I didn’t expect to be in Barcelona on our last trip, thinking we’d be in the village up until it was time to fly out. It was Blai’s mother who suggested a night in the city and who am I to turn down a visit to Barcelona?!

It was a friend in Barcelona who originally introduced me to Forn Mistral, a bakery with two locations near Universitat metro station in central Barcelona. There’s one bakery on Ronda de Sant Antoni and another nearby with a large cafe attached where I’d previously tried a delicious toasted flauta with sobrassada and cheese…

Flauta with Sobressada and Cheese

…and a slice of an excellent Galician tuna empanada, both coupled with a big milky coffee.

Galician Tuna Empanada Slice

Their main specialities though are their croissants and their Mallorcan ensaïmades and it was this past trip when I finally got it together and bought one of their ensaïmades. These large round flaky lardy pastries come in a number of different sizes, from bite-sized canape to giant wagon wheel. They’re also available plain, filled with the traditional cabell d’àngel (a candied pumpkin filling), marzipan, chocolate or sobrassada (the last three are new fillings to me!).

Not one to do things by halves, I ended up buying a medium-sized specimen (it was quite large!) filled with cabell d’àngel and between Blai and myself, we carried it all the way home to London!

From Forn Mistral

Opened

Ensaimada

Yes, it was as good as it looks! Thin layers of flaky lardy pastry, the sweet stringy jam in the middle…..we demolished this in two days (only because we controlled ourselves – it could have gone in one!). Next time, I reckon we could get 2, one on top of the other, into the same box!

Do stop by if you’re in the city though – those toasted sandwiches really are gorgeous.

Forn Mistral
Ronda de Sant Antoni, 96
El Raval, Barcelona, 08001

and

Carrer de Torres i Amat 7 (for the cafe)

Ever been to Wonderful Patisserie in Chinatown? They sell lots of Chinese breads and cakes and snacks (a good variety of South East Asian biscuits usually too) and in their window is a display of their latest cakes on offer. I occasionally take a snap of the better cakes I see and here’s what I have in my collection so far.

Happy Pigs

Yellow Elephants

Monkey Cakes

Roosters

Bears

Rabbits

Pandas

Dragon Cake

I can’t vouch for the flavour of these cakes as I don’t like the Chinese style cream and fruit sponge cakes you get in most Chinese bakeries. I also don’t know whether Wonderful Patisserie bakes and decorates their own cakes or whether they’re bought in. I do know, however, that whoever’s doing the decorating has some serious talent!

Wonderful Patisserie
45 Gerrard St
London W1D 5QQ

I couldn’t miss a trip to the Campo De’ Fiori. Every morning, Mondays to Saturdays, Rome’s oldest market comes alive in the square. It was a little smaller than I expected and alongside the beautiful food stalls were also those selling cookware, scarves, cheap jewelry, etc. Clearly it was a mixed bag of a market. Still, I loved browsing the food stands full of both touristy pastas and jars and fresh produce for the locals.

Produce

Chili Posies

Puntarelle

Chestnuts

I bought a little punnet of wild strawberries as I’d never tasted this delicacy before. They weren’t cheap but they’re hard to find in London. These little gems were so juicy and full of strawberry essence – they weren’t the sweetest strawberries I’d ever encountered but their flavour more than made up for it. Apart from these strawberries, we also left with a bagful of tiny sun dried tomatoes and some candied dried cherries. And we came back on our last morning and I walked away with a big chunk of pecorino romano too.

Wild Strawberries

But that market wasn’t the only thing I wanted to see in this square; at one of the corners, there’s a fantastic bakery: Forno Campo de’ Fiori.

Forno Campo de'Fiori

In the photo above, there’s the main bakery, with the ovens and bakers, through the door with the white awning and the main shop under the big Forno sign. The two are connected and bread fresh out of the oven is brought over to the shop when supplies run low, which is often. To the left of main building, there’s another shop selling sandwiches made with their gorgeous bread.

When I say bread, I really mean pizza. Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) to be precise. Long sheets of thin pizze are brought over to the main shop and a couple men there slice off as much as you require, weigh it and wrap it up in brown paper, giving that and a bill to you to pay at the final counter. Simplicity seems to be the rule here with the pizze ranging from super simple to those with a topping or two. We started with the simple and most famous of the pizze here – their pizza rossa and pizza bianca. For a slice of each suitable for a generous snack for two, I paid about €3.

Their pizza rossa was just out of the oven (we watched as a baker dumped a long slab of it onto the counter) and we immediately ripped open the paper as soon as we were out of the shop, eager to have a taste. Wow. Wow wow wow. The thin bread was highly flavoured with olive oil and topped with a deceptively simple, fresh and sweet tomato sauce (I bet I will never be able to replicate that at home). The base was crispy while still having a good chew here and there and I could have eaten a whole slab of it there and then.

Pizza Rossa

The pizza bianca was very plain in comparison though this doesn’t mean it was any less of a pizza. There’s just the base, salt and plenty of olive oil on top and without the weight of the tomato topping, it’s free to puff and bubble as it bakes. Again it had a great flavour and a good moist chew with no toughness. This slice wasn’t just out of the oven but it was still excellent at room temperature.

Pizza Bianca

On our last day in Rome, I couldn’t just stop into the market without making another visit to the forno. This time, more of the pizza rossa (I fell in love the first time) and instead of the pizza bianca, we opted for the pizza with mushrooms and cheese as this was fresh from the oven on this second visit. There’s nothing wrong with these more “complex” pizze – in fact, this was downright delicious!

