On Our Radar

Friday, July 18, 2014
You Scream, I Scream
Business/Location: Ruby Violet
Address: 118 Fortress Rd
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: NW5 2HL
Phone: 020 7609 0444
Website: www.rubyviolet.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Ruby Violet
It's been too hot to write this week. I've mainly been eating ice cream. And having heard talk of Ruby Violet, it was the perfect excuse for a jaunt to Tufnell Park. I looked at the website beforehand, and was eager to try the peach and rosewater flavour; alas, this being a homemade ice-cream parlour, one has to choose from what is available on the day. No bother, as the apricot and sour cream combo sounded equally delectable. A scoop of that plus a scoop of lime sorbet was just the ticket. The fresh flavours were sublime--the lime was sharp, just how I like it, and the tartness of the apricot complemented the sour cream. The parlour is really cute with Billy the Van sitting outside if he's not servicing a street food market or an event. I like the fact that it's open til 10pm every night except Monday. As I'm not drinking at the moment, I may have to make a late night visit--hey, we all have our vices. It might be difficult not to indulge in one of Ruby's Rich Rarities though, such as Elderflower and Chandon or Bloody Mary granita. Although the place was full of kids when I visited, this is definitely ice-cream for grown-ups.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014
A Shady Lane
Business/Location: Railway Fields Nature Reserve
Address: 381 Green Lanes
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: N4 1ES
Phone: 020 8348 6005
Website: www.tcv.org.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Railway Fields Nature Reserve
"Green Lanes? What's so green about them?" I hear you say. Well, I have found a spot which may go a small way in justifying the name. Behind the magical gates opposite Green Lanes train station is a little oasis of calm. It used to be a railway goods depot before it was reclaimed and although not a huge space, when you walk to the end you feel positively miles away from the city--it's so quiet. When I was there, there was a woman walking her dog and someone meditating on a bench. Unfortunately it's only open 9am to 5pm in the week and one Saturday each month which somewhat defeats the object of a retreat but the site's primary mission is conservation and education for primary schools. The space is well set out with a nature trail that has stops such as the pond or the stag beetle loggeries. You don't need to be an actual kid to enjoy it though and this big kid thoroughly enjoyed jumping on the swings in the playground when no-one was looking. Further indulging my childlike fascination was the Stench Pipe--a huge chimney which was built in 1892 to carry fumes away from the sewage system, high above people's noses. All in all, a nice little escape.

Monday, July 07, 2014
Stuck in the Myddle With You
Business/Location: The Step
Address: 101 Myddleton Rd
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: N22 8NE
Phone: 020 3302 2412
Website: www.thestep.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   The Step
I've got a feeling about Edwardian shopping street, Myddleton Road. Previously most famous for the oldest underpants on display in London, I've got a feeling it's going to be rejuvenated in the not too distant future. They already have a quarterly street market and they also have The Step. The Step is your regular unassuming neighbourhood bar/café/restaurant but it has a real community feel. When I was there last week, there was a photography group meeting on a Tuesday and sharing their latest work, and on Saturday there was a good-spirited bunch having a jar or two and shooting the breeze. They also have Freelance Friday where freelancers can have a drink, network or just enjoy being amongst people rather than tied to their laptops--I think this is a great idea. There's also an emphasis on live music with jazz on the first Sunday of every month and other various acts playing plus occasional comedy, theatre and talks. In fact, there's an emphasis on fun and if you wanted to host your own group or exhibit your work (the space doubles as a gallery), this is the place to do it. Food is locally sourced as much as possible and very reasonably priced. To The Step!

