Friday, 10 December 2010

The Best Highstreet in London - Hackney Wick

It's not exactly a highstreet but it is a rather wonderful circular walk so why not include it..... Hackney Wick is full of surprises, not least that I live so close and had no idea where it was. I always thought it was just off Mare Street. It isn't - it faces the Olympic Park in Stratford and is well worth a little Brunch time ramble.

All the money being spent on the Olympics is not just going on sport but classrooms, walkways and lovely little places to potter.

So start your day at the View Tube, a social enterprise, funded by Olympic Dreamers and built out of reclaimed shipping containers. On the Ground floor is a sexy little brunch place called the Container Cafe and seeing as it's hosted by Aussies it's the perfect place for pre games gloating.  Maybe just have coffee though as the cafe is owned and run by the same people that have the Counter Cafe a little further around the corner. So memorise the menu (it's the same) and ponder your tummy as you wander on.

Next up could be a rather fine dine over the lock at Forman and Sons. A London Institution since 1905 and recently moved to a spanking new smokehouse and restaurant opposite the Stadium. With views as good as the this it's the perfect place in the world to try the London Cured Smoked Salmon.
Or possibly amble around the corner to The Counter Cafe who hold the record for the bestest damn egg and bacon sandwich in the east. Super Cool and on Fridays all the guys wear Jackets. Dress Up Fridays an idea that should be nationalised for the casual amongst us. Allowing for the fact they you've already eaten three times and it's only just lunch time perhaps the Schwartz Gallery the very essecnce of an urbane art gallery or the Elevator Gallery which is better.

 With a head full of ideas and art the canal is the next stop. Full of extra-ordinary graffiti that have long been ignored. This leads perfectly to the Hackney Pearl . And a pearl it is. Stuck in the middle of a grime ridden estate the pearl shines out. I loved a lot the home pickled Onions that added something east to the cheese plate, which incidently uses local turkish bread to compliment the monty's cheddar. The cocktails and coffees too are better than ever. 

Drink the night away here - but remember to order you cab now.
In three hours time you'll have no idea how to get home.

Hackney Wicked.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Chocodeli - Pimlico

This little gem is a new must see for trips to town with my nieces and nephews. Not only is the selection of sweets a liitle'uns dream but up above is a tin train that puffs and chuffs around the architraves. Joyous for adults too, toot!

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Tricot Studio - Shopkeepers Gloves

A special Commision from a talented studio have brought joy to me and my customers alike.
These Tricot Studio Gauntlet Glove leaves my fingers free to dress and perfect the shop, the heart in my palm a perfect little surprise when handing over change.  I love them!

Caravan - Exmouth Market

This weekend we decided to turn our phones off completely and have a secret holiday in London - living here it's easy to let things pass you by and in the end we could neither name another city we'd rather travel too 48 hours of leisurely rambling. The highlight said holiday was a long walk in the rain to Exmouth Market, as we arrived the traders packed up for the day, yet Caravan's lights shone brightly (particularly so as very few restaurants seem to be open for an early dinner or very late lunch these days) The food was far better than expected for such a hyped site and the service was perhaps even better than that.. The Thai Mussels lasted seconds they were so good and the pork bun not much longer. I've no idea if the meal between lunch and dinner has an official name (dunch?) regardless I'll be eating mine here in future, if you need me don't call.

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Morito - Exmouth Market

After a fantastic early meal at Caravan we excitedly waltzed over to the spanking new Morito where the queue was no where near as bad as the urban grapevine suggests. Baclava and sherry, a beer and some biscotti made for a perfect after dinner treat. Morito looks amazing, the service is impeccable and it makes you feel like your on holiday. Promised to visit again soon but next time for a whole night. Can't wait.

