Afternoon Tea Review: The Colonnade Hotel, Maida Vale

The Colonnade Hotel: Not Tea Total

Maida Vale, a place where buying a semi-detached house demands winning the lottery – twice. Strolling by the meandering canal of Little Venice, admiring the surrounding handsome creme Regency mansions, I almost overlooked the plethora of tantalising kebab opportunities down Edgeware Road, just spitting distance away.

The quality of The Colonnade Hotel’s Afternoon Tea was ultimately disappointing. The scones were exceptional, but M&S sold superior sandwiches, cakes and pretty baked things Yummy Mummy’s like. Pret A Manger felt like a Michelin star in comparison. Some drinkable ‘champagne’ made an appearance, which was probably as French as Winston Churchill.

The Colonnade Hotel’s staff were smiley and organised. Curiously, I planned on booking for one o’clock but was asked to arrive an hour later due to a preceding large party. Not a problem, but rather than any residual buzz, the Colonnade Hotel’s atmosphere was as dead as Rolf Harris’ career.

The Colonnade Hotel’s subterranean bar needed obvious attention; the aqua and peach colour scheme was nobody’s cup of tea. If this was genuinely four-stars, go glamping and drink Prosecco from a Thermos instead. Weather permitting, there’s a charming raised garden, but the skinny trees only marginally muffled the traffic distractions. Actually, the garden was preferable to The Colonnade bar regardless of the weather.

As the afternoon tea was bought heavily discounted through Groupon, the experience provided fair value for money. London’s an expert at fleecing tourists, but even by its shameless standards, The Colonnade Hotels full price was ridiculous.

The Colonnade Hotel
Review Summary

Atmosphere 4  Cost 5  Quality 4  Service 6

The Colonnade Hotel Afternoon Tea London Review
Standard Issue Afternoon Tea
The Colonnade Hotel Afternoon Tea London Review
‘Champagne’
The Colonnade Hotel Afternoon Tea London Review
The Caliphate of Maida Vale!

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The Colonnade Hotel

Restaurant Review: Beigel Bake, Shoreditch

Beigel Bake – Brick Lane Brashness

Beigel Bake is an institution. There was a magical quality to this small piece of East London, offering authentic, no-nonsense, affordable food. Beigel Bake’s been bustling away since Shoreditch was a ditch. As Vice Magazine lamented, “I watched Shoreditch go from magical hinterland to the abattoir of culture it is today”. In the meantime Beigel Bake’s been extraordinarily industrious, open 24/7,  cranking out an impressive 7,000 bagels a day.

Honest, family-owned, working-class eateries should fuel a city. Despite London’s vibrancy, residents lament the ubiquitous sandwich chains and predatory fast-food corporations everywhere. Foodies fighting for freedom against these globalised monoliths suffer the burden of £4 loaves of bread.

But let’s be fair, Beigel Bake’s staff are outrageously rude. After my first visit to Beigel Bake, I attributed this to a stressful day, thinking nothing of it. I empathised that 24 hours in front of a perpetual line of Shoreditch hipsters could turn Mother Theresa into Robert Mugabe. The second time, the same older lady unnecessarily barked menacingly. The third I time waited patiently, and meekly pleaded: “Can I have four almond croissants please?”. The patron saint of impatience rolled her eyes so far back she toppled over. Every time, irrespective of customer’s behaviour, they are treated like a student telling their PE teacher they’ve forgotten their kit. I’d get my atonement by summoning the courage to ask for a bacon barm cake sarcastically, but I’m terrified of getting a hot cleaver hurled at me.

Regarding food, Beigel Bake’s salt beef bagel’s are the star of the show. The meat is thickly sliced, hot, juicy slabs with a mouthwatering depth of flavour. The generous fillings make queuing out onto Brick Lane worth it. The mustard packs a real punch, and the pickles are an absolute necessity. If the mustard brings too many tears to your eyes, the salmon and cream cheese is a reliable alternative. The bagels themselves vary from soft to chewy, and the mustard portion control fluctuates between a splodge and a deluge. It’s either a by-product of working so industrially or just spitefulness. On various occasions, the fillings were pelted toward the bag, rather than served on the bagel itself. However, this scatter-gun approach to bagel production was forgiven as the prices were so reasonable. It’s not all bagels; the giant croissants are the best possible way to spend 50p in Shoreditch.

Beigel Bake’s perpetual stream of jolly police officers, snap-happy Brick Lane tourists, irritated local alcoholics and cooler-than-thou shell suit-clad students, all eagerly anticipating their 30p doughnuts, is as far away as Great British Bake Off as possible – which isn’t a bad thing. To learn more about Beigel Bake, this charming short film provides a nostalgic bagel-focused memoir of the food and people of Shoreditch.

Beigel Bake Shoreditch
Review Summary

Atmosphere 10  Cost 10  Quality 8  Service 2

Beigel Bake Shoreditch London Review
Beigel Bake Hard At Work
Beigel Bake Brick Lane Shoreditch London Review
Beigel Bake Hard At Work
Beigel Bake Brick Lane Shoreditch London Review
Proper Bagels

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Beigel Bake Shoreditch

Bar Review: The Elephant’s Head, Camden

The Elephant’s Head – Victorian Camden

The Elephant’s Head pub is bang in the middle of  Camden Town, a simulacrum of whatever it used to be or thought it was. This one-time home of John Lennon, Charles Dickens and Sir Ambrose Fleming, saw a heroin-chic renascence in the early naughties. The skinny-limbed antics of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty preceded Noel Fielding and Russell Brand entertaining audiences by competing to have the silliest hair. Today, Camden’s biggest export is Dappy from N-Dubz.

Others disagree, of course. Alex Proud at The Telegraph is a fan: “Camden was cool in 1994 (and even 1984) and it’s still cool in 2014. It has, dare I say it, sustainable coolness. True, at no point in time will be it be as achingly “now” as a speakeasy in a repurposed public loo in Camberwell selling dirty cocktails in jam jars, but that’s the point”.

For me, Camden falls over itself screaming how alternative it is while trying as hard as possible not to care, as carefully as possible. Camden is a hangout for biker gangs without motorbikes, the worst cocaine in Europe, and enjoys a working-class brashness despite one bedroom flats renting at £3,000 a month.

I’m ranting, because I really wanted to like The Elephant’s Head pub. It’s a scruffy, characterful pub full of scruffy characters, the kind that makes the past-time of London boozing a uniquely British pleasure. I love dark Victorian London Pubs; I like to imagine Jack the Ripper sitting at the bar, nursing a pint of mild, fiddling with a Soduku. The Elephant’s Head dates to 1832, being once part of the famous Camden Town Brewery, producers of ‘Elephant Ale’ in the 1800’s. Feeling like Julian Barrat in Nathan Barley, I sought refuge in something genuine – something with more purpose and age than me – away from the surrounding nonsense. The classic checkered floor, dark wooden bar and low ceilings filled me with hope.

The pub was teaming with leather clad punters, holding what I assumed was a piercing convention. The standard issue Full English and a pint of bitter both did the job and weren’t unreasonably priced, given the fiscal hell-hole that is Zone 1. Unfortunately, members of The Elephant’s Head staff were the sourest, patronising and most abrasive as I’ve come across.

The Elephant’s Head Pub
Review Summary

Atmosphere 6  Cost 6  Quality 5  Service 2

Elephants Head Camden Pub Review
Camden Street Artist (Of Sorts)

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Head Pub Camden