Teanamu's Artisan Teas

Tucked away in Westbourne Park, near Portabello Road, is a gorgeous and modest-sized converted coach house belonging to Teanamu.

The newly opened Chaya Teahouse is perfect for (as cliche as it sounds) relaxing and just as importantly, drinking beautifully infused Chinese artisan teas. There is a ridiculous amount of white, red, black and green tea combinations all designed and made by creator, Pei Wang.

We ordered the Tea of The Week: Organic Snow Bud white tea and the Ba Bao 8 Treasures tea (which had a special 9th ingredient on the day!) The Snow Bud is stunning, refreshing and one to drink at a lower temperature in order to appreciate its flavour; and the 8 Treasures changed each time we topped up the water - from floral and nutty to fruity notes.

Top: 8 Treasures. Bottom: Organic Snow Bud

They looked so lovely in the teapots and the quick demonstration from Pei on how each tea should be poured, was great. I was completely ignorant to the fact that water temperature, distance its poured and technique of swilling as you pour all enhance the flavour of the leaves.

As we were invited to stay and relax Pei made up some extra teas to sample including a white tea with Jasmine and his "mistake tea" which was an accidental stumble across a combination of his Organic Golden Monkey (black tea) and Organic Emperor pu erh 2008 (red tea). Both of which were lovely.

"Mistake Tea" - Organic Golden Monkey &; Organic Emperor pu erh 2008

There is a small selection of food on the menu (all hand-made by Pei) but they are great snacks to eat along side the teas. We had the vegetarian char siu puffs (which are based on pork dim sum) and the berry nutty chocolate fudge as well as a scone with rose petal jam, which was unbelievably tasty!! We were also given some clementine almond cakes on the house.

Vegetarian Char Siu Puff

Berry nutty chocolate fudge & clementine almond cakes

Warm scone with rose petal jam and clotted cream

At the weekend Pei held the first Chaya Teahouse MedTEAtation in which a small group of people met up in the Koyoto Garden at Holland Park to perform the Chinese tea ritual...from what I understand the purpose is to forget about trivial everyday things (like Twitter/Facebook/phones) and concentrate solely on the tea; making it and sharing it with the other people in the group. I was unable to go along this time round, but plan to go to the next one on 19th June. (I think the MedTEAtation event happens once a month on a Sunday). To get an idea of what it'd be like check out Teanamu's Facebook photos.

If you're in the area or want to retreat for a bit of quiet time at the weekend, the Chaya Teahouse is open midday till 6 Saturdays and Sundays. It's definitely worth it!


The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

It's been open for a week and The Breakfast Club's Speakeasy cocktail bar, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, behind the Smeg fridge, Spitalfields, is a MUST!

In a similar ethos to The Breakfast Club's 80s retro American kitch, this cocktail bar recreates that downtown Chicago/Boston bar with an air of underground exclusivity. This is partly to do with the promotion (if any) for its opening has been a simple website only giving contact details, a few hidden clues on Twitter and (mostly) word of mouth. Then there is the password 'Let The Bees See The Knees' to get 2 for 1 drinks; and of course the big question...'What's Behind The Smeg Fridge?' These little utterings can't help but inject you with a feeling of importance and guaranteed enjoyment that awaits!

So what is behind the Smeg Fridge?

The barmaid opens the fridge door to reveal a walkway down to the small low-lit bar.

There were roughly 30-40 seats, and the right level of buzz so that the music and chatter never needed to get too loud. Speaking of which, a constant selection of good tunes played, from James Brown to Roxy Music to Amy Winehouse (and a few gambles, like Hot Chocolate's 'Everyone's A Winner'), and a huge part of enjoying bars comes down to a decent soundtrack!

The menu (including a handful of food dishes and bar snacks) is designed for a manageable selection of cocktails with a black leather cover and a simple Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town logo on it.

We had a few cocktails each:
The Old Fashioned - with Woodford Reserve bourbon, orange zest and brown sugar
Rosie & Gin - with Bombay Sapphire Gin, pressed pineapple juice, rosemary and lime juice
Red Lady - with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, raspberries and egg white
Tommy's Chilli - with Jose Cuervo Traditional Tequila, red chilli, lemongass, agave syrup and lime juice
Mexican Mule - with Jose Cuervo Tequila, ginger beer, lime and sugar
Linchberg-Leith Lemonade - with Baili Nicol Jarvie Scotch, Grand Marnier, lemon juice and Fentiman's Victorian lemonade

The Rosie & Gin was stunning. Definitely my favourite! Smooth and fruity with a hint of rosemary. The Old Fashioned was also mixed well...I guess you know it is when the barman says he needs at least five minutes to make it!

Old Fashioned and Rosie & Gin

Mexican Mule, Red Lady and Tommy's Chilli

TIP: Don't get too carried away as the alcohol kicks in after cocktail #2!!


The Commissary, Holborn Studios

The Commissary Bar & Restaurant is joined onto Holborn Studios on Eagle Wharf Road alongside Regent's canal. When the weather is behaving it's a great place to head for lunch and sit outside on the dock.

The interior is modern and artistic, with a big theme on cameras and film - due to being part of Holborn Studios. To paint a picture for you, on the way to the toilets there's a beautiful vintage projector and there a little images of clapperboards held by mini tripods for the table numbers.

They serve breakfast and lunch but on our visit we sampled the cheese board between three of us and the chunks of gorgonzola, stilton and cheddar were so generous that, for a brief moment, we thought we wouldn't be able to finish it all.

We did......

The accompanying pickle and celery sticks were perfect alongside these three heavyweight flavours.

The rest of the menu looks tasty and I did spy a couple of massive burgers going to another table to be devoured. The lunch menu changes daily but they have a sample menu which should give an indication of the style of sharable dishes on offer.

Because there are various different projects and shoots happening at the studios it's likely you'll spot some celebrities (or if you're lucky, some vaguely recognizable people). While sitting out on the dock, The Arctic Monkeys were sat a few tables away enjoying a quiet break from (I presume) a photo shoot. I'm afraid I didn't have the nerve to ask for a photo so instead of the Arctic Monkeys, you can have this one.

(He was attached to a plant inside the restaurant)

and a little video from their 4th album Suck It And See...


Bargain Bite: Udon Goodness at Koya

Here's this month's Bargain Bite!
Koya, Frith Street, Soho

This little Japanese udon noodle restaurant has been rather popular over the past year or so and here's a few reasons why:

1) No Bookings - so if you're impulsive and can't decide where you want to eat until the last minute, there's no need to worry about booking in advance. Though some people don't like to queue, there's something simple and appealing about the idea of rocking up somewhere on the off chance of getting a table.

2) Fantastic Udon - obviously they specialise in udon noodles so you'd expect the dishes to be good. But they're better than good. They're wibbly, chewy, light and healthy good.

3) Other Dishes - there are plenty of other options other than udon noodles if you happen to be (or be with) someone who's not a fan of the chunky elasticity of them.

4) Satisfying - come on, either hot, cold, in broth or sauce, you know how satisfying it is to eat those slippery strings of wheat noodle!

Cold udon with tofu and cold sauce.

Cold udon with mackerel and poached egg