Author: Maria Kontorravdis (Bar with shapes for a name)
During my entire stay in London, I have been chasing specialty coffee across the city. Luckily, each pocket of London hides small gems as well as bigger well-oiled machines.
Forno: Go for the pastries, stay for the pizza.
The first notable mention on my daytime journey has to be Forno, tucked behind Broadway market, off the canal, and conveniently next to my osteopath. It’s a ritual to make sure I heal my body, walk next to a body of water, and treat myself to their incredible Maritozzi cream puff. Open every day, this perfect bakery beneath the railway is really special. With a wonderful deli section boasting wines, dry-store and luxury staples (yes, I include their boxed tiramisu as a staple), it’s *the* place to be on a Sunday morning before going to the flower market.
Ozone: Go for the mince-on-toast, stay for the v60.
A short walk toward the flower market brings you to Ozone, a large, open space full of light and buzzing with energy. Their food menu changes seasonally, championing a kitchen philosophy that would make any restaurant proud. Producing only 2% by-product, supporting local businesses, and repurposing their surplus milks, it’s one of my favorite places to be in the early afternoon – propped up on one of their large sharing benches, eating mince-on-toast, and drinking one of their many filter coffee options (they’ve learned that I love a fruity-boozy number and will always share what’s special with you – the staff really is phenomenal and even bought me a Christmas present once).
Overwhelmed by the sheer number of amazing restaurants, deciding where to go is a challenge, although it’s always delicious. I’m very lucky to meet most of the chefs, servers, and bartenders of these establishments at my own place of work since we’re open till 4 a.m. This means endless inspiring, late-night conversations about what’s new, what’s on, and what’s exciting.
Mangal 2: Go for the Cull Yaw Kofte, stay for the monkfish.
My go-to, always, is Mangal 2, run by two brothers, Sertaç and Ferhat Dirik, who are my favorite sibling duo in London. Their ability to maintain a powerful sense of traditional Turkish food while still adding a modern flare to each dish is really a joy to experience.
I hold a special admiration for Sertaç: When I had just started managing the bar, I could come to him at lunchtime with a mystery fruit I had found in the market and he would make time to try it and share all his knowledge. This respect and attention is just one of the many strong attributes he has as a young aspiring chef – and the proof really is in his food. You have to come with enough friends to share the whole menu and try some of the recommended wines.
Surprisingly, as a bartender I spend very little of my time in bars, even though I’m impossibly lucky to live in an area that has a thriving hospitality culture. There are countless options of greatly beloved and established bars. Satan’s Whiskersis around the corner, Tayer and Elementary at a short walking distance, Bar Swiftonly a stone’s throw away – not to mention having Three Sheets, Hacha, Happiness Forgets, Silverleaf, Seed Library … it’s endless. Is there space for new and innovative bars? The answer is yes, and they’re coming in HOT.
I want to celebrate two new openings that have burst onto the East London scene this year. The first being Crossroads, previously in North London (I’m tremendously grateful they have moved closer to my zip code). The second being right at my doorstep, Bar Lotus– it’s first venue outside of Asia is a diamond to visit.
Crossroads: Go for the Darjeeling, stay for the beef tartar.
Bart and his team at Crossroadshave worked up a beautiful food and cocktail pairing menu, while creating a space that can be everyone’s favorite neighborhood bar. It’s perfectly situated in a street full of amazing food and wine in the heart of Newington Green, and they couldn’t be a better fit if they tried. A real partner in inspiration, the team is always helpful and keen to share their research and development. This kindness is what keeps me hopeful that this area of London remains a friendly artist collective.
“…it’s first venue outside of Asia is a diamond to visit.”Maria Kontorravdis
Bar Lotus: Go for the Palo Santo, stay for the chicken lollipops.
Meanwhile, only open for three months, Bar Lotus has hit the ground running, sprinting into Kingsland Road with its beautifully streamlined space, exceptional music selection, and immaculately fun drinks championing familiar and rare Asian ingredients. Celebrating playfulness, their team is constantly buzzing around cultivating an atmosphere hard to beat. With an impressive house cocktails list and a perfect selection of classics, Bar Lotus has made it into one of my absolute favorite (and regular) spots to visit.