london

+ A Guide to Angel: Interior Shops on Cross Street

Cross Street - Angel
I've lived around Angel on and off now for 4 years and I've never paid too much attention to what's on offer in Cross Street, although Get Stuffed, a quirky taxidermy shop at the junction to Essex Road, piqued my attention on many a bus journey!

Fast forward a few years to when I have a flat in need of a few home improvements, and I've lost count of the number of trips I've made to this little street. The main reason for my visits is Funktional Kitchens, the kitchen supplier we've decided to go with (due Feb 2016)! See below for a quick rundown of places worth a visit:

Funktional Kitchens - 42 Cross St

Before ending up here we had tried a couple of kitchen showrooms in Essex Road, but their designer Andrew was so warm and friendly and really helped us in his walkthrough of what each step in the process involves.

They predominantly offer German or Spanish kitchens, such as the Häcker range. I particularly love the wooden worktop range they supply from Spekva, which is what we plan to install in our kitchen.

The first step is sending a basic floorplan and some photos to Andy, who will then mockup his ideas for the space in a digital render. The tools they use allow him to make large changes (colour of units, chimney hood, switching out appliances) in a matter of seconds.

Once you're happy with this free consultation, you put down a deposit of £500 and that's when he comes to your flat to take accurate measurements of the space. You can find out more in my blog post here.

Tribe Rugs - 52 Cross St

Tribe Rugs - Cross Street, Islington, London
Ned and I had promised each other we'd hold off on too many home accessories until after the kitchen's done. But, after leaving Funktional, we took a detour to Tribe London. They source rugs from as far afield as Turkey, Iran and Nepal, and our eyes wandered to a multi-coloured Afghan rug.

After seeing us ooh and aah over it, the friendly owner said 'you can take it home and try it for free if you like?' No deposit needed - he trusted us with our name, address and phone number!

Needless to say his approach works, as days later to transferred the cost of the rug. He then popped over to our flat to supply the complimentary non-slip mat for underneath the rug.

Fired Earth - 34 Cross St

Obviously these guys are the créme de la créme of tiles, although customer service is rather lacklustre. Anyway, I'm particularly in love with their Shelter Island range and we plan to have these Harbour View herringbone marble tiles as our splashback in our new kitchen.

Tiles Etc - 4 Shillingford Street

OK, so technically it's just off of Cross Street, but it counts! Tiles Etc have stiff competition from the established and well-known Fired Earth, but their range of tiles is second to none. The range that particular caught our eye is the Italian Ca'Pietra and we've now settled on their slate Shepton flagstones.

Tiles etc. and the nearby Farrow & Ball shop (image courtesy of Google Maps)
Tiles etc. and the nearby Farrow & Ball shop (image courtesy of Google Maps)

Farrow & Ball - 38 Cross Street

Wow this place is heaving at weekends! So far we've purchased some beautiful sample colours for our living, including the exotic wildcard Brinjal and the soothing Stiffkey Blue. Staff here are super friendly, with one member of staff sharing with us a great tip of painting a large sample piece of wallpaper to trial colour. This is better than just lobbing different colour swatches on the same wall as it ensures you're not tricked by contrasts between the swatches themselves.

LivingSpace - 36 Cross Street

So our budget doesn't quite stretch to getting our house improved via these guys, but regardless we had a look around their showroom. LivingSpace UK not only supplies designer furniture (mostly from Italy) but they also manage small to full-scale interior design projects. They are my dream designers for whenever Ned and I get round to doing our bathroom!

Living Space UK - Bathroom Design featuring the Lago transparent Depth Basin
Living Space UK - Bathroom Design featuring the Lago transparent depth basin

Pret a Vivre - 69 Cross Street

This elegant showroom hosts only the very best fabrics (exclusive to them), offering custom-made blinds as well as installation for a fee. We've recently ordered some beautiful mango roman blinds for our spare bedroom as well as some wooden venetian blinds in time for our new kitchen, I cannot wait to see how they turn out!

Wooden venetian blinds from Pret a Vivre

And if that's not enough, Cross Street's neighbours Upper Street and Essex Road have SO much to offer. Except more in a future blog post!


