Sunday, June 12, 2016

London 2015 Day 23: Markets, Angel, Regent's Canal, London Fields, Boxpark, SoHo Whisky Club

London 2015 Day 23: Markets, Angel, Regent's Canal, London Fields, Boxpark, SoHo Whisky Club

And thus began one of the most awesome days of the whole trip! It was a crazy crazy travel adventure day today, classic carpe-diem Jutan/Spring-style. I was up early and out all day and into the late evening, doing all the things.

Started up at 9 and to Borough Market by 10:30. I took my SLR this time so that I could take a bunch of nicer photos this time and chat lots with the the store peeps. I had the 3-cheese toastie sandwich again today, man that thing is filling!!

My favourite cheesecake place, ION Patisserie

Sooo many cookies

Hilarious "Owl" shortbreads. Looks like a snowman to me!

The insane amount of cheese at the sandwich place.

So good!
Hilariously, I ran into "our coffee guy", the dude I had bought coffee from under the shelter in the church parking lot near the office! He was also at Borough Market and Notes had a booth there.

I wandered a lot, got some other cheese samples this time. And then the classic Ferry Building problem -- "I want to be out all day, should I get produce and fresh fish!" I decided not to (good move). I got more Biltong again today, this time from the other stand, which was even better. There was a chili version, and the regular one has parsley in it - interesting!

This is where I got the awesome Asparagus from last week

The Biltong was from this stand.

Crazy truffles that you could smell.

This is a close up of the "Get your fresh strawberries!" guy from last week.
Eventually after a good wander in the market, I got a slice of Nutella cake at the Konditor & Cook shop, to save for later. I picked up a Lemon Cheesecake this time from my friends at ION Patisserie (yum) and got a Coffee (Espresso) from Monmouth Coffee. In the (long!) line for Monmouth Coffee Co., I planned my day in detail. I looked at a few options. I was kindof keen to get to Boisdale Canary Wharf as the Whisky Bar there is supposed to be beyond legendary. But it was closed till 6pm. (By the way, when I got my espresso it was very "tangy" and definitely worth the wait, and went very well with my cheesecake).

I planned my day from this great spot to sit at Monmouth Coffee Co.

Greenwich sounded kindof cool but it is a ways away and I figured better to pair that with a trip to Boisdale Canary Wharf. Brick Lane also sounded nice but it seemed the main market day there was Sunday, not Saturday? Ultimately, I decided to follow Dana's (excellent) local advice, and head up to Angel station. Immediately upon arrival I was sure this was an excellent choice. "Angel" -- sure lives up to its name! It is such a cute and artsy area, nice shops, fun antique markets. I loved the Camden Passage walkway, just glorious. It was really fun to walk through the shops and check out the vibe of the place. Sounds like it's a fairly hip spot to live these days and I can see why, it was really great there. A little like Fillmore St. in SF, perhaps. Lots of cute (and fancy) shops, lots of smiles, lots of hairdressing places, lots of places for tea, antiques and funny homewares.

From here I went on the piece-de-resistance... on a walk along Regent's Canal at Colebrooke Row. This was JUST PERFECT. When the view starts with a Secret Garden-esque entrance, and greenery over the path, people out exercising and enjoying the day, and canal boats - all unique and parked along the canal - you know this is gonna be a great walk.

Good advice.
I walked for ages along the canal, checking out the canal boats (people live in them, and make their way along the canals -- like a classy version of an RV Road Trip in the US!) There were little side cafes along the canal, with free water and lemon and cups for walkers. A magnificent stroll, watching people move their boats through the canal via the locks. There was an awesome-looking apartment overlooking the canal as well. I can see why people live here, what an epic spot. It's got a very "upstart" feel to it -- like it's been there for a long time but is just now getting renovated and the younger crowds are moving in to enjoy an area people have enjoyed for generations. The hip coffee spots, the newer apartments alongside an old city feature, and so on, reminded me a bit of the High Line in Manhattan.

