Not much will drag me out to West London, but one that definitely will is the promise of transport nerdery. This Saturday (after spending the morning viewing the Cheapside Hoard with Kathryn – phew, culture all over) we trundled way over to Acton Town to visit the London Transport Museum Depot‘s open day.
Emerging from the attractive 1930s tube station, the museum depot is directly opposite. The first big clue is the vintage buses giving tours in and out of the entrance.
In the giant warehouse space, upstairs houses a huge collection of station signage and maps dating from the 1920s up the present day. It was fascinating to see how the map changed over time.
Some nice type specimens to spot along the way, including a plan chest stuffed with the Johnson Underground typeface blocks.
Downstairs is an assortment of cool old machinery: ticket machines, whole kiosks, signal boxes, clocks and so on.
And there are a load of old buses and tube carriages – reminding me of the Brooklyn museum. But cooler ;)
I don’t know if this is a regular fixture, but on the day we visited there were a bunch of stalls selling ephemera: postcards, old maps and brochures, decommissioned signs and stickers, and so on. We scored some great stuff: old place nameplates, a deadstock moquette seat cover and some postcards and stickers, all for very cheap.
I’m so glad that such an effort is being made to store all this historical stuff and show it off to the public. If you fancy visiting – and I highly recommend it – there are monthly open days and regular guided tours. Check out the site for the next available dates.
It’s great to see all the redevelopment in the Kings Cross area recently: it’s quickly becoming a really cool hub for food (see also Caravan, The Gilbert Scott and Kerb), arts (the new St Martins college campus is there) and fun (pop-up skate rink!). The beautiful new station concourse and renovation of the canalside area is making it a destination in its own right as opposed to just a thoroughfare. We tried to get into Grain Store – the latest addition from chef Bruno Loubert and the people behind the Zetter Townhouse – a couple of weeks ago but it was full, so we made do with Caravan but vowed to come back.
The menu is pretty unique, and seemed utterly delightful to me at a glance because vegetables really take front and centre. There are meat and fish dishes too but they are written as if the meat is the incidental part which is refreshing. There are even dedicated vegan options – pretty rare for a mainstream restaurant, never mind from a French chef. For the indecisive or adventurous diner, they offer a completely surprise menu devised by the chefs on the day for £35 a head, which is what we went for. In retrospect unfortunately I think this decision slightly marred our meal. Firstly, there was a loooong wait between each of the five dishes, explained by the waitress as the place being particularly busy that night. Secondly, I felt a little like the collection of dishes we were given all clashed and fought with each other rather than flowing and creating a cohesive whole, leaving us with quite an unpleasant sensation of our palates being assaulted and ultimately overwhelmed by the end.
There were definitely high points however: warm onion bread started the meal promisingly and I loved the first dish of rich and gooey little fried mushroom balls, served on a cute bed of pine needles.
Beetroot with goats curd and pickled onion is a modern classic combination and didn’t disappoint.
As the tasting menu wore on however, we started to get that unpleasant clashing of extreme flavours, and I started to crave something bland like chips to offset it all! Some dishes just didn’t work for me at all: radishes were served with raw red onion, a cream with no trace of the promised horseradish and, bizarrely, padron peppers with a gazpacho sauce on the same plate.
The main dishes were probably the most disappointing, and by this point two hours in we were starting to lose interest anyway. Lentil dal was fine but ruined by overly bitter green peppers on top. A dish of corn husk stuffed with corn and quinoa was oddly sweet and decorated with more unnecessary padrons. Most bizarre of all, we got a third plate of literally just cooked onions, slivers of courgette and samphire – the lamb was missing because we’d asked for a vegetarian tasting menu, but I assumed we’d get proper veggie options rather just missing the key component off another dish. A horribly chalky tapioca pudding for afters didn’t serve to remove any of the lingering aftertastes and was left barely touched by both of us.
To end on a positive note though: the cocktails, curated by Zetter and 69 Colebroke Row’s Tony Conigliaro, were most definitely the high point of the evening. We started on a cedarwood sherry concoction for Josh and a Campari champagne cocktail for me, and then moved onto the excitingly unusual Greco Roman wines: I had a honey one and Josh had smoked paprika. They were well priced at £6.50-£7.50 each and really saved the day.
This review is written in partnership with match.com‘s London dating guide, and they requested I write about the restaurant’s suitability for a date night. In theory, I think Grain Store would be a great date spot because the unusual flavours and sharing plate concept mean you have plenty to talk about and interact with. Josh and I usually love to go to places like this because we can try twice as much food by ordering different dishes and sharing. The super cocktails will mean you feel relaxed and can begin and end the meal with a leisurely drink – there’s a nice dedicated bar space bar space to unwind in. The whole space is elegant yet informal with an outdoorsy vibe, ideal for a warm evening.
