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messydesk

Member since 03 Sep 2008
Loop
London | Wool Shops
4
Tiny, lovely knitting shop
There's a Loop knitting shop in New York and a London branch has been opened by an American ex-pat and very lovely it is. It's a tiny, white-washed room stuffed to the gills with yarn, knitting books and needles. Like most knitting shops the staff are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but in Loop they are particularly so. I was taught the magic loop and intarsia there, I've even had help with projects where no part was bought in their shop.
They seem to specialise mostly in small runs of artisan yarn all of very high quality (with accompanying high price) and have a few knitting books. Their magazine selection is pretty good and they always seem to have Rowan Studio which is not always easy to find. Where they really excel though is needles, they have every kind and every size in every material you could want, all of which are good quality, even the plastic ones.
It's a lovely shop but don't go expecting to be able to buy yarns you know, they most liekly won't sell them, but if you want to find some interesting yarns that you would usually have to buy online or at craft fairs or if you need some knitting advivce, Loop is great.
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I Knit
London | Wool Shops
4
Large boutique knitting shop
Iknit has recently moved from its original site in Vauxhall to the current location in Waterloo and is a million times better for it. The new shop is by far the largest speciality knitting shop in London (and I've visited them all). Due to all the space in the new location they've been able to extend their range massively, keen knitters will know how many knitting shops only carry a small range or stick to one particular brand of yarn so the expanded stock is a real point in Iknit's favour. I think their greatest asset however is their book selection, as well as a really wide range of standard knitting books they source copies of very hard to find but classic titles, they're the only place in the UK I've ever seen selling new copies of Barbara Walker of Elizabeth Zimmerman, for example. They fall down slightly in their needle selection though, they only straight needles they sell are wooden and though they sell quality Aldi circulars they're often out of stock in many sizes. My other complaint, and the thing that stops me giving them the fifth star, is that the guy who works there is stunningly rude and unhelpful (there's a lady works on a Friday morning though who is as lovely as the other guy is nasty so I stick to going only when she's working). A great shop for knitters, make sure you leave a whole day and go as close to payday as you can. It's almost the perfect knitting shop, if only I felt able to take advantage of their sofa and library, but the sarky, rude guy puts a stop to that.
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Unknown | Unknown
2
good coffee, bad cake, cheesy kink.
This odd little place near the Tottenham court Road end of Covent Garden had not yet closed down, despite the notice on the info part of this page. Apparently, (eavesdropping ago-go) their lease won't be continued after the current one lapses but the landlord doesn't seem in too much of a hurry to boot them out. Anyway Coffee, Cake and Kink is a fetish and S/M styled coffee shop, the upstairs has lots of books and other sex positive paraphernalia lining the walls with a few tables and chairs dotted here and there, it's really quite pleasant and has a good, relaxed vibe. The majority of the seating however is downstairs, which is a bit of a different story. You have to negotiate the most difficult and dangerous set of stairs I've ever come across, so much so that the staff won't let you carry your own food down with you. They've done their level best to make it bareable in the low-ceilinged, windowless basement but to my taste they've not succeeded. Apart from two sofas the seating is very uncomfortable and every table or footstool area is too close to the next, couple that with the claustrophobic, natural light free feel of the room and it becomes just too oppressive. They have different erotic art exhibitions decorating the walls but both of the times I've visited the quality has been extremely low favouring cheesy, fantasy-esque and entirely predictable styles when they could have gone in a more interesting path.
The coffee is really, really good in large cups but the cake is bad, dry and overpriced. The chocolate fondue is a great idea but in reality tastes of wax to the extent that it's inedible. It's a fun place to go, but avoid the food and stay upstairs.