Federation Coffee - Brixton Arcade

Two words : wonderful, wonderful.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Nude Coffee Tips Jars - Spitalfields

The coffee at Nude may be great every single time but I look forward to seeing which of the two tips jars is fullest. Last visit 'Boys' was almost empty and 'Girls' full to the brim. Today 'Paris' confirmed it's status as a city on down, the jar being nearly half empty with shrapnel and fluff while 'New York' was half full of gold and silver (coins) plus at least one note.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Breads etcetera - Brixton Arcade

One man bands are not known for creating beauty - normally simple rackets. Yet the intimacy of this tiny haven demands low staffing. One man bakes all the breads both sweet and sour, the cakes and the treats etc then opens the doors and smiles safe in the knowledge that his hands alone have provided for a busy days custom. This man even roasts his own coffee too; maybe he's found an extra hour in the wee small hours or maybe he's just bloody great at his job. Either way breakfast was memorable. A perfect start to a damn fine day.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Bramble Cafe - The Brompton Quarter

The word enchanting may be overused by others but here I'm going to use it repeatedly and mean it.
This little pop - up had everything going for it, great space, stunning light, great food care of Sarah Bilney & La Fromagerie plus an enchanting foyer featuring a 30 foot long creation of living mushrooms, bicycle wheels and magnifying glasses (no i can't describe how beautiful it was - can we just stick with enchanting?  ... oh and never to be forgotten)
Yes this pop-up it's popped off and closed.
Thank you for the memories. Next time get here sooner and stay a little longer!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Yasar Halim - Green Lanes

If these looks are deceiving you, don't be fooled - I'm just a dreadful photographer. Yasar Halim has long been a family favourite for fresh baked treats and Cypriot street food. With three premises side by side selling the full range of Cypriot wonders from oils and olives to breads, baklava and meat.Who could resist the temptation of the Gozleme, the Borek or the Tahini Bread? I couldn't, I bought all three and got seven pounds change from a tenner. Yasar is the best, the busiest and maybe even the oldest.

Green Lanes never lets you down.

Yasar Halim, 386-390 Green Lanes, N13 5PD (020 8340 8090) Palmers Green rail. Open daily 8am-10pm.

Antepliler Patisserie - Green Lanes

This unassuming little patisserie in Green Lanes holds a secret. A secret revealed to me by the wonderful Leila whilst I was interviewing her for another soon to be revealed project. The secret is in the ingredients and all you need to know is that they bake and create simply the best Baklava in London. Especially the Burma. Moist to the touch, oozing sugar, flavour and aroma these are worth the trip no matter the weather.

Antepliler Patisserie - Green Lanes, London N4 1AG - 020 8809 1004

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Newspeak Exhibition - The Saatchi Gallery

I've little idea why this haunting painting by Hurvin Anderson has taken hold of me and even less of a clue as to why such darkness should make me happy - but it has.

Go figure.
Go see for yourself.

Mount Street Deli - Mayfair


Mount Street Deli does exactly what it says on it's overpriced darling little biscuit tins. It's a chi chi little deli on Mount Street and it's quite nice. Nothing more to say really and I can't imagine I'll ever go again. Although it could of course be handy for demonstrations at the nearby American Embassy; you really shouldn't protest without a good coffee first. Not really my cup of twee.

Union Street Urban Orchard part two - Bankside Southwark


The Urban Orchard also has this delicious reclaimed ping pong skip by Oliver Bishop Young. Maybe we should all club together and send it over to the table tennis loving Boris Johnson household. The more time he spends out of the office the better.

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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Union Street Urban Orchard - Bankside Southwark

Disturbingly simple and utterly charming this pretty little thing yesterday made my day. With wooden pallets stacked waist high to support the saplings and some of the many trees already baring fruit the Urban Orchard has the touch of a green fingered hobo fantasy, and that's a compliment. I was tempted to make myself a cuppa and sit down for the afternoon life drawing class but as it was raining i nipped around the corner to the always welcoming White Horse and had a pint of cider.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Lordship Lane - The Best Highstreet in London? No.3

Lordship Lane has changed so much in the last decade and will hopefully continue to flourish in the same way. A few chains (although none would be best) and dozens of independents is the smart way to grow. The high-street is becoming what Clapham's Nappy Valley failed to achieve. Affordable luxury with a family heart.

Roullier White is quite simply a home-wares shop for men (and women too if you insist) a type of shop that's not only very hard to find but rarely worth visiting. Roullier is different - every inch is merchandised with care and wit, every inch another joy to buy. Worldwide Monocle magazine recently wrote the their ant spray the best on earth!

