Time Out London: Harringay guide

Last month I wrote a little guide to Harringay, my ‘hood, for Time Out London. Read on for the places I like best, after frequent frequenting*

Tree-hugging, neon lights and Turkish wedding parties: it’s the best bits of Harringay

Harringay will put a spring in your step, and an inch on your waist.

Why go there?
For the food, bars and buzz of a great place as yet largely undiscovered by the non-Turkish masses. But mainly for the food.

What’s the vibe?
Hectic. Harringay’s Grand Parade on Green Lanes (where every place mentioned here is located) is a street that never sleeps – it’s a blur of neon lights, 24-hour fruit-and-veg shops, young families and professionals, students and the occasional Turkish wedding party.

 © Jessica Long© Jessica Long

Sounds good. What’s on the menu? 
There are ten Turkish restaurants doing a roaring trade within less than a mile.Gökyüzü offers the friendliest and most efficient service and, more importantly, the finest meat platter. Antepliler isn’t bad either, especially with its big wood oven in the front for Turkish pizzas. A crop of non-Turkish places has also recently sprung up: Bun & Bar serves burgers and cocktails, while Autograf Grill claims to be ‘probably the best Polish restaurant in London’.

Got the meat sweats?
Try casual café Mezzo, or the Harringay Sunday market which frequently includes a bánh mì stall.

The Salisbury Hotel

Let’s get drunk!
Make a beeline for The Salisbury. It’s staggeringly big and has everything you could wish for in a London pub: a revolving selection of ales, stuffed animals and a roaring fire. Jam in a Jar has a friendly Lower East Side dive vibe and heaves on weekends, when it plays host to Americana-flavoured live music.

gozleme at hala

Time for some sobering retail therapy.
There’s an imposing Hawes & Curtis Outlet Store selling heavily discounted threads, and the curious soon-to-open Harringay Local Store, whose window states it is ‘Not another Tesco’. It’s opposite Tesco. But, mostly, Harringay is all about food, so eyes on the prize. Yasar Halim is the best bakery on the block – grab some flaky baklava from there, or a gözleme, a pastry stuffed with spinach, mince, cheese or potato, from the ladies making them in the window of Hala.

Now how about a nice sit down?
Finsbury Park is but a ten-minute walk away, while down near the Overground station, the surprisingly peaceful Railway Fields nature reserve is also sporadically open to the public for dawn chorus walks and tree-hugging festivals and the like.

And if I only do one thing?
Sip Turkish black tea with lots of sugar outside Café Lemon and watch the action on the Parade whirl past.

By Becky Lucas, who lives on Harringay Road, in Harringay, in the borough of Haringey. The previous resident was called Harry.

*Two little edits I’d like to make to this piece. In fact, let’s go for three: 1) If you’re only going to do one thing in Harringay, it should really be eating the mezzes and meat feast at Gökyüzü, rather than sitting outside Café Lemon. I just couldn’t repeat myself. 2) Blend café was edited out of my copy and it is absolutely by FAR The best café on the strip: the perfect place to spend a few hours with your laptop (in fact, I am in Blend as I type this). 3) The picture of The Salisbury included is extremely out of date. A lot of money has been spent making the pub and area surrounding it a lot grander.

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Time Out London: Jam in a Jar bar review

A review of my favourite little artsy dive bar in North London. Come discover Jam in a Jar.

The ‘Jam’ in this bar’s name doesn’t refer to the preserve, or to the local traffic, but is used in the impromptu musical freak-out sense. Harringay’s Jam in a Jar marks a sea change for the particular stretch of Green Lanes known as Grand Parade. It forms a hat-trick alongside impressive refurbished Victorian boozer the Salisbury down the road and yummy mummy café Blend next door.

‘Qwerty’, stamped in higgledy-piggledy typewritten characters constitutes the bar’s main signage and reflects its laidback leanings. The intimate interior has exposed brick and bare wooden floorboards, with a couple of dark leather sofas and armchairs, art for sale on the walls and a giant old transistor radio and some bongos by way of ornament.

Jam’s drink selection is equally small but well formed. There are four or so cocktails (margaritas, mojitos), Kozel, Estrella and Pilsner Urquell on tap, two red wines, two whites, one rosé, and seven or so ciders and bottled beers. Brunch, dinner and snacks are covered by the food menu, whose high point is the Jam in a Jar Special: an epic stacked burger, with pineapple, bacon and a fried egg thrown in for luck, only to be ordered by the ravenous or particularly fulsome of stomach.

