Tuesday 14 July 2015


A few months ago a new joint opened up on Clapham Common called Fields.  Being locals, and foodies, we didn't hesitate to go along and sample its wares, which we enjoyed very much.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we've been back several times since, and even persuaded family and friends to come along and enjoy a bite.

Having rated Fields so highly, it seemed only right and proper that we try out M1LK, Field's big sister café (M1LK was the first).  So here we go.

First up, like so many other joints that M1LK is formed from the same mould as, this place is achingly trendy.  It's got the industrial chic look pretty much nailed.  It's got the mismatched, slightly uncomfortable furniture.  It's got the epic queues on a Saturday or Sunday (although go early on either day, or any time mid-week, and it's a doddle to get a table).

I'm always, I'm afraid, slightly wary of the hipster, trendy look - and in particular, places that are uber popular (remember The Breakfast Club?) - mostly because it's usually all a ruse to disguise a really rather average offering that's massively overpriced.
Spoiler Alert: M1LK is not that.  M1LK's awesome.
Let's start with the coffee, hey?  Because, just like Fields, M1LK sells awesome coffee.  Like, really, really good coffee, made with full fat unhomogenised milk (naughty but so yummy) and tip-top quality coffee beans.  I mean, this is good coffee.  I seldom have more than one cup a day, but this stuff has me going back for three or four.

Then there are the smoothies.  Holy cow.  This was the one thing I thought Fields really was lacking - there was no fresh juice (although, good news breakfast fans, that's been addressed slightly now).  M1LK does big, old-fashioned milk pint bottles (very cool) full of deliciously tasty, fresh mulched fruit.  Very good stuff. 

Now, on to the bit that you've probably actually interested in.  The food.

M1LK does not disappoint.  First up, The Convict. 

Kinda like their signature dish, this is the closest you're going to get to a Full English at either restaurant.  It is, in fact, an English muffin filled with bacon, sausages (from Moen's, so local), a Burford Brown egg, hash browns and something described as "hangover sauce" which is a lovely brown sauce-esque condiment that offsets all the greasy food beautifully.  The stuffing is also topped with grated cheese, which is also pretty ace.  This is a good breakfast.  Hearty.  Hangover-defeating. 

Here we have also the Sweet Maria.  Sweetcorn fritters with grilled halloumi, avocado and  kasundi (a kind of Indian tomato relish or pickle).  Again, really brilliant but this time more appealing, perhaps, to those who like to start their Saturday mornings off with a spot of yoga (Mrs G) rather than nursing a post-Friday night throbbing head (Mr G).  Lots of lovely, fresh flavours - I doubt, actually, that it's that healthy but it certainly tastes it, and has the advantage of being simultaneously really tasty.
Then there are the baked eggs, which you can have with sausages or with butternut squash.  No surprise, we went for sausages.  Technically, these are kasekrainer, a type of German sausage with small bits of cheese mixed in with the stuffing.  I've never had them before, but they were good.  Also mixed in the pan was wild ransoms (a bit like wild garlic, which has more of a spring oniony flavor, in my view, than a garlicky one), labne (a type of yoghurt) and wild flowers.  All this made for an aesthetically stunning dish which was still pretty good (but, I am afraid, lost out in comparison with the others). 

Much like Fields, M1LK also does a range of baked stuff - from cakes to cookies - that look too good to be refused.  I have since learned that they bake all of their stuff in-house, as part of a drive to generate better quality produce from top quality ingredients.  In fact, I reckon you should read this post on their blog about the steps they're taking to improve their environmental and ethical footprint.  I find it pretty inspiring.

I have no problem recommending M1LK.  Sure, if you live locally and want to pop out for a bit of Saturday or Sunday brunch, being met by the enormous queues is likely to be frustrating.  But there's a reason for those queues: the product inside is, genuinely, really, really good.

PS: I took the photos a little while ago, and in my disorganised stage have only just got round to posting.  Since then, M1LK has been closed for a re-furb and has only just re-opened.  I gather it's now much bigger, which hopefully should address the queue situation a little, and I think some of the spots depicted (such as the counter and industrial-chic walls / neon display) have now gone.  However, I do understand that the food is just as good and the team hasn't changed, so I reckon this review should still stand.  Cheers. 

