The Breakfast Club’s Pancake Day Challenge 2014

Pancake Pheebz

Pancake Pheebz

It’s Pancake Day! Rejoice! Finally, we can give these simple floury, eggy, milky creations the full appreciation they deserve.

Why then, am I looking so anxious at the giant stack of pancakes in front of me? Because I had to eat them ALL in 15 minutes – that’s why.

Every Mardi Gras, The Breakfast Club really does take the day at it’s literal meaning – ‘Fat Tuesday’ – and presents customers with an ego-massaging, or ego-destroying, Man V Food eating competition. The rules are as simple as the ingredients: eat all the pancakes within the time limit and pay nothing; fail and pay £17.50 to Rays of Sunshine children’s charity (so basically, it’s a win-win situation).

Last year, I wolfed down 12 pancakes in 20 minutes, earning myself some applause and this wonderful footage of me gagging bravely struggling.

This year, the challenge was tougher: just 15 minutes for 12 pancakes. And they were definitely bigger and eggier than before.

The monster portion

The monster portion

I knew before I started that defeat lay ahead of me, but how much did I enjoy getting dirty?!

Concentrating on chewing

Concentrating on chewing

Kissing the cream

Kissing the cream

By ten minutes in, I settled for defeat. Quantity was not the problem so much as sweetness and dryness, and swallowing pancakes mixed with water was not agreeing with my stomach. By taking the sensible decision to quit, I a) didn’t feel ill all afternoon and b) got to take away what I didn’t finish – win! Pancake Day is lasting that bit longer for me and I’m looking forward to breakfast!

Apparently, there is no such thing as too many pancakes…

Review: Verde & Co, Spitalfields AKA That Famous Hot Chocolate Place

The most expensive hot chocolate in London <3

The most expensive hot chocolate in London ❤

Just on Brushfield Street, which runs along the south side of Spitalfields market, is an old-fashioned shop with a wooden front, hanging wicker baskets, and a small bench where weary shoppers can rest themselves… and recharge their batteries with some rather tasty things.

Verde & Co

Verde & Co

Verde & Co is somewhat legendary in London for serving the priciest hot chocolate around. Whilst the store’s quaint charm definitely warrants a perusal,  its fame stems from the cocoa beverage priced at a hefty £5.50 a cup . The hot chocolate is made from Pierre Marcolini chocolate, a luxurious offering from Belgium.

It just so happened that I lived about 30 seconds walk from this store. And it just so happened that my friend, who was recuperating after a stint in hospital, required some quick breakfast magic. The plan was hatched, but the quest short; in under 2 minutes, we were standing outside, peering through the windows.

Verde and Co is deceptive. From the outside, it always looks shut. It’s hard to see through the windows and no light seems to emanate. Yet the inside, despite being small, is bright and not nearly as cramped as this Aladdin’s cave should be.





To say the inside is well-stocked with goodies would be an understatement (scroll down for more pics). The shelves are laden with jams, confectionery, sweets, old-fashioned teapots and beautiful cakes. It is almost too much to take in and requires a leisurely browse – if you can contain your excitement and refrain from trying to examine everything at once.

My friend and I clumsily squeezed ourselves onto tall seats at a wooden counter. In fact, a less generous but more accurate description would be that we groaned, creaked, shuffled and heaved ourselves onto the stalls in a most unladylike fashion. She had an excuse from recent hospitalisation; I was just being… Phoebe. The man behind the counter observed us with concern and bemusement.

“Are you all right?” the man asked.

My friend and I looked at each other and doubled over in fits of manic laughter. We threatened to fall back off the chairs again.

“We’re probably not the best people to ask…”

Bewildered, the man took our orders, which, unsurprisingly, featured two hot chocolates.

The hot chocolate comes in two sizes, which are both priced at £5.50. There is a ‘small’, which is very thick and gives a very intense chocolate flavour, or a ‘large’, which has more milk in it and is slightly milder as a result.

I can verify that both are extremely chocolatey, but if you’re a passionate chocolate fiend such as myself, you should be drinking your chocolate neat 😉

The 'longer' hot chocolate with artful croissant in the background...

The ‘longer’ hot chocolate with artful croissant in the background…

It may have been breakfast but I was not going to be deterred from ordering something to eat. Whilst my friend worked her way through a lovely, light croissant, I ordered a suckling pig and balsamic onion sandwich (medium £6.25) because I can eat absolutely anything in the morning.

I couldn’t verify just how much ‘suckling’ this pig had had, but the sandwich was served on beautifully fresh bread and had that homemade taste that…well, that you really only get at home. So comforting.

Gimme a suckling pig sandwich in the morning!

Gimme a suckling pig sandwich in the morning!