Mushroom and Cheese Pizza

Apart from their pizze, there are pies, pastries and biscuits. We can vouch for their occhi di bue (bull’s eyes biscuits) – rounds of biscuity pastry filled with jam – we had a few of these as Blai love them. I did have one miss here though… a flat tile of cakey biscuit studded with pine nuts – I think it was made of chestnut flour. I wasn’t keen on its strong, almost smokey, flavour and was the only thing we failed to finished. (If you do have any further information on this pastry, I’m keen to know more!) Anyway, there was nothing wrong with it – it just wasn’t to our taste. I am, however, a big fan of their pizze!

Forno Campo De’ Fiori
Campo De’ Fiori, 22
00186 Rome, Italy

Oh, this year’s Korean Food Festival was a disappointment! Not only was it drizzling when I arrived at around noon but there were only three stands.

Two Stands

A Stand

Three?! What a let down after the two previous years! Could this be the effect of the credit crunch or as Jonny suggested here, a result of the dismal weather forecast? Oh well, my brother and I made the most of it and had some spicy fried chicken (quite good) and beef kalbi (mediocre) with rice.

Spicy Fried Chicken

Beef Kalbi

If you did make the journey out for the festival, I hope you did use the opportunity to explore the Korean restaurants and shops in the area. I found some lovely takeaway food for dinner that night: some little pajeon (Korean pancakes) and kimbap.

Luckily, one big thing made the trip worthwhile for me – I finally made it to Hyun’s Bakery while it was open! Whenever I’d visited New Malden in the past, I’d always try to visit and find it shut. Finally, the door was open!

As I’m a sucker for savoury Asian-style pastries, I had to have this fried sausage doughnut on a stick. This was similar to the hot dog bun you usually find but involved a proper pork sausage and a dusting of panko crumbs, all deep fried. Oh, and it was on a stick – a winner right there! (Notice that I forgot to take a photo until after I’d attacked it.)

Sausage Doughnut on a Stick!

My other selections were (clockwise from the top right) a fried vegetable doughnut, a mochi doughnut filled with red bean paste and a Castella cake.

An Assortment of Buns

The vegetable doughnut was alright, with a filling reminiscent of a vegetable korokke. The mochi doughnut was delicious and chewy and was generously filled with a chunky, and I suspect homemade, red bean paste. I loved the Castella cake – soft and plain sponge cake but still very moreish.

Mochi Doughnut

And all four items only came to £3.10! (There’s a little Japanese shop near me that stocks some buns from Hyun’s but they charge twice as much as the original bakery!)

Hyun’s Bakery
94 Burlington Road
New Malden KT3 4NT

Last weekend, after a light lunch at Jen Cafe and lots of food shopping in Chinatown and window shopping in Soho, the girls and I found ourselves in need of some light refreshment. As we were in the area, I lured them up Wardour Street with promises of Italian pastries and very good coffees. Actually, I only had the blogs to trust as I’d never yet visited Princi, Alan Yau’s latest venture, a London branch of a Milanese bakery-cafe chain. I love love love the cafes in Europe (the ones in London aren’t really the same) so I was really looking forward to trying it.

It was about 3:30pm on a Saturday afternoon when we rocked up and the place was packed; there were curious tourists, possibly curious locals and many many Italians crowding the place and the food on their plates looked delicious. We had no idea how the whole place worked though but it was simple enough to figure out. You head to a counter (bakery/pastries/salads to the left, hot food at the far end), order your pastries, take the tray to one of the cashiers where you also order your drinks. Then you fight for a place to sit – I think it was an absolute miracle that we were able to get three seats together.

As I browsed the selection of pastries, the girls had zoomed in to one, the Pasqualina, an egg, ricotta, and green vegetable (spinach? chard?) pastry (£4.00) and were oohing and aahing over it. If I’m not mistaken, this was a single pastry version of a typical Ligurian torta pasqualina made for Easter time. We wanted to try just about everything in the cases though and so agreed to split three pastries between the three of us. The Pasqualina would be the first. This very rich pastry was chock full of fresh cheese and greenery and our slice had the bonus of having two egg yolks. Here it’s presented already cut into three by the server.

Pasqualina

Our second choice (ok, it was mine) was a cream and ricotta tart (£3.50) which I chose partially on its description and mainly on its looks. It was like a rustic little cheesecake with bonus bits of cherry within. Unfortunately, it was also laced with almond extract and this was not marked on the label – one of my friends has a slight allergy to nuts and this lack of labelling is a definite downside. If she had had a serious allergy, the day could have ended badly. If you do have any particular allergies, it’s probably best to really grill the people working at the counter on each and every product in the case. Otherwise, a fine tart.

Cream and Ricotta Tart

A slice of passionfruit cheesecake (£3.50) made up the final cake in our order – I’d heard such wonderful things about it on other blogs that I couldn’t not have it. This was a light and smooth cheesecake with a tart and colourful passionfruit topping. I’m all for different textures when it comes to cheesecake – a New York style cheesecake is delicious but sometimes too heavy. This almost mousse-like cheesecake is the antithesis of that style and I loved it. The balance too between cheesiness (not too much) and passionfruit (not too sweet nor too tart) was just perfect.

Passionfruit Cheesecake

To drink, I had a latte – and a very fine latte made with good strong espresso. They’re happy to also dispense glasses of tap water so don’t be afraid to ask. Oh, those famous fountain taps running along the wall? Can they be removed please? They just make us want the loo.

Latte

We’ll all definitely be back – I want to try more of their savouries and I’ll make sure to come earlier in the day to avoid the rush. Or is it always this crowded?

Princi
135 Wardour Street
London W1F 0UT

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