19 March 2015

Kingston's Riverside Edge // The Cereal Bar

The medieval market town of Kingston-upon-Thames has been experiencing a bit of a Renaissance in terms of restaurant options. First there was Five Guys. Then we got a Bill's (love that place!). Now we even have a Cereal Bar. I can only attribute this incredible upturn in the fortune of the town to my very own presence and influence, having started working here at the end of 2013. After all, Peckham experienced a similar explosion in new eateries when I worked there in 2012/13. I seem to be a harbinger of culinary gentrification *ahem*

Kingston's Riverside Walk has become quite the dining destination since its redevelopment, with some big names popping up along the waterfront including Cote Brasserie, Comptoir Libanais, Busaba Eathai and Cau. At the end of the walk, on the corner of Kingston bridge, there's a new concept called Riverside Edge, which describes itself as 'five new pocket kitchens' (how trendy!). As far as I'm aware the vendors have been the same since it opened, so as yet these pop-ups have popped up and stayed up, but perhaps we'll see some different restaurants in the future. Currently the eateries are Lorenzo's Pizza, champagne and macaroon bar Folie Macaron, mediterrenean fare from Cloud Kitchen, coffee from Local Hero and burgers by Le Bun. I feel like I've sampled hundreds of burgers in London over the last couple of years. But I'm still unable to turn the offer of one down. So fellow burger connoisseur Hannah (of Bow Dream Nation) and I decided to check out Le Bun, to celebrate/commiserate my last couple of weeks of working in Kingston.

Stomachs rumbling, we approached the kitchens. I noticed that the lights seemed rather dim inside... and then we got to the door and read the sign explaining that they were closed due to technical difficulties. The dismay! I was particularly annoyed as Hannah and I had been exchanging tweets with Le Bun, explaining that we would be visiting their Kingston branch on Wednesday - so it would have been nice if they could have given us a heads up earlier that day, letting us know they had been forced to close. But they hadn't. Oh well. Luckily Byron, located just down the river, could satisfy our burger cravings, and as ever, it didn't disappoint.

Happily, The Cereal Bar, which we had planned to visit for dessert, was open, and two very eager bar staff welcomed us in immediately. The bar staff looked like cartoon characters, talked like children's TV presenters, and acted a bit like kids who have had one too many bowls of sugary cereal. Maybe they had. But hey, if you're going to open a themed bar you may as well go all out.

Of course this venue follows in the footsteps of the similarly themed Cereal Killer Cafe which opened in Shoreditch recently, and got a fair bit of stick when it did. I'm not entirely sure why as it's just a bit of fun guys, lighten up! East London has been the subject of gentrification for some years now, and new businesses like this (that admittedly won't be to everyone's tastes) are products of gentrification rather than the root causes of it. If you want to blame someone, I suggest turning your attention to the successive governments who have failed to build sufficient affordable housing. I'm going to end my gentrification rant there before I write War and Peace (and property markets).

Cereal aficionados come in all sorts of guises, shapes and sizes, and not all of them live or work in East London, so I'm sure The Cereal Bar in Kingston will attract a certain clientele. It seems to attract the breakfast/commuter crowd in the morning, school kids in the afternoon, and students at night, remaining pretty busy all day (I walk past it every day on my way to and from work). We arrived during a quiet period, and had the place to ourselves for a bit as we pored over the extensive menu and stood mesmerized in front of the wall of cereal boxes. I felt very much like a kid in a sweet shop.

So. Much. Cereal.

The menu was a little bit too busy to be honest - this place does everything from milkshakes to crisp sandwiches and pop tarts. I just focused on the cereal. There were so many varieties that caught my eye... from Reese's Puffs to Cap'n Crunch and Cinnabon.... so eventually I decided to have the decision taken out of my hands by opting for one of the suggested mixes on the menu. I went for a peanut butter and chocolate one (obviously!) that consisted of Reese's Puffs, Hershey's Cookies and Cream cereal, with toppings of chocolate chips and a Reese's cup, and served with hazelnut milk. I asked them to substitute this for almond milk as that's my favourite milk. I was really impressed that they had such a range of dairy free milks actually (they also had soy and coconut). The milk was thoughtfully served in a separate container so that you could splash or drench the bowl to your desired consistency.

The result of this cereal cocktail was the sort of breakfast you always wanted as a kid but would never have been allowed. Rightly so because I quickly reached a dizzying sugar high and began to doubt that I would ever be able to get to sleep that night.

Chocolate and peanut butter cereal 'cocktail' with a side of almond milk.

This place is fun, not overly expensive (given how much you'd be charged for a whole box of one of these imported cereals in a specialist store), and I think makes cereal exactly what it should be: something that's a treat and a bit of a laugh, but not a kid's breakfast (of course kids will be attracted to the bar, but it seems more aimed at creating an environment of nostalgia for adults). Sadly, the producers (Kelloggs, Nestle et al) of these brightly coloured boxes of cereal with cartoon characters on them, directly target children. You don't even need to look at the nutritional information on the boxes to know they can't be good for you: a couple of bites are sufficient to make you wonder how on earth any government's nutritional advisory committee or advertising standards regulator could allow these to be marketed as an acceptable breakfast for children. You can only assume it's because governments are afraid to stand up to these big brands. I'm not for a ban on junk food - I think adults, who are responsible for their own actions and can make their own decisions - should have the opportunity to eat whatever they like. But of course, the rules are different when it comes to children.

On that note, responsible adults will experience an enjoyable sugar-spiked trip down memory lane in this new Kingston cafe.

The Cereal Bar
66 Fife Road
Kingston upon Thames


  1. I love cereal so this is definitely on my list as a treat! I only ever had things like cocopop on special occasions as a child - the thought of eating cereal like this everyday makes me teeth feel a bit funny but for a nostalgic treat it looks great - love that there are different milks.

    1. Yeah, eating these every day would definitely be a recipe for tooth decay... we were both itching to brush our teeth afterwards. I used to eat quite a lot of cereal as a teenager, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and that sort of thing... until I realised that they're actually really bad for you and only keep you full for about 5 minutes!

  2. Replies
    1. Me too! Think I will go back at some point this week whilst I'm still in kingston... I really fancy one of those red velvet Oreo milkshakes.