Following a recent invitation to discover some of the food and drink highlights available at St Pancras International station, Pete and I had a lovely morning visiting Benugo’s Espresso Bar, Searcys Champagne Bar and Sourced Market.

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Unlike the downstairs branch of Benugo, the upstairs coffee bar (near the Martin Jennings sculpture of poet John Betjeman) is much quieter and cooler. An original tile floor leads to the service counter; the seating area next door has been designed to evoke rail travel of old; gentle jazz music completes the retro feel. During our morning visit, we tried coffee and cake (the shop has one coffee blend for espresso and espresso-based drinks, and another for drip filter coffees). Manager Ondrej was on hand to give further information about all the options, including some good quality loose leaf teas, for those who aren’t in a coffee state of mind. I particularly enjoyed my chocolate, pear and rosemary tart and the biscotti served with coffee.

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Searcy’s champagne bar might seem like an option better suited to summer, given that the concourse is open to the elements at both ends. But booths have little heaters at foot level, and guests are offered blankets and hot water bottles too, so it’s actually rather cosy as a winter destination. I found my hot chocolate excessively sweet but Pete enjoyed his rose champagne tasting trio (£19 for 50 ml each of Henri Giraud Esprit Rose, Besserat Cuvee des Moines Rose and Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose). It’s also a lovely spot to admire the beautiful architecture of the station.

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Sourced Market, downstairs, was a revelation. This little store has crammed in a lot of great products into their wide but shallow floor space. As well as delicious lunch options such as a variety of pies (with mash, gravy and peas), sausage rolls, scotch eggs, charcuterie and cheese platters, soups, sandwiches, salads and more you can also buy ingredients to take home. Pete was particularly impressed by the excellent selection of bottled beers, with small London breweries particularly well represented. I loved the cheese counter and the bakery table. There were lots of delicious treats and I’ll certainly pop in again before long. My only gripe about this lovely place was that all the seating provided was stool-style chairs and table, which are really challenging for those of us with hip, back or mobility problems, not to mention difficult for small children.

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Kavey Eats were given a guided tour of the above venues at St Pancras International.

 

Like our fascinating walk through Takayama’s Miyagawa Morning Market, Nishiki in Kyoto is full of wonder.

Stall after stall of fresh and processed produce, kitchen cookware and tableware line a long and narrow glass-covered arcade that runs parallel to Shijō Street, a main commercial artery running east to west through the city. With Teramachi and Shin-kyogoku Streets and the department stores on Shijō nearby, this is a great destination for browsing or shopping.

Some of the produce is familiar but much is not, and without a guide or translation tool, it’s hard to identify. Some stall holders are clearly not very interested in tourists, and that’s fair enough – I doubt they get many sales from us. But others are happy to share a smile or try and help explain their products.

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Passing through Teramachi and into Nishiki; Vegetables that seem to be preserved in sand; fish

 

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Dried fish; Chestnut salesman

 

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This strange decorative fruit is known as Fox Face in Japan, and as Nipplefruit, Titty Fruit and Cow’s Udder elsewhere!

 

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Persimmon; dried snacks; a dried tofu specialist

 

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Preserved vegetable; fresh mushrooms; apples; beautiful fresh seafood

 

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Eggs; seafood; fried snacks to takeaway; unidentified preserved produce

 

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Browsing; pumpkins; ceramics

 

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Singing pickle salesmen; live clams; sweets

 

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Buying vegetable; Pete checking out the chop sticks shop; restaurant front on Teramachi Street

 

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After exploring the market, delicious cakes and iced coffee in a tiny cafe in a nearby side street

 

Catch up on previous posts about our trip to Japan.

 

There are two morning markets in Takayama, the Jinya-Mae Market near Takayama Jinya (a historic building, dating from the 17th century, that served as a regional government office during the Edo period) and the Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River. The latter runs North from the centre of the old town, in the direction of the Hachiman Shrine.

We visited Takayama for the Hachiman Autumn Festival so, as well as the normal morning market, there was a street food market extension. Happy day!

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Strange pot-bellied man-beasts on Kaji-bashi (bridge).

