which at the time of drinking was made up of a Brazilian Samambaia pulped natural yellow bourbon, a Brazilian Sertaozinho natural yellow bourbon and a Colombian washed mix of caturra, colombia and castillo from Los Guacharos. All those elements combined, make a coffee that is both bright and sweet with cherry and redcurrant jam like flavours.

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Eventually after much debating, we ordered the toasted courgette bread with grilled halloumi, roasted tomatoes, a poached egg and chilli jam and the slow braised smoky beans with Lantana potato bread, a pickled red onion, basil, watercress and rocket salad and an additional poached egg for good measure. The food was great and exactly what we needed to start a long day wandering around London, as starving as we were, the food was hearty and flavoursome leaving us both satisfied and full. There are no pictures of the food unfortunately, so you’ll just have to believe me and go enjoy it for yourself. Heading back out into the sunshine, we set off for Curator’s Coffee Gallery.

http://lantanacafe.co.uk/lantana-cafe-fitzrovia

13 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia, London
W1T 1SN

Curator’s Coffee Gallery

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Curator’s Coffee Gallery isn’t that bold from the outside, but inside its bright, stylish and spacious, which you can see more of at Brian’s Coffee Spot and Audrey Fiodorenko’s blog justcurioustoknow. As the name suggests, the interior is designed as a space where coffee and creativity come together to foster an innovative and playful atmosphere. Perusing the menu, we opt for a double chemex to share of Clifton Coffee Co’s Pacas varietal from Finca La Bendicion in El Salvador, before grabbing a carafe of water and heading downstairs into the basement.

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On arrival the coffee gave off aromas of honeyed yellow fruits with light notes of shortbread biscuit and it tasted just as good, with honeycomb, pineapple and clementine flavours landing on the palate before finishing with a light shortbread sweetness. The coffee was ideally curated for chemex, clean, sweet and almost tealike in mouthfeel, it was a pleasure to drink. The basement was equally nice to sit in, relaxed, clean and with a large window to outside world, where you had the pleasure of watching passers by from below the pavement.

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Words don’t really do Curator’s Coffee Gallery justice, you just kind of have to sit in it and drink in it to enjoy it’s atmosphere.

http://www.curatorscoffee.com/locations/

51 Margaret Street, London
W1W 8SG

After Curators Coffee Gallery we made our way to the National Gallery to see their Soundscapes exhibition, where musicians and sound artists had been commissioned to create an audible collaboration with a painting of their choosing from the gallery’s archives. Featuring coexhibits from Susan Philipsz and Hans Holbein the Younger, Gabriel Yared and Paul Cezanne and potentially more familar to you, Jamie xx and Theo Van Rysselberghe. As immersive and enjoyable an experience as it was, we couldn’t stay forever and chocolate experiences were calling.

Rabot 1745

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Thouroughly dedicated, Rabot 1745 is a treasure trove to all things chocolate, from cacao beans to single origin bars, from cacao nib ice cream to farm to cup hot chocolate and many more delightful selections of award winning chocolates. It’s difficult not to pay this place a visit every time I’m in London. Feeling a little tired and hungry, we opted to get something delicious to tide us over before I set about rummaging through the single origin shelf.

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The choice seemed simple picking up this delicious looking brownie, until we sat down realising we had missed a cacao nib ice cream machine in the doorway as we walked in. Excited to try it, we immediately went back to purchase one and added it to our afternoon treat.

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Both tasted delicious, the brownie with big chocolatey indulgent flavours and the ice cream with sharp clean vanilla flaours and that bittersweet cacao nib crunch. It was a joy to sit in Rabot’s window staring out onto borough market in it’s airy and warmly lit atmostphere, feeling part inside, part outside. Boosted with cacao energy I took a look through the selection of bars in the corner and picked up four exciting bars to add to my collection.

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http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/restaurants/rabot-1745

2-4 Bedale Street, Borough Market, London
SE1 9AL

Having enjoyed our quick stop, it was time to head back across London to William Curley’s joint, taking in another coffeestop en route.

Kaffeine

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Having always heard good things about Kaffeine and with them opening their second branch before I’d even had time to visit their first, it was time to pay them a long due visit. On entering it was a little smaller than I’d expected, but they’d made good use of the space with plenty of seats available, including a popular looking bench, outside the front window. With its exposed brickwork walls and wooden pallet tables, Kaffeine has a charming rustic warehouse feel to the place, which feels cool and relaxed without being in your face about it. On the brew menu that day was a Kenya Kamwangi AA available as cold brew, which was exactly what we were looking for.

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On the nose there was yellow fruits and toffee, which is what I wanted and expected from this cold brew. To taste there was melon and golden delicious apple flavours with a toffee sweetness and hints of lemon on the finish. Strangely the cold brew reminded me of iced gems, which I haven’t had since I was a kid. Lovely all the same and well worth the visit and we would have stayed longer if it wasn’t getting so late.

http://www.kaffeine.co.uk/

66 Great Tichfield, London
W1W 7QJ

William Curley

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A little less central than say Paul A Young I’d always struggled to fit in a visit to William Curley’s shop or ‘flagship boutique’ in Belgravia, but I was determined not to leave London this time without making a dedicated visit there. Having won endless Academy of Chocolate awards including ‘Best British Chocolatier’ and more than a few gold awards for his chocolates filled with a Chuao ganache, I was starting to feel like I was missing out on something special by not having tasted Mr Curley’s fine work. On arrival it was difficult not to just hand over our wallets and sit trying everything behind the glass cabinets, fortunately for our bank balances we managed to restrain ourselves and set about the difficult process of selecting nine chocolates to take away with us.

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After some time deliberating, we decided upon cherry blossom, Japanese black vinegar, rosemary and olive oil, juniper berry and cassis, passionfruit and mango, raspberry and toscano, passionfruit caramel and finally two Amedei Chuao ganaches. The stand out ones for me being the cherry blossom with its long round sweet acidity, the passionfruit caramel with its strong fruity flavour and milk chocolate finish and somewhat unsurprisingly the Chuao ganache with its smoky red fruit flavours and notorious smoothness. It was a good mix of well prepared classics, with some more original and interesting flavours, well worth the dedicated visit to pick them up.

www.williamcurley.com/

198 Ebury Street, Belgravia, London
SW1W 8UN

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