Tag Archives: Stoke Newington

Chilli Down Me Trousers

22 Jun a jar of hoxton beach chutney

Blog-neglect, childcare and stained trousers.

I’m a terrible blogger, I have been neglecting my blog, I will never do it again, I’m sorry. I do have an excuse; I am the proud father of a new tiny Tommy Rumbles who has put paid to endless hours of flanneurism and bloggology, the little so-and-so!

I was in Clissold Leisure Centre with the baby strapped to me, trying to prevent him waking up. We were waiting for his mum to finish her swim and I was too scared to venture far, cos I’m not equipped to deal with a tummy-rumbling two month old. So I thought I’d venture into the Hoxton Beach Café which is the new(ish) misnomer for the in-centre café.

I like what I found! They bake their own sour-dough bread on the premises, make their own pizza and serve some delicious Lebanese specialities. I had a falafel wrap, it was massive and delicious. Packed with tangy pickles and chilli sauce which I managed to drip all down my trousers and over my shoes, but that was because I was standing up to eat. I was not trying out a new standing-up-eating regime because I was in a leisure centre, but because the little tinker strapped to me kept stirring when I tried to sit down.

Top tip for the Hoxton Beach Café falafel wrap, sit down and enjoy it.

Hoxton Beach Café
in Clissold Leisure Centre
63 Clissold Road
London N16 9EX
www.hoxtonbeach.com
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Fred and Frantastic

28 Feb nice coffee

Irresistible culinary creations on Kynaston Road.

This is one of the most beautiful looking cakes I have ever seen. I don’t think the photograph can do it justice but have a look at this Middle Eastern orange cake with pistachio, candied fruit and rose petals. Amazing stuff. You won’t get this anywhere else because its been created on the premises by the proprietor of Fred and Fran. She is a very talented baker indeed. I saw this cake and just had to try it. No choice. It’s made with almond flour so it’s gluten-free (you know, for coeliacs), but don’t let that put you off! It’s as delicious as it looks.

Amazing cake!

Amazing cake!

If you haven’t tried Fred and Fran yet you should. It’s been going less than a year and is far enough from Church Street to have a local, unhurried, not too busy atmosphere (for now), but as word spreads it can only get busier and busier. They are showing others in this vicinity, not least the House café in Clissold Park, how it should be done. Keeping it local, homemade and top-quality.

The place is quite small but well thought-out, so it feels bright and spacious. Lots of nice quirky touches like the crumpled plastic-cup stools and the vintage milk bottles used as water jugs. But what really makes this place a unique experience is the care that goes into every cup and every morsel of food.

Fred and Fran
55 Kynaston Road
London N16 0EB
www.fredandfran.com

House about that then?

4 Jan

Clissold Park House opens with upmarket café.

Oh I forgot! In all the wind, rain, fare increases and back to work malaise of yesterday I forgot that Clissold House café opened its doors for the first time in it’s new guise. I happened to be passing this morning and saw the tables set up on the west terrace which jogged my memory. I didn’t have time for a full reccy but there’s always time for a double espresso.

The House logo

The House logo

The house and the whole of Clissold Park have been undergoing refurbishment for well over a year now and things are starting to take shape. The contract to run the café in the house was awarded (with some controversy, but not much) to Company of Cooks, who run the hospitality concessions at some of London’s most glamourous locations including The Royal Opera House, Kensington Gardens, Kenwood, Regent’s Park, Hyde Park etc. The controversy was that local providers were effectively excluded by the council as they only opened the tendering process to organisations with turnover of £1million+.

Anyhoo they’re in now so let’s see what they got. The coffee menu (printed on an ‘A’ board outside) is old school. No flat white, long black, pour-overs or aeropress, they do offer a ‘three cup cafetiere’ alongside the usual americano, espresso, cappuccino and latte. Prices, despite the grandeur of the venue, are reasonable: £1.65 for a double espresso, £2.10 for cappucino or latte.

The House west terrace

The House west terrace

The door on the west side of the building is a bit on the sticky side, so I wasn’t sure if they were open or not. A very friendly waiter opened up and told me this door was only for take away, or seating on the terrace. Fine, I was pushed for time, so I ordered my double espresso and took a chilly al fresco seat. When the drink arrived I was very impressed. What a crema! It was a thing of beauty, and served in a nice chunky espresso cup without the faff of a saucer. Great. Drinking it was a little dissapointing, but only a little. It was a very smooth and tasty cup, but not strong enough for my taste. It just lacked body. The flavour that was there was pleasant and lingered nicely too. For £1.65 delivered to the table this was very, very good. I will definitely be back. Next time I’ll go in the front door, I didn’t realise that the main entrance is on the front of the house (duh!), and try the food too.

According the the Company of Cooks and Hackney Council press release we should look forward to seasonal menus including local produce. I’ll be very interested to see on my next visit how much of the food on offer is being sourced in Hackney.

The House, Clissold Park, London N16
 
Nice crema!

Nice crema!

Stokey Smokie is Okey Dokie

24 Dec Hansen & Lydersen front door

Stoke Newington smoked salmon in the Norwegian style.

Buying fish on Twitter is a first for me. A week ago I took advantage of the generous offer that Hansen and Lydersen posted on Twitter; 20% off for Tweeted orders picked up from the smokery. Perfect. I get money off and a chance to visit a smokehouse producing famously great smoked salmon 10 minutes walk from my house! This is Tommy Rumbles territory. Big style.

