Monthly Archives: June 2009

Goodbye London

No I’m not going anywhere, but a link to the song and animation video landed in my inbox this morning so I’m posting it here….  the big ‘Leaving London’ question seems to rear its troubling head a little too regularly right now. Especially now when jobs are being lost and visas revoked on a daily basis. Anyway, this made me smile. 

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So is Dalston the new Shoreditch?

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According to Vogue, The Evening Standard and The Guardian, it appears Dalston is now the coolest place in Britain. I would add: ‘around Kingsland road on Saturday nights’, because most of the time it’s a lot of things – hectic, crowded and lively – but not particularly cool.

Anyway it was time to find out what all the fuss was about, so on Saturday night I headed out with some mates to visit these nightspots and see if they live up to the hype.

We didn’t actually get very far. What with applying ‘smoky eye’ makeup and knocking back apple vodka, it was almost eleven by the time we got out the door – handbags clutched, eyes smoked, and ten slippered feet marching determinedly towards Dalston Junction.

First stop was the Dalston Superstore. Heaving. And a substantial queue, with bouncers shining torches into handbags and frisking the blokes. There was a hell of a lot of rubber-necking and celebrity spotting going on (and not just inside – even people on the bus outside were at it). There was one wigged girl in a gold coat who may have possibly been someone famous, but it was hard to tell in the darkness.

After a while it was decided that the place was actually too cool for requirements. As in, it may be packed to the rafters with stunning men, but you’d be hard pressed to find a straight one among the lot of them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but… you know… 

So we dusted ourselves off and marched onwards to Barden’s Boudoir. But this was rejected outright due to the sheer heat and aroma emanating from the stairwell. A fire hazard, we tutted.  Possibly better during the week, though.

Next stop, a little further up, was a narrow hallway between two shops spilling people and smoke. It could have been a private party, and looked rather exciting, but it was also rejected as another suspected straight-man-free zone.

Time to stop off at a pub for a toilet break and a quick round of shots. But my, did it pong! The smoking ban is of course a good thing, but no wonder pubs are closing down at a record rate of fifty a week. It can’t be healthy to breathe in the ripe aromas of sweat, beer breath, gas and kebab burps in such concentrated doses. It was medieval, I tell you.

At this point we also noted a man bellowing on the street with his pants down – so it appears the Stag Nights have arrived (I just love this picture. I can’t help thinking the man in the middle would have happily stayed home).

After that it was even further up Kingsland Road towards Kimo’s. This place was dimly lit and not too busy, and thankfully odourless, but the music just wasn’t getting the crowd moving, so we jumped in a cab down Kingsland Road to the Visions Video Bar, a former video shop turned nightclub. Messy. Lots of barely legal kids jostling on the footpath, a couple of serious bouncers and yet another long, dimly lit hallway leading down into a basement club. This place gets a great write-up here though, and I think it sounds like it could be goer on other nights… But it was getting late and one of our party, who lives in South London, decided to pull out, and two more followed. Just as we’d got on the night bus home the other two phoned up with a suggestion to go to The Jazz Café but bed was beckoning.

So yes. There’s plenty happening, and I suspect that the tube will cement its position as the new Shoreditch, until the new Dalston comes along, anyway. But the following day the Vogue journalists were nowhere to be seen, neither were the clubbers. There was just the usual crowd of shoppers and kids and beautifully dressed church-goers. And all the clubs had receded back into mere doors between the everyday shoe shops and bakeries and nail bars.

Still, it was a fun night. And I’m also pleased about the possibility of a burgeoning live poetry scene around here, and next Monday (June 29) will be heading along to the Lemon Monkey café at 188 Stoke Newington High Street London, N16, at 7pm for readings by local poets including Ms Baroque

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mmmmm mangoes

mango 2

Just a quick post to say how much I love mango season. It starts with alphonso mangoes, and now we’re well into the honey mango phase of summer.

I’ve always got one eye out for these little fellas, which have travelled all the way from Pakistan and are to be found outside corner shops and on market stalls, proudly sporting little tinsel swatches and wrapped up in tissue paper, ready to be eaten with yogurt or in salads or just as they are. 

According to a shopkeeper in Hackney Central who sold me a box of five for just three quid, they are going to be around for another two months. Get em while you can!

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Thursday night feast at the Hackney City Farm

P1010040Oh, to be a pig at Hackney City Farm! Look at how they smile in their sleep. How they look so utterly content with their lot in life.

 And last Thursday night I knew exactly how they felt. How? By turning up to the farm’s weekly ‘agroturismo’ dinner, made from their own produce. Yes, the Frizzante café is now serving an Italian feast once a week.

 When we arrived it was still light, and a few people commented on how strange it was to find a small farm in the middle of Hackney.

We started with a couple of plates of wild boar salami and salsa verde with toast, and grilled peaches with rocket and ricotta. For mains there was an eggplant and mozzarella stack, served with a generous bowl of multicoloured tomatoes, and homemade pasta with crisp speck and summer zucchini, and grilled yellowfin tuna. For dessert we had pavlova, piled with English strawberries and cream, chocolate tart with ice cream and a cheese board with toast and fruit.

