Fabrique Bakery, Covent Garden, London

‘It’s got blueberries in. Healthy’

I don’t know why I even tried to convince myself that my blueberry bun from Fabrique Bakery was anything but the decadent treat it was. I had heard about their cinnamon buns from various people and forward planned a pitstop at Fabrique on my way to a Bloomsbury Festival event on women’s rights at Conway Hall in Holborn. I’ve walked the route to Holborn through Covent Garden from Charing Cross a thousand times as I used to work in the area, and yet I completely failed to find Fabrique and had to resort to Google Maps. It turned out to be, in panto style, behind me.

First things first I snapped a pic of the outside of the shop which had an array of buns gleaming in the window. As I walked in the cinnamon smell was glorious and rows and rows of shiny sticky buns were on display calling out to me.

A man and woman wrapped in warm coats were sat inside the bakery excitedly eating generously filled sandwiches made with what looked like rich and crusty sourdough. I watched them out of the corner of my eye as they seemed to be enjoying their lunch immensely, barely coming up for breath in between bites. Flour-dusted crusty loaves were lined up behind the counter and I was distracted for a moment away from the rows of tempting buns at the front of the counter. I had originally planned to get a cinnamon bun but the blueberry buns which were golden brown and speckled with dark purple gooey blueberries seeping out the sides, caught my attention.

For £3 my blueberry bun was bigger than the size of my open palm and I happily placed my Monzo card on the reader. As I walked out the bakery I pulled the bun out its paper bag to take a photo and immediately got sticky fingers – I licked them clean, attempted a photo and stuffed my phone into my back pocket so I could eat.

I did get a few strange looks as I walked from Fabrique to Holborn. This was perhaps caused by my Cheshire Cat grin and my technique of trying not to bite too deeply in an attempt to avoid smearing my chin with sugar. As I walked through Seven Dials a waitress from Hotel Chocolat handed me a sample of their salted caramel hot chocolate. Despite the sugar overload it tasted lovely and complemented my blueberry bun.

I arrived at Conway Hall 15 minutes later and went straight to the bathroom to wash my hands because, despite my best efforts, I indeed had sticky fingers and a sticky chin. The blueberry bun turned out to be my lunch as it was so filling, and it saw me through 3 hours of inspiring and energising talks on women’s rights in the twenty-first century and the future of feminist activism. Thanks for the bun power, Fabrique.

Mother Clucker, Flat Iron Square, London

‘Ketchup – for the kid!’

Opting for ketchup over hot sauce from a stall called Mother Clucker was always going to be greeted with some mick-taking. For the rest of the evening my husband joked that I was a child for having ketchup on my chips. I did try the hot sauce on his chips and to my surprise it wasn’t as hot as I was expecting. Next time I will get hot sauce. We were heading to a friend’s birthday drinks in a pub in London Bridge and wanted a quick dinner beforehand. I’ve been to Flat Iron Square a few times and it’s a no-brainer for speedy and delicious food in the area.

Flat Iron Square is all-round cool, full of hipsters, quirky decor and a great selection of reasonably priced (for London) food outlets. We had initially planned to get thai food, but we walked past Mother Clucker on our way to the main food area and, to quote Love Island, our heads were turned. Big chunks of heavily seasoned chicken were tumbling into the fryer and coming out the most glorious golden brown colour and I salivated at the thought of biting into it. We deliberated for about 30 seconds and both decided that proper fried chicken with Cajun fries and sauce was exactly what we wanted. I chose chicken strips and Murtie went for the burger. £19 altogether.

The server asked me if I was a student, to which I at first said no, and then asked ‘if I’d said yes would you have believed me?’. He replied saying he needed to see a student ID and on hearing that I had one from 2007 he raised his eyebrows and said ‘wow that’s old’. Everything about Mother Clucker is cheeky and I love that. The stickers on the outside of the stall, the servers and the food left us smiling.