I found out only recently that this phrase "Bob's your Uncle" is a Commonwealth phrase -- I used it in the US and no one had any idea what I was talking about.

Some ways along, there was a kids Kayak Slalom tournament going on, with people cheering and prizes and floating cafes and bookstores on canal boats-turned businesses. The Kayak Slalom is one of those wonderfully unusual local things that you can just happen upon if you don't overplan your world travels -- this is the kind of thing you would never plan to see it as you have no clue it exists -- a real "alive" moment, taking in all the great opportunities as they come up. Really great.

The "Cafe" on the Canal Boats especially made me laugh, and looked quite popular. And then there was this!

This reminded me of a conversation with Lawrence las week where he was talking about a lovely "Steak and Eel" place. I thought I misheard him, "A Steak and Ale pie place?" I asked, "No, Steak and EEL" he corrected me. "It sounds gross, and it kindof is." Also, this could not possibly be more British. And no, I did not buy anything there.

I exited the incredible Regent's Canal walk and made my way to the UNBELIEVABLY BEAUTIFUL London Fields. Ugghhhhhhhhhhhhh so glorious!

But first, a quick walk through Broadway Market to get there. This was nice, but I was quite thirsty after a long walk. I got a Coconut water and sat in the shade to take a break. I wrote a couple of postcards and chilled. Time for the Konditor & Cook, cake #2 for the day!

So I've found the Ferry Building Farmers Market (Borough Market) and now I've found the Ferry Building Bench (London Fields)!!! Epic times. It was definitely a slower pace here, ("Slow your pace!") after a busy morning at Borough Market.

After a nice long sit on the bench in this stunning and beautiful park, on this stunning and beautiful day, I made my way back home via London Liverpool -- well that was my original intention, but well, may as well check out Shoreditch, Hoxton, and Brick Lane/Spitalfields when in Rome!

Wait a minute... that's not the Savoy!

The "Tea" building. Nice.

I happened upon a cool popup food market in an old gas station, this was a really cool place for a popup food truck place. Unfortunately I wasn't too hungry (too much cake?!) so I checked it out but kept on walking.

Next random thing I was looking for was the main HQ of the awesome business card makers I was keen to check out their space cause I love their work so much, but I kindof failed trying to find out how to get to their office. I kept walking and came across this place called Boxpark, which was a bunch of stacked shipping containers all turned into cool little business outlets! There was even a Gap in there!! Hilarious, with my luck, there was actually a booth there. Very cool.

Boxpark had a couple of levels, and "upstairs" there was a sort of grass seating area made out of astroturf. What a weird and cool place. I kept finding myself making San Francisco comparisons here, "It's so Mission-y here!" What a funny and unusual and creative spot. I was gonna stop upstairs for some outdoor beer and some light beer pong, but the travel adventure must go on, so I pushed on to Brick Lane.

I arrived at Brick Lane which was pretty close, and there were some cool clothes to buy there (nice dresses and some nice art). I had to find a bathroom at some point and noticed a sign that said "Use the supplied toilets"-- where?!? This reminded me of a funny thing a guy said back at the Boxpark, he asked someone "Where's the Box toilet?!"

I got some Moroccan Street Food from a lady at the market on the street and it was nice, rice, veggie with okra and lamb. Pretty good, but it was surprisingly NOT spicy. Seemed like it was going to be, so that was a bit surprising. I don't know if I've had Moroccan food before, so I wonder if this was typical or if this just was a mild touristy version. :)

From here a further wander to the Old Spitalfields Market. I first went into the (famous) Allsaints brand store first, as this Spitalfields location is where it all began. I had heard of it a lot and seen it in other countries, but thought it might be cool to see the original store. It was... kinda meh. Very drab, and definitely not my style. Cool to see the shop though :)