+ NEW Escocesa Restaurant - Stoke Newington

After a lazy weekend hibernating in the warmth of our flat, we decided to go on a little jaunt to Stoke Newington. We live five minutes' walk away but this was our first visit there in months. What remains the same is the pace at which new places open up there, and the brand new Escocesa restaurant caught our eye. We knew it was new but hadn't realised it was less than a month old! Many of the staff from Escocesa  (according to this Instagram post) are from Barrafina, one of the top 100 restaurants in ALL of London. We weren't disappointed!

The interior:

Rugged with exposed brickwork and uneven plaster on the walls, the restaurant is stripped of  too much fess with exposed lightbulbs and heavy industrial pendants above a showstopping diner-style bar. From here, you can watch the chefs hard at work, or you can sit at the benches in the mid-section of the restaurant, or make your way to the dining room at the back.

Escocesa bar seating area.
Escocesa bar seating area.
Escocesa dining room at the back of the restaurant
Escocesa dining room at the back of the restaurant

The Food:

The brunch menu had an amazing selection of meat dishes, egg plates and did I mention the specials?! I hope the rib-eye with potatoes and padron peppers  is available one night soon as it seemed a tad too OTT for my Sunday brunch choice.

Weekend Brunch Menu at Escocesa, Stoke Newington (click on image to see larger, zoomable version)
Weekend Brunch Menu at Escocesa, Stoke Newington (click on image to see larger, zoomable version)

To start, we decided to share the jamon croquetas. I loved the presentation of them, resembling little lollipops thanks to the cocktail sticks, accompanied by finely sliced chives. I've tried my fair share of croquettes at Spanish restaurants and these surpassed any I've tried before!

We shared the jamon croquetas to start
Jamon croquetas
butifarra with white beans - catalan sausage
Butifarra with white beans - catalan sausage

For the main, Ned and I shared two dishes together - the butifarra with white beans and ali oli (catalan sausage), and then the revuelto de gambas (scrambled eggs with prawns).

revuelto de gambas
Revuelto de gambas on toast

Each dish was better than I could have imagined, and the staff were all really friendly and conscientious. This far surpassed Sunday brunch at other local places like The Tea Rooms. My next plan is to try out Escocesa one evening when their main menu is on offer. I'm particularly keen to try out the fried aubergine with walnuts & honey and the beetroot and smoke salt cod salad.

New Eateries on Church Street

There's an explosion of new restaurants, coffee shops and cafés on Stoke Newington Church Street, all of which I'm eager to add to my London bucket list:

Good Egg - Walking past here today, there was a queue of about 8 people waiting. Their weekend brunch menu is to die for, featuring the breakfast burrito, an Iraqi aubergine pitta and challah french toast with date syrup.

Fox & Pie - The red Fox Reformed wine bar shut down earlier this year, but walking past today I saw the Fox & Pie sign proudly up on the window. Snooping their Instagram feed it's looking like a 3rd December opening! According to The Dalstonist, "The pub and pie restaurant will be a new iteration of the Newman Arms & Pie Room in Fitzrovia".

Foxlow - We've been once in their opening month, but it was a bit chaotic (although the food was nice) so I'd love to revisit and assess them now that they've been up and running for a while.

The Teahouse Stokey - I walked past the Daniel Defoe pub today and it was covered up with scaffolding. Imagine my surprise when after a quick Google I find out that it's actually going to be a Teahouse. Thankfully, their website says that they'll offer "craft cask ales, a large selection of booze, a fantastic walled garden and some secrets we’re not telling anyone about yet"...  can't wait!


+ From Highbury to Highgate: Parkland Walk

From Highbury to Highgate; Parkland Walk (South)

Having lived in Highbury, North London for almost a year now, I'm still astonished by how little I know about the surrounding area. As part of my quest to use my time more wisely in 2015 (less couch potato time, more time exploring), I decided to spend my Sunday afternoon walking along the southern part of Parkland Walk Local Nature Reserve, from Finsbury Park to Highgate. We live just a few minutes' walk from Finsbury Park, which is where the southern part of the walk begins (Tired of London, Tired of Life have a handy map here).