Our order came up relatively quickly, and the server was very generous with hot sauce, mayo and ketchup for me – the child. We sat down in the main food area with our compostable forks and got stuck in. There is something very comforting about fried chicken, and biting into the juicy, crispy chicken breast chunks was immensely satisfying. The cajun fries packed a punch of heat and I was glad of my mayo to cool it all down.

Watching Murtie eat his burger provided much entertainment as bits of hot sauce and lettuce seeped through his fingers. During our last bites we noticed that the boxes we’d been eating from were recyclable, as was the cutlery. I’m so glad Mother Clucker do this – every little helps. We’ll be back to Flat Iron Square at some point to get the pad thai we originally went in for. No guarantees though as the sushi, salads, pizza and doughnuts are definitely our type on paper.

Bun House, London

‘I have custard on my chin’

I’d just sat down to watch a production of Wise Children at the Old Vic Theatre with my friend Amy when I realised I had the remnants of a custard bao on my chin. In my defense it was extremely runny, as I had been warned, and I challenge anyone to eat one without getting custard all over their chin. I wanted a quick eat after work before the theatre and had earmarked Bun House a few months ago after eating dinner elsewhere in Soho. I remembered seeing Bun House that night and singing ‘bun house, a whole lotta fun, prizes to be won’ to my then fiancé. We agreed the 90s children’s TV show pun in Bun House was a happy accident, but now whenever I think of Bun House, I sing that line. Sorry Bun House. Whilst there were no prizes to be won, I did have fun as the bao were big, tasty and delicious.

When I walked into Bun House the kitchen was steamy and busy, with lots of happy looking diners sat at small tables devouring bao from bamboo steamers. The menu was varied and reasonably priced at £2.50 per bun. I’ve eaten in other bao places in London where a single bao of one bite is a fiver. Each bao in Bun House was a good 4 bites worth and very filling. I opted for a veg bun, a fish bun and a dish of lotus root crisp, mainly because I’d seen a photo on Instagram and was intrigued. My food came promptly and I took a seat on a leather bench in the window, which was open as it was a mild evening. As ‘fast food’ goes the buns were very flavoursome – I particularly liked the veg bun which had deep mushroom taste.

The lotus root crisps were crunchy and moreish, and gave a satisfying texture to the soft buns. I watched the world go by whilst eating and clocked a lady coming in and out of the restaurant with a giant bamboo steamer. When she went out it was full and when she came back in it was empty.  I finished up my lotus root crisps and went outside to investigate. I discovered that a vlogging company were giving out free, limited edition, pink custard bao to promote their new vlog platform. In all honesty, I was too excited to receive a free bun to remember the name of the company. As I was walking off the rep called after me saying to be careful as the custard inside the bun was runny. She wasn’t lying. I prepared myself and slowly took a small-ish bite. Custard squirted all over my chin despite my best attempts to suck it all up. On the plus side, the custard bun was sweet, satisfying, and just what I fancied to round off my dinner.

Although the custard solidified on my face, it did mean I got to taste it again whilst licking my fingers to rub it off at the theatre. Bun House was great for a quick dinner that didn’t break the bank but filled my tummy. Wise Children was also excellent and I recommend you see it before the run ends.

Cafe Strange Brew, Shawlands, Glasgow

‘I’m eating chocolate soil for breakfast’.

Those were the 6 words I text my husband, along with the picture below, moments before I ate probably the best breakfast of my life to date in Cafe Strange Brew. That’s quite a claim and I stand by it. Just look:

America style pancakes with Scottish strawberries, chocolate soil, whipped mascarpone, roasted almonds and dark chocolate sauce. It was all very very very very good. The pancakes were soft and light, the sauce was dark and sweet, the strawberries were fresh and juicy, the toasted almonds and chocolate soil provided crunch. All round, the happiest 20 minutes I’ve spent eating in a long time.

