Tuscanic Merende

Tuscanic Merende is a newish (it opened in the summer) gem on Old Compton street in Soho. It’s a place that positively oozes Italy (and in particular Tuscany), all the cheerful staff hail from Italy and the walls are lined with imported Tuscan produce. Indeed, I am reliably informed that even the floor is imported from Tuscany!

The place is small and charming, with an open bar/kitchen where the chefs busily create charcuterie and cheese boards, small soups and Italian style taps. Toscano Merende literally translates along the lines of “Tuscan snack” and that is essentially what this place offers – anything from coffee and dolci to wine and cheese of an evening pre or post-theatre perhaps. The food is also ideally aimed at sharing with friends, being of the small-plate variety.

On our visit it was 5pm on a saturday which was definitely vino o’clock. My friends opted for a delicious glass of house red and I went for a coffee which was expertly executed – a strong and rich americano served in a tall glass with the perfect amount of frothy crema on top, with the rather nice addition of 3 giant chocolate buttons to nibble on the side. Having revived myself with a coffee we then shared a charcuterie and cheese board together with some pickled mushrooms and fresh crusty bread. It was simple, honest food, but it hit the spot.

Unfortunately on this occasion we didn’t have the time to try anything else, but I know I’ll be back. What attracts me to this place in addition to its authenticity is the fact that it seems to be (for the moment at least) a hidden gem amongst the bustle of Soho, a perfect hideaway on a busy afternoon’s shopping or pre or post-theatre in the evenings. One of those places that I always hope to find in Soho but usually have to settle for somewhere busier. It’s also great that its offerings span the day from pastries, cakes and coffees, through to lunch plates and wine and more substantial snacks, with produce available to take away too.

A find that I would recommend.

Epicurean Wrap-Up

Address: 72 Old Compton Street, Soho

Getting there – Oxford Circus/Piccadilly Tube

Go for: snacks to break a hectic London day

don’t go for: expecting a pizzeria, this is gourmet Tuscany in london

Value: Reasonable for central London – coffees around the £2 mark with wine at around £4-£6 a glass

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My 2013 Restaurant Wishlist

Do you find yourself realising that there just isn’t enough time to visit all the restaurants you want to go to?   Since I moved to London in September 2009, and more importantly, since I started earning money (to spend on my foodie hobbies), there has been a plethora of amazing new restaurant openings and just not enough time to go to them all!  This year I’m creating a list (no doubt a working list which will continue to be added to and expanded upon), but for now this is my list of places that I’ve been meaning to go to for ages.  Some of them are clearly special occasion trips (i.e. Fat Duck), but others I’m sure could be justified on a week night.  This is in no particular order either, just a stream of consciousness.

1.  The Fat Duck

2. Dabbous

3. Mishkin’s

4. MeatLiquor (maybe I will try out MEATMission, as being in Hoxton, is nearer to home)

5. La Bodega Negra

6. The Ledbury

7.  Brasserie Zedel

8. Spuntino

9.  Hawksmoor

10.  Pig & Butcher

11. Corner Room

12. Upstairs at the Ten Bells

 

 

Homa

Poached Eggs with Bubble and Squeak

Homa is on Church Street in Stoke Newington and serves mediterranean style food and pizzas, along with a 10-4pm brunch (until 3 pm on saturdays) at the weekend.  I’d say that Homa is a most definitely a solid bet for a more upscale brunch if you happen to be in the area.   Being a little out in the sticks for some, it also has a neighbourhood-vibe and Church Street is definitely fun for a pre or post poke around the shops.  In fact there are several other cafes along the street which look like likely contenders for an afternoon cake and coffee stop, which I will have to return to try on another occasion.

The menu at Homa is quite short, with a few sweet options including pastries and granola and a particularly tempting sounding french toast with poached pears and honey yoghurt (I saw this go out and it looked yummy!). On this occasion however, we opted for a savoury dish each – I went for burrata, polenta, spinach, mushroom and slow cooked egg and my husband had poached eggs with bubble and squeak, cured bacon and a rich and creamy hollandaise. Another contender was the lamb sausages with spicy chickpeas, but today felt like an egg day and so the decision was made.

The combination of polenta, burrata and egg (with a beautiful bright orange yolk postively bursting out of the white before I cut into it) was perfect and felt very indulgent. The polenta was a fat golden square of heart-warming comfort food – squidgy on the inside with a crispskin.   Taking a forkful of polenta and slice of burrata was both rich and satisfying.  The spinach and mushrooms also helped to make me feel that there was at least some healthy (and not purely indulgent) element to my breakfast.

Burrata with polenta, slow-cooked egg, spinach & mushrooms

Burrata with polenta, slow-cooked egg, spinach & mushrooms

My husband’s poached eggs and bubble and squeak was another accomplished dish – perfectly poached eggs and a decent hollandaise.  The bubble and squeak was slightly blander than we had anticipated, but nevertheless a comforting accompaniment to mop up the egg yolks.  The bacon was perhaps the star of this dish – really thick slices of salty-sweet bacon added a delicious flavour. 

All in all I would recommend Homa as a solid Stoke Newington choice and since we are local, we will definitely be back.  It’s always nice to know you have somewhere like this a shot walk from hom.   The brunch menu isn’t as innovative as the approach taken in the antipodean brunch places across London, but the standards are comparable and the dishes perhaps more focussed on traditional favourites with a twist.

 The clientele is young professionals and families, but the prices are reasonable (brunch at around £6-£10 a dish).  It would also be worth coming here for dinner or a weekend lunch, as the pizzas and dishes coming out on the table next to us looked excellent.   

Epicurean Wrap-up

What we had: brunch and coffee/juice (£27 including service)

Go if:  you are local/you want to explore a new part of London with good food along the way

Getting there: 73 Bus to Stoke Newington Church Street (from Kings Cross) or any number of buses up Kinglsand Road from Dalston

Address: 71-73 Stoke Newington Church Street

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