It may be an old school Italian deli with macho staff and dusty shelves but these same shelves hold treasures to dine for, East Dulwich Deli also bakes locally simply the best sourdough breads in London.

SMBS Organic Grocers is the type of grocers one grows to rely on. If you can't find it here you probably don't need it. Also they are only two doors down from one of London's finest affineurs - The Cheese Block.

Whilst both the Palmerston Pub and the modern chip shop The Sea Cow are owed by a local foodie entrepreneur (well he is since he moved down south) and do what they do well.

Also not to be missed are the coffees at The Blue Mountain Cafe, take aways are best though, as the walk back down through the farmers market to the lane, is a joy with caffeine in hand. Taking you to perhaps my favourite haunt of all Green and Blue, these guys have the right ideas in life. A great Off Licence with an abundance of tempting wines with the brucie bonus of a bistro next door, the perfect palce to sit down for a little light loveliness and where bottles are sold at retail prices. A perfect place to sip wines you normally couldn't afford to order. Good enough to treat.

Lordship lane is a high street best epitomised by local resident and DJ Rob Da Bank. Rob used to a legendary hedonist but now enjoys family feasts at home and organising music festivals for interested adults. The true spirit of East Dulwich.

Grown Up Fun.

Dalston - The Best Highstreet in London? No.2

Dalston seems to be turning into some sort of uber urban green nirvana and no I'm not overstating the case.
Firstly we had Marnie Rose and her inspiring Kings Walk Garden where as part of the Garden Classroom boys and girls gather to learn under the branches . Next came the Dalston Mill for just one summer, quickly replaced by the Easter Curve Garden. High above which we find The Dalston Roof Park Bar where ethically engaged members drink into the sunset and reminisce about dancing till the sun came up at rave haven The Labyrinth. Dalston also has the proposed covering of Mildmay Grove with a garden to look forward too (the perfect way to blot out noise from new high speed trains) And now we have a little green retail to add to the mix. Opening very soon at 20 Dalston is The Farm Shop with chickens on the roof, indoor allotments and aquaponic fish farming. Oh and a cafe.

The September opening can't come soon enough.

With renowned theatre Arcola up the road, pound shops a plenty, the original and, cliche coming up, still the best Mangal Ocakbasi nearby, Ridley Road Market for untold tat and amazing haberdashery, plus the always fantastic Dalston Jazz Bar a stoned walk away, Dalston may be the perfect highstreet for the young at heart.

Obviously a fixed gear bike and an odd haircut may help.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Eastern Curve Pop up Garden - Dalston Junction

Ignore the sirens and bustle of Dalston and head straight for a picnic in this charmed urban park. The cafe is yet to be built, the benches are often full of primary kids on learning experiences and the sun rarely shines but hey today was a good day. I found serenity.
Open to the public from 11am – 8pm and right opposite the rather dull yet spanking new Dalston Junction Station from where I'd recommend a trip on a fancy new train to see the dinosaur's in Crystal Palace.

Kennedy's Fish & Chips - The Goswell Road

Kennedy's has nothing to do with the eponymous south london pie makers that went out of business a few years back so don't go here in search of one of the famously good Scotch pies, do however stop by for one of the best fish and chips around. I used to think there was a black cab rank outside, no not true, it's just that cabbies from all over London congregate here nightly for a perfect fish supper. I always have the same thing and it never disappoints... "plaice and chips twice please and a loy for the walk home".

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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Jean Nouvel Pavilion - Serpentine Gallery

The Jean Nouvel Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery this Summer has finally got it right.

It's not in the same league architecturally as the whimsical Olaofur Eliasson & Kjeti Thorsen  of 2007 nor the Oscar Niemeyer study in beauty (2003) the Toyo Ito masterpiece (2002) or last years enchanting SANAA. However it has at last realised the potential of a public space for a summer in London.

For years the public have been seemingly ignored by the starchitects need for flamboyance. Eliasson & Thorson for example gave us a stunning place to visit, one of my favourite ever interiors and nowhere to sit and cosy up.