So yesterday I set off to pick up my side of Norwegian-style smoked salmon. I got to Shelford Place N16 and wandered down past a ramshackle collection of artist studio spaces. At the end of the lane I started to get a whiff of fragrant smoke and a hand-written sign directed me round to the left. This place is well tucked away, it feels like you’re discovering a secret lair. Under a fire-escape staircase is an unassuming red door stencilled with a salmon. I’d arrived.

Inside the scene was a little chaotic. White tiled walls covered in red marker pen with numbers and calculations like the scrawlings of a mad professor, sides of salmon wrapped in paper being loaded into boxes and lists ticked off. It was Christmas order day in full swing. Clearly they are selling a lot of salmon and the logistics of getting them out on time are not controlled by Microsoft handheld stock check machines, but by humans. Imagine the elves in Santa’s grotto on 24th December, that scene recreated so many times in Disneyesque Christmas films, but instead of toys think beautiful blushing pink salmon. In the corner of the room a wood-burning stove was connected to a flue which led out to a dark and smoky room just beyond. And the smell was amazing.

Salmon smoking

Salmon smoking

At the centre of the activity was a tall, blond-haired chap in wellies and an apron. The smokemaster; Ole Hanson, conducting operations with a steely scandinavian calm. As the delivery driver left with his box of orders the atmosphere relaxed a bit and focus shifted to getting queueing customers supplied. All were welcome to step through the rough-hewn portal at the back of the room for a tour of the smoke-room. Everything has an artisan quality, functional but also beautiful, from the chopping block fashioned from a log, to the smoke-room and cold storage areas where the delicately coloured fish hang like Christmas baubles. This is a guerilla salmon smoking operation and all the better for it.

I can’t wait to try the salmon I bought (saving it for Christmas day), but I also couldn’t wait to blog about this place, because it’s such an experience. If the sights and smells of Hansen and Lydersen are anything to go by this salmon is going to be amazing!

Hansen and Lydersen, 3-5 Shelford Place, London N16 9HS
Smoked salmon chillin'

Smoked salmon chillin'

Spud-I-Like

14 Dec

The new grocer’s shop on Church Street is a welcome addition.

I used to pop in and get delicious homemade samosas from the newsagents on Church Street when the Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market was held in William Patten school. They were made by the wife of the man who ran the newsagent and they were great. So I was gutted to see the notice in the window announcing their retirement and the closing of the shop. No more samosas. Bad one.

I was fully expecting to see it re-open as a designer kids-clothes shop, or some kind of vintage homeware emporium. However, after a month or so of furious renovation and remodelling it has, in fact, opened as a greengrocer’s. Bold move considering it is directly opposite Whole Foods Market, that global behemoth of corporate retail which has managed to slip under the middle-class outrage radar of Stoke Newington.*

So can Stoke Newington Green compete, thrive and survive in the tough retail conditions that prevail? It’s too early to say, but they have got off to a great start.

This place has a really extraordinary range of produce and it all looks in tip-top form.

Thai rambutan

Thai rambutan

No tired looking fruit and veg on display here. Ten types of apple, including English grown and cooking apples, and my favourite russet apples, exotic fruit from all over the world, fresh, good quality veg including British grown baby and full-sized varieties. It’s a cracking-good fruit and veg shop. I hope more people who use Whole Foods will spot it and support a local shop instead, and I’m sure they will because this place is excellent.

*I remember when Stokey residents were up in arms about Nandos opening on Church Street, but no one seems to bat an eye at shopping in Whole Foods Market whose global sales for 2011 topped $10billion. Go figure.

Fresh turmeric

Fresh turmeric

Hackney Wild Hops

3 Dec

Brewing beer with foraged hops!

My mate Graham happens to be the Cellarman at one of London’s beeriest beer bars: The Euston Tap. Last week he went up to Norwich to brew a beer with Northcote brewery. Why is this a Hungry Hackney ting? Simples; Graham lives in Stoke Newington and he harvested some of the hops used in the beer from his back garden where they were growing wild. Foraged hops being used for brewing actual beer! I wanted to know more.

“I used to be a self-employed Gardener” explained Graham “so I knew that these vigorous twining plants growing like the clappers in my garden and next door were Humulus lupulus” which is the Gardener’s way of saying hops. “So I let them grow, hoping that they would flower.”

And flower they did. It’s the flowers, or cones, of the hop plant that are used in brewing. They give beer it’s bitterness, herbal aromas and balance out the sweet flavour of the other main ingredient; malted barley.

Harvested hop cones
Harvested hop cones

“By the end of Summer the hop plants were covered in bright green flowers. The best time to harvest them is just as the cones are starting to turn brown at the edges. Then you know they’re ripe” Graham continued “so at the end of September I started my harvest. I got my daughter to help me and we collected loads.”

After collecting the cones Graham laid them out in his greenhouse on shelving to dry out any excess moisture. This took a couple of days. Then he put them into freezer bags, squeezed out all the air and tied them, before putting them into the freezer to store until brew day. Keeping them in the freezer is also a good way of killing off any nasties, bacteria or insects, that might be lurking in the cones.

For the brew day Graham took the hops to the Northcote Brewery in Norwich. Run by husband and wife team Adam and Jenni Nicholls the microbrewery has been producing hand crafted ales for only just over a year. The plan was to create a highly hopped pale ale with as many hop additions as they could. As well as the Hackney Wild Hops they added copious amounts of Citra, Summit and Pacific Jade at every stage of the brewing process. The beer is going to be called ‘One For The Road’ and will be on sale only at The Euston Tap, probably around Christmas and into the new year. There will be about 16 casks of it produced, but because it uses unique wild hops, once it’s gone, it’s gone. There won’t be a chance to recreate it until the wild hop harvest next year.

copper

Hops on the Copper