I got to the market just as it was closing up. Nice to see it but probably wasn't going to buy much anyway, so nice timing. The coolest thing there was a Malt Whiskey shirt, in the style of the "Walt Disney" logo. I walked by it a few times, back and forth, and then just insta-bought it. I was excited and told the vendor "I work at Disney!" -- the dude got very nervous, due to the obvious copyright situation going on with this shirt. Whoops :)

I got home to the apartment just as my phone ran out. Time to relax for a bit, shower and chance, and chill. After a bit of a cooldown, I went back out to the Zara Flagship store. I thought it would be epic but actually it was a bit janked! The other one Michal and I found on Oxford St. was better. There was such bad service at the Flagship store that I actually left and headed down to the next shop (there are like 5 separate huge Zaras on Oxford St. anyhow), and it had a better layout too. I tried on a million things and I thought I liked the Zara standard pants, they fit great, and figured I would get a few, but wasn't able to get a hold of my stylist (Michal!) to confirm if they were, in fact, good. Will get some pairs later if she approves. (Note: she did not, said they looked weird, they fit me strangely, and ultimately I didn't get these. This is why you always ask the lady first before buying yourself clothes).

One of the many, many "should I buy this?" text messages I sent Michal.
From here I wandered to the SoHo Whisky Club. This is a members-only Whisky Bar which was recommended all over the place, but was generally for paying members. They said if you asked you might be able to get a free invite for one evening, and so I did. The Bartender, George, invited me and I was SO excited. It was relatively empty that evening, and George spent 1.5 hours with me chatting about Whisky and pouring me some amazing things I would have never tried otherwise. It was so amazing.

There's also a WB office in SoHo. I thought my interview might actually have been here rather than at Leavesdon.
George also collects bottles himself, and said he's holding onto quite a few at home to help with the downpayment on a home! Nicely done. This was a crazy, crazy selection.

Before going into the SoHo Whisky Club (upstairs), I wandered around the full bottle shop downstairs, called The Vintage House. This place also had an excellent selection. Ardbeg Galileo? Ridiculous!!! Uuuuggh and the Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX that I have wanted to try for ages, and that they didn't even have at the Glenmorangie Distillery! Only £350.... nope. Bah!

Some crazy old Glenmorangies as well before they changed the branding. Crazy stuff.

They had some cool Minis as well, a lot of Single Cask and independent bottlers and so on. I got a gift for Matt, a mini of the Dalmore King Alexander III, which he had been keen to try for ages but the full bottle price is insanely expensive.

And off I go through the secret door to the epic SoHo Whisky Club...

I tried 4 whiskies. The first one was a Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive Single Malt Linkwood. It is one of 5 in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible that has a 97.5 rating... shared with my absolute favourite whisky ever, Glenmorangie Ealanta, and the world-famous Ardbeg Uigeadail! This one is a specific only to the SoHo Whisky Club! In the Whisky Bible, Jim Murray refers to this as "SWC" -- no one really knew what that meant -- of course it stands for SoHo Whisky Club. Sneaky! So that was a joy to be able to try this, and a single pour at that, rather than having to blindly purchase a whole bottle.

This was sweet, sherry hogshead with a medium-longish, smooth, excellent finish. The very long finish reminded me, ever so slightly, of the Ealanta. That's definitely a good thing. (They sell this whole bottle for about £175, certainly not cheap, but pretty cool that you can still get it). Only afterwards did I read that this was actually a Cask Strength, at 55.3%! I had no idea, it was so smooth.

Whisky #2, I asked for something unusual, something I would never find... "How about a 40 year old Whisky?" George said, "One of our best bargains". WHAT?!?!??! He led me over to a surprisingly affordable dram of a 1969 MacDuff. WOW.

Can't believe they would sell this so cheaply. What an opportunity to try this.
Here's the oldest (70 years) and most expensive dram they sold... This is £1000 PER POUR! Needless to say, I did not go for this one :)

George called this MacDuff "a thinker, not a drinker!" It was stellar. Just so epically smooth, and totally nuts that this was there. Crazy crazy. Haha my notes in my journal say "Very soft and sensual flavours" (?!?!) cool and smooth, rich, not oily. Very easy to drink, obviously!

