Tag Archives: oxfam

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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Bookworms unite at Oxfam

dscn5274  You can tell a hell of a lot about the demographics of an area by browsing its charity shop bookshelves.

Take the Oxfam on Kingsland Road, for example. An anthropologist would find no better place to start assembling a picture of East London’s bookworms than right here. My own observations, collected this morning, suggest that it’s an area brimming with:

 Humans in general – there are a lot of books.

 Journalists in particular, judging by the many review copies and ‘uncorrected bound proofs’ on sale

 Guardian readers – plenty of investigative books written by Guardian journalists, such as Polly Toynbee and Will Hutton.

Fans of Australian literature I found books by Tim Winton, Deborah Robertson and even a copy of A Fortunate Life by AB Facey. I’ve already got them so I left them on the shelves for some other lucky shopper.

Fans of Nigerian literature: Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie were both making an appearance.

Mavens  The many how-to and consumer guides make me suspect that there are a fair few Mavens in East London. For those who haven’t read The Tipping Point, these are a particularly obsessive breed of shopper. These uber-consumers are not only incredibly well-informed on everything from shoe polish to Bugaboos; they also play an important role in keeping the market honest because they happily share their findings, and so are equally feared and respected by manufacturers.

I bought six books, mostly ones I’ve vaguely had on my mental reading list anyway – among them were Alice Munro’s short stories, a collection of gothic short stories, Martin Amis’ The Rachel Papers, because when I started reading it I wanted to go on, and a review copy of Sally Nicholl’s book, Ways to Live Forever. I also took home Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work, because the final chapter of her novel Arlington Park – a drunken middle-class dinner party with a blow-by-blow account of the most grisly cooking imaginable – made me want to read more of her writing. PS Have now read this – it’s a brilliant & very frank memoir about the reality of having a child. I’m not surprised that it generated an awful lot of controversy.

Every book costs one pound, so leave your calculators at home. And the general ambience of the place – it’s well lit, they play music (in fact, they once hosted a Jarvis Cocker gig) and there are plenty of books to go round – gives the fiction area a particularly friendly buzz.

Oxfam, 514-518 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London

Tel 020 7254 5318, oxfam.org.uk

And they have a blog

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