Thursday 9 July 2015

Cellar SW4

As is always the way when a new gaff opens up just around the corner from your home, when you stand outside Cellar as a Clapham local, you find yourself scratching your head for simply ages, thinking: “I know this wasn’t here three days ago, but what was here?”  It’s the mystery of urban living, the inability to recall the shop or business or bar or service that occupied the same dozen square feet at the end of your nose only a matter of hours before.
Cellar sort of fits a tidy little niche, a wine bar serving interesting and unique wines, none of them well known or even widely available, along with platters of meats and cheeses.  The establishment has been set up by the same minds behind Dvine Wine round the corner on Landor Road, an outfit that specialises in selling organic and biodynamic wines.  So I’m going to come out and call this – this is a local business (even if the owner is a very friendly and personable Aussie) with proper local routes. 

The interior is done up as a niche (and, forgive me, cliché) little wine bar should be: it’s filled with old wooden wince crates on the wall and includes a bar made from old wine crates, which was pretty cool.  Even the candle sticks are made from old wine bottles – in particular, Craig Hawkin’s esoteric labelled bottles.

The wines themselves are what you’re here for, though, right?

Not to be outdone by any other reviewer, we went through pretty much the whole gamut of wine options available, starting with a white (for GrubsterGirl) and an orange (for me). 

What, I hear you cry, on earth is an orange wine?  Put simply, it’s a wine that’s orange.  Put more sensibly, it’s a white wine that’s made like a red wine, so instead of separating the juice straight await and allowing it to ferment, you leave it on the lees for longer – in some cases, apparently, for up to a year – which I can imagine would be very tricky to handle. 

My example of an orange wine was Cosimo Maria Daphne.  It felt old and oaky, a little like a red, yes.  It was also pretty powerful and lots of hard work, so good as a sipping wine perhaps, rather than something to take with a meal. 

GrubsterGirl’s white wine was a Chenin Blanc, specifically the Craig Hawkins “C”.  This was much lighter, a bright, fruity and floral wine, with cantaloupe notes and a distinct sweetness, but still with lots of robust flavours.  

Next up, rosé.

Again, two distinct ends of the spectrum.  The lighter rose was another Cosimo Maria Masini, this time the Mathilde.  Dry and oaky, as GG put it: “think sunshine and easy drinking”.

The darker rosé, however, was the opposite.  The Los Frailes Monastrell Rosado was much sweeter, bursting with red fruits and winter berries (think redcurrants and cranberries) and with that enduring richness on the end that you find in some rosés.

Then there’s also the food.  I can’t really resist a good charcuterie and/or cheese board, and they had both on hand.

Then onto the red.  We actually went for the same red – the Hewitson Ms. Harry Grenache Syrah Malbec.  Again, this is relatively easy drinking, but that’s no bad thing for a wine bar – the last thing you need in that context is something you have to struggle with.  This was full bodied – think woody, smoky, rich and buttery.  Lovely. 

They also had lovely olives served in an even more lovely teacup and saucer (actually a great innovation, as it solves the question of what happens to the stones). 

The thing is this, though.  Neither the meat nor the cheese board was cheap.  So I felt the portions were, to be frank, a bit stingy.  But that’s really the end of my criticisms.  Solve that issue (either drop the price or give more away) and you’ve got yourself a lovely little spot to drop in at.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Coffee Club: Climpson & Sons (take 2)

Origin: Climpson & Sons, purchased from Melrose & Morgan
Coffee: Mixed Heirloom (single origin) from Knots Family, Yirgachaffe, Ethiopia
Price (per 250g): £7.95

Jono seriously couldn’t help himself: "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, these aren't a few of my favourite things. But this coffee is."  For him, this coffee smashed it out of the park with a personal score of 9 out of 10.  This suprised me, given how much he had disliked Climpson & Sons' last offering.

I found the coffee quite floral and aromatic, which is a good thing generally, with a nose that had a definite grapefruit hit (flesh, not peel).  The taste itself perhaps fell slightly short of the nose, but was still nice nevertheless - fruity without being too acidic, and still robust.  David seemed to agree with the fruity part, saying that the coffee perhaps represented the balance between the pro-fruit/acidity camp and the pro-full bodied, dark roast camp.  I'd second that.

Score: 8/10