Thursday, June 26, 2014
Design for Living
Business/Location: Tord Boontje Shop
Address: 23 Charlotte Rd
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: EC2A 3PB
Phone: 020 7717 5398
Website: tordboontje.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Tord Boontje Shop
Back in the early noughties, a designer called Tord Boontje created a lampshade called Garland. It wasn't really a lampshade in the conventional sense more of a lamp "embellishment" as the laser cut sheet metal simply draped itself around the rather sad looking lone light bulb hanging from your ceiling. Back then, the item was sold as a limited edition at Habitat. Not only do I remember the price being a little prohibitive but more annoyingly, the damn things kept selling out. To be honest, the sight of the Garland lampshade, from student digs to middle class townhouses, became commonplace and I forgot about it. But apparently, true to his Dutch roots and in the name of democratic design, Tord decided that the Garland needed to be mass produced and not just a limited edition so they are now available in abundance and for a mere £20. I may be late to the party on this because it was only last autumn during Design Week that I discovered that there is a Tord Boontje SHOP. Yes! A whole shop full of whimsical, magical things. I could spend hours looking at the pretty ceramics and adorable jewellery designs here; the only problem is deciding what to buy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Cracking Cinnamon Buns
Business/Location: Fabrique Bakery
Address: 385 Geffrey St
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: E2 8HZ
Phone: 020 7033 0268
Website: www.fabrique.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Fabrique Bakery
Midsummer's eve occurred at the weekend, a time when the hours of daylight are at their zenith--from there on in, the hours of daylight decrease. The Scandinavians are acutely aware of this as, of course, theirs is the land of the midnight sun, but come winter, they are plunged into darkness. Do not fear though, the Scandinavians have come up with a great way of dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (amongst other things such as Nordic Noir, the word smörgåsbord, The Moomins, saunas, and Roxette--love you Per) in the form of fika. Fika is basically a coffee break with some kind of buttery, sugary, pastry accompaniment. Luckily for us Londoners, Fabrique, the Swedish bakery has a branch in Shoreditch where you can enjoy a Johan & Nyström coffee and a Hallongrotta. I've been frequenting this place for about a year, mainly for their cinnamon buns but have now got hooked on the cardamom buns. In fact when I visited last week, a young mum who had brought her friend there for the first time was exclaiming that she was convinced they lace the buns with crack so addicted is she. As good as they taste all year round, bring on winter, bring on the buns.

Monday, June 23, 2014
You Can Find the Perfect Blend
Business/Location: Blend
Address: 587 Green Lanes
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: N8 0RG
Phone: 020 8341 2939
Website: www.localblend.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
My new hood is within the locale of Green Lanes or Harringay according to NFT London. The nabe does not get a very good rap in the guidebook--"a gazillion kebab places" is not a very fair or accurate portrayal of a stretch which has some pretty incredible Turkish food on offer. But if Turkish brekkie is not your bag, there's Blend. Blend has been getting very good reviews for its brunches which do indeed sound delectable. However, I was sad to hear that after opening in the evenings for a few weeks at the beginning of the month, Linda and Steve who run the café, have had to stick to 9 to 5 hours due to lack of traffic. I really hope they reappraise this and perhaps do a weekly supper club, weekend speakeasy, or something of that ilk as I was salivating at the sound of pulled pork with rhubarb sauce and veggie lasagne with goats' cheese. Not to mention delicious cocktails such as the Hugo and The Last Word. So please support your local café--they do Climpson coffee and a mean carrot and courgette cake (gluten-free no less), and as one fellow customer said, "it's a bit of an oasis" if you find Green Lanes too hectic.

Monday, June 16, 2014
Crap Film Club
Business/Location: The Book Club
Address: 100 Leonard St
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: EC2A 4RH
Phone: 020 7684 8618
Website: www.wearetbc.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Beth Siddons
   The Book Club
We like the Book Club. We like Crap Film Club too. Which is good because every couple of months, Crap Film Club pitches up at the Book Club on a Tuesday night. Previous screenings this year have included spectacularly crap films, Birdemic and Miami Connection. On Tuesday, June 17, 2014 it's the film that John Barrowman would rather you didn't see, that's right, it's Shark Attack III Megalodon (don't worry about the previous two). The evening is suitably laid-back with crap snacks on hand, usually some kind of silly hat or headgear making an appearance, and a competition with prize-giving at the end of the night. In fact, it’s probably the most unpretentious and genuinely fun night in Shoreditch; like being in your front room but with a bunch of like-minded strangers, a few cheeky sherbets to be had, and lots of laughs. The screenings are getting popular though, so be sure to book a ticket, and follow CFC on Facebook for updates