Caveat: I had to wait half an hour for a table. Second caveat: it was absolutely worth it. Before visiting Glasgow I’d tweeted asking for recommendations of places to visit/eat. One of my followers had suggested Cafe Strange Brew, so I put it on my itinerary for my last day as it was near where I stayed in Pollokshields.

It was glorious sunshine when I left my AirB&B with a heavily packed bag and messy hair as I didn’t take my straighteners. On Google Maps the cafe was 15 minutes walk away. I always underestimate distance and that day was no different. It took me 20 and I was sweaty and tired from carrying my giant bag. There are so many delicious looking cafes in this area of Glasgow, I filled up a Notes tab with places to visit next time.

As I approached Cafe Strange Brew I could see steamed up windows and shadows of people standing by the door. This was half the queue. The other half was sat on a wooden pew in the window. A friendly waiter welcomed me and put my name on a list – after hoofing 20 minutes there was no way I was going somewhere else. For once I had absolutely nothing to do that day so I sat and watched everyone’s food come out, which made choosing what to order all the more difficult.

I was torn between sweet and savoury – the wide and creative selection of egg dishes had me salivating but I had gone for savoury my past 3 breakfasts and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had pancakes. Dark chocolate was the clincher for me. I am addicted.

It was a bit like being a dentist waiting room but the end result was so much better. I ordered as soon as I finally sat down and my pile of pancakes came about 5 minutes later. I could see the people on the table next to me sneaking a peek at my plate and frowning, but I didn’t care one bit and made my way through mouthfuls of fluffy pancake and sweet strawberry.

I’d have licked the plate clean if I had been in a more discreet corner, so I settled for trying to scoop up my sauce with my knife and fork. I was absolutely stuffed and felt absolutely amazing.

As I paid I asked the waiter if it was always this busy and he said ‘pretty much’. For a cafe that doesn’t seem to have a website, the power of social media seems to be working for them as they have thousands of followers. I will definitely be telling anyone I know going to Glasgow to visit.

After my breakfast I walked to the nearest train station, which had such a great name I took a photo of it.

The sky was bright blue with not a cloud in sight. I took the train into Glasgow and out again to Bridgeton. I spent the rest of my day reading my way through Glasgow Women’s Library, the organisation which inspired my trip to Glasgow in the first place. It’s a wonderful, welcoming place and I implore everyone to go there. Pancakes + feminism = Katy’s perfect day.

Pizza Punks, Glasgow

‘Go there, they do mac n cheese on a pizza!’

My friend and I were sipping fancy G&Ts in Gin71 when she suggested Pizza Punks for a cheap place for dinner for my last night in Glasgow. I had booked in to another restaurant but the menu was ‘small plates’ and unless you take Tupperware or haven’t eaten all day, small plates really don’t suit the solo diner. I was also pretty skint by this point in my trip so the prospect of pizza for a tenner, with unlimited toppings was very appealing.

I’d done a whole load of sightseeing that day and despite eating a massive breakfast, a lemon poppyseed muffin, a Tantrum doughnut and a veggie haggis roll, I was surprisingly ravenous by 6.30pm. I followed the neon lights inside and asked for a table for one. This time I got a table for four for one, so I spread out with my book and notepad. I scoured the menu to try and decide what to have atop my pizza. I loved the fact they not only had mac n cheese as a pizza topping, but Irn Bru pulled pork, lamb donner, tortilla chips and potato scone. In hindsight I do regret not being braver than my order of lemon & herb chicken, red onion, artichokes, olives and rocket on a tomato base, with garlic mayo for crust dipping.

It took me a good half an hour to get through it all and it was the sort of pizza where there was substantial crust to really make the most of the garlic mayo. For a tenner it was perfectly tasty. The waiting staff were friendly and although it took a while for my bill to come, it was time I didn’t know I needed to let my food settle. It was nice to slow down for once. I’m used to London where everyone gets annoyed if a tube train is more than 1 minutes away. I appreciated the handwritten thank you note on the receipt and went back to my AirB&B to digest.

