Confessions of a Foodie: Le Pain Quotidien
At the weekend I spent the majority of it whizzing around the country being super-sociable. And one key aspect of it? Food. We all know by now how much I love food – whether it’s homemade or an indulgent meal out. As long as it’s tasty, I’m there. On Saturday, I met one of my best friends up in London for a cultural day out at the National Portrait Gallery and, of course, a good old gossip. But first up was lunch, and we stopped on Festival Walk on the Southbank at Le Pain Quotidien.
Deep under the cavern of the railway track, we were sat a pale two-seat table and offered a simple menu, with a choice of breakfasts, salads or light lunches, all with fresh, organic food. I was initially stumped as most of the meals are served with fresh bread, and that’s a big no-no for me, but the waiter was immediate in reassuring me that without the bread, there are no gluten-containing ingredients. I chose a pot of tea and a salad of roasted vegetables, mixed leaves, basil oil and goat’s cheese, whilst she got a giant bowl of coffee, scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast (the scrambled eggs were enticingly yellow and the slices of bread were HUGE).
When the salad arrived, I was a little concerned at the tiny amount of goat’s cheese in proportion to the salad, but it was rich and creamy enough to go a long way. The roasted vegetables consisted of onions, courgette, artichoke, red peppers and there were healthy portions of sundried tomatoes and avocado. It was a summery salad, with a lovely balance of flavours. Not the most filling, but definitely satisfying, and you get a good size for your money’s worth (£10.90 gets you a large plate piled high).
I was also impressed with the tea – two full cups from the teapot, and a decent-flavoured breakfast tea, though it took a while to brew. I was suitably enamoured with the bowls that they serve their drinks in too (check out the size of the coffee!) – and in fact their presentation is so wonderfully simple that it really works. The floorboards match the tables and the arched ceilings are bare red brick, and their plates and bowls are cream (though I got a bright red bowl for my second round of tea!)
When you enter, it looks like a tiny coffee shop, complete with glass bar displaying cakes and shelves of tea behind it, but down the steps around the side and it opens out in to a brightly-lit room – which was packed, considering it wasn’t quite midday when we arrived. The service was pleasantly quick, but we were stuck next to a drip which was a bit off-putting. Not quite done with our salad/late breakfast, we ordered pudding; a smallish slice of carrot cake for her, and a “flourless” chocolate brownie for me. The brownie, served on a ceramic platter far too big for the food itself, and in a cupcake case. It was quite flat, though the under layer was perfectly moist, and I actually quite enjoyed the harder top. It would have been far better warm, with a healthy dollop of cream, mind!
The buzz and atmosphere was ideal for catching up with a friend – not too loud and the tables were far enough apart for privacy. Prices are typically London-expensive, but you do get your moneys-worth from it, and for a quick bite to eat, it’s perfect. Walking distance from the National Portrait Gallery, and right next to the Southbank, Le Pain Quotidien is perfectly placed for a starting base for a London day out.
Have you visited a Le Pain Quotidien? What did you think?