Yet, as the bar’s name suggests, what makes Jam exciting is not its refreshments but its embrace of local arts and music: revolving musicians play really rather good blues, jazz, garage rock and whatever else suits their mood on weekend nights, drawing artsy, beard-heavy crowds so large they spill on to the pavement. Get there before 7pm on a Saturday if you want a table inside: later on it really is like being jammed into a jar, albeit one full of nice tunes and booze.

By Becky Lucas

Venue details

  • Address:599 Green Lanes
    London
    N8 0RE
  • Venue phone:

    8341 1116

  • Transport:Tube: Turnpike Lane. Rail: Hornsey

Review: Why putting lots of pollen on your face keeps you young

Set down one of Covent Garden’s sidestreets, Thai Square Spa is a haven of compact calm amid the West End hubbub. On my recent visit, I was firstly treated to two friendly faces and handed a short form to fill in by the Thai reception staff, before being encouraged to settle onto one of the traditional wooden seats, opposite a slightly tense looking couple (couples treatment first-timers, perhaps?). Next, I was flourished with some special herbal tea which, they informed me, had been freshly infused that morning. A couple of sips later – you never have time to drink that first cup of spa tea, do you? – I was introduced to my (again, Thai) facialist (yes, that is what someone who gives facials is called), who led me to the ladies changing room and handed me a dressing gown, slippers and a locker key. Thankfully, Thai Spa Square is not one of those places where you must change into disposable underwear for a facial – a procedure I never quite understand.

Once on my back on the massage table in the cosy, comfortably heated treatment room (not too cold, not too hot – keeping this Goldilocks happy), listening to the hushed, not-overly-plinky-plonky background music, my facialist got to work with my requested Seven Pollen Facial. Over the course of the next hour, she applied dozens of lotions and scrubs to my skin – all of them pleasant in odour and sans any skin-stinging side-effects. The products incorporated (you guessed it) seven different pollens as part of a secret recipe, famously used by the Thai royal family in order to keep skin balanced, relaxed and boasting a healthy glow, via a process of ‘cleansing, balancing, repairing, moisturising and awakening the skin’. I don’t think my skin has ever done so much in its life, let alone an hour.

And this facial wasn’t even just a ‘facial’ – it was a massage too. At least the last 15 minutes of the treatment (it’s hard to keep track of time when you’re in a dark room with your eyes closed and you’re almost deliriously relaxed) included a thorough head, neck, shoulder and arm massage, all to help encourage overall radiance.

Once I had my clothes back on, I repaired to the softly-lit unisex relaxation room for a full cup of that sweet herbal tea and a leisurely flick through the spa’s stock of magazines (stylish consumer titles including Dazed & Confused, Conde Nast Traveller and House & Garden – FYI). A quick farewell wave later – thankfully accompanied by no product hard-sell from staff, despite the display shelves upstairs – and I was back out on Covent Garden’s cobbled streets, markedly unwound, to the point where I wasn’t even overly worried about my lack of make-up. Whether passersby were, I don’t know. Or care.

The all-important question: did the facial make any actual difference to my face? Over the next few days, at least four people commented that my skin ‘looked good’. One even said it looked ‘all glowy’. And these aren’t the sort of people to give a compliment for no reason.

So, it seems those shimmering, wrinkle-free Thai Royals – and, perhaps, bees – are on to something.

Entrance Treatment room

Review: Poetry slammin’ in NW1

Last night I went to see my first dose of live poetry in London at slam tour Hammer & Tongue‘s Camden leg, encouraged by host Michelle Madsen (who, did I mention, has a new book out?). As daunting as this Monday night jaunt may sound, the standard was impressively (and, I’ll be honest, unexpectedly) high – especially for those who had never ‘slammed’ before. Particular highlights were BBC Radio 4 Slam Champion Ben Mellor‘s piece about smashing up his late father’s old piano (surprisingly tear-jerking) and manic Chris Parkinson’s poem about the rise of the Grammar Nazis (“They started with the grocers”, a fabulous first line). Mutton-chopped Parkinson is also the man behind a certain Gumtree ad hunting for flatmates willing to dress up and impersonate a walrus for two hours a day in exchange for free rent – now the inspiration behind Kevin Smith’s next Hollywood film, out this ‘fall’.

And then there was the slam-dunking winner of the night’s new poet contest, whose name I don’t remember yet but will (she’s the lady in the image below – with the specs), and her romantic rhyme about lovers ‘S’ and ‘T’ who scratched their names onto Bournemouth pier, and without whom ‘R’ would never reach ‘U’. No faux rap-star accent or hand gestures, no glib subject matter; just a compulsive little story, hinting at the sort of pillow talk everyone can tap into.
It almost inspired me to write some rhymes myself.
Almost.
(But did I mention my friend Michelle Madsen has a book out?)