Then he showed me a bottle of Gordon & MacPhail Glenlivet 1940 - a 70 YEAR OLD WHISKY. Wow. He said it was "The World's Oldest Whisky!" (He clarified, there are some others that are 70 years old too). He figures though that there's gotta be a 100 year old Whisky hanging out somewhere in someone's storage, just waiting to be officially released.

Then I took a bunch of pictures of this amazing place, like being a kid in a candy store :)

For my 3rd Whisky, I asked for something Peaty/Smoky. He had an immediate recommendation. You should try this! Bam! He brought out a 9yr Ledaig. Yes! It was very unusual. Definitely smoky and peaty, but with a different "tone" to the other Scotchs I've tried. An excellent suggestion. Definitely like no other smoky/peaty Whisky I've ever tried before! So that was a huge win too.

For the last whisky, I knew I didn't want to overdo it and have any more after this so I chose very carefully. Since this shop had basically every whisky ever, this was a pretty impossible choice given the selection. I had considered trying the Ardbog (but changed my mind after reading Jim Murray's terrible review of it), and also considered the Bruichladdich Cuvee 640 (which we had in Islay in 2014, but I'd seen a well-priced bottle of it downstairs and was considering...) in the end I had to try the Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014 bottling. I love Laphroaig and haven't had a lot of their special edition bottlings, and had seen this one available for purchase a lot, but definitely wanted to try it first.

Whoa!! This was so unusual for a Laphroaig. It has fruity tones, and not your "Standard" Laphroaig by any means. I am gonna ruffle some feathers here perhaps, but when I tried all the Laphroaigs at the distillery last year, I sortof felt like there wasn't a very clear distinction between the standard line -- the 15, 18, Triple Wood... to me they are all kindof similar! I know, I know, someone is going to get mad reading this. I actually feel like, out of all of the Laphroaig's I've tasted thusfar, the Quarter Cask is the most distinct and is my favourite of their standard offerings. Anyhow, this one was awesome and very distinct in it's own right, and I was immediately impressed and pleased. Like how Glenmorangie totally rocks it with their Private Range, taking the Glenmorangie style and re-defining it or creatively playing with it, I felt like the Laphroaig Cairdeas does the same with their "core" style. Totally awesome. This was very tasty and excellent, and I am so glad I tried it! I look forward to trying the Laphroaig PX cask at Duty Free when I get a chance.

I said farewell to George and thanked him profusely for his time, effort, and care in sharing some of his favourite whiskies and stories with me. This was a whisky-lover's dream this place. Absolutely worth a visit if you have a friend who is in the club already, or if you email them and ask very nicely for a special case one-visit pass to go an bask in this awesomeness, and share some time and very serious discussion about a shared passion for whisky. AMAZING times.

Back I went downstairs to The Vintage House and I asked them if they had the special Linkwood, and they did, at £175! "I'll have to return in the right frame of mind!" I told them, and did one quick loop around the shop before leaving swiftly, lest I buy something. :)

From SoHo, I wandered back towards my apartment and wandered by the PIX Pinxos store I wasn't able to get food at last week (due to the slow service!) I was pretty hungry and the idea of some light snacks was totally up my alley, so I tried again. Seemed like a nice spot. They service was still pretty non-existent and only one guy there was reasonably friendly, but the food was tasty and fun.

The Bruichladdich Cuvee 640 was only £97... I think it cost more at the Distillery in 2014! So it took some serious willpower to not buy it. I said thanks to the great clerks and headed on back somewhat swiftly so that I didn't overbuy. There is already a lot of whisky on this trip coming back with me!

I headed home to sleep after a VERY exciting and BUSY day. But first, I researched Bike spots for 2 hrs!! There are so many options, and I finally settled on the Surrey Hills AONB after much recommendation from folks at work. There's a station called "Dorking" (ha!) and I emailed a bike rental place after figuring out the train schedules. Amazing day.

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