Thursday, June 12, 2014
I Got the Juice
Business/Location: Healthy Stuff
Address: 168 Dalston Ln
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: E8 1NG
Phone: 020 7812 9604
Website: www.healthystuffe8.co.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
   Healthy Stuff
I'm amazed at how hard it is to find fresh juice in Hackney (as an aside, I'm also amazed that no-one has set up an entirely gluten-free and dairy-free café--come on Hackney! Keep up! No doubt someone is probably squirreling away to make this a reality as I type; if not, it is definitely on my "to do" list). But lo and behold, there is Healthy Stuff on Dalston Lane. It's actually been here since 2011, however it's in a part of the neighbourhood that I rarely frequent. My loss, obviously, as there seems to be lots cropping up on this stretch. But more importantly, I can at last get a carrot, apple and ginger juice at whim! The shop/café also stocks a variety of health foods, organic beauty products and toiletries, natural supplements, and eco household cleaning products. Owners Marina and Benny set up the shop precisely because the area lacked a good health food store so if like me, you weren't aware of its existence, get down to Healthy Stuff now and shop/eat/drink local. And if all of that is just too much goodness for you, you can always have a coffee and a slice of cake.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Taken With a Pinch of Salt
Business/Location: Violet
Address: 47 Wilton Way
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: E8 3ED
Phone: 020 7275 8360
Website: www.violetcakes.com

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow
Violet does good cake. This is not news. However, when I visited last year, I did get the feeling that they were coasting on their reputation somewhat after a particularly surly bit of service (something about not having the right sized box for four mini cupcakes and impatience with my indecision in choosing flavours). I'll put it down to someone having a bad day because I decided to give them another chance. I do like their buttermilk and banana mini muffins if I'm being demure but today I needed something more substantial after an arduous afternoon swimming and sunning myself at the lido. The chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting was calling my name. Everyone thinks they can make chocolate cake. They can't. Chocolate cake should be black and gleaming with moisture like molasses, this cake, dear reader, was the definitive chocolate cake. The slight saltiness of the frosting cut through any cloying sweetness from the caramel. I also had an iced coffee which I'm please to see that Violet now serves with salt (there's a theme here). A pinch of salt in coffee brings out its sweetness and flavour in a surprising way. Oh, and the service was delightful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
A Secret Garden in Hoxton?
Business/Location: St Mary's Secret Garden
Address: 50 Pearson St
City: London
State: England
Zip Code: E2 8EL
Phone: 020 7739 2965
Website: www.stmaryssecretgarden.org.uk

Posted by:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Courtesy of St. Mary's Secret Garden
   St Mary's Secret Garden
In my eight years of living in the Hackney/Dalston neighbourhood, I only just recently became aware of St Mary's Secret Garden. Obviously it's a very well kept secret. But as my interest in gardening has grown, it's fantastic to find somewhere local where I can help out as a volunteer and also where I can pick up very reasonably priced plants. The garden is fully functioning during the week, offering therapeutic horticulture for adults with learning disabilities, mental health issues, and terminal illness. SMSG also runs various training and courses such as Food Growing In Small Spaces which prove popular in these times of organic food fanaticism. If you're just looking for a bit calm amongst the bees and the butterflies though, the garden is open to the public Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. The weekend of 14th/15th June 2014 is Open Squares and Gardens Weekend so the garden will be open at the weekend (10-5 Sat; 11-4 Sun) for tea, cake, secondhand books, plant sales, honey from The Golden Co. and much more! Weekend plans sorted. The garden is also taking part in Adult Learners' Week with a couple of workshops on Saturday 21st June (find out more here).