Image

The Telegraph: Tales of the unexpected – becoming an ex-expat

An article for The Telegraph about the trials and tribulations of settling back into London living after seven years away. Has the city gone mad, or have I?

It’s just over four months since I moved home. Following seven years in Dubai, I uprooted my comfortable, sunshine-filled expat life, packed it into boxes and sent if off on a ship back to London.

It was time to move back, be nearer my family and oldest friends and put an end to the constant limbo that hangs over one in a place so endlessly transient.

Once I had, I found I’d inherited a new and somewhat strange skill: the ability to look at my own country through sparklingly clear eyes. UK life differs sharply from that in the UAE, and there have been extra, unexpected difficulties involved in repatriating myself.

My personal speed and space boundaries had to be recalibrated first. London’s faster tempo was thrust upon me as soon as I touched ground, as hundreds of my fellow passengers marched off the plane and near-sprinted to border control.

For once I couldn’t overtake everyone; I struggled to even keep up. Clearly, living in a city of merely 2.1 million had readjusted my pace and parameters. But it isn’t just the fact I’ve come from somewhere less densely inhabited that makes me feel like London is overflowing. It’s because it is: back in 2006 the population here was 7.5 million – now it’s 8.3. The presence and pressure of those extra 800,000 residents is palpable.

Next up: my immune system needed a service. The minute the freakishly long summer ended (the best in seven years – talk about good timing), and I stepped into an office, I got a cold, cough, eye infection and my wisdom teeth flared up – all previous health issues that had laid dormant for years.

My body had gone soft, incapable of dealing with temperatures less than 25 degrees, or an office without air conditioning or a fleet of housekeeping staff. Thankfully, it only took my white blood cells a fortnight to catch up with me – which was almost as quick as HM Revenue and Customs.

But not everything has been a stinging slap-in-the-face sort of surprise. On the whole, it’s been a process of realising how much I’ve truly missed, without realising. By now my phone is stuffed with scenery shots: green fields, glistening lakes, pink sunsets, purple heather. The British countryside is stunning – it just took me seven years in an arid desert to notice. The smell of grass, the scattering leaves, the clearer light are all magical, truly. All that lush life feels so soothing and rehydrating for my wandering soul.

Similarly cheering has been my readjustment to London city life. At first, I’ll be honest, I felt frightened just walking down the street. I jumped out of my skin when a salesman asked if he could bother me for a moment. “No!” I impulse-barked at his raised eyebrows. Dubai doesn’t have much of a pedestrian culture; you hop in a cab to go anywhere, even cross the road at times, so you don’t actually come close to crowds of other human beings as often as here.

The UAE is also, comparatively, an incredibly safe place to live. Case in point: I once lost my debit card in a club, only to discover that a stranger had found it and cancelled it for me. So, initially, I felt like rather a babe in the wood walking about Hackney and Camden; as though I had “newcomer” etched in my eyes and “Dubai savings” on the watch on my wrist.

But time and time again I’ve been uplifted by the kindness of strangers: the man who lifted my stupidly heavy suitcase up three flights of stairs at Highbury and Islington station; the taxi driver who stopped the meter after a lengthy road diversion, then drove on and made sure I got safely to my front door; the older lady who shared my pain as we waited for an hour at Turnpike Lane for that mystical “replacement bus” one Sunday afternoon. Don’t get me started on my reacquaintance with cancelled/delayed/disappearing tubes, trains and buses: why can’t engineering works be done overnight when all motion stops anyway?

But yes, I’m happy to tell you, London remains, essentially, a friendly place. And that’s even amid the high street loons, like Kentish Town’s Cardboard Box Head Man, Lady Who Paints Her Face Bright Red and Man Who Wears Clown Make-Up. Honest.

I’m sure the shocks will keep on coming. In the past five days alone I’ve spotted an entire range of vibrators in Boots and a man with a pierced eyelid. I’ve drunk vodka shots with colleagues in the office. On top of that, a strange man, standing far too close at a pedestrian crossing, informed me that he uses the same brand of toilet roll as me, while looking intently at my transparent Sainsbury’s shopping bag. I must remember to buy a thick reusable one next time …

Yes, no doubt these cultural jolts will keep on striking as I immerse myself back fully into the swing of British life – until they suddenly, imperceptibly, stop.

For now? I’m just marvelling at them as they hit.

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