The places around Nido I wish I had found sooner
Station Café: If you leave Nido, turn right towards the station, and walk for a block and a half, you’ll find a hole in the wall. This one I’ve known about all along, but it’s still one of my favorite places. A variation of English breakfasts are the culmination of the menu, but I always get two fried eggs on toast with bacon because it feels lighter, and a friend always gets the omelettes, which fill the oversized plates and come with a side of chips. Either way, it’s cheap and makes you feel like a local... or a construction worker. Same thing, right?
Naturalis: For a lighter take, head left out of Nido, left past the Lexington, and right on Chapel Market. This little café only recently started serving meat, but everything is still organic and their vegan and vegetarian options rock. Best thing? Their veggie breakfast with the spinach for those days when you’re low on iron (trust me, it happens) or the porridge with berries. Only a couple pounds more expensive than station café, it reminds me a bit of little atlas in a more refined way.
Lunch and Dinner:
Indian Veg: Right across the street from Naturalis is a storefront plastered in advertisements for a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s cheap (right around 5 pounds for a buffet style meal) and the food is good, but honestly the best part is reading the signs that spill into the restaurant. Be prepared to read about natural remedies, the benefits of vegetarianism, and the details of animal cruelty while munching on papadams and curried lentils.
Sen Viet: This little Vietnamese restaurant on Kings Cross Road is the go to for anyone on their lunch or dinner break. The Banh Mi’s aren’t quite as good as you can find in New York, but they’re around 3 or 4 pounds and tasty. All of the other dishes are quite large, but the take out menu is reasonably priced and I tend to save half for the next day.
CoffeeWorks: This little place in Angel is a bit of a hike if you just want to pop out for a minute (15 minutes or so) but it’s perfect for the camp-out-and-work day. The coffee is decent, and the food is typical of pretty much every café here (tasty salads and sandwiches served at lunch time, pastries in the morning) but it can get spendy if you chug your coffee. There’s a garden out back for nice weather.
DASH: On Caledonian right next to Drink Shop Do is their new extension, which, again, serves café-food that’s pretty typical. More exciting is the reasonable priced coffee, and frozen yogurt during the summer. It’s just a counter, so if you’d rather sit down their mother-ship next door is your best bet.
Queen’s Head: Yeah, yeah, shameless plug. Great beer, cider, and whiskey, the owner tends to be in and chatty, and there’s live music on Thursday and Sunday nights (jazz mostly, some blues and ragtime). It can close pretty early, so start the night here and then transfer to the next two spots right around midnight.
Simmon’s: This is a recent find for me. On Friday’s and Saturdays this Caledonian bar is open until 3, plays music from the nineties and eighties (Fresh Prince, anyone?) and has a pretty basic bar. You can get cocktails served in tea pots for a group, but really the reason to go is the crowd: the stragglers of the night who aren’t prepared to slum it at The Lexington, it tends to be dancy and companionable, without being too pushy.
The Lexington: For when you’re not quite in the mood for a small-bar-feel and have been kicked out of everywhere else, head up to The Lexington. An American-style whiskey bar with a decent bourbon and beer selection that isn’t too horribly expensive, it tends to attract the last desperate crowds of the night. If you are a girl, prepare to be hit on incessantly, even if you’re with a group of guys. But the music downstairs is a cross between rockabilly and swing, and if you go up the stairs next to the coatcheck there’s pop with deeper bass than normal and a gyrating mass of people.
Chapel Market Grocery: Yeah, there are two Tescos, an Iceland and a Waitrose within short walking distance of Nido, but who wants to be corporate when you can be organic? There’s a greengrocer that sells organic produce and basic health foods (the only hemp milk I’ve found here, and Pukka tea) on Chapel Market, on the southern side of the road, usually tucked behind the booths of the street market. It’s magical. If you can come down on Sundays, there’s also a farmer’s market on the street, which is even better.
Riverford Organics: Now, I’m not sure if many people can actually do this while living in Nido, but if you know someone who lives nearby and can accept the packages for you, you should try it out. It’s like a CSA in New York, but you pay once a week and they deliver it to your door (or, in my case, to the pub)