We sat on the bench outside in a cocoa coma, and watched shoppers dip in and out of Spitalfields market. A very good breakfast indeed, and definitely worth splashing out on.

Verde & Co 4.5/5 – Charming, quaint and serving up a pricey, but smooth, rich and delicious hot chocolate.

Where: 40 Brushfield Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6AG
When: Mon – Thurs 9am – 9pm; Friday 8am – 6pm; Sat & Sun 10am – 7pm.







The Breakfast Club, Spitalfields (revisited)

Boston beans

Boston beans

For the uninitiated, The Breakfast Club is a trendy breakfast chain, which will not only sort you out with good and proper breakfast/brunch items until 5pm, but it will also fix you up with cocktails and drinks when it gets too late for bacon and eggs (although, in my humble opinion, it is never too late for bacon and eggs).

I previously enjoyed their Full Monty, but this post is a shout out for their Boston Beans (£8.30). These are some deliciously smoky pulled pork and beans with a mild sweetness, topped with a fried egg and served with eggs breads. It’s a gloriously rich, gooey and filling breakfast. Convince any friends with small appetites to order this, and then take home their leftovers for breakfast the next day. #winning

Alternatively, eat everyone’s breakfast at once.

Leftovers? Pfft. I don't understand the meaning of that word!

Leftovers? Pfft. I don’t understand the meaning of that word!

Website: (check this out for an awesome, retro gaming theme. Super Mario land anyone?)
Where: Angel, Hoxton, Spitalfields, Soho, Battersea Rise
When: Various. See website.

Review: Pho, Spitalfields

Spring rolls

Calling all people familiar with Vietnamese food – I need your help. I have ventured into Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and Korean food. But I’ve yet to branch into Vietnamese food. This is where you can assist…

Pho is a Vietnamese café-restaurant chain across London, serving up its namesake, a popular street food dish. Pho is a broth rice noodles and may be made with various herbs, vegetables and meat/seafood. Thanks to the wonderful medium of Twitter and Pho’s generous giveaways, I’d managed to secure a £10 giftcard to spend.

Pho sign

This is where my quandary begins… because I really didn’t enjoy my pho! I really, really wanted to. First of all, Pho Spitalfields looks like a trendy, tasty place. The inside has cute, circular wooden tables and a fun luminous sign on the wall. It’s simplistic yet kind of cosy.

Phở tái lăn

I ordered Phtái lăn (£8.50) – flash fried steak with garlic (Hanoi style). I found the steak chewy and tasteless. Then there was the broth. Pho’s menu boasts about the 12 hours of preparation to create truly authentic flavours. My soup was bitter and not much else. It tasted solely of the copious spring onions that were floating around in it. It was served with bean sprouts, coriander, lime and chilli chunks, but these failed to contribute much, save for the chilli which I avoided to save my mouth from pain!

Accompanying veg

Now I can accept that they’d done a poor job on the steak…but is pho supposed to be bitter and fairly light in flavour? Do I just dislike pho??

Phở nấm rơm

My dining companion took Phnm rơm (£7.95) – enoki, shiitake and button mushrooms in veggie stock. I tried the broth and it was less bitter and slightly sweeter, but still underwhelming.

Chả giò

We also tried  Chgiò  – crispy spring rolls served with lettuce & herbs – with nước chấm (fish sauce) to dip (veggie £4.75). These were crispy but again had very little flavour!

The highlight was the freshly squeezed juice – we tried coconut, pineapple & apple (£3.30) which sounds odd, but was fantastic!

Soconut, pineapple & apple

So readers, do I dislike pho or is Pho just not up to scratch? I tend to mistrust chain restaurants so I’m sure it’s not the best representation of authenticity but even so… Opinions please!

Pho (Spitalfields) 2/5 – Maybe I just don’t like pho?!

Food 2/5 – Where was the flavour?
Value 3/5 – Fairly cheap and filling, although undoubtedly not a bargain by Vietnamese standards 😉
Atmosphere 3/5 – A little cramped but always bustling.
Service 3/5 – Prompt.

Where: London – Oxford Circus, Shepherds Bush, Brighton, Soho, Stratford, Spitalfields; Brighton

Review: Fire and Stone (Spitalfields)

Cape Town

I have a confession. I don’t really like pizza. It’s true that I’ve never eaten pizza in Naples, as several Italian friends of mine have insisted I do. And when I go to Naples, I’ll be sure to do so.

But the non-Neapolitan pizza I have had to date has been underwhelming. I struggle to get excited over thin crispy bread, smeared with tomato sauce and splattered with cheese. It seems comforting at first, but rapidly becomes dull. That’s when paying £12 for a slab of bread seems like a really bad idea.

