Posts Tagged ‘Soho’

Bar Italia

April 23, 2023

On leaving Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, to Soho to find Bar Italia. I find without getting lost.

I am not disappointed. Excellent cappuccino at Bar Italia. My chocolate cheese cake on a par with desserts at In Love Again.

My coffee was the best of the day.

Bar Italia has not changed since it opened. They are still using an old Gaggia lever operated espresso machine. Shame the wide-screen TV at the end.

Bar Italia is old Soho, very little of which now remains.

London – King’s Cross – Covent Garden – Soho – Finsbury Park

April 21, 2023

LNER Azuma Lincoln to  King’s Cross, a two hour train journey.

On arrival at King’s Cross, a detour to Notes.

Notes has gone a long way down hill, summed up by disgusting Tony Chocolony slave trade industrial chocolate on display as walk in and loud music. What is it with places that think loud music is a great idea. The coffee was not great either.

How to buy a ticket for the Underground? I usually buy a cheap day return to London that includes all public transport, then never use. I learnt tap my phone on the barrier, then repeat as leave the system.

King’s Cross to Covent Garden.

I look in Neil’s Yard Dairy, Mecca for cheese lovers. I am sorely tempted but nowhere to keep the cheese cool.

My destination, Home Slice in Neal’s Yard. The destination for pizza. 24 inch pizza cooked in a wood fired clay oven. Would I be disappointed after pizza from an Italian world champion pizza maker? No, it was on a par. I would have liked to ask questions on the pizza, but no time,vI wished to visit Monmouth Coffee. I am regretting my detour to Notes.

I make Monmouth as they are about to close. They don’t chase me out. On leaving, I am asked do I wish for croissants?No great fan. I eat one at midnight. I cannot believe how good. It is worth a visit to Monmouth just for the croissants.

To Soho to find Bar Italia. I find without getting lost. Excellent cappuccino at Bar Italia. My chocolate cheese cake on a par with desserts at In Love Again.

I see a bus is going to Finsbury Park, but a night bus. Otherwise I would have caught a bus.

I take Picadilly Line to Finsbury Park. My phone fails when I try to enter the barrier.

Station staff advise, buy an Oyster Card and top it up. Use machine, twelve pounds.

I go the wrong way out of Finsbury Park. Hard to get my bearings in the dark. I walk around to where I should have exited.

Synchronicity: Looking across the road I see Pizza Pilgrims. Only the day before I started reading Pizza by Pizza Pilgrims. It looks like a takeaway.

I hesitate, retrace my steps, cross the road and walk in. An interesting conversation ensues. Open Friday lunchtime? Yes. OK, I will return for lunch.

I am now checking in very late for Travelodge. Now dark, and I am not to sure of the way. I walk past. A lady in the street when asked, tells me to turn around.

My room cold, shower floods the bathroom. I ask reception to have someone mop up the water. Not possible.

Now late, restaurants close at ten, nearly ten. The only one open, JoJo Kitchen an Ethiopian Restaurant along Blackstone Road.

Gangs hanging around on Blackstone Road.

Restaurants closed, and yet barber shops are open. Not only open, busy.

Ethiopian restaurant empty. I don’t know what to eat. The top two items on the menu, lamb, one not spicy the other spicy. I ask for the second one, not too spicy.

A cold metal tray is brought. On the tray, thin, cold, soggy flatbread. What constitutes a lamb stew is poured into the middle. I am told to eat, fold the cold soggy flatbread around the lamb stre. I try. It falls to bits.

The most disgusting dish I have ever eaten. So spicy to be inedible. The lamb is tough.

Walking back. Barber shops open and busy. A bakery open. I ask and are told it will be closed at midnight

I find a coffee shop that is open. When closed? 1am. WiFi? No.

I call it a night.

Reclaim the Streets Soho

June 3, 2020

The impact of covid-19 has hit everyone hard, every sector, but none so hard as the hospitality sector, with no sign yet of when they may be able to open.

Look at Soho, boarded-up streets and unless action is taken soon, they will remain boarded-up. And unlike airlines and travel sector which spread covid-19, are victims.

And yet it should not have been. Opening up too soon, relaxing lockdown, will create a second wave, but there was absolutely no reason why indie coffee shops and restaurants, not chains, could have not opened up in May, the weather was ideal, opened up with their tables and chairs spread well spaced apart in the street to maintain social distancing.

What has stopped this happening is the intransigence of local councils who would rather see local businesses die than give them a helping hand.

