I really like the idea of cafes that turn into cocktail bars and have started to make a byline for them in the past year. Earlier this year, iconic north London music venue The Garage had a major refurbishment and makeover, with a new standalone all day bar and café The General Store opening next door.
Last week, I popped ‘up north’ to check out it out and also sample their new summer cocktail menu. Taking over the site of the former gloomy Mini-Bar, the light and contemporary General Store could not be more different. The venue brings a slice of old town Americana to Highbury Corner, with vintage gas pumps, huge US fridges, cosy leather booths and retro tiling. The GS serves coffee, cake, cocktails and craft beer so enough to keep you watered from daytime to night.
Arriving on a warm summer evening, my friend and I were definitely in the mood for cocktails. The menu features some classic drinks with a twist, such as the General Store Mai Tai (Hibiscus-infused rum with lime juice, sugar and coconut water) served in a short glass, which my friend noted had quite the kick. I was in the mood for something lighter (and can’t resist elderflower) so went for the English Garden (Hendricks Gin and Elderflower Liqueur shaken with Apple and Lemon), which was very refreshing. With such tempting concotions on the menu, I threw caution to the wind and mixed my spirits, opting for a Apple Caipirinha (Cachaca Rum served with Sherry, Apple Juice, Syrup and served over Cubed Apple), which was the right amount of sweet and strong.
Accompanying our cocktails, my pal and I decided to share a slice of cake. I gave him free rein to surprise me with his choice. When he came back with a gluten-free piece, I was initially sceptical as previous experiments with GF haven’t worked out well for me in the past. However, I’ve got to praise the GS for baking a thoroughly delicious GF chocolate and raspberry cake, it was delicious.
Overall, it’s a great spot to catch up with friends over coffee or a cocktail. Located next door to The Garage, it’s a perfect location for pre or post gig drinks, with the venue open until 3am on weekends if you’re up for a big night. Having met friends often over the years in the area, it’s good to see a decent drinking venue on Highbury Corner at last.
- The General Store, 20 – 22 Highbury Crescent, Highbury East, N5 1RD. Nearest station: Highbury & Islington. Open Mon-Wed 10am-11.30pm, Thur 10am-1am, Fri-Sat 10am-3am, Sun 12pm-11pm. For more information, visit The General Store Facebook page.
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I’m a huge fan of brunching – in fact I would go so far to say it’s my favourite type of meal. However, many brunch options London has to offer can often blend into one they’re so similar. So for those looking for a brunch with something a bit different, then Tootoomoo is a good place to start. Tootoomoo is a small, independent chain of Pan Asian restaurants and takeaways across north London. They recently announced a new Bottomless Brunch deal at weekends giving you all you can eat and drink for £35.
I went along to the Islington restaurant last weekend with a friend to check out the new brunch menu and wasn’t disappointed. It’s a cute, bijou restaurant just a few minutes from Highbury & Islington station. The tables and décor did remind me of some of the cafes I have visited during previous holidays to Cambodia and Vietnam. We took a seat nearer the counter so had a good view of other diners’ dishes coming out of the kitchen for inspiration.
The menu is Asian tapas style, featuring popular dishes from Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. When we were presented with the menu, we were a tad overwhelmed by the choice so started with a rather easier decision – what to drink. Among the bottomless cocktails on offer include classics such as Margaritas, Mojitos, Cosmopolitan and Caipirinha. However, Tootoomoo’s fruity twist on the Caipirinha – rather appealed so I ordered a mango one which was refreshing and sweet.
The menu features a wide choice of dishes, grouped into small plates, sashimi and salad, tempura and grill, sushi and wok. For those with food allergies, things are labelled gluten-free to make ordering easier. Among the dishes we decided on were Crispy Smoked Chicken, Vegetarian Potstickers, Hamachi Sashimi, Popcorn Rock Shrimp and Soft Shall Crab Maki Sushi. I hadn’t come across Vegetarian Potstickers before and were informed by the waiter they were similar to gyoza, which is one of my favourite Japanese foods. Served with ponzu sauce, the dumplings were crispy and tasty, and I could have ordered a few more. One of the highlights of the meal for me were the Popcorn Rock Shrimp, served with nori dust and yuzu mayo. Shrimp wrapped in batter really did look like popcorn and had that moreish, can’t-stop-nibbling allure like its namesake. I don’t eat poultry, but my friend really enjoyed the Crispy Smoked Chicken – served in batter with chili salt and spicy mayo to give it a kick.
As well as drinks and the meal, the Bottomless Brunch also includes dessert options – Fro-Yo and a variety of toppings, which we unfortunately didn’t have room for. Re-reading the choices as I write this review, I’m regretting not making some room! During our meal, the service was friendly and not over-bearing. Our first dishes came out promptly, which was just as well as we were pretty hungry. I’d definitely recommend it for a Bottomless Brunch alternative to the same old smashed avocado and poached eggs offerings so many places seem to offer these days.
- Tootoomoo, 278 St Paul’s Road, Islington, N1 2LH. Nearest station: Highbury & Islington. The Bottomless Brunch is on at the Crouch End and Islington branches every weekend between 12-5pm. £25 for all-you-can-eat or £35 for all-you-can-eat-and-drink within a 1 and half hour period. For booking and more information, visit the Tootoomoo website.
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Thai Corner Café is a low-key, relaxed Thai restaurant in the Highbury/Islington area. A pregnant friend and I went for an early dinner on a Friday night and arrived without a reservation. Fortunately, there was a table free. Being named a café, the venue is quite small and intimate as you would expect with around seven or eight tables so wouldn’t be suitable for large groups. We ended up with a table by the glass doors opening out to the garden – which is open for alfresco dining during the warmer months. Being a cold November night, we were quite happily staying inside! Unfortunately, the toilets for the café were located downstairs – meaning you had to go via the garden so it was quite chilly sitting by the door whenever anyone was en route to the WC.
The menu is extensive and it took my friend and I a long time to choose what we wanted. As we were a bit chilly, we ordered pots of Jasmine Tea to warm us up, which had a lovely subtle flavour so as not to overpower our food. To start we ordered Vegetable Tempura and Fish Cakes, which we shared. The vegetables were a bit too crunchy for my liking, I would have preferred them cooked a bit more. However, the fish cakes were delicious – not too spicy and the cod was a perfect texture.
For once, I didn’t order my usual Pad Thai (my favourite Thai dish) – although my friend did and I ended up eating some of hers anyway! I decided on the Pad Gratiam Prig Thai (stir-fried garlic, pepper and coriander with prawn). Although I was unsure after ordering it, once it arrived it was more than I hoped for. I’m not a huge fan of spicy food, but this dish was full of flavour, the three spices complimenting each other perfectly and the prawn was cooked just right. My friend ordered the Prawn Pad Thai, which was a good size. Lashings of noodles, dried shrimps, egg, turnips in tamarind sauce, bean sprouts, spring onion and crushed peanut.
While the food was tasty and authentic, the service wasn’t up to expectation. It took us ages to get the waitress’ attention when we wanted some water or the bill. The café could have been a bit warmer – but I would expect in the spring or summer, or perhaps in a different seat (not by the door), this wouldn’t be an issue. However, I enjoyed the food enough to return should I be in the area.
- Thai Corner Café, 236 St Paul’s Road, Islington, N1 2LJ. Tel: 0207 7048227. Nearest tube: Highbury & Islington. For more information, visit the Thai Corner Café website.
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