Yellow Warbler – Best Flat White In Stoke Newington

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Speaking of top quality London flat whites, have you tried Yellow Warbler in Northwold Road, Stoke Newington?

I still remember the day it opened. Back then, Audio Underground was across the road and I rehearsed there twice a week with my band. Some of the shop spaces in the area were classic Seinfeld “Bermuda triangle[s] of retail,” opening and shutting before you could even learn their names. Yellow Warbler, I assumed, would share the same fate. And early on, business did look pretty slow.

The truth, though, is in the coffee. And Yellow Warbler’s always tastes amazing. The food’s good, too. South American inspired breakfasts. Homemade cakes, croissants and sausage rolls. Mostly organic, locally sourced ingredients. And the bread’s from Dalston’s iconic Dusty Knuckles Bakery. Once, I had a bacon brioche roll with romesco sauce and loved the Spanish nut and pepper-based relish so much I started making it at home – and still do.

Back to the coffee, though. I’ve found you’re always guaranteed a great flat white when the barista asks if you’d like sugar in it before he or she adds the frothed milk and latte art. And Yellow Warbler always asks. I can take a bit of snootiness as well, as long as it’s backed up by a magical cup of coffee. China Plate Espresso, for example, which is now closed but was just around the corner in Stoke Newington High Street, had the rudest baristas ever.

Once, mine made a coffee for herself and started drinking it right in front of me before serving (or even making eye contact) with me – and she reeked of cigarettes. Naturally, I was expecting the coffee to taste out of this world… but sadly, it didn’t.

Likewise, The Haberdashery, also in Stoke Newington High Street, has some pretty snobbish-seeming baristas who don’t backup their aloofness either. And for the record, Church Street’s Sapid Coffee doesn’t compare.

In contrast, though, Yellow Warbler has none of that same pretentiousness. I’ve dealt with at least four different baristas over the years, and they’re always friendly, chatty and, more importantly, reliable. In short, if you’re in the area, Yellow Warbler is worth the extra few minutes into Northwold Road. Trust me.

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Yard Sale Pizza – Simply Irresistible

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A long time ago… In a galaxy far, far away… I used to judge a pizza by the number of toppings it had. Wall-to-wall was my style. The more the better; bacon in every bite, feta on every slice, gooey green avocado all over the place. I’m ashamed to admit it, but at one point, I even dabbled with cheese (and hot dog) stuffed crusts. But then, one day, a concerned Italian friend set me straight. “A good pizza is a combination of delicate flavours,” he said. And ever since, I’ve shunned over-the-top, conveyor belt-style American pizzas in favour of hand-stretched, stone-baked, elegantly dressed creations with soul and charisma.

So far, my favourite “authentic” joint dishing up said soul pizzas is Pizza Pilgrims, Dean Street. But a close second – for now – is relatively new pizzeria Yard Sale Pizza in Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park (and Clapton). It’s just around the corner from me and I’m practically addicted to their margherita; tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella, olive oil and fresh basil. For such a stark, basic-seeming pizza, the taste is incredible. It’s all in the details.

Papa John’s may brag about “better ingredients” but they’ve got nothing on Yard Sale. For example, for their “tomato sauce,” Yard Sale use Narello authentic “Italian peeled tomatoes” – and proudly display them in their front window. And their ice cream isn’t made by Ben & Jerry, it’s homemade, Italian-style – using locally sourced natural ingredients – by Highbury based Nonna’s Gelato. The beer selection’s decent as well, with a range of Five Points and Brooklyn brews to choose from. There are wines, too, if that’s your bag.

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Sometimes, when I’m feeling saucy, I up my margherita ante to a Holy Pepperoni; Cobble Lane pepperoni, regular pepperoni and spicy Nduja sausage, all scattered randomly, with love and affection, on fior di latte mozzarella and tomato sauce.

I first discovered spreadable, hot red pepper-packed Calabrian Nduja sausage at Pizza Pilgrims, and I can’t get enough of the stuff. In fact, Yard Sale’s Holy Pepperoni is a close match to Pizza Pilgrims’ Nduja pizza, and it’s difficult to say which one I like more. With Yard Sale (and Pizza Pilgrims), it’s all in the cheese, tomato and freshness. The way the pizza’s made right in front of you, in about five minutes. Speaking of which, it’s about time I took a stroll…

Star Wars: Episode VIII – Who Is the Last Jedi?

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I think I’m the only person in the galaxy that didn’t really like Rogue One. It was okay. Pretty… pretty good. But mostly, it felt like one long battle scene. Saving Private Erso. Or as one reviewer wrote, “Rogue One puts the ‘war’ in Star Wars.” So for me, yesterday’s Episode VIII teaser was particularly exciting. A nice little reminder that the main story, the one I grew up with, is back this December.

All they did, really, was announce the name of the film – The Last Jedi – with an accompanying title credits logo. But it’s impossible not to notice that the logo is ominously, and insidiously, Sith coloured. “Whoopty do. What does it all mean, Basil?”

The movie’s not likely to have anything to do with Jude Watson’s book series Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, which is set between Episode III and Episode IV. So who is the last Jedi. Luke? Rey? Kylo Ren? Surely not the last one. And most likely, the middle one… Stay tuned.

Aziz Ansari’s Beautiful Post-Trump SNL Monologue – Clever Brown Guy Making Fun

Aziz Ansari‘s eloqeuently awesome post-Trump inauguration monologue on SNL yesterday. “I think Trump should make a speech. A real speech, denouncing the lower case KKK. Don’t tweet about me being lame. Or the show being lame. Write a speech. A REAL speech.”

