Quite apart from having six floors of books (you can happily spend hours browsing) this store has a handy cafe and bar on the fifth floor which I found nice and relaxing having dodged into the store to get out of the rain!
203-206 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LE
+44(0)843 290 8549
Google map: bit.ly/W4Nfj8
Wherever you are in London the Regents Canal is never too far. On a crisp autumn day, especially in the morning when the water is so calm there is no nicer way to travel then a walk along here. The east side is my favourite with many snack bars and coffee hubs where you can sit and watch the Hackney posse rock about. Better yet are the charming houseboats that are docked up, especially towards trendy Broadway market which have taken to selling goods and sometimes even having live music. Take bread to feed the ducks and enjoy a piece of real London living.
The best place to start is the opening near Angel tube and the Canal can take you all the way to Victoria park.
The Lea Valley walk is a lovely stroll for Londoners at any time of the year, but in autumn I think the combination of trees, leaves and water is particularly lovely.
For an 11ish mile walk, I recommend heading north from Limehouse to finish up at Ponders End, where you can catch the train back to Liverpool Street Station. For a shorter stretch start or stop at Markfield Park, about 1/2 mile from Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale tube/train stations.
En route you pass the surprising and stunning Three Mills, the Olympic Park (albeit through security fencing), and breathe in the fresh air of the great green expanses of Hackney, Walthamstow and Tottenham Marshes - and then you're in the countryside with narrowboats and fishermen.
The whole route follows the reflective waters of the Lee/Lea in its various guises - from the Limehouse Cut to the Lee Navigation to the River Lea.
My favourite place to break the walk for a bite to eat is Pistachio's in the Park Cafe in Markfield Park which runs alongside the Lee Navigation.
For a coffee early on in the route, and good food too, you can detour to the Counter Cafe in Hackney Wick - it's on the west side of the canal at the junction with the Hertford Union Canal - which itself offers up a whole host of alternative destinations!
For me, the hardest thing about doing any of the Lea Valley Walk was working out how to get onto it. If you are walking from Limehouse aim for St Anne's Church - it marks the point where Commercial Road crosses Limehouse Cut, and there's access to the canal there. St Anne's is also one of Hawesmoor's churches and its website is great for directions - you can get there easily on the No 15 bus from central London, or on the DLR (Limehouse/West Ferry stations).
Lea Valley Walk information: www.walklondon.org.uk/route.asp?R=4
A Walk Along The Limehouse Cut Canal (lots of info about what you'll see on the early section): www.imvisitinglondon.com/limehousecut.html
Three Mills: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mills
Pistacios in the Park: pistachiosinthepark.org.uk/category/markfieldpark
Friends of Markfield Park (good map): www.markfieldpark.org.uk/
Counter Cafe: thecountercafe.co.uk/
St Anne's Church website (great directions): stanneslimehouse.org/location.html
TfL bus route map finder: www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gettingaround/maps/buses/
For those who want everything a classic French Cafe/Bistro has to offer, including atmosphere, Tour de France cyclists in full gear (on a Sunday morning anyway) and right at the base of South London's Eiffel Tower (i.e. The Crystal Palace Communications Antenna), look no further than the complelely brilliant Cafe St Germain. The menu is authentic too, and you can light up your Gauloise on the terrace whilst watching Gay Palace stroll by.
So many visitors in the crushing crowds inching down Portobello Road completely miss the wonderful antique stalls in the rambling arcades. So go early - 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning - and enjoy the opportunity to talk unhurriedly to experts in their trade, then buy some beautiful, unusual presents for your friends or yourself. At 10 o'clock have coffee and freshly baked cakes at 'Books for Cooks' and leave the Road to the growing throng.
Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 www.portobelloroad.co.uk/
Google map: bit.ly/GYCQzz
Books for Cooks:
4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, W11 1NN
+44(0)20 7221 1992
Google map: bit.ly/Hi7DVH
We've had a lot of fun looking for the best chai in many places in India and have tasted some exceptional brews. But the biggest surprise has been to find one of the best chai places ever on London's Goswell Road, between Old Street and Angel. Chaiwala's is an unusual combination of gourmet Indian tea and coffee house and student cafe, located between the City University and the VFS Indian Visa Centre (so it's ideal for a rewarding cup of chai if you're getting a visa). Anyone who likes chai will find it worth a special trip. This is chai taken to a new level by dedicated enthusiasts who carefully spice your freshly-made chai to order (cardomom, ginger, mint, masala or however you like it) in Nanu, Motu and Jadu sizes. There are exotic blends such as pink Kashmiri Chai (cinnamon, cardomom, saffron and honey topped with almonds and pistachios), excellent coffee, lassis and milkshakes, epic Indian street snacks (monster samosas and good roti wraps at student-friendly prices) and shisha pipes on the terrace. The local business community eats there too. The only drawback is limited weekend opening hours (until 3pm on Saturday, closed Sunday).
With the chaos and cars of Kingsland Road, Dalston’s busy high street just around the corner, the Farm Shop on Dalston Lane makes a welcome escape. Slightly bizarre stark white décor greets you on arrival in their first room with ‘aquaponic’ fish tanks and a wall of plants. There are signs explaining that the water is circulated between the fish tanks and the plants and this is all harvested off the roof, which incidentally is where they keep their chickens! Wandering through the shop is more like a science museum with gems of sustainable inspiration and you can even hire out the polytunnels for parties complete with a disco ball! Once you’ve finished exploring the shop sells a range of delicious foodstuffs – from London honey to today’s eggs to fish to fairtrade organic coffee. There’s also often art on the walls up for grabs and the café serves the best bacon sandwich in London! Much loved and recommended for an intriguing shopping experience – who knows, you could come away with a chicken!
After swimming lengths, I'm always famished.
Actually, I need no excuse to pop into the Brockwell Park's Lido Cafe, swim or no swim, I'll be there enjoying a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate. The menu is extensive and inspired with smaller portions for kids, and food served throughout the day. When the outdoor pool is open, there's even a little hut where swimmers and 'sunbathers' (ha!) can get snacks.
Special events include live jazz and flamenco evenings and five-course supper parties.
Art Deco fans can also admire the interior, when not gazing at all the beautiful bodies by the pool. Dream on!
Relay is a delightful tea room; a haven of calm, genteel, good manners in the hectic chaos of the market. Property tea is served in dainty china cups and the range of cakes and puddings is overwhelming. Look out for the eggshell blue walls and aroma of apple crumble wafting out across the avenue.
Located in Brixton Village market, the Brick Box is more than just a cafe, it's a meeting place for artists and dreamers, the creative folk of Brixton town. As the website proclaims: 'art, love & magic in the heart of South London'. It's a fun, chilled place to hang out with the arty crew.
The Brick Box
Brixton Village market, London SW9 8PS
Open Tue-Wed 10.30-18.00, Thur-Sat 10.30-22.00, Sun 10.30-17.00
Nearest tube: Victoria line to Brixton, buses 3, 35, 133, 159
Google map: bit.ly/nkW5Dn
Amazing sourdough bread that you can buy to take away or toast there and then in the huge Dualit toasters on tables outside the little venue. Lots of fantastic loaves, cakes and sausage rolls. Yum.
I never realised quite how seriously Kiwis take their coffee until I discovered Federation's fantastic brews. The flat white is a thing of joy and there are loads of tasty cakes.
Located in one of the arches under the railway line, Secondo is a delightful cafe and second hand clothing emporium. The arch is crammed with all manner of retro clothing, furnishings, there's even a caravan and a dinky bubble car! The menu is great and customers can request bigger portions if required to give strength to sort through the vast selection of vintage and retro clothing. A DJ plays music from the 1950s and 1980s in the caravan on Friday and Saturday evenings. Great idea, great place.
Gorgeous food on a mouthwatering menu: no wonder it's heaving at lunchtime. I choose the earlier breakfast with the divine eggs benedict, a huge variety of breakfasts, including the Full English, Veggie and Turkish (hash browns, halloumi, olives - yum), omelettes and sandwiches. For lunch, visitors are also spoiled for choice with spag bol, curries, burgers, panini, jacket potatoes and salads. This is all washed down with smoothies, drinking yoghurts and great coffees. Get in early to get a seat in this lovely bistro/cafe, with its foliage and scrubbed wooden tables.