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Crussh
London | Cafes & Coffee Shops
3
Great food, ouchy prices
I go to Crussh a lot for my breakfast, but only for the first week after payday. They're a small chain, primarily of juice bars but with a small selection of ultra-healthy food. The smoothies really are awesome, not too thick, not to apple-juicy, unusual and tasty combinations with interesting ingredients, I can't get enough of them. The other thing that really draws me to them in the mornings is their porridge. They sell two varieties, normal hot porridge (made with soya milk, but not actually vegan at last asking although they told me they were considering changing the recipe) and 'summer porridge' which seems to be made with yoghurt rather than milk. They are both really excellent and you can have toppings such as honey or fresh banana to go with it. It's so good and just what I need to start the day.
The rest of the food is very good, they have good salads, wheat-free sandwiches and some noodle meals. All taste really good but are shockingly expensive. The superfood salad is about £8 for example, it's a good dish with fresh tasting, varied ingredients but my god, there's just no need for that sort of price tag.
Alas, I keep going back. Healthy food is my biggest weakness and it seems that I will pay for the privileged.
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Mai Sushi Ltd
London | Japanese Restaurants
4
Sushi cafe
Mai Sushi is a small family restaurant in a quiet, but central location. The place itself has a very basic décor, more like a cafe than a restaurant really but it's plain, clean and unfussy which is no bad thing really. The staff are really very lovely, they seem genuinely friendly and are both helpful and knowledgeable. They've recently started putting a few tables outside on the pavement under their awning which we really enjoyed. The street is wide and there seems to be a lot of interesting stuff going on.
Food wise, the sushi is excellent, there's a wide range of to choose from and it's made fresh and delicious. One slight downside is that the non-sushi dishes I've had there are really quite awful, the noodles are bland and tasteless for example but if you stick to the sushi and it is, of course, a sushi restaurant you'll be more than fine. Particularly good are the bento boxes where you get a huge amount of different types of fish for a very reasonable £12. My partner was really knocked out by the soft shell crab. That brings me to one of the most excellent things about Mai Sushi - the price. It really is very reasonable, particularly for the area and the quality of the cooking.
If you're stuck at Kings Cross or Euston and don't fancy any of the over priced corparate fare on offer, just pop a couple of street over to Mai Sushhi, it's a really lovely, simple and unpretentious place.
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Unknown | Unknown
5
My favorite hotel
The Royal Pavilion Townhouse is a really special place. It's quite small, with only 8 rooms, but that seems to allow the staff to concentrate on brilliant service for the guests that they do have - I have genuinely never seen such good service in any other hotel. I don't know how the owners manage to make their employees care so much about their work, but I do know that whatever it is, it works.
Each room has a different theme, the Chinese Dragon room being the most ostentatious, the Chinoise being the prettiest, Camera Valencia being the most stylish and the tiny but lovely Beach Cove being my favourite. There's something beautifully quirky about the whole place, but not in a hipper-than-thou, cutesy way, (something you can find quite a bit in Brighton). The rooms seem like they've been designed by a non-professional designer but with real flare and imagination. The effect is both winning and rather unique, something you don't often find with hotels. The four largest rooms have big en suite bathrooms with jacuzzis and the beds in every room I've stayed in wonderfully comfortable, you seem to keep sinking into the mattress for about 5 minutes after you climb in.
The breakfast in bed is awesome and they do a really fantastic eggs florentine. The food is a little pricey, but worth every penny. There's simply nothing they've missed out.
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Unknown | Unknown
5
masssshhhhhh
Ah, Monster Mash, what better than sausage and mash after a long day in a cold, wet, hilly city like Edinburgh? It's a lovely looking place, very simply decorated with lovely booth tables but the best thing about the place is the food. Sausage and mash is pretty good even if it's bad but at Monster Mash they've taken the art to a higher level. It's one of the few places I visit a lot where I've only ever tasted one dish, the vegetarian sausages with the mustard mash and onion gravy. It's so good that I can't bear not to order it no matter what else looks good on the menu. They have different sausages every day I remember things like leek and cheese, rosemary and mint and once even a carroty affair. The rest of the menu seems to be mostly different kinds of pie and the puddings are school dinner faire like steamed pudding but like I say, I just can't tear myself away from the sausage and most particularly, the mustard mash. It gets a really busy but I always go off peak as it's so good to go there really really hungry and stuff your face with their warm, delicious comfort food.