We can hear birdsong, streets are traffic free, city centres pollution free.

Covid-19 has jolted us into another now.

There can be no return to normal as normal was not normal.

Time to Reclaim the Streets.

Pedestrianise not only Soho but also Covent Garden, leaving only the arterial routes for through traffic. Deliveries park on the periphery, deliver by hand cart or trolley.

Kick start the local economy, allow indie coffee shops and restaurants to spread their tables well spaced apart into the street, no chains no pubs No Smoking, social distancing maintained.

Win win for everyone, local businesses helped back on their feet, improves the ambience.

Soho Summer Festival:

We’re proposing that streets around Soho are temporarily pedestrianised, in order to allow restaurants and bars the space for outdoor seating. This would allow the public to enjoy the Soho we know and love, while maintaining a safe social distance.

The norm in Athens, local streets at night turn into restaurants.  The Mayor of Athens is extending the pedestrianised streets.

The norm in North Laine in Brighton, coffee shops and restaurants, tables in the street. Brighton is extending its pedestrianised streets.

This does not require a change in licencing laws, it does require a change in the mindset of local jobsworths who would rather see local businesses go to the wall than improve the ambience of our city centres.

An initiate to Reclaim the Streets in Soho has been launched, an initiative dubbed the Soho Summer Festival. Initially pedestrianise the area for the summer. 

Once the summer has passed, it should be made permanent.

Algerian Coffee Stores

November 22, 2018

Not a huge amount is known about its history, but we do know that the original owner was Mr Hassan in 1887. He had it until 1928 when he sold it to a Belgian man. Then, in 1946, he sold it to my grandad and it’s been in the family ever since. — Marisa Crocetta

Passing through Covent Garden and into Soho on a cold misty day in London, I am on my way to find Algerian Coffee Stores in Old Compton Street. Though first I stopped off for a coffee at The Espresso Room and a little detour to Bar Italia around the corner.

Algerian Coffee Stores is an Aladdin’s Cave of coffee and tea paraphernalia, loose leaf tea and coffee beans, oriental sweets, like something out of Arabian Nights or have been transported on a magic carpet to one of the bazaars in Istanbul, except the staff are English not Arabs or Turks.

Coffee is also served, though for me the beans too darkly roasted.

Mr Hassan, one of the first Algerians to arrive in London, opened the shop in 1887. He sold it to a Belgian gentleman in 1926, who in turn sold it to the grandfather of Marisa Crocetta in 1948. Marisa and her family still run the store.

The shop still retains some original features, the wooden shelves along the walls, the original wooden counter and display case.

Even if do not like coffee, worth a visit to see how Soho used to be.

Featured in 111 Coffee Shops in London That You Must Not Miss.

Special thanks to my lovely Russian friend Tatyana who told me of this coffee emporium and said I must visit.

Cold misty day in London

November 22, 2018

A cold misty day in London.

Not sure if I will make the train.

Girl on bus told me long wait for the bus, the previous bus driver had refused to let her on with a buggie, even though there was room on the bus.

Ten minutes wait for train, five minute and queue has not moved, only one ticket office open. Barriers closed.

Luckily man operating barriers operated ticket machine for me. I asked he did the same for other passengers else they would miss the train.

Train companies must stop treating passengers as criminals.

Woking, only stop, massive tower blocks going up on both sides of the tracks.

On approach to Waterloo, more tower blocks under construction.

Waterloo Station concourse wide expanse, except being taken up by kiosks.

New food outlet Pure. Free water help yourself, biodegradable cutlery.

This should be the norm, free water as a human right, biodegradable coffee cups and cutlery. And councils must enforces the norm, especially on their own markets.

Kiosk outside Waterloo Station, Four Corners, packing up. Man tells me they have a coffee shop of same name in Lower Marsh. Coffee sourced from Origin.

Where once stood Shell Building, now massive tower blocks under construction.

Beany kiosk at foot of Hungerford Bridge serves excellent coffee, but no time to stop.

Misty walking over Hungerford Bridge.

Another coffee kiosk Embankment Station Blues and Royals.

I cut through Embankment Gardens, cross The Strand at The Savoy.

As I walk up towards Covent Garden I see a coffee shop Grind down a side street. I look in, turn on my heels and walk out, loud music blasting out.

I am cutting through Covent Garden to Algerian Coffee Stores in Soho.

I pass The Espresso Room. I am tempted to stay. Excellent coffee.