However, a few weeks back I found myself at Fire and Stone in Spitalfields with a lot of other people. This was for three reasons: 1) I’d discovered Meet Up, a website where you meet people based on similar interests – and so this had opened up a new world of foodie friends, 2) I live next to Spitalfields, and 3) we were taking adavantage of the Tuesday £6 deal.

Fire and Stone Spitalfields has that modern feel – large glass windows, simple tables and not a lot of space between them. It’s the kind of place that when full seems warm and welcoming, but when empty, it’s soulless.

Fortunately, it was buzzing and we squezzed around a table for eighteen that stretched out through the restaurant.

Their menu is really fun. Not only do their pizzas offer a range of genuinely interesting and appetising toppings, but they’re also named after cities, which gives you the illusion of being a cosmopolitan citizen, casually browsing your next destination (I was in travel fantasy mode anyway!). I fought a long and hard mental battle between Mexico City (£10.25) – spicy chicken, guacamole, chunks of roasted potatoes, red onion and coriander – and Cape Town (£10.95) –  spicy beef, pepperoni, mozzarella, fresh green chillies, topped with sour cream and parsley.

Spicy beef, pepperoni, green chillies, sour cream and parsley

Spicy beef, pepperoni, green chillies, sour cream and parsley

The latter triumphed and I was pleased to see a pizza with a relatively generous amount of topping (I’m sure you all understand what I mean about the pizzas that make you play hunt the toppings). The meat is never of the best quality on pizzas but the pepperoni and beef were tasty, and sour cream and parsley is a winning combination. The crust was not too doughy nor too crispy.  My main criticism is one that I launch at many pizzerias – their inability to chop up chillies. The green chillies were chopped into chunks, which meant some mouthfuls of my pizza were scorchio, and others were more tame than Grandma’s cat. Let’s have some balance please. However, overall I was impressed.

Spicy chicken, celery and blue cheese dressing

Buffalo: Spicy chicken, potatoes, celery and blue cheese dressing

Buffalo (£10.25) – hot and spicy torn chicken, roast potatoes, mozzarella and celery strips in a blue cheese dressing – proved very popular among my dining companions and they were all satisfied. Can’t say it would be my cup of tea – blue cheese and celery are both on my evil items list.

The the brownie with vanilla ice-cream (£4.95)  looked very yummy indeed (although it’s hard to make chocolate brownies not look yummy). My co-diners were less impressed with the banoffee pizza, that was part of a Sweet Slider (£11.95) – a sharing tray of 5 desserts.

Banoffee pizza - a little bit strange...

Banoffee pizza – a little bit strange…

Would I go again to Fire and Stone and eat my way through more cities? Yes, I would. They’re running the Tuesday £6 deal at Spitalfields, and at Westfield and Covent Garden there is a two pizzea for £12 deal, available at certain times and if booked online. For non-Londoners, there are branches in Oxford and Portsmouth.

Fire and Stone Spitalfields 4/5 – It’s pizza and it’s actually quite exciting!
4 Horner Square, Old Spitalfields Market, London, E1 6EW

Food – 4/5
Service – 4/5
Value – 5/5 (If you take advantage of a deal!)
Atmosphere – 4/5

Review: Byron Burger versus Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Spitalfields

Byron Burger

I have a friend who is really annoying. He doesn’t like food. It’s amazing we’re friends actually, but somehow we’ve persisted in hanging out for four years or so.

He is a stick, who might not eat for a couple of days. I, on the other hand, might not eat for a couple of hours.

He calls me Pig; I call him Sparrow.

He often comes to mine after work. His visits are almost always preceded by a text like this:

“Just to warn you, I’m not very hungry x”

However, this boy is fickle and occasionally he turns round at about 8.30pm and says, “I’m hungry! Let’s go out to eat.”

And this is how I’ve ended up dining at Byron Burger and Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Spitalfields.

Byron Burger, Spitalfields

We arrived there fairly late on a weekday evening so I wasn’t expecting the place to be buzzing, but it somehow had a cheeriness that belied its emptiness. It was probably because our waitress was super-friendly without being overbearing and that always creates a relaxed ambience.

There wasn’t any question about what I would  order. It was always going to be the Byron Burger (£9.25), which comes with cheese and bacon like all good hamburgers should.

Byron Burger - cheese, bacon and Byron sauce

Byron Burger – cheese, bacon and Byron sauce

It was nicely presented, and the salad was very fresh.

Inside the burger...

Inside the burger…

The burger was cooked still pink in the middle, which all burgers should be. By itself, it was a little dry and not exactly bursting with beefy flavour. Still, with the appropriate relishes, it was enjoyable. However, I have no idea what the Byron sauce is – can’t say I detected it, although I presume it’s the white-looking sauce on top.

