Tag Archives: kingsland road

A walk to the Vietnamese cafes, Kingsland Road

vietThe Vietnamese restaurants along Kingsland Road are legendary. And somehow, the competition means they all – at least of the seven or so I have tried – are excellent and honestly priced. Usually, for big groups, my choice would be Tay Do or its sister restaurant across the road (both have big, dead lobsters on the walls). 

Until the recession began, we had a Vietnamese-Aussie friend who would order for us and all we had to do was sit down, watch her in action and then wait for the most delectable dishes to arrive – green papaya salad, steamed fish with ginger, pork chops, chilli salt squid and something called shaker beef, which is small cubes of chewy beef, marinated in some delicious sauce, then quickly cooked rare and served with a bowl of salt and lemon slices. God, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it and it’s only 11am.

Anyway, in her absence we muddle through, but the magic has gone. And then, just recently I rediscovered Loong Kee, which I used to go to years ago. It’s right up the quiet end of Kingsland Road and just next door to the lovely Geffrye Museum (read about my recent visit here).

P1020795Loong Kee’s speciality is banh cuon, or steamed rice flour rolls, which arrive stuffed with either a beef or prawn filling and have a sweet sauce to pour over them. This is a slightly calmer restaurant, and it’s particularly nice on Sunday afternoons when you see families having long lunches and dishes of all sorts of seafood and meat arriving. Everything comes with lots of fresh coriander and chilli and they also serve freshly squeezed juices.

Actually, sorry, but I’m going to interrupt this blog to go there for an early lunch. Life is short, the the sun is shining and my belly is rumbling. To be continued.

Right, back now. That was well worth the walk. Vermicelli noodles with beef and lemongrass and a fresh juice. I also stopped by Oxfam (for more on this wonderful place, read here) and found three new books – Lucky by Alice Sebold, Caravan Thieves by Gerard Woodward and In My Skin by Kate Jennings, a Melbourne writer – it’s a book about her experience of working as a prostitute to support a heroin habit and it’s brilliant, I read it before but lent it to someone and never got it back, usual story, so now I’ve got another copy. Sounds depressing and somewhat tired, but isn’t. Which reminds me, I am thinking up a manifesto for book buying, which is an minefield these days.

 I also noted a few things on my walk:

Winter is here, but not in a bad way. The trees are bare and the ground is covered with leaves, dogs are wearing little coats and I may have finally discovered the perfect black faux fur jacket number 3 (I gave my first one to a friend when in my cups and then left its replacement on a bus).

Hidden Art is on December 5-6, a chance to sniff around the many artists’ studios that are dotted around the East End & do some Christmas shopping in a relaxed environment rather than the pit of hell that is Oxford Street in December.

Columbia Road is opening its shops late on Wednesday nights in December. 

And my local bus stop has disappeared. Just gone. Where there was a shelter with a display telling you when the next bus was due there is now just pavement. Bastards. Just in time for winter, too. I blame Boris.

Plus, the 38 bendy buses, where you could get on right at the back, are getting ditched this weekend. Back to double deckers. So no more of that drama of the bus stopping and about twenty transport cops getting on and busting fare dodgers. It was always rather exciting, except when you were unlucky enough to be next to the yellow validator thing and half the bus lunged towards it to zap their Oyster and you nearly got crushed by the stampede, of course.  See this article in The Londonist for details. 

Loong Kee, 134 Kingsland Road Tel: 020 7729 8344

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The Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road

P1020787The Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road is devoted to exhibiting the ‘interiors of the middle classes’. Set within an old almshouse (which is also open on the first Saturday of the month), the long narrow building is ideally suited to its purpose, as you walk the length of it viewing individual rooms set up with furniture starting from the sixteenth century up to a 1990s loft conversion. Continue reading


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Who was that very talented saxophonist at Passing Clouds?

19 talentedtromboneI finally got around to visiting Passing Clouds a few weeks back. It’s in an unmarked warehouse beside the train tracks just off Kingsland Road, and we stumbled along in the dark for a little while until the helpful doorman called out Passing Clouds? to us. Continue reading

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So is Dalston the new Shoreditch?


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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Market Cars mini cab service


Nothing particular to say about this minicab company, just liked the picture. 

Market Cars

020 2758900

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Dim sum at Shanghai, Kingsland Road, Dalston


You’d be hard pressed to find too many Chinese restaurants housed inside former East End pie and mash shops. In fact, I think there’s only one. For this fact alone, Shanghai on Kingsland Road is worth a visit. And that’s before you get to the dumplings.

The long front room, its long marble bar, turquoise tiling and bevelled art deco mirrors, is now heritage listed. It was once owned by the Cooke family, who still operate a pie and mash shop in nearby Broadway Market, until they were made an offer they couldn’t refuse. These days, red-roasted ducks and pigeons and great chunks of pork have replaced vats of jellied eels in the window display, and you can order a whole suckling pig or let rip in the karaoke room.

Now, instead of meat pies, mash and bright green liquor, you sit at the polished wooden benches and order baskets of prawn dumplings, steamed barbecue pork buns and cheung fung (rolled up sheets of soft rice paper, stuffed with prawns or barbecued pork), as well as Chinese teas from their special tea menu (I know next to nothing about tea, but a Chinese friend told me the list was very good). And chilli salt squid.


Service can be torturously slow, especially late in the day, and the cavernous restaurant out the back is a little dingy. I’ve only been there for dinner once and it was nothing special. But I don’t know of many other place serving dim sum in East London, so if you’re craving a dumpling or five, some egg tarts or fried turnip cake on a Sunday afternoon (and it’s Happy Hour(s) from 3-5pm, this is the place to go.

Shanghai, 41 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, E8 2JS, tel: 020 7254 2878


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The midnight cat


Walking to the Barbican tonight, I noticed this huge black cat on Kingsland Road. I always see graffiti and think – I must take a photo of that – only to look for it and find that the council has scrubbed it off overnight. Three strange, ghostly white figures on a wall on Dalston Lane have now disappeared, leaving just a shadow. I used to like looking at them and always planned to get my camera out one day. Maybe someone else took a photo of them….? Anyway, at least this midnight cat won’t go unrecorded.

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