*responding to Ansari’s hilarious joke that Donald Trump is the “Chris Brown of politics,” Brown shared a photo of the comedian on Instagram and wrote, “Somebody tell ALADDIN HOP OFF MY DICK!” Can you believe it, a racist comeback to such an eloquent call for peace, unity and stability. In fact, all Brown did is prove Ansari right. Because who else responds like that on Twitter, missing the bigger picture and exposing their own ridiculousness? Donald Trump, that’s who..

L.O.B. vs Electric Rams – Keep Playin’

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The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

It’s come to this. The penultimate game of the season. The Greys need to win to be in with a chance of snatching second place from tonight’s opponents, Electric Rams. If they do win they could even win the league. As long as they win again next week and first-placed Copa ’90 lose. But win tonight and a draw next week is all it would take to finish second and secure promotion to Division 1.

Playing in red, Electric Rams make the first move. Instantly, the Greys are on the back foot. A red shirt is brought down outside the box on the right and the free-kick is floated in towards the back post. An Electric Rams forward jumps highest and smashes a firm header past Greys keeper Yusuf, into the top left corner. 1-0 Rams.

The Reds are still dictating play when their keeper kicks a dodgy pass out to no-one on the edge of his own box. Greys winger Karim reacts first and beats the charging keeper to the ball. He squeezes it wide to Alex, who controls it well and makes the simple finish to level things. 1-1.

The Greys are back in it. Karim wins a free-kick deep inside the Reds’ half. He takes it himself and strikes it well. The ball bursts through the wall but the Reds’ keeper gets down well to his right and keeps it out. What a save.

This time Greys forward Martin hits a thundering shot towards the top right corner of Electric Rams’ goal. But just as he turns to celebrate the keeper dives across his goal, sticks out a hand and flicks the ball over the bar. Incredible. It’s an even better save than the one before and that’s how the half ends. 1-1.

Channeling injured Ronaldo’s theatrical Euro 2016 orchestration from the touchline, out-of-action player manager Thomas shuffles things around at half-time and the Greys start the second period stronger. Back in the team, defender Big Pat is a constant threat in the box. He hits the bar from a free kick. Heads a corner narrowly over. But then, finally, it’s Martin who makes the breakthrough, flicking on a surprise long throw from stand-in midfielder Danny to put the Greys 2-1 up.

Suddenly the Greys are all over the place. Centre-back Julien plays a neat ball through to Martin, who carries it forward and whacks a powerful low shot under the Reds’ keeper from outside the box. 3-1 Greys.

The Greys are still in charge when another Danny long throw clears everyone at the front post and falls nicely for Alex at the back one. He doesn’t waste any time and half volleys the loose ball in to put the Greys 4-1 up.

Keeping the momentum going, Martin runs onto another neat Julien clearance. It looks like the chance has gone when he holds onto the ball instead of playing it wide to Alex and seems to run out of space. But somehow he manages to nutmeg the last Electric Rams defender and get the ball out to Karim on the left. Making no mistake, Karim pulls the trigger and smashes the ball into the far right corner to wrap things up. 5-1 Greys. Bring on Tuesday.

LD Crashes HBO’s Last Week Tonight Season 4 Trailer – Pretty Good

Damn, I got excited. I saw this clip on Instagram and thought it was a teaser for Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9. Well, it is, kind of… But mainly, it’s a tongue-in-cheek, HBO-spanning teaser for the new season of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, featuring a show-stealing cameo by the one, the only Larry David. Look out for him at 1:00. Pretty. Pretty. Pretty good HBO…

EZ & Moss – I Came for the Flat White But Stayed for the Nutella Brioche

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I love band practices at Strummers Studios. Mostly because EZ & Moss – home of one of London’s finest flat whites – is just around the corner. I still remember the dark days, when I used to turn left into Holloway Road before and midway through rehearsals, and settle for a Costa flat white and an overpriced, underbaked almond croissant. In comparison, EZ & Moss is a veritable coffee, cake and gourmet lunch utopia.

The secret to a good flat white, of course, is the coffee. But the magic’s in the froth. It’s a delicate, finely balanced art that takes time and practice to master – even now, after more than a year on steamer duty, my success rate is not 100%. It’s all about the texture; too long or too aggressive and you end up with soulless split milk that’s too hot to drink, too short and you’re washing down lifeless, lukewarm bubbles.

I still remember that episode* of Frasier, where Niles complains that the foam at Café Nervosa is “a tad listless.” Staring down at his coffee, Frasier replies, “Yes. I can tell without looking that they’ve got Chad back on steamer duty.”

At EZ & Moss, however, it doesn’t matter who’s on steamer duty. I’ve had three different people froth my milk and it’s thick, rich and creamy every time, with a strong coffee kick lurking within. It also doesn’t hurt that the staff are super friendly (and attractive) and the food is all amazing – especially the Nutella brioche. The only flat white I’ve had that rivals EZ & Moss’, so far, is Bond Street Coffee in Brighton. And believe me, I’ve had a lot.

*“Are You Being Served?” – season 4 episode 22…

Verdant Brewing Co. – Headband Pale Ale

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Bought this 5.5 % Verdant Brewing Co. Headband Pale Ale for the pretty can and funky name, but it really delivered. The radiant orange American pale style brew is ripe with flavour, from tropical and citrus fruits to “stinky” cheese and caramel, all working together in perfect harmony with the Headband’s crystal and Munich malts.

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It’s bitter. It’s sweet. It’s dank. And it’s juicy. The hops pop and the texture’s thick, rich and delicious. The smooth, low carbonation also adds to the beer’s potency, making sure it’s refreshing, delectable and moreish.

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