Miyagawa Market  is arranged along a short stretch of road less than 350 metres in length, between Kaji-bashi and Yayoi-bashi (bridges). I hadn’t expected it would take us very long to meander through its entirety but there were so many fascinating stalls and shops selling fresh produce, pickles, traditional snacks and sweets and even traditional crafts, that we whiled away most of the morning here.

And then we moved seamlessly on to the street food market for the next hour!

Like most places in Japan, Takayama and the surrounding area have many products which are unique to the region, not least their style of pickles. We saw and tried a great many and failed to identify most, though there were a few more familiar ingredients such as red turnips and ginger and I think the first picture may be fiddlehead ferns.

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One of the dishes we most enjoyed, in the expansive breakfast we were served each morning at Ryokan Tanabe, was hoba misomiso with mushrooms and spring onions heated on a ho (magnolia) leaf set atop a shichirin (charcoal grill). We mixed it into our rice, and found it delicious. There were a number of shops and stalls selling different types of miso, ready-wrapped in leaves, pre-bagged or available to buy by weight.

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In some of the kaiseki ryori multi-course meals we were served in various ryokan, one of the tiny components of the intricate starter plates was a small pale dense cube studded with dark-skinned circular fruit or vegetables. It didn’t taste of much, actually. One of our hosts told us it it was made from rice flour and had tiny baby potatoes in it. Knowledgeable web friends have suggested that it may have contained mukago, which are described as mountain yams, though these tiny potato-like bulbils grow on a bush and not underground. They’re definitely in season during October. However, it’s commonly made with black soy beans, in which case it’s known as mame mochi.

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Genkotsu ame, which translates as fist candy, is another regional speciality and is a very popular sweet in the area, as was evident from the fact that we encountered three different vendors making and selling it along the short stretch of the morning market. Also known as genkotsu kikako, it is made by mixing kinako (soybean powder) with mizuame. Mizuame itself translates to water candy and is a starch-based liquid sweetener much like corn syrup. Once mixed, the dough is kneaded, dusted with roasted soybean powder, rolled into a thin sausage shape and chopped into bite-sized pieces.

Not only did it taste great, it was almost heart-stopping entertainment watching the knife skills of the men making them, as they cut the pieces so fast, their knives seemed to blur in front of my eyes!

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Watch this video of one of  the genkotsu ame makers to marvel at his knife skills.

There were many different types of fish sold pickled or preserved in different ways. Some were for taking home. Others were definitely street food.

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Speaking of street snacks, I’ve already posted about owara tamaten but can’t resist sharing again this photo of the gentleman cooking the sweet marshmallow delicacies.

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Shichimi or shichimi togarashi is a seven spice mix which can be readily found throughout Japan. Togarashi means chilli, which it commonly contains along with sichuan pepper, sesame seeds, ground ginger, orange peel, nori and a variety of other spices. This lady sold her own pre-mixed shichimi as well as a few individual spices and other mixes.

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Senbei (rice cakes) were another popular snack. Most stalls had bags ready to go but you could also watch them grilling a fresh batch, if you passed by at the right time.

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There were many varieties of sweets on sale, some boxed up to make pretty gifts but most in small packs ready to rip open and dig in. My favourites were ones featuring sesame seeds.

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One stall sold a range of dried nuts, fruits and seeds.

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Much of the market was given over to local produce. There were many familiar fruits, vegetables and mushrooms and a few unfamiliar ones too!

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There were also a few craft shops including one which sold incense and hand-made candles. The candlemaker sat cross legged outside, in front of the shop. As he made the candles, he beckoned passers by closer and told us more about what he was doing. The wax was made from a local nut or berry and he applied it to the wicks by dipping one hand into a bowl of warm melted wax and using the other to roll three or four candles on sticks against the liquid wax.

Before we moved on, he gave us each a small gift containing one of his small, hand-made candles, and a sheet with more information, which I wish I could find!

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I resisted these pretty doll cans containing green tea and genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice).

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And lastly, some views of the river and houses on the other side.