Onion rings

I took a side of onion rings (£2.95), which are some of my favourite things in life. The batter wasn’t the most well-seasoned in the world, but these were seriously comforting nonetheless.


The chips were unremarkable (£2.95) – neither great nor terrible.

Overall, they could do with putting a bit more effort into producing a more succulent and tasty burger, but Byron Spitalfields made for a quick but pleasant dining experience.

Byron, Spitalfields (E1 6FQ) – 3/5

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Spitalfields

In contrast, GBK was packed on a weekday evening. We squeezed onto a table and hurriedly made our order. With counter ordering and collect-yourself condiments, GBK is going for more of a fast-food feel than Byron.  I don’t remember anything about the service so our food must have been developed without incident.

We were taking advantage of the Capital Burger promotion – two cheeseburgers for £10. The burgers arrived and looked… very sad indeed. And very far removed from “gourmet”.

Capital Burger - let's hope it's not supposed to represent London...

Capital Burger – let’s hope it’s not supposed to represent London…



The bun was burnt. The burger was burnt. Inside, it wasn’t totally overcooked, but it suffered from being dry and lacking flavour, similar to the Byron burger. The difference is that Byron actually put some effort into the cooking, the other ingredients and the presentation.

Air fries

Air fries

I ordered a small portion of fries for £1.50 as I wasn’t terrible hungry (I’d eaten before my friend had arrived so this was my second dinner!). These were just the right size and would have been good value if they hadn’t been akin to eating air. I found myself shovelling 6 into my mouth at one time to try and detect some kind of potatoey flavour. Alas, my efforts were in vain.

I notice a discrepancy between the advertising and the actual product...

I notice a discrepancy between the advertising and the actual product…

I have had a decent Taxidriver burger at GBK Soho, but Spitalfields was a poor show.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Spitalfields (E1 6EW) – 1.5/5

The pictures speak for themselves. Byron beats GBK Spitalfields!

Review: The Breakfast Club, Spitalfields

When I own a house, I shall display this in my kitchen.

When I own a house, I shall display this in my kitchen.

Some places have such a reputation that their names seem to drift in the wind, snatches of overheard conversations on the street. The Breakfast Club is one of those places.

I first encountered it when a man approached me in the street to ask its location. After that, I heard The Breakfast Club mentioned everywhere. I couldn’t escape it.

It grew in my mind until I could resist it no longer, and decided to seek it out. I love a good breakfast. Or brunch. Take your pick.

As it happens, if you want to head to The Breakfast Club, it’s advisable to get there before 10am. The queue can get pretty long. We arrived at just before 10am on a Sunday and we had a queue of 10 minutes, which is bearable, especially when checking out the esoteric décor.

Breakfast club
Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club has an American diner style aesthetic,  but don’t panic! English breakfasts are on the menu.

We were seated at a high table and our order was promptly taken. Our waitress was polite and efficient, but had to fight the urge to give me the veggie breakfast instead of my male co-diner, as often happens when dining out (for my post on food and sexism, click here).

Of course, I wasn’t eating any veggie stuff; I took the Full Monty English Breakfast (at £9.80 if my memory serves me well). This includes: bacon, sausage, black pudding, eggs, home-style fried potatoes, mushrooms, beans, grilled tomato and toasted multigrain bloomer. However, I wimped out and got two bacon instead of black pudding.

The Full Monty English Breakfast

The Full Monty English Breakfast

I’m a self-confessed food snob, so I was pleasantly surprised by the meatiness and herbiness of the sausages. The eggs were cooked spot on – still runny when broken – and the bread was tasty and thankfully far-removed from white cardboard that seems to grace breakfast plates all too often. Special mention goes to the potatoes, which were simply fantastic – not dry, not mushy, not too salty. My only criticism would be the tomato. Who wants to eat a raw tomato with a cooked breakfast?! Tomatoes should be grilled until soft. Please, Mr. Breakfast Club, don’t do a hotel-effort; get the tomato right.

American veggie breakfast

American veggie breakfast

My partner-in-breakfasting ordered the American veggie, which includes pancakes. I believe he was very satisfied with the choice.

Hot chocolate - way too sweet!

Hot chocolate – way too sweet!

In-keeping with my search for the best hot chocolate in London, I ordered one here. It took me back to my childhood when any kind of sweet, chocolate powder with milk was great. Now, very sweet, mildly chocolatey milk is not so great.

The Breakfast Club – 4/5

Overall, I left very full and satisfied. The Breakfast Club is hip so it’s perhaps a little overpriced for what is is. But the quality is good, and for a buzzing atmosphere, it’s hard to beat.

Food 4/5
Service 4/5
Value 3/5
Ambiance 5/5

Find The Breakfast Club at Spitalfields (2-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS) or three other locations.