It’s no secret that we like to “do” London a little differently each time. After seeing all the main tourist sights on previous visits, we followed a little more alternative itinerary in May 2017, and then did a tour of festive London in November of the same year.
This time around, with an evening watching Hamilton on the agenda, Mr Fletche had booked us into the Travelodge Farringdon, a 15 minute walk from Kings Cross station and just 5 minutes from the pubs, cafes and trendy eateries of Clerkenwell. We’d only ever stumbled across the Kings Cross area en route to the Eurostar at St Pancras so we were interested to explore the area further. Alas, it was a fleeting visit to the capital this time around with just one full day but we did manage to squeeze in lunch, dinner and two breakfasts in the area.
We were spoiled for choice for breakfast and brunch options at Clerkenwell’s pedestrianised Exmouth Market. Caravan. Briki. Gail’s Artisan Bakery. Cafe Maya (more on that later). But after perusing all the menus we ended up at Exmouth Market Grind, an Australian-inspired cafe bar which serves breakfast in the morning, coffee in the afternoon and cocktails in the evening. My kind of establishment.
It’s all very neutral but elegant inside, with the ubiquitous trailing green plants and neon sign. The big windows look out onto Exmouth Market, where the street food stalls are setting up for the day. Mr Fletche goes for the veggie-friendly option of sweet potato harissa cakes with poached egg, and a side of avocado (which immediately turns any breakfast into brunch). I have a hankering for the buttermilk pancakes with blueberries and cream. Blueberries are one of my five a day so this must be a healthy option. We keep the drinks simple with a filter coffee and a breakfast tea, although the beetroot latte sounds interesting. The food is good, if a little pricey (but not “London” pricey) for breakfast, and it’s a chilled way to start the day’s sightseeing.
Skipping back a day, we arrive in London after a long coach journey, and after dropping off our suitcases in our room we decide to retrace our steps back to Kings Cross to find somewhere for lunch. We fleetingly consider eating at the Travelodge but we are slightly too early for the lunchtime shift (lunch is post 3pm apparently in this part of the world).
It’s a tossup between the Big Chill and Pizza Union – on this occasion, pizza wins out. Mainly because the sign outside says “superfast” and we’re starving. Its got an industrial vibe, with plenty of large communal tables.
We start with dough sticks and dip – a crafty upsell at the counter. We share a Regina pizza with mozzarella, parmesan, ham, mushrooms and black olives. Mr Fletche has my share of olives. And I’m never going to turn down a frozen margarita. Especially when it’s only £3.50. It’s not exactly super fast though. We have one of those buzzer thingies where you’re never sure if it’s working or not. Mr Fletche is about to go and declare ours as broker when it vibrates and buzzes. It is working. The pizza is thin crust and not stodgy at all – I’m fussy about my pizzas but this gets a thumbs up. The table next to us had the dolce which looked incredible, oozing with Nutella and mascarpone. It’s a great value lunch option, with a buzzy atmosphere and in close proximity to Kings Cross and St Pancras.
Even in a city that never sleeps it can be hard to find somewhere decent to get grub on a Sunday evening. Somewhere that’s not Nando’s or Five Guys that is. The red neon of Piebury Corner catches my eye as we leave Kings Cross and head towards our hotel. There are tables available and we find out why – they’re closing in 20 minutes – can we shovel pie and mash down in 20 minutes? Of course we can.
For £16 each we get a pie, mash, gravy and a drink. The pies look a little small when they come out but both my minced beef and onion pie and Mr Fletche’s chicken, ham and leek oozed filling from a tasty shortcrust pastry case. Outside of this deal there are 13 meat, 3 vegetarian and 4 vegan and gluten-free pies available meaning there are pies available for all. As the staff are closing up shop around us we don’t hang around for a dessert but the menu includes 5 types of pie to satisfy the sweetest sweet tooth. Piebury Corner started out as the most basic of street food stalls aimed at Arsenal fans on the way to the match, and with two restaurant locations in London – King’s Cross and on the Holloway Road, pie fans should definitely seek out this independent.
After yesterday’s hipster sweet potato cake, avocado and pancake breakfast, today we’re in the mood for something a little more basic. We’d walked past Cafe Maya the previous morning, even going as far as checking out the menu before deciding on Exmouth Grind instead. You won’t find any neon signs, trailing plants, instagrammable knick-knacks or beetroot lattes here. What you’ll find are 6 set breakfasts, all with a slight variation in content but mostly containing everything you need for a proper English fry-up. They are also more than happy to switch things around if you’d prefer a hash brown instead of beans, as Mr Fletche does. At less than £6 for each breakfast it’s a steal, and much more appetising than the Travelodge offering which would have cost us more.
Pizza, pie and pancakes. Oh, and a proper good full English. I hope you’ve enjoyed my culinary tour around King’s Cross – there’s plenty more to explore in the Farringdon and Clerkenwell area if only we’d had the time!