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With thanks to Akiko Tanabe at Ryokan Tanabe, Takayama for her kind help identifying genkotsu ame.

 

Pete and I recently spent 48 hours in Amsterdam. Eschewing all the normal tourist attractions, we spent all our waking hours eating and drinking our way around the city.

I’ve already written about food specialities to look out for in Amsterdam.

In this post, I’ll share places we stopped for coffee, cakes and snacks during our visit.

 

TAART VAN MIJN TANTE

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My Aunty’s Cake, as the name translates, may just be my dream cake shop. In the window is a display of crazy cakes, baubles and knick-knacks. Inside is an eccentric grotto of mismatched chairs and tables, many brightly painted or covered with vivid tablecloths, bright walls, multi-coloured lights and lots of random pictures and ornaments.

Along with our coffees, I ordered a slice of Swedish Princess Cake, described on the menu as “vanilla cake filled with a crème Suisse with light green marzipan“. It was absolutely fantastic, one of the lightest and loveliest cakes I’ve eaten, with a perfectly judged cream filling, a thin but tasty layer of green marzipan and visually beautiful too. Pete’s Chocolate Cake, described as “chocolate cake sprinkled with kirsch, a light sweetened cream filling, crème au beurre, chocolate royal icing” went down just as well.

Both cakes were €4.90 a slice and our lattes were €3.10 each.

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Located just around the corner from the Heineken brewery, on the way from the tram stop to Albert Cuyp Straat Market, this is a definite must visit for anyone who loves really good cake with a big dose of kitsch.

Taart van Mijn Tante
Ferdinand Bolstraat 10
Open daily from 10am – 6pm

 

SINGEL 404

Named for its address, Single 404 is a popular cafe, particularly with students from the nearby university. Like us, I imagine they are drawn to the filling, tasty and great value sandwiches, toasties and oven melts and the relaxed vibe.

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The space is small and always busy, though if it looks full at first glance, do check whether there are any free tables on the mezzanine level up the tiny stairs at the back. In warmer weather, the outdoor tables along the canal are a nice choice and the staff will come outside to take your order.

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We visited twice during our weekend in Amsterdam, so impressed were we on our first visit, and particularly enjoyed the enormous, freshly made oven melts. Unless you’re hungry, you might want to share one and order a slice of cake afterwards. All Oven Melts are priced at €6.25 each – choose white or brown bread, panini or bagel and then one of the delicious combinations such as “goat’s cheese with honey, pinenuts and thyme“, “brie with smoked chicken, guacamole, sundried tomatoes and Italian herbs” or “ham with cheese, fresh tomato, jalapenos, mustard-mayonnaise and chives“.

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Fresh smoothies and shakes, soft drinks, coffees, chai lattes and bottled beers are between €2.10 and €4.00.

Singel 404 is a great choice for brunch, lunch or an afternoon snack, especially for those looking for delicious options on a tight budget.

Singel 404
Open daily from 10:30am – 6pm.

 

DE LAATSTE KRUIMEL

We stumbled upon this recently opened coffee shop and bakery by accident and found it rather charming. The beautiful historic exterior leads into a quirky interior with a really home-made feel. The work counter has been made from old wooden pallets, as has some of the seating and light fittings include a row of colanders.

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The Last Crumb is an appropriate name, as the savoury and sweet baked goods on offer are so good that crumbs are surely all that will remain. From sandwiches and quiches to cakes, brownies, tarts and scones (served with home made lemon curd or jam), everything has an appealing home-styled look.

I believe everything is baked on site from organic ingredients, but do check that with staff if its important to you, as I may have misunderstood.

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There isn’t much seating, just one tiny table at the back with a couple of wrought iron chairs, and a few stools by the counter and next to a small shelf table, so I imagine most customers buy treats to takeaway.

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Sandwiches range from €3.50 to €5. Sweet treats are priced around €2 to €4.

De Laatste Kruimel
Langebrugsteeg 4
Open daily from 8am – 8pm.

