Friday, 31 August 2012

Area decoded: NW5, Parliament Hill


The Parliament Hill Farmer's market is back in full swing this weekend, after a short summer holiday... 


This is the first of many posts in which we are going to decode an area for you. We’ll be picking places in London to go and discover of a lazy day because there’s nothing quite like heading to a previously unexplored spot. Our guides will give you the places we rely on but please add any recommendations you have yourselves.

We’re starting with a place close to both of our hearts…

Q: “Where do you live?”
A: “Dartmouth Park”
Q: “Where?”
A: “Parliament hill?... oh never mind. Between Camden and Highgate.”

As is the case with any place in London not within 5 minutes walking distance of a tube stop – people just don’t know Dartmouth Park by name. Growing up here both Flo and I (and all of my oldest Dartmouth BFFs) had many a conversation like the above zzzzzzzz…

In the last few years 2 happenings have put Dartmouth Park more firmly in Londoners’ mind-maps: the opening of the Parliament Hill farmers' market and the sprucing up and gastrofying of The Bull and Last pub. Last Saturday, Flo and I got together in our area to taste the best from both places and of course, to walk Biba.



The Parliament Hill farmer’s market is every Saturday 10am-2pm in the William Ellis school car park. You have to go into the heath and then turn right at the tennis courts but it’s well sign posted, as Biba will confirm.Biba consented to be left at the dog crèche but only because she wanted to ask these two where they got their colours done.


First up: bread. The Born and Bread bakery (written up by The Guardian here) travels North from Dulwich to grace us with their floury goodness every week. The best thing from this lovely lot has to be their olive breadsticks, which are more succulent green olive than they are dough. Encrusted in rosemary and rock salt these are utterly mouth watering and I’d challenge anyone to make it home with any still in their shopping bag. 



Their pagnotta (sourdough loaf) is excellent too: not too chewy, nor too heavy but risen just right with a thick bitter crust to get your teeth into.

Next: cheese… what else would you put on bread? The Wyfe of Bath by The Bath Soft Cheese Company is like a gouda but less bitter and I would probably marry her if she asked (lame. Sorry).



Then to the tomatoes: my mother’s kitchen wouldn’t be the same without the lively polka dots of red and yellow tomatoes in earthenware that we’ve become accustomed to nibbling on before supper. They are worth the trip alone and are made in The Isle of Wight by these lovely people at The Tomato Stall.


Eden Farms has a great selection of unusual seasonal veg in all the colours of the rainbow. We suggest not turning up with a recipe in mind as this is one of the best places to be inspired. I bought jalapeno sausages and chose miniature yellow squashes to roast as an accompaniment. 





These chickens are something else. Unlike anything you can buy in a supermarket in flavour and freshness. They are from Fosse Meadows Farm, who you can follow on Twitter to see where else they'll be.  All their chickens are free-range and sold with giblets so you can really make the most of your chicken (Flo and I always make a soup from the stock). If you can’t wait until you get home then you can have a chicken mince burger straight off the grill too.


Sausages from The Giggly Pig are another must. At approximately £3.50 for a packet of 6, they’re not as extortionately priced as gourmet market sausages often are and are worth it. They do a whole host of flavours to choose from and have enough samples that you can have a mini-breakfast here before moving on, or just get a whole one in a roll…



The soup stand sells fresh, healthy or naughty soups (that’s without or with crème fraiche) soups at good prices. The pea and mint is particularly good. They also have excellent fresh pesto for your bread and cheese or salsa depending on what you’re making.

Poppy’s Kitchen serves French Style sweet treets all hand made by Poppy herself (and we're guessing, her unbelievably cute daughter and Twitter cover star too). Choose from a selection of tarts including crème brûlée – the French equivalent of a pasteis de nata. Mmmm…



If you're buying to entertain, you can get flowers here too... we were particularly struck by these, which solve that problem of how open a flower to buy, as they look gorgeous when closed too:



Once we had done the circuit, we headed to Parliament Hill’s summit to enjoy the famous view out over London. You can see right to the city from there so it makes for an impressive sky line at night too.



Then down to The Bull and Last. If it had been a Sunday, we would have turned up here a little later in the day and had a roast (booking essential). As we were early, we shared a freshly made scotch egg, which we agree is the best thing that they do. The pictures say it all.






Everyone was perfectly refreshed... 



If you remember, last Saturday afternoon was somewhat apocalyptic in weather-man terms so after shopping we stayed in and ate Al Parco pizzas for supper... the best in the area. Located by the Swains Lane park entrance. When it's sunny, this is the ultimate low-effort heath picnic with a bottle of wine from Corks of Swains Lane (over-priced but good selection).


