KOOX, Store Street, London

‘This is a fancy pants wrap’

The parade of shops on Store Street have a very satisfying smart and quirky aesthetic with matching dark green signage and pristine window displays. KOOX fits the aesthetic perfectly and every single thing from food to décor is intensely Instagrammable. You can tell even the smallest details have been thought about, from the scrupulous placement of indoor plants, the soft shade of light from the lanterns, even the fire extinguishers were a bright silver colour. They display their Instagram handle on the wall as you walk in and they’d probably be sad if you didn’t take out your phone and photograph everything.

Despite being outwardly ‘fancy pants’ as I described it to my husband, KOOX actually had a very welcoming feel. Perhaps it was because I went in at 5.30pm and the only other people in there were office workers sipping tea and demolishing a smart looking tart. I’d heard on the grapevine that KOOX’s egg and spinach miwam (such an unnatural word to type) was something not to be missed.  I ordered one, and a chicken and mushroom Hot Kone. It was expensive, £10.90 (I’d have got 15% off if I was a student) but I’m used to London food prices by now. I was paying for the words ‘Michelin starred chefs’ painted on the wall. My miwam arrived after a few minutes…

… on a slate. And then one minute later, my Hot Kone, in its own stand.

I told you it was fancy pants. I did feel a bit silly eating a waffle off a slate and a wrap off a plastic stand, but I put aside people’s stares and enjoyed the food. The miwam was moreish and I loved the texture of the waffle. Having stared at the wrap for a minute thinking ‘how do I eat this’ I went in with my fork, taking bites of the wrap in between forkfuls of chicken, spinach and mushroom. It was going swimmingly until I got to the last couple of mouthfuls of the wrap when creamy sauce squirted out the bottom of the wrap and went all over the table. There was no styling it out so I mopped up the mess with my napkin and was glad I didn’t have more of an audience otherwise I would probably be on Instagram right now.

I helped myself to a glass of minty water from a communal jug that was next to the trendy fire extinguishers and a jar of paper straws. It’s a simple thing to offer water to diners and I’m always appreciative when food places do it. The server said thank you and goodbye as I was walking out. Overall I liked KOOX a lot and I will be going back to try the chocolate mousse which I picked up and put back, and now regret not trying. Dessert regret is the worst.

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.