The London Diaries 5 : An Oriental journey leading to Ben’s Cookies

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I guess my London posts would be incomplete till I wrote about Ben’s Cookies to which I gave my heart to during my recent trip to London.

Ben’s Cookies is a chain of cookie shops which serve coffee too in London. The branch I went to is near London’s Oxford Street Underground station.

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According to British Indian food writer and my co-host in London, Meera Sodha, Oxford Street is a good place to shop for clothes and that’s where I went to buy stuff for K. It is also where Zoe Perett and I met for the first time outside of the twitter world. Zoe is a food writer and PR practitioner. We were part of the jury for the International Chocolate Awards (European Round). Zoe picked me up  outside the Oxford Street Station on our way to the venue the day we first met. The thing about Zoe is that, though she is British, I am yet to come across anyone who loves Indian food and culture as much as she does. To get a sense of what I mean you can take a look at her blog to see her love for all things Indian.

Oriental London

Before Zoe and I finally met I was a bit worried that she would take me to all the Brindian restaurants in London once I landed. Thankfully I managed to convince her that I do like to go beyond Indian when travelling abroad!

Well, Zoe switched gears with ease and introduced me to the Chinatown near Oxford street where we went in and tried sticky lotus leaf rice, pork puffs and dumplings at a Chinese bake shop called Kowloon Patisserie and the teas at a very Singaporean bubble tea place called Candy Cafe.

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The Chinatown in London seemed a tad different from the ones that I have seen in Singapore and Sydney. The road was wider, the shops bigger, the place less congested, fewer stalls apparently. Zoe also pointed me to Soho where I came back later for fish and chips one afternoon and ramen another night.

Talking of Oriental, Zoe, her dad and I went to Mien Tay, a Vietnamese place at Kingsland Road, after attending the Chowzter Awards Ceremony at Shoreditch. This was an excellent choice by Zoe as I the shrimp salad, the fried eels, grilled pork and the Vietnamese noodles turned out to be one of the best Vietnamese meals that I have ever had so far and was seasoned with the great company that I had in Zoe and Mr Perett that evening.

Of course Zoe took me to the candy store that is Borough Market. Yes, Zoe loves Indian food no doubt but if you ask her nicely then she does point you to the rest of London’s great food scene too. So if you need a London food expert then Zoe (@TheSpiceScribe) is your go to person

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Falling in Love with Ben’s Cookies

The food discovery I owe Zoe the most is Ben’s Cookies whose shop I accidentally came across during our Chinatown trip. I was intrigued by shop…red door, the promise of cookies…more than enough to tempt the child in me.

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I went in to Ben’s Cookies the second time I was at Oxford Street. This time I was by myself.

I went inside into the cheerful shop with a plain yet welcoming design and ambience. Right in front of you after you entered were Hansel and Gretel’s House-like batches of freshly baked cookies smiling broadly at you in the golden light. Like a little child, the spoilt chubby kid which I was the last time I was in London, I stood at the counter and said “Can I have a milk chocolate praline cookie please?”

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I paid a pound and a half and took my cookie to a corner and sat down. I took a bite and broke into a huge grin. This clearly is what I had returned to England for!

The cookie was soft, sweet, worm, chewy, cuddly with a magical rivulet of liquid chocolate flowing inside. This is the stuff fairy tales are made of. The sort of tastes which bring back the wonder years. Make you feel like a happy giggly kid again.

I munched on my cookie  smiling more widely than anyone on the Island at that moment. I was truly and unconditionally happy.

I made it a point to come back to Ben’s Cookies the day I was leaving and packed cookies for home…dark for K, milk for me…carried them my precious cargo in my hand across the seven seas.

It was worth it.

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I am happy to share that Finely Chopped featured in a story on Mumbai gangs in the DNA today. Food gangs that is. Thanks DNA & Karishma ( Here’s the link to the article Good to read about the various food groups in the city. Mumbai needs this. Kumar of Pet Pujari is my neighbour so yay for our floor!

It’s Karmakar by the way and not Karmarkar)

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If you’d told me two years back that I ‘d be part of an organic newsletter then I would have loved but here I am with the Birdsong Cafe review in the Esvasa newsletter

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