Their Marina - a basily, garlicy pizza is only £6.something

So that was our Saturday just been. We hope you make it your Saturday coming up… let us know what you think.


The afternoon was spent doing this... absolute bliss. I want it back.


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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Review: Chicken Shop, Kentish Town



It’s felt like the whole of Kentish Town has been holding their breath for the arrival of the Soho House Group owned trio of foodiness into our humble community. See our local magazine/ blog: The KentishTowner’s write up of the run up to launch – from hushed rumours through to the big day itself to really understand the level of anticipation we all felt. It’s been tough but the wait is over.

The long awaited Chicken Shop, Pizza East and Dirty Burger soft launched to locals last week from Wednesday through to Friday with everything half price – thank you Soho House! We headed down there on Friday night along with swarms of incredibly good-looking Kentish Towners (who knew??) to check it out.

Having put our names on a 45 minute wait list, I was secretly pleased to have enough time to sample more than one of the Pizza East cocktails. First up was a delectably light Martini Royale (martini bianco and prosecco over ice with a couple of basil leaves floating on top – I shall be making this one myself) and an amaretto sour, done the proper way with egg white and plenty of bitters. These were followed by margaritas all round. 


The Bar at Pizza East (photography was forbidden inside during the soft launch so you'll have to rely on my descriptions for now... )
After drinks, we headed to The Chicken Shop, which has a separate entrance but is essentially downstairs. Both The Chicken Shop and Pizza East make you feel as though you walked off the North London pavement into New York’s Meat Packing district. This is achieved with open kitchens, bustling, friendly staff, hanging meat, colourful bars and rough wood finishes on almost all of the services.



The Chicken Shop prides itself on the simplicity of its menu and its sauces. There’s something refreshing about deciding on the menu in a split second – for us the decision was: we’ll have everything please. Well it was ½ price… We washed down our half chicken, coleslaw, butter leuttice and avocado salad and of course both sauces with a bottle of rosé, poured out of a metal jug – nice touch and keeps it cool without an ice bucket.



After mains, we helped ourselves to the biggest slice of apple pie I’ve ever seen, still steaming from the oven and crowned with creamy vanilla ice cream (we were too excited to photograph - sorry). 

We walked home holding our bellies and vowing we’d never eat again. We have since broken this vow and plan to continue doing so, regularly, at The Chicken Shop - though next time we’ll be heading dirty burger-wards. Watch this space.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The ultimate 2 for 1 Wednesday

Last Wednesday we were all feeling a little broke. It was nearing the end of the month and after summer festivals, holidays and general festivities it was time for a low-cost evening out. So naturally we went for food, cocktails and to the cinema. 

Ok, ok that doesn't sound cheap.

Well all of that was to be had for about £12 each. For real. In London. I know. I couldn’t believe it either...

Lola and OJ looking pleased... (The Peckham Multiplex tip is courtesy of OJ - thanks!)

We arrived at Peckham Rye station at 6.30, (the overground takes 4 minutes from Waterloo). Bar Story is to be found underneath the station in one of the old railway arches. It’s protected by makeshift tarpaulin, heated by stand up heaters and populated mainly by art students.


The happy hour runs from 6 until 8. Cocktails are 2 for 1, usually priced at £6, making them £3 each. They are a mixture of classics – a creamy espresso martini, a tart perfectly-salted margharita, a refreshing caipirinhia - and creatively named house specials “Jizz pie” anyone?






Pizzas are 2 for £10 and big enough that you only need 1 between 2 people – bringing them in at £2.50 per portion. We didn’t snap the pizzas unfortunately, but if you’re feeling like a real big spender you can go for a burger instead (see pics below).





Assuming you ate pizza and had a couple of cocktails, you’ve now spent £8.50.

Dress: Monki, £35 one of the many reasons I was broke before pay day.


After drinks we headed to the Peckham Multiplex to see Ted – so funny and great for a mixed group of guys and girls. The Peckham Multiplex’s claim to fame is that all tickets, any time, any day can be had for £4.99. However, they do Orange Wednesdays too.




Yes people, that's £2.50 per ticket. I don’t think it’s been possible to go to the cinema in London for this much money since the 80s at least. Add on £1 worth of pick n' mix of course and you've spent £12.

A night out so cheap, it should coax some of you North Londoners over the river for at least one evening especially after the bank holiday eh?
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