Nouvel has given us what we wanted all along, a great place to ponder, meet friends, laugh flirt or read. The cafe actually has a rather large buzz about it, amazing considering the coffee is awful. I sat and watched as people played chess, rocked on hammocks and struggled with the not so simple game of ping pong. Maybe we just needed a Frenchmen to show London what parks are for.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Anna Lappe - Food Hero

Today I've spent far too long procrastinating and flicking from blog to blog.
My favourite without doubt and one I return to more often than not is the inspiring Take a Bite
Written by Anna Lappe, author, activist and inspiration.
You don't need to read the book to understand the that this is a woman to follow.
My favourite quote:

"Every time you spend money you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want"

Sunday, 8 August 2010

MacFarlane's - Abbevillle Road Clapham

A truly charming deli that offers everything a denizen could need. Perfect for the yummy mummies and day dreaming day off dads of Abbeville Road, a hidden gem of a high-street just far enough away from far too youthful Clapham. I especially loved the homemade Gruyere and Marmite biscuits on the counter. Irresistible and a statement to consumers that this is not a chain store. This is a place for individuals. Even if they do all wear rugby shirts, distressed Gap shorts and oddly office like shoes.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

2 & 4 - De Beuvoir

This little delight is just what I've been looking for. A cold war modern furniture shop (fairly well priced too - I was tempted more than once but its tricky to carry an angular sofa and walk a dog at the same time) with a rather special little cafe on the side; cakes treats and quite good coffee made even better by charming service and a thoughtful bowl of water for the milly pup.

Just off the regents canal 2&4 makes a perfect pit stop when the towpath cafe is too busy for solitude.

Maybe bring your friendly man with a van along too!

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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Trinity Stores - Balham

For such a long standing part of London's food establishment I'm ashamed to say today was my first visit to Trinity Stores in Balham. I needn't worry, Wednesday afternoon and the place was alive with happy customers, floral clad kids and passers by. A wonderfully original selection of dry, fresh, chilled and alcoholic goodies. I bought teas and tisanes, biscuits and pies. None of which I needed and all of which were irresistible. The true heart of Balham.

The Old Post Office Bakery - Clapham

At last we can call off the hounds, to my ambassadors routing  the suburbs you can go home now, the search is over.

We have succeeded. Today the crown has passed over.

Ginger Pig you longer hold the title of 'best sausage roll in the world'. The title is moving on.

It's a long way to go but if man can conquer mountains I can brave the South Circular.

The humble sausage roll is a thing of beauty, easy to make but next to impossible to perfect. Yet down on Land or Road in Clapham it has been done.

Welcome to the throne ..... The Old Post Office Bakery


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Franks - Peckham Multi Storey Carpark

Not knowing that Franks was above us it came as such a refreshing surprise. An urban beach-like bar but without the sand and Europop. Perfect. 

After climbing the ramps of the Peckham Multi Storey Car Park, with ever increasingly impressive works of sculpture building to a crescendo on on the rooftop, a Campari and some nibbles felt like a dream come true.

Of all the Galleries in London this space is not only the most intriguing (can a Car Park in Peckham really live up to expectations?) and the most inspiring (proof that Cities are more interesting in economic down-times) but also the most rewarding (this art coupled with that view creates uplifted souls)

We treated ourselves to a light brunch of Heritage Tomatoes on Toast, a classic south London greasy spoon dish, made delicious by ingredients alone, a few glasses of sunshine filled Rose and a Campari. We giggled like young lovers with our find and the Milly Pup ran from ankle to ankle dining on under table scraps of loveliness. She ran free after the large arty crowd of both rich and fashionably poor heckled me to 'let the puppy run free man!'

The best afternoon I've had in many many Sundays.

Already a treasured memory and already booked for next Saturday night. Lets pray for lots of sunshine followed by an epic thunder and lightening storm. Franks is the perfect place to watch the weather and smugly enjoy the fact that South London has all the best views.
Website: and


Monday, 19 July 2010

The Black Lab - Clapham

It's not open yet and it's a famously difficult street to retail from but good luck to the guys at 'The Black Lab' in Clapham. I popped down to taste the mana this afternoon and it was closed for staff training. A good sign in itself!