Tantrum Doughnuts, 27 Old Dumbarton Road, Glasgow

‘My doughnut matches my shoes’.

I text my husband a photo of my bright pink doughnut as soon as I stepped out of Tantrum Doughnuts because I was so proud of my purchase, and so desperate to eat it. I wouldn’t normally dedicate an entire post to a single doughnut, but that’s how good it was.

I’d spent the morning exploring the University of Glasgow in crisp air and bright sunshine. Parts of it looked like Hogwarts with its turrets. towers and red bricks, and I enjoyed the autumnal views framed by old windows.

I was on my way to the Riverside Museum from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (it was a proper nerdy trip to Glasgow) and I’d earmarked Tantrum Doughnuts when I was researching places to eat. My heart sank from across the road because I thought it was closed, but as I got closer I could see shiny sugar glazed doughnuts glinting in the window.

The smell of sugary sweetness was divine and I was faced with an array of doughnut flavours to choose from – creme brûlée (the server’s favourite), Tonka bean (which she promised tasted like Solero), salted caramel, almond buttermilk, and cookies and creme, which had been the most popular that day.

I had to close my mouth from drooling. Whilst I was choosing my doughnut a Deliveroo man came in to pick up an order. First of all, amazing that this doughnut shop was on Deliveroo, and second, massive high five to the person who wanted doughnuts delivered to their door. I opted for a pistachio and hibiscus ring, paying with my Scottish £5 note and leaving the shop gleeful.

It tasted exactly like a doughnut should – light and doughy, sweet but not too sweet, decadent and naughty as hell. The pistachio gave a lovely crunch to the soft dough and the hibiscus offered a floral touch but didn’t overpower. For 5 minutes I was in doughnut paradise on a beautiful Autumnal day in Glasgow.

Topolobamba, Glasgow

‘Do you want a wee pudding m’love?’

My waiter at Topolabamba, Jamie, was an absolute gem and said the words above in his thick Scottish accent with a giant smile and twinkle in his eye. I’d spent a long day sightseeing – my phone said I’d walked 11km – and as I was parked in a corner on my table for one I was glad of a friendly, welcoming face. The restaurant was buzzing on a Saturday night with tables bulging with food and excitable people knocking back cocktails. I loved the atmosphere and colourful lighting, which went from blue to red to green throughout the evening.

As I sat down Jamie introduced himself and asked if I’d like a regular or large white wine, emphasising the word ‘large’ and giving me a look of ‘it’s Saturday night’. I grinned and said yes, and gave him my food order: shredded beef tostadas, crispy fish tacos and crispy Pasilla king prawn tacos. You’ll have to forgive my weird menu choices, I have a thing for fried things from the sea. It was only after I ordered that I realised I’d missed out using the mini Ikea pencil to circle my choices. Everyone loves a tiny pencil.

I sat back and opened my book just as a bottle of tequila landed on my table. After my initial horror I was relieved to find it only had tap water in it. The last time I drank tequila was on my hen do and the less that’s said about that, the better. My beef tostadas came out first, swiftly followed by my fish and prawn tacos.

Everything was flavoursome but boy was it spicy. It was at this point that I realised the menu had a heat key, which I had completely ignored. As I finished up, my mouth was on fire and as Jamie asked ‘do you want a wee pudding m’love’ all I could do was nod and point at the Horchata ice cream, which he said tasted like Caramac bars.

It arrived pronto in a deep blue bowl that looked like a flower pot. The first bite was like diving into a pool when you’ve been sat in the sun too long. The ice cream was soothing, creamy and indeed tasted like Caramac bars. I asked for the bill as I was finishing the final scoop and it arrived with a smiley face on it.

I don’t know if Jamie was being nice to be in order to earn a tip, either way he was delightful and made my solo dinner all the more enjoyable. I asked him if he got his tips and he said yes. The food at Topolabamba was tasty and I’d like to go back with a big group of people so I can try more of the menu. My takeaway this trip though will be Jamie, who made me feel right at home.