I am told of a shop like Magazine Brighton or Ideas on Paper, that sells quality magazines. I am told the name, head up towards Seven Dials, but I do not find.

I pass the road leading to Bar Italia. Excellent coffee shop, but no time.

I eventually find Algerian Coffee Stores.

Passing by Bar Italia on my way back to Covent Garden, a man called George says speak to his agent. I have no idea who he is.

Then retrace my steps to Home Slice in Neal’s Yard, excellent pizza. I time it right, not busy, but starting to fill up.

I had wished to walk back to Soho as number of coffee shops, but no time.

Jacob the Angel an English Coffee House, a new coffee shop in Neal’s Yard. They are serving Square Mile, which is a good sign, as unlike Clifton or Union who do not care about their reputation and will supply anyone, Square Mile are very picky. But it is closing. Not a good sign the two girls working there did not know the name of their espresso machine.

I decide on Monmouth Coffee. It is never very good, and today was no exception, though very helpful girl serving. A pity as they were pioneers of specialty coffee in the 1970s but have sadly lost their way.

I pop in Neal’s Yard Dairy. A mecca for cheese lovers. They ask me to try a cheese, Doddington. It is excellent, I buy a piece.

It is then to Covent Garden Tube Station. Considering the number of people who pass through Covent Garden, it is insanity the ticket office is closed.

Dark Mountain Terra book launch at Baldwin Gallery. A trek to south east London.

Train from Charing Cross to Dartford. Alight at Lee.

Can I find Baldwin Gallery, no. I pass by and find myself in Greenwich. I retrace my steps.

I find the venue, Baldwin Gallery, eventually.

Then back to Waterloo East. Wait for a train? I decide to find Maria’s Cafe in Lower Marsh.

Maria’s Cafe is packed and very noisy. Problem is a gang of drunken yobs on a table. I stay and have stir fried cashew nuts and pork served with rice.

As I leave a couple also leave, they comment they too could not stand the noise. It is not usually like this.

I return to Waterloo Station in time to catch a train at 2212, a slow stopping train.

Bar Italia

July 18, 2017

In the back of Real Fresh Coffee are two pages, easily missed, of famous cafés, only five listed, of which Bar Italia in Soho is one.

Established  in 1949 by Lou and Caterina Polledri, Bar Italia in Soho is claimed to be the oldest coffee shop in London.

It was from here on 26 January 1926 at 22 Frith Street, though not then a coffee shop, John Logie Baird made his first TV broadcast, the first TV broadcast in the world.

It took me a while to find Frith Street in Soho then Bar Italia.

Italians are infamous for awful coffee, and were it not for the mention in Real Fresh Coffee, I would not have sought it out, and even then it was with trepidation, wondering was this to be another wasted journey when pushed for time.

Walking through the door, very much entering a time warp, 1950s, or maybe 1960s, then ruined by the large widescreen TV occupying most of the back wall.

Italian coffee is that awful coffee found in Costa and tax dodging Caffe Nero.

I ordered a cappuccino, expecting the worse, look awful, made with chocolate dumped on top to disguise how awful.

I was pleasantly surprised, a well crafted cappuccino.

A pleasant late afternoon, very warm, a helpful waitress escorted me to a table outside an Italian restaurant.

What did it taste like?

It was excellent. One of the best coffees in London.

Inside, a wide range of delicious looking cakes, and savoury food too.

Next time, maybe lunch here.

An ancient cash till, equally ancient espresso machine, maybe both original when the coffee shop opened.

On the back wall, a large signed poster of Rocky Marciano, donated by his widow.

I asked of the coffee. Their own blend roasted for them.

Very much old Soho, much of which greed has destroyed in the last decade.

Climate Rush Soho roadblock

July 18, 2011

pollution kills

pollution kills

have the Met got nothing better to do

have the Met got nothing better to do

CO2 kills

CO2 kills

let London breathe

let London breathe

“Boris’s policies are failing us. It’s a no-brainer – Boris needs to get the most polluting vehicles out of the most polluted places.” — Alice Haworth-Booth, spokesperson for Climate Rush

Last week Climate Rush mounted a roadblock in Soho to highlight London’s polluted air.

It is not only London, other towns and cities, for example Brighton, also have pollution hotspots.

London’s polluted air
Climate Rush stop London traffic during Pollution protest
It makes me sick
Move over climate change: air pollution is the new issue in town
Air pollution hot spots in Brighton and Hove revealed

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