Gail’s artisan bakery and Local Hero diner in Fulham

porridge and flat white coffee at Gail’s

Run, don’t walk, to Gail’s artisan bakery, there are many dotted around the city, some take-out, others sit-down. Never have I tasted such scrumptious baked goods; not even in Paris. I visit the one on Fulham Road in south-west London. Thirteen years ago I lived and worked in London for a year. It was wonderful. A girlfriend of mine named Maya rented out her house to me; she was in Kenya for a year and didn’t want to leave the house empty. So we agreed on a “prix d’ami“, a friendly rate, and I paid her a modicum rent of only £300. a month (for an entire house in fashionable Fulham, unheard of!) I signed on with a temp agency and had interesting short, medium and long-term temp jobs working mainly in law firms in central London and The City. I also enrolled in an evening photography course at Central Saint Martins, the arts and design college. Back then, it was located on Charing Cross Road in central London.

Nights, after my course at around 10 pm, I’d jump onto the number 14 bus and climb the stairs to the top deck. From my front seat up top, London by night would unfold before my dazzled eyes: Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, South Kensington, the Brompton Cemetary, the FFC (Fulham Football Club) and all along the very long Fulham Road. Those were happy times. Unfortunately, Maya died young of lung cancer in 2011, just after selling her house on Munster Road for nearly one million pounds. Her Polish parents, after emigrating to England in the early 1950s, had scraped their money together and purchased that house for a thousand pounds.

Over a decade later, I still visit that area because I have happy memories of the place (mingled with sad memories because Maya is no longer around.) If you walk or take the bus to the very end of Fulham Road and head towards Putney Bridge, there’s a beautiful sprawling park called Bishop’s Park. It has large old trees, a beautiful church called All Saints’ Church, and a lovely rose garden. Running alongside the River Thames is a riverside walk that I did often on Sundays. I loved it there.

Here’s Gail’s located at number 341 Fulham Road. I had porridge served with date molasses and a “flat white” coffee. Yummy-yum!

Now, if you can believe it, there’s an even yummier place further down the road, much further, you’ll need to jump on the bus to get there. Located at 640 Fulham Road, it’s called LOCAL HERO.

I had this memorable breakfast which I’m going to re-create this weekend: smoked salmon and smashed avocado on lightly toasted Danish rye and topped with rocket (arugula), sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil (not sure what the seeds were.) All of the ingredients are high quality, and with two cups of “flat white” coffee, the meal was divine.

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It’s a small local place, and the best reason to go there is because it’s INDEPENDENT and not part of a chain. Sit inside, out front, or out back where there’s a really nice terrace.

In Paris, you just don’t find this sort of inventive food, or at least, I’ve never seen it.

Across the road is an independent bookshop called Nomad Books.

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Here’s a charming and very English B&B in the Fulham area, located just down the road from where I lived, and near the river:

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Fulham Road, food, and Fulham

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Gail’s baked goods are to die for. A relative newcomer to London, the bakery-restaurant has 32 locations scattered around the city. Their food and coffee can be summed up in one word: divine. I had breakfast regularly at the shop in the Fulham Road, either a cornbread muffin studded with feta and thyme and a ‘flat white’ coffee to go, or a sit-down to the most delicious bowl of creamy porridge generously drizzled with date syrup. Is it possible to swoon over a bowl of porridge? Yes, it is.

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I love Fulham because it used to be my ‘hood. Eleven years ago I lived in SW6, the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. My turf was Fulham Road and the end of King’s Road (called New King’s Road). Below is a photo of the street I lived on, and a photo of the white house I lived in. It was my friend Maya’s house. She went to Kenya for a year and asked if I wanted to live in her house while she was away. I said yes. The timing was perfect because I was in-between jobs in Paris. 2005 was a great year. I worked as a temp in international law firms in Covent Garden and The City. I enrolled in a photography class at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design. It was an evening class and I loved riding home on the night bus, the number 14, always sitting in the front seat on the upper deck. (the best way to see London, my friends, is from the top of a double-decker bus).

I hung out and had a laugh a minute with my friend Sherry. In order to meet men (I really like Englishmen), I went to a singles dating event and ended up meeting Rosemary at the bar (with whom I became friends.) I whizzed back and forth to my apartment in Paris on the Eurostar. And I walked endlessly, exploring and discovering the diverse boroughs and neighborhoods of this extraordinary city.

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When Maya’s parents emigrated from Poland in the early 1950s, they purchased this house for £1,000.  In 2010, Maya sold it for £850,000. She became a rich woman overnight. But she barely had time to enjoy her newfound wealth because, sadly, she died of lung cancer two years later.

Here are some random photos of houses in the area. Each time I return to London I make a trip to Munster Road to walk by the white house, to say hello to no-one in particular, and to remember old times.

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Another favorite breakfast or lunch spot is Local Hero located at 640 Fulham Road, SW6 5RT. As you can see, the weather was glorious when I was there. Out back there’s a private garden.

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Bacon sandwich, eggs benedict, full English breakfast, porridge. You can’t get any of this in Paris!

I had just purchased three paperbacks from a charity shop for a pound apiece. Charity shops abound in London, there are several on Fulham and New King’s Road. I had the bacon sarny, my friend had the smashed avocado on toast topped with rocket, sumac and chilli.

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stay tuned…more to come.

Otherwise known as a thrift store, charity shops raise around £300m a year for a range of causes in the U.K. They sell mainly used goods (clothes, books, household items) donated by members of the public.

Here’s the address of a lovely-looking B&B in this area. I haven’t been there myself, but the reviews are positive.

http://www.londonbedbreakfast.co.uk/