Love Walk Cafe & Deli
81 Denmark Hill, London SE5 8RS
+44 207 703 9898
Open Mon-Fri 07.00-19.00, Sat 08.00-19.00, Sun 09.00-19.00
Overground to Denmark Hill, bus 35, 45, 68, 468
Google map: bit.ly/pdCHli
Caledonian Road which has a number of sophisticated eateries. If you’re just after a pick-me up visit the fun and friendly Drink, Shop, Do a bright open space with knick-knacks to look at and admire and a great selection of cakes.
This delightful Turkish cafe and restaurant has long been a favourite with Camberwell foodies, but it has recently reopened after renovation and is even better. Vast trays of sticky baklava and other tasty pastries, drenched in honey and speckled with pistachio nuts, fill the window and it's virtually impossible to pass by without being tempted inside for a bite. Tadim serves everything from pizza to meze, moussaka to croissants. There are toasted sandwiches, strong, thick coffees and a huge range of vegetarian delicacies. Tadim is a really friendly place, summed up by their motto: 'Love all & serve all'. Sweet.
41 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR
+44 207 277 2910
Open daily 08.00-23.00
Buses 12, 36, 68, 171, 345, 436, 468 to Camberwell Green
Google map: bit.ly/qVNbNK
The café has all manner of taste treats to tempt art lovers inside its bright white walls. The café is at the front, with a massive shop window facing the street. The cakes are homemade and the snacks and sandwiches are prepared from fresh, healthy ingredients. The menu changes regularly. The gallery behind supports local artists and emerging talents. There are often private views and anybody can pop in.
70 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8QZ
+44 207 358 4475
Open Mon—Sat 09.00—18.00
Buses 12, 36, 436, 345, 171, 68, 468 to Camberwell Green
Google map: bit.ly/qa7iD4
This small, bright café serves Vietnamese sandwiches, baguettes and coffee at a bargain £1 a cup. Everything is freshly prepared and great value. The famous Bahn Mi sandwich combines delicious Vietnamese ingredients such as pickled cucumber and carrot, fish sauces, coriander, marinated beef and caramelized roasted pork with ingredients dating back to French colonialism in Vietnam; pate, mayonnaise and long crusty baguettes. A really great venue for morning coffee or a tasty lunchtime snack.
75 Denmark Hill, London SE5
+44 207 703 2531
Open Mon—Sat 09.00-17.00, for breakfast & lunch
Getting there: bus 35, 45, 68, 345, 468 to Denmark Hill
Google map: bit.ly/qDDJYU
Look out for the beautifully restored Art Deco facade and the white on black lettering reading 'Electrical Engineers' as you head up Peckham Rye for a stroll around the park.
Visitors are tempted inside this former electrical and hardware store by the beautiful furnishings, comfortable sofas, giant sanded dresser behind the bar and the collection of paintings by local artists adorning the walls. This cafe and art gallery hosts different exhibitions and private views every month. The cakes are all home-made and the menu includes some mouth-watering items such as smoked haddock, baby spinach and lemon fishcakes. The cafe/gallery opened in November 2010 and French manager Julie plans to incorporate a large deli, with meats, cheeses, home-baked bread and a vast range of tempting treats and there's an arts and crafts fair every Saturday morning on the leafy terrace, over the road from the Common. It's a wonderfully sophisticated, cultured yet friendly place to hang out in south Peckham.
184 Peckham Rye, London SE22 9AQ
+44 (0)203 490 3039
Open Mon-Sat 09.00-17.00, Sun 10.00-17.00
Evening openings and website coming soon
Bus No. 12 to Peckham Rye
Google map: bit.ly/p6WAxc
All Fired Up is a really lovely little cafe where visitors can choose a piece of ceramic art, a teapot, a plate or a cup and saucer and then paint it themselves to create a unique, individual work of art and an unusual gift for a friend. At the same time, sustenance is available to aid the creative process, with all manner of home-made cakes, sandwiches, Italian coffees and teas on offer. The shop/cafe stocks wrapping paper and cards and is a great destination for birthday parties and nursery visits.
All Fired Up Ceramics Cafe
34 East Dulwich Road, London SE22 9AX
+44 (0)207 732 6688
Mon-Sat 09.30-18.00 (late opening to 22.00 on Thur), Sun 11.00-17.00
Bus 12 to Peckham Rye
Google map: bit.ly/nmVYDY
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