THE ROUTE

1) As we live south of the park, we took a quick detour through it, past the flying rats (aka pigeons):

2) To get to the start of the trail we headed across the Oxford Road Gate from the north-western part of Finsbury Park:

3) Turn right and you'll see a sign, with the next stops listed as Upper Tollington Park, wih the walk ending at Highgate via Crouch Hill.
Route along Parkland Walk - South

4) Along the way towards Crouch Hill, it's basically mud, mud and more mud.... and some vibrant graffiti:

Graffiti along parkland walk

5) One of the best finds along the route was the former train platforms of Crouch End railway station. While the train station building has since been demolished, it was really surreal to walk through:
Abandoned railway platforms of Courch End railway station on Parkland Walk

6) Following from this awesome find, you'll see a plaque which tells you a bit more about the history of the park itself:
History of parkland walk

Once you've completed the walk, I would formally suggest a quick drink at the Boogaloo, or if you walk up Jacksons Lane you'll get to Highgate High Street where you can pop into the Duke's Head or the Angel Inn for a well-earned lunch! We'll definitely visit Parkland Walk again in the spring, and next time aim for Alexandra Palace :)


+ The Attendant Cafe - London: Review

Yesterday I ate french toast in a toilet. Well, a converted public toilets under Foley Street in Central London called The Attendant Cafe. Me and four friends had made plans to meet for lunch somewhere central, and we were struggling to whittle down the thousands of London establishments to just one. This seemed like the best option as it was something different, located centrally and didn't seem too formal for what was a quick catch-up.

Seating Options

A friend and I turned up around 12.30pm, and the first thing that struck me was the exceedingly small number of seating options available. After all, this is a converted toilet! Thankfully, round the corner to the right there's a couple of tables with bench seating, so we managed to get an area for the five of us. It's not possible to book ahead as far as I know, so I would recommend only going here if there's just two of you to avoid disappointment.

The Food

French toast was about £8 each, and sandwiches ranged Chorizo & Bacon, Royale Chicken to Mushroom and Halloumi. By 12.30pm they had ran out of the other brunch specials. They also had a selection of pastries and cakes on offer at the counter too.

The Atmosphere

The staff are SO nice! As well as that, their soundtrack was top notch and the lighting was just perfect for an underground venue. I particularly liked the fact that so much light filters through from the main entrance, making it feel that little bit bigger. It was a bit cramped, and the couple next to us kept having to hunch over their table so people could get to the toilet. As such, this is not the place for a two-hour long natter. It has an in-n-out vibe, you wouldn't expect to be here for more than 45 minutes especially as the food is served pretty quickly.

This is by no means the first converted toilet in London (Cellar Door and Ginglik are just two that spring to mind), but the space is beautiful, light and if I worked that little bit closer to this place, I would definitely pop in here for a pre-work caffeine fix.


+ My Recent London Discoveries

One of the best (and worst) things about London is that there's so much out there just waiting to be discovered. However many places you visit in the evenings and at the weekends, it just isn't possible to fit in everything I would into a week's 168 hours! I'm trying to visit new places every week, so here's a round-up of what I've found recently:

Open Air Shakespeare at Victoria Embankment Gardens <-- The acoustics are pretty poor here so make sure you sit near the front to keep up with all the action, but it's a breath of fresh air hidden away in Central London • The Troudadour, Earl's Court <-- This is where Bob Dylan played in the 1960s, but is now worth a visit for its timeless interior, beautiful garden and their gorgeous potato wedges (picture below) • Le Tea Cosy, Primrose Hill <-- This place does the best lemon chiffon cake I've ever tasted! My friend Mandy has a two-month free trial with Taste Card, and it's given us the chance to try out some places around London we wouldn't normally have known about. The other week we tried out Tod's Grill in Islington, where to start I had calamari followed by a delicious lamb shank. At first we were a bit sceptical because we were the only customers in there, but then pockets of people started to enter the restaurant (eclectically decorated with posters for local events from over the years), thankfully displacing our fears that we had been lured in to an unpopular price just because of a half-price offer!


Calamari at Todd's Grill, Islington Lamb shank at Tod's Grill,Upper Street, London
Potato wedges at the Trouabdour, Earl's Court The garden at The Troubadour, Earl's Court

Things I Still Need to Do in London

• Ronnie Scott's, Soho.
• Watch some live music at The Slaghtered Lamb.
• Have a night out at Lost Society, Clapham.
• Watch a play, any play.
Spark London - Britain's first true-storytelling club night.
• Visit the British Library
• Visit the Nightjar bar in Shoreditch
• Watch a free lecture at Gresham College