Tag Archives: n16

On Location: Fred & Fran (Stoke Newington, London)

I had three months off last summer when I changed jobs. Much of that time was spent hanging out in London, mostly in the park, reading the papers every lay and lazing around in the sunshine. And there was the frequent mooching around in the cafes and coffee shops of Stoke Newington Church Street. All good.

But I am now also a little annoyed, as Fred & Fran have chosen to open their new cafe now, rather than last summer when it would have suited me. Because this is just the sort of place I could have seen myself wandering over to every day for coffee and a snack to accompany a little light reading.

Fred & Fran is a great little place serving great food and excellent coffee. It’s a couple of streets back from Stoke Newington Church Street, so it’s a little quieter and, in my experience, this means you stand a sporting chance of getting a table when you turn up. Not that the place is not busy, but for the time being (and until the world finds out about this place) they’re getting it right.

As you can see from the pictures, there are quite a few rather charming retro touches. Tea pots come with knitted cosies around them, and the teacups are fancy old-fashioned flowery variety. Water is served in old milk bottles, and in my case it was a bit of a blast from the past to see a bottle carrying an advert for Balisto chocolate bars. A quick search on Google suggests they are about to be re-launched in the UK. What goes around comes around, eh?

When you come in, you’re face to face with a large selection of very tempting cakes, which were driving several children into a bit of a frenzy.

But it’s not all cake, and I was seriously impressed with the savoury dishes on offer. It was a flip between the spinach and nutmeg soup or an open sandwich, but in the end I went for bruschetta with cannellini bean spread, feta and roasted peppers, and a roasted aubergine, lemon and goat cheese affair. Both were delicious – lots of bold flavours and very satisfying. The latter also had a good shot of garlic in there. This is veggie food that is very far from being dull.

After my satisfying lunch, the debate was around whether it was time for cake. I concluded that it was.

While I was a little full, but it seemed wrong not to finish off my pot of Earl Grey without a slice of something sweet. And what a choice! Lemon tart, pear and yoghurt cake, mini fruit loaves, almond tarts…all looked great. And on previous visits, I’ve seen lovely croissants, Chelsea buns and a fab ginger and stout cake. But what stood out as the jewel in the crown was the carrot and walnut cake. It had to be that one.

Now, I can promise you that this one tastes as good as it looks. Nice and spicy, moist and with generous chunks of walnut. There was also a good cream cheese frosting to cake ratio. I loved it. In face, I probably ate too much of it. But I would happily go back there again, and again, and again. Also a perfect place to pop into for a fortifying cup of coffee and a snack before going off on a long walk down towards the river or through the back streets of East London.

Fred & Fran – good to have you here and welcome to the neighbourhood!

Fred & Fran, 55 Kynaston Road, London N16 0EB. Tel: 07788 158 742. Bus: 73, 393 or 476  (stop: Bouverie Road).

LondonEats locations map here.

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On Location: Rasa (Stoke Newington, London)

Today I am very excited to share one of my favourite restaurants – Rasa in Stoke Newington’s Church Street (they have a number of branches, but this is the original). The food is from the Indian region of Kerala, and the fantastic thing for vegetarians – so exciting – is that the branch at 55 Church Street is completely vegetarian (with the sister restaurant across the road serving meat and fish too, hence the street number). I love being able to choose anything on the menu, plus Rasa offers excellent quality and great value – what’s not to like?

I must confess that these days, I’m not very adventurous in terms of what I eat there. I’ve probably tried everything on the menu over the last year, and it is all, without fail, utterly delicious. It’s just that I now know what I like, and I tend to go for it. But nice to be able to do that through choice rather than because there is only a limited veggie choice.

We started the meal with their selection of snacks – pappadoms, banana chips, murukku (rice flour with spices) and achappam (rice flour and coconut, in the shape of a flour). These are wonderfully crisp and aromatic, and work very well with their pickles. Rasa serves six different types, including fruity, citrus garlic, hot…all great. I would usually have a beer with this, but the mango lassi is also good if you feel like something different.

From the starters, we took idli (lentil cakes with coconut chutney), mysore bonda (spicy potato balls, fried and served with coconut sauce) and medhu vadai (ring-shaped dumplings made from beans). These also come on plates of three or four, so perfect for sharing with a group of friends. They are all quite different, with a nice combination of flavours and textures. They are spicy, but not too hot.

I find the mains really good – flavours are  fresh and intensive. The beet cheera pachadi (beetroot curry) stood out a mile and everyone I know who eats there loves it. I’m also a big fan of the masala dosa, a slightly sweet pancake filled with spiced potatoes and served with chutney and a curry sauce. Of course, you’ll also need something to mop up the curry – and there are a great range of wonderful breads, from puffed-up poori to paratha (a coiled wheat bread).

After the curries, I am usually too full to eat a dessert, but if you do have space, the mango ice-cream or the kulfi is a nice sweet treat.

In short – I love this place and go there a lot. The decor is bright pink and there is Indian music in the background, so it’s a little like stepping into a different, brighter world. The service is friendly and pretty quick too. If you’re in Stokey, well worth checking this place out. Be sure to book – it can get busy at night.

Rasa, 55 Church Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 0AR. Tel: 020 7249 0344. Bus: 73, 476, 393. Train: Stoke Newington.

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