Tag Archives: dalston

The greening of Dalston

Amid the cranes and dusty footpaths and tower blocks, with their balconies cleverly rebranded as ‘winter gardens’, pockets of leafy green are sprouting at Dalston Junction.

First up is Farm:Shop. When this first appeared I thought it was a hydroponics shop. But once they added a bit of signage I discovered it’s a cafe, workspace and arts venue. There’s an aquaponic fish farm out the front, where they are growing (breeding? spawning?) tilapia & prawns – apparently a supper is planned for later in the summer when they’ll all be eaten – a polytunnel out the back, chickens on the roof and quite possibly the most attractive staff you’ll encounter in East London – glowing examples of the term ‘rude with health’.

Then, just across the road, we have the Eastern Curve Garden. This has been here for a while, but it’s now looking more established, and this summer there are a series of events planned, including tango classes and a Family Fun Day this Saturday (July 9) with free entry. The Hackney Borough of Sanctuary Group are also holding a Garden Party on July 15 (next Friday) with food baked in the garden’s clay oven.

And Ashwin Street, just off Kingsland Road, has a newly planted perennial border. Home to the new Arcola Theatre & Cafe Oto, it also has a rooftop garden, which I’m yet to visit.

 

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The Annual Clown service at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston

The annual Clown Service is held on the first Sunday in February every year at 3pm (worth checking exact time), in memory of the clown Joseph Grimaldi, and to honour clowns who have died. According to Wikipedia:

A famous ‘sad clown’ anecdote was first told of Grimaldi: A young man goes to see his doctor. He is overcome by a terrible sadness and doesn’t think anything will make him feel better. The doctor says, “Why not do something happy, like going to see Grimaldi the clown?”. The young man answers, with a knowing look, “Ah, but Doctor”, he says, “I am Grimaldi.”
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The Turkish Food Centre in Dalston & a recipe

Sometimes I get annoyed when Prince Charles bangs on about how everyone should eat properly. It’s easy for him to say, isn’t it? I’d eat pretty well too if I owned half the bloody West Country. And don’t get me started on Poundbury.
Yes, yes, I know I should only shop at local organic butchers and fishmongers, and only buy seasonal veggies, and Tesco is the root of all evil. But sometimes I don’t have time to go to the local butcher and I’m still scarred by the experience of being charged 11 quid for some bacon and a few sausages at an organic butcher. I asked him to check and he said, oh, yes, my mistake, that should be six pounds*. And some of them only take cash. And quite frankly the checkout staff at Sainsbury’s are often a lot friendlier than some of these local organic our-chickens-are-freerange-and-have-half-an-hour-of-internet-access-a-day butchers. Having said that, some are excellent, like the Ginger Pig in Victoria Park and the ones at Broadway Market who sell pork & apple cider brandy sausages.

But… supermarkets are convenient. You can get everything you need for dinner in ten minutes with no cash, something that cannot be underestimated when blood sugars are plummeting and you’ve forgotten your umbrella. I don’t go to Sainsbury’s to hang out or anything – well, not very often – but you have to be realistic. And everyone loves a bit of shopping-basket observation, don’t they?

However, I also like going to TFC, which is a Turkish supermarket just off Ridley Road market.

Here, the meat comes as lamb shoulders, whole corn-fed chickens, trays of delicate chops and buckets of chicken livers. The ricotta is wrapped only in paper and there are about fifty yogurt varieties, and least ten tahinis and more halloumi than you could poke a hot tong at. The fruit and veggie section is full of dark red vine tomatoes and unwaxed lemons and rocket and quinces and sorrel and clementines still with the leaves on. There are no farmers’ names on anything. Continue reading

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A hive of activity at Cafe Oto in Dalston

cafeotoIs this the office of the future? I certainly wouldn’t complain. It’s amazing to see how many people run their working lives from cafes these days. I have never really liked the idea of taking my laptop to a café – I remember a story of a classmate in Holborn’s Starbucks having his stolen in the one moment he turned his back on it, and I’ve had my own wallet nicked while emailing in an internet café.

But I’ve taken to the idea lately because you get so much done. Plus Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down The Bones, is a big fan, and that lady knows her stuff. Continue reading

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Royal Mail, and the snapping of one’s mind

Sometimes I despair. So much so that it becomes funny. For example, today at the post office. I got there at 3.15pm, so frankly I had it coming, but still. There is a bloke – floppy hair, skinny jeans, mobile glued to ear – and he has with him a garbage bag of mail. A garbage bag. Meanwhile, there are probably twenty people in the queue, all waiting fairly patiently as half of the staff count coins and do whatever admin they need to do. Oh, apart from one man who yelled at the staff to PLEASE CAN YOU SERVE SOMEONE!! (which they ignored.) Continue reading

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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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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. 

mangal

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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