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Carnevale
London | Vegetarian Restaurants
5
Good, even for the meat-eater in your life.
I've been going to Carnevale for years now, it's one of my favourite places to eat in London and I never get tired of it. It's a tiny, tiny, incy-wincy place with a small, but green courtyard in the back. The food has always been without exception, marvellous and even my grumpy, meat-loving dad will agree to go there without too much arm-twisting. They seem actually to understand that there's slightly more to vegetarian cooking than either a meal with the meat simply removed or just replaced with a soya burger.The menu updates very regularly and there's always at least one interesting twist in its ranks, something the mushroom risotto and vegetable lasagne fatigued vegetarians of London will be pleased by. The staff are really friendly without getting in your face and it's always a pleasure to visit small, independent place run with such care and love.
I usually go in the evenings and have the set menu which is ridiculously cheep, but if I've had a rotten morning and feel like a treat I take myself over at lunchtime and eat from the a la carte menu. I can also really recommend the salads. Unlike a lot of places, the Carnevale chefs know how to make a salad that's a properly filling meal by itself, not just a few limp vegs covered in oil, the potato and broccoli versions are particularly awesome. (Good vegan choices as well).
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Mario's Cafe
London | Cafes & Coffee Shops
5
The best cafe I have ever visited
I lived at the end of Kelly Street (in the grim bit) for years and years and a large part of the reason I stayed in the area for so long was Mario's Cafe. It's run by Mario, his friend Dario (really) and Mario's mum, who does a lot of the Italian cooking. It's a tiny place and you'll most probably end up sitting on a table with some random strangers but Mario will look after you, not in a pushy, over the top way but just by being a genuine and friendly person. I really hate forced jollity and over-friendliness but at Mario's they have the balance just right. There's a huge crowd of devoted regulars who you'll get to know in an instant and Mario attracts regulars from all walks of life, Camden hipsters, local people, builders, arty types and everything in between. If you want to have a good cup of tea in a warm, comfortable place where you feel welcome and included, you can't go better than Mario's.
Food-wise there's your traditional cafe breakfast stuff - all very good but there's also home-cooked Italian stuff of all types which is truly excellent. The chips are big, thick cut jobs and the toast isn't just sliced bread. If you ever happen to visit when asparagus lasagne is on the menu, don't hesitate, order it immediately, grab a newspaper from the pile and join the family.
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Unknown | Unknown
3
Ragedy fun
The Barfly London is split into two venues during the week, the pub part downstairs and a music venue upstairs, so if you turn up on a weekday you can have a drink without paying to see the bands. On Friday and Saturdays however, it becomes one big venue with a cover charge for the whole place, so don't get caught out if you're just looking for a place to meet friends then move on.
The downstairs bar is basically a huge old pub with all the tables taken out, but other than the rather fancy branded windows it's worn and tatty, with scuffed black walls and posters for obscure bands blue tacked on every surface. It's got a lot of charm though and Matt and Greg, the managers are the type of publicans that make you want to come back time and again. The barstaff are friendly too, possibly due to aforementioned management and there's usually a healthy crowd of interesting looking alternative types hanging around. The upstairs room is less appealing, it's basically a large box of a room with nowhere to sit and nothing to look at, good if you're watching a band, but if you're looking for anything other than that, stay downstairs.
Obviously, it's not a place for the beer or food connoisseur, you'll get a fizzy pint and a box of Pringles and you'll like it, but it has a licence till 3am most nights, with various clubs and DJs throughout the week. If you're looking for a che-che, uptown sort of place forget it, if you're looking for the sort of grungy dive Camden is famous for, you won't go far wrong.
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