 

CAFE LATEI

This tiny space is a combination of brocante (bric-a-brac shop) and café, and I rather liked its cramped, quirky interior and all the random bits and bobs on display for sale – retro ’70s lamps and crockery, old comic books, vintage handbags, rock’n’roll memorabilia and even furniture.

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The menu is short, with a few sandwiches, a small selection of cakes and a brief drinks list, but is all you need for a relaxing pit stop. Drinks are €2 to €3, cakes are about €3.50.

Café Latei
Zeedijk 143
Open Mon to Wed: 8am – 6pm. Thu to Fri: 8am – 10pm. Sat: 9am – 10pm. Sun: 11am – 6pm.

 

FEBO

Febo is the ultimate progression of cheap, mass-produced fast food and I can’t say I would recommend it for anything other than the novelty value. As soon as I mentioned our upcoming trip, this place was suggested by a number of food friends as an oddity we’d surely find amusing. We did!

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Staff and customer interaction is kept to a minimum; staff stock prepared food directly into glass-fronted vending machines; customers drop in their coins, make a selection, open the appropriate window and claim their chosen poison.

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As well as burgers, you can select local specialities such as bamiblok, frikadellen, kaassoufles and a variety of kroketten including beef, chicken and satay. Prices from €1.50 to €3.50.

Be warned, the food isn’t great, though Pete seemed keener on the kaassoufle than I was. Go only if you’re curious about these strange snack automats or are desperate for a quick and cheap alcohol soak!

Febo
Leidsestraat 94 (and other locations)
Open daily from 11.30am – 10pm

 

ALBERT CUYPSTRAAT MARKET

The market on Albert Cuyp Street was on our must-visit list for Amsterdam. Easy to get to by local tram, we stopped for breakfast at Taart van Mijn Tante before walking all the way down the length of the market and back up again.

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On sale is a glorious mix of fresh and prepared produce, flowers, tourist souvenirs, cheap clothing, make up and accessories. And what we came for – the street food stalls.

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The fresh produce in particular reflects the multicultural aspect of the neighbourhood, and I was mesmerised by cassava root, green mangoes,  haddock roe and other ingredients I’d be hard pushed to find at home. And the biggest grapes I’ve ever seen, I was so focused on taking a photo I didn’t notice the serious-faced bespectacled little boy behind them!

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A wide range of snacks are available, from Indonesian grilled meats (with or without satay sauce), hot fried fish and maatjes to stroopwafels and poffertjes. I’d also hoped to find a stall selling Surinamese food, which the area is also known for, but didn’t spot it on our visit.

Vlaardingse Haringhandel

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Herring from the North Sea has been a staple of the Dutch diet for centuries. Today, maatjes are a popular snack available from stands around the city. Maatje derives from the Dutch word for ‘virgin’, by the way and refers to the fact that the best herring is caught after the fish have gorged on food but before they’ve had a chance to reproduce.

Though most guides describe maatjes as raw herrings, in fact they are very lightly soused (preserved) in brine. The meltingly soft fish is usually served chopped into pieces, with diced raw onion and pickled gherkins, on a small paper tray (€2.50) or you can opt for broodje (€3) and the vendor will stuff the fish, onion and pickles into a soft bread roll.

Vlaardingse Haringhandel has been in business since 1916 and I can certainly vouch for the tastiness of their offering. The fish was almost silken in texture, with a fresh taste, strong but not overwhelming. The pickled gherkins were so good I bought a jar (€2.50) to bring home. And those raw onions may have been hell on my breath for the next few hours, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on them!

Poffertjes

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Poffertjes are made to order, €2 for a portion of 10, €3 for 15 or €4 for 20.

Batter is poured into the specialist cast iron pan, with it’s deep round indentations. The stall holder knows just how long to leave them before flipping them over to cook the other side.

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They are served hot over a melting pat of butter, with icing (powdered) sugar sprinkled over the top.

Albert Cuypstraat Market
Albert Cuypstraat
Open Mon to Sat 9am – 5pm.

 

Next, I’ll be sharing our restaurant finds and some great places to enjoy a drink.

 

Eurostar UK provided Kavey Eats with return train tickets to Amsterdam and the first night’s hotel reservation.

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