P1010161-1The dinners are usually BYO, apart from once a month when Frizzante puts on live music and gets a liquor licence, but there’s an off-licence across Hackney road, so you can pop out for a bottle between courses.

Service is sweet, if a little slow, but they are still finding their feet and the atmosphere is so relaxed it doesn’t really matter.

We ate out on the verandah, with little paper bag lanterns and candles on the tables and a faint barnyard whiff in the air. I almost forgot I was in London.

Hackney City Farm, 1a Goldsmiths Row E2 8QA, Tel 020 7729 6381
hackneycityfarm.co.uk

PS while looking up the website I just noticed that a local author, Jojo Tulloh, launched a cookbook, Freshly Picked, that very same night in the farm’s veggie garden. Here’s a link to her blog… 

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Passive Aggressive notes exhibition in Hoxton Square. Go if you want. It’s up to you, I don’t mind either way, really

Walking through Shoreditch the other day and a piece of paper on the footpath caught my eye

It read: PLEASE DON’T SIT HERE OR USE THIS DESK AREA IF YOU CAN’T LEAVE IT CLEAN AND IN THE SAME CONDITION YOU FOUND IT. THAT MEANS DON’T LEAVE COFFEE CUPS, OLD COPIES OF NUTS, HALF EATEN SUBWAYS ETC FOR ME TO CLEAN UP. LEAVE MY PERSONAL ITEMS THE HELL ALONE AND DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT, ADJUST MY CHAIR. 

This made me smile as it reminded me of my old office, where the art director’s chair was plastered with a note saying DO NOT MOVE THIS CHAIR, DO NOT SIT IN THIS CHAIR, DO NOT ADJUST THIS CHAIR. Needless to say, everyone tiptoed round that (usually unoccupied) chair like it was an unexploded bomb. 

So I picked up the little note to save and that’s when I noticed a smaller stamp at the bottom, and realised it was actually an advertisement for a Passive Aggressive Notes exhibition in nearby Hoxton Square. I popped along and found the walls plastered with notes left to inconsiderate housemates about all kinds of domestic crimes, such as one on a half eaten piece of pizza that read ‘Next time, just take the whole slice, OK?’

The exhibition is inspired by the website passiveaggressivenotes.com which was started in 2007 by veteran house sharer Kerry Miller. Continue reading

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“Maybe, Maybe Not” exhibition at Dreamspace Gallery, Old Street

The-Benefit-of-Hindsight_Beckaotic_72dpi If you’re near Old Street between now and the 12th of June, drop into the Dreamspace Gallery, where artists Rebecca Machin and Alix Smith will be showing their latest paintings, collages, graphic works and screenprints… 

The artists describe the exhibition as a ‘tongue in cheek confessional by two artists who make sense of the world through humour and play. Beauty meets bolshie in a vibrant show of the bold and the subtle. Believing that nothing is final and that life is a state of flux, both artists thrive on the notion of multiple meanings and engage spectators by openly inviting interpretation and contradiction.’  

And Bec has kindly sent me one of her pieces (above).

Ahh, hindsight. Always twenty twenty, isn’t it? As someone said recently, if only there was an Apple Z key for real life. 

I went to school with Rebecca (Hollywood Senior High School, fantastic school, now sadly demolished. Wish I’d appreciated it more at the time… there’s that hindsight again) so will be going to the private view tomorrow night…. speaking of which, I really should put some washing on & think about my outfit… it’s not every day I, err, leave the house.

The Dreamspace Gallery is at 1-3 Dufferin Street, EC1Y 8NA. Open to visitors Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm and is free. All the art will be for sale. 

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Arcola Street for Mangal lamb chops, theatre & Living Sculpture

mangal2Sometimes, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can smell the kebabs cooking throughout East London. It’s one of those special little moments in life. And it always makes my thoughts turn to Arcola Street, a grotty little street off Kingsland Road, towards Stoke Newington. 

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As well as being home to the Arcola Theatre, this is where you’ll find Mangal, one of the best Turkish restaurants in the area. It’s recently been extended, so there’s much more space than there used to be, although it still has a crammed, slightly cave-like interior.

The artists Gilbert and George eat here every night, allegedly, although I’ve never seen them. They are said to be so dedicated to their art that their everyday life is not much more than its support system, and is kept ticking along with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. So they never cook or try new restaurants, and they buy enough toilet paper and instant coffee to last them an entire year. They exist only for their art, and refer to themselves as Living Sculptures. Anyway, the fact that Mangal is their chosen dinner every night of the year clearly says a lot for the place.

mangal meat

Recommended dishes include the mixed mezze, which comes with hommous, a tomatoey dip and smokey baba ganoush. Then the mixed grill is good, with chops, kebabs, chicken and other choice bits of meat, served in a sizzling pile alongside a plate of crisp salad, piled with fresh rocket and other veggies. It’s BYO, and the service is brisk in the way that really good restaurants generally are – I think of it as the We’re the ones doing you a favour here, buddy variety. And they are right. 

PS Have just had a look on the Arcola Theatre’s website, and they are offering two-for-one ticket deal for the first week of all of their summer shows to anyone who donates a plant. They have a new roof garden and want to green it up, you see. What a smart idea.

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