Next time for sure.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Ellen Dunham-Jones - Retrofitting suburbia

Ellen Dunham-Jones: Retrofitting suburbia Video on

Watch this Video.

The big idea? Retrofitting empty suburban big boxes for the benefit of you and me. Would not an empty IKEA make the greatest farmers market? Could we not turn the hundreds of vacant woolworths into libraries? Should we not retro-fit deserted estates into huge playgrounds? Can't fault the idea really.

Also see the Detroit Urban Farming Movement!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Gelupo - Soho

Following on from romance at Polpo and memories of many a weekend spent splashing around in Venice, nothing could be finer or more fitting than a short stroll over to artisan ice cream maker Gelupo.

A Blood Orange Granita with Chocolate Sorbet piled on top. Almost Heaven! - although the Rice Ice came pretty close too, as did the many, and avaialble to all, free samples.

Oddly the owners also feel the need to add a small grocery and kitchenwares section to the back of the almost finished Gelato. Whilst I often find these attempts at retail misplaced I can't deny that a freezer full of suasages handmade for the diners of Bocca de Lupo got me very excited.

So go eat an ice cream, enjoy it, and then take a sausage or two  for a cut price Bocca experience at home.

Polpo - Soho

Birthdays in London can be wonderful nights especially if surprises booked by others. This year my delicious wife didn't book anything, Polpo don't take bookings. Just rock up, drink while you queue and prepare yourself for something quite magical - a bacaro in the middle of town and in a building previously occupied by Venetain God Canaletto (and what a blessing finding this must have been for the estate agent sourced to find a perfect location!) This is now my favourite restaurant in London. Not only is the food prepared perfectly and priced simply but aussie Kevin is an incredibly loving waiter. Although he is far prettier in real life than my hasty photo!

You'll notice I blog more about experience and service than food itself but isn't that the point of eating? Great food and bad service is a route to a bad night out, yet average food and great service can create a customer for life and unforgettable evenings. Is that not after all the secret what we hanker after? Memories.
Polpo has hit the holy grail however; great food and great service.

I'll never forget. Happy birthday to me!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Wilton Way Cafe - De Beauvoir Town (aka London Fields!)

When community fails and highstreets die London becomes a fractured place; still the greatest but a little harder to live in. With this in mind I suggest everybody in London visits Wilton Way Cafe today; if you can't visit just send a cheque - because what they are doing is to be applauded. 

Not only is the Wilton way cafe a cafe with intimacy at it's core and great coffee it's mandate it's also got a community radio station built into the servery. Yes the 'Wiltons' believe so much in re-invigorating the local community they've set up a station to get the community talking, listening, communicating. Such a wonderful thing. I'm once again in love.
With the already lovely Violet Cupcakes and the perfectly formed Wilton Way Cafe  this could be a street to watch. What comes next? A grocery store, a haberdashers or a butcher might be nice. Go spend some money. Invest in London's collective future. Or just chill out a little in a truely lovely cafe. Either way you'll leave feeling better.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Anthropologist - The City

What may seem a good idea on an architects mood board can be let down in reality by lack of staff. The restaurant and bar had a great vibe about them yet the attached grocery store was utterly devoid of staff and silent. Fairly nice selection of lines that should be warmly received by the local suits if the bosses give the grocery the rotas it merits.

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Monday, 14 June 2010

Villandry - Fitzrovia

Villandry seems to having an identity crisis.

As Villandry continues it's expansion plans they should perhaps have a little break and think about how things are going. At the moment it seems they need to concentrate again on what they once did so so well - being a great food shop. The restaurant was as good today as it's even been but I walked through the shop without stopping and a little confused as to where I was!

Its always tempting to up the offer of gift items, they take up lots of space, generate great GP and never go out of date, but if I want a book or a cuddly toy, a candle or a cheap barbecue I'll go elsewhere. At the moment a visit to Villandry is like a visit to a suburban market gardeners, stuff everywhere and nothing to buy. If i want gifts I'll go to Liberty's, if I want food I'll go to La Fromagerie.

Maybe next time Villandry, maybe ...

