Beany Green is a funky spot that brightens up the concrete canal-side area just off Paddington’s Sheldon Square.
Beany Green’s exclusive espresso blend (roasted by The Roasting Party in Winchester) was served Aussie-style by some of the smiliest baristas we’ve met.
The fancy bacon roll was a fab twist on the bacon sarnie, with thin, flaky paratha roti piled high with crisp onions, poached eggs, back bacon, chilli, and The Ribman’s punchy Holy Fuck Hollandaise.
Portions are huge; the banana bread sandwich stacks up two hefty slices of moist toasted banana bread laden with mascarpone, marinated fresh berries and flaked almonds, complete with a drizzle of honey and a little edible flower on top.
‘Authentic’ is overused on London’s restaurant scene, but Saiphin Moore has managed to do the word justice with her traditional Laotian cooking in newly opened Covent Garden restaurant Lao Café.
Lao Café serves the food that the people of Laos and Northern Thailand pick up from street food stalls and cook in their homes every day – fiery fresh salads, spicy hot pots, and skewers of grilled marinated meats.
The menu is divided into well sign-posted sections, the first three dedicated to Laos’ punchy salads – raw papaya ‘tumm’ salads smashed about in a pestle and mortar, drier-textured laabs, and spicy ‘soop’ salads that combine Laos’ four inherent flavours; salty fish sauce, sweet palm sugar, sour lime juice and spicy chillies.
Be prepared to get stuck in – we wrapped pieces of fish in salad leaves with springy rice noodles, Thai basil and zingy herb and aubergine dip.
Next, we scraped sticky brown rice from a delicate banana leaf parcel to add to tom zap gadook moo, a sour galangal and lemongrass soup served in a terracotta pot with tender pork ribs.
Duck in to narrow-fronted Blanchette East off chaotic Brick Lane and let a sense of calm immediately take over. Perch on mahogany stools at a marble-topped counter beneath overflowing plant pots suspended from the ceiling with rope. A mirrored wall reflects the Parisian Belle Epoque-style bar behind – a larger marble-topped bar lit by pretty lampshades and a colourful mural of a curvaceous woman reclining behind.
In this new branch, as well as French favourites such as crisp frog legs, onglet with snails and a fantastic selection of charcuterie and cheeses, the Alary brothers have crept further south to incorporate North African flavours into the menu. We tried a delicious merguez sausage roll – lamb sausage spiced with cumin and paprika wrapped in crisp pastry with sweet onion confit tucked into the casing.
Our highlight was the pissaladiere – a stunning lattice of anchovies and black olives with a layer of caramelised onion on a thin, flaky base that had just the right amount of bite. A wooden board piled with florets of super thinly sliced Rosette de Lyon (cured sausage), gherkins and a celeriac remoulade was ideal to nibble on before our next round of dishes arrived. Pork loin came medium rare – silky, soft and pink – with pickled girolles and little cauliflower florets on smooth cauliflower purée.
Portugal’s River Douro has been keeping Max Graham’s family in the port business for 200 years. Growing up in Porto with the founders of Churchill’s Port in Portugal, Max has been learning the tricks of the trade since he was born, and he’s now on a mission to educate Londoners about niche Portuguese wines and ports.
We loved the light, firm and grippy Bairrada wines – the house red Ataide Semedo ‘Baga & Touriga’ had bags of personality and cherry notes, while an unusual viognier was a floral favourite with hints of orange blossom and citrus. A wine from Lisbon, Casa Figueira ‘Adiado’ Castelao, was characteristically saltier with redcurrant notes, while Churchill Estate’s white from The Douro Valley was more minerally and fresh.
Small plates at Bar Douro are true to Portuguese traditions, with a few of Tiago’s modern twists – tender grilled octopus tentacle was served with sweet potato as it is in tabernas across Tavira in the Algarve (try our Portuguese fish stew for a taste of this kind of cooking), bitter grelos (turnip tops) were sautéed with wafer-thin slices of fried garlic, and suckling acorn-fed Bisaro pig was cooked sous-vide then pressed and served, true to tradition, with homemade crisps.