Bompas & Parr - The Complete History of Food


I don't often get involved in the left field of the food world. I love simple food cooked simply and bought locally. But the 'The Complete History of Food' evening hosted by the spectacular Bompas and Parr looks quite incredible and relatively cheap too.

It's set to be a journey on foot through the history of revolutionary food. Taste a little Victorian anarchy then some sixties revolution and maybe a soupcon of Tudor blood lustre. Sounds very intriguing. And only £25 per head. Considering they worked with Heston on his 'Feasts..' series and gained so much press for there Jelly Sculptures it should be worth going.  

If this sounds a bit too much then why not try a little of the Bompass and Par 'Occult Jam' first. Its a free event at the Barbican (Jams later available in the shop too) Flavours range  from 'Absinthe and pineapple with sand from the Great Pyramids' to 'Plum and Oak with wood from Nelson's ship The Victory'.  Royalists should maybe avoid the 'Milk Jam infused with a speck of Princess Diana's hair' flavour at all costs though!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Sea Shell - Lisson Grove

It's a long time since I've had fish & chips for lunch but food this good can't be missed out on. It's reputation as the number one chip shop in london precedes it and the queue out the door of thirty people, on a hot summers day too, suggests excellence. Yet being a hit with tourists normally suggests a place past it's best. Sea Shell is not. Sea Shell is at the top of it's game, with batter so crisp and light I now understand the throng of excited Japanese tourists - they're not on a crappy guided tour but a pilgrimage.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Mary, Queen of Shops - BBC2

A while ago I was asked to help out on the next series of Mary, Queen of Shops. In this new series Mary was to visit independent food shops and help them recover, rebuild, reboot. The episode I worked on, in a consulting role to help with sourcing and merchandising, is on tomorrow night - June 7th, BBC2, 9pm.

And my good God it's great TV.

In all the years of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares and other extreme makeover shows I've never seen a finale as good as this. You think I'm exaggerating? ........Trust me I'm a shopkeeper.

Mrs Paisleys Lashings - Richmond

For a home to be both magical and infamous took some doing, but with one half of the feted marriage a Rolling Stone and the other the ethereal and still delicious Miss Jo Wood, Holmwood house is both and more. For this home to have a garden restaurant in it's midst for a few weeks with Arthur Potts Dawson in the kitchen to boot is quite simply exciting.
Every part of an evenings dining at Mrs Paisley's Lashings is joyful. From the 'Lads of Richmond' cocktail (served in suitably eco / retro jam jars) offered on arrival into the conservatory, the stunning sourced with love meal (the lobster risotto the highlight) all the way through to dancing with truly global movie stars in the subterranean in-house disco!

The highlight amongst many many highlights however was Mr John Davey. Simply one of the worlds best maitre d's. A man with such grace and genuine hospitality he'd give Elena a run for her money. He made every guest feel like an invitee at a house party; and in a room of no more than fifty diners, most of whom were nervous of camera phones, this was remarkable and appreciated.

If you manage to get a table at this so much more than just a pop-up pop-up get there on time ... a moment missed would be a moment regretted.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Honey Bank - Festival Gardens

On a recent day trip to Paris I bought a pot of Honey from a bookshop at the always worth a visit
Parc de Villettes; mainly to support the growing French 'Concrete Honey' movement and secondly to see how the French fair when compared to London's Urban Beekeepers. 

Well it stands up very well indeed and when coupled with the fact that the phrase 'Concrete Honey' is just so dam sexy I wanted to see if a could get some more closer to home. 

Amazingly the French artistic co-operative 'Parti Poetique is bringing  
'The Honey bank' project to London. Mixing Art Architecture and Beekeeping to stunning effect, this could turn out to bee the most fascinating part of the City of London Festival.

On June 22 I'd suggest a day out to the bottom of the Festival Gardens for a little further investigation. Here you'll find a Honey Feast.  Maybe wear long trousers and bring a queen. 

For those of you who are already tuned in to the idea of doing your own beekeeping I'd suggest signing up for the one-day 'bee keeping taster' course held in Battersea, by Brian, founder of . I went a few months back now and have been searching demonically ever since in my local nooks and crannies for a place to start.