Despite my misgivings about some of the menu – especially as a vegetarian hoping for a revelation – I still think Grain Store is a unique and interesting restaurant with something new to offer. The veg-first menu concept is a great one and I suspect we would have enjoyed the meal much more if we’d picked our own dishes and had something more to our personal tastes. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back and try the delicious sounding brunch menu either.
Grain Store, Granary Square, Kings Cross.
My meal was paid for by match.com in exchange for this unbiased review. Thanks, Match!
Dalston House is a new temporary art installation by Leandro Elrich in association with the Barbican Centre. It’s right by Dalston Junction station, a short walk from my house, so my sister and I jaunted down there the other day.
The mind-bending installation is a perfect replica of a period house facade, laid out on the ground with a huge mirror set at a 45-degree angle above it. So when you view it straight on it appears that the house is standing upright on the street. Then of course you can have all sorts of fun with seemingly gravity-defying poses, all from the safety of the ground.
Firstly, thank you so much for all your comments and messages about Yoni. It was amazing to hear what a loved little cat he is from all corners of the internet, and hearing from you really did help me get through the days. He’s back home now, slowly getting used to normal life again with an extra big dose of love and support from us.
As promised, here are the things I made during my anxiety-induced sewing spree while he was in the vets.
First, a pair of jazzy culottes! I love culottes: the practicality of breeze-resistant shorts with the cuteness of a little flippy skirt is a winner to me. The pattern is the new Megan Nielsen Tania culottes, bought from M is for Make.
The pattern was really fun to put together – it felt almost like magical origami creating the pleats and crotch with simple folds and lines of stitching. The only thing I mucked up is the waistband with some wobbly topstitching – I might unpick and redo it neater. I also haven’t properly finished the bottom edge yet because I’m terrible at hemming, so it’s just overlocked for now.
The fabric is a vintage piece of 70s polyester with a gorgeous Scandinavian-looking mountain print. I love how the patten drape makes the peaks point up and outwards, a little reminiscent of fireworks. Just don’t make the mistake I did of ironing interfacing onto polyester with a hot iron – I burnt a clean plastic-scented hole through my first waistband piece, and luckily had just enough fabric to cut another. I’ll definitely be using this pattern again; in fact I’ve just bought some jersey that I think will make a great no-zip-required version.
(Excuse my face, I appear to have the dead eyes of someone who’s been worrying for three weeks straight..) This is another Scout, although radically different from my last one. The front is made from a vintage silk scarf, which was happily just the right size for the pattern piece. The sleeves and back are the same grey jersey as my ballet dress. Very pleased that this turned out just how I imagined it. The Scout tee is such an amazing pattern: so simple but hangs so well despite having no darts or shaping, and the possibilities for creative variations are vast.
Finally, a fail. I tried to take photos but they looked too awful to share! It was supposed to be a Sureau dress by Deer & Doe, made from a super soft piece of vintage cotton with an abstract tulip print, above. It seems in sewing that lots of small mistakes can add up to a big mess of a garment, which sadly I think happened here. I chose a size too big so the fit isn’t quite right. The neckline was gaping so I attempted a shoulder-line fix, then added a half collar which sits wonkily. The sleeve caps billow at the back. The skirt twists annoyingly to the side. I’m not sure if I’ll try and fix it some more, or cut it down into a skirt maybe. It would be a shame to waste the pretty fabric completely. Perhaps I should start making toiles before cutting the real fabric.
All of the fabrics came from The Shop on Cheshire St, which I visited with Jen one lunchtime (check out Jen’s blog for some much better photos and info, this unprepared blogger didn’t have her camera). It is indeed the treasure trove that countless bloggers promised: walls lined with shelves of vintage fabric, with even more stuffed into drawers and baskets underneath which you’re encouraged to rummage through. There’s everything from recycled curtains to half-finished handmade skirt pieces, plus loads of large pieces of 2-4 metre long cottons and polys, perfect for skirt or dress projects.
There’s also a great line in vintage notions, and basket upon basket of vintage silk scarves at around a fiver a pop. At the back are curtains, cushions and clothing and there’s also plenty of knitted scarves and crochet blankets. Prices are eye-poppingly amazing, ranging from a few quid for the smaller bits to no more than £15 for larger pieces (my take-home stash that made everything in this post was only £18). You’d be hard pushed to find such a lovely variety of prints in new fabrics for those kinds of prices. Find The Shop at 3 Cheshire St just off the top of Brick Lane – I’ll be back to replenish my stash very soon.
I found these photos when I developed my film from Barbados. I think they’re from 2011 given that they’re of the South Bank’s Festival of Britain, which was that year. A little time capsule of summers past.
Lucky me – the Tate Modern invited me to a press preview of their new Lichtenstein retrospective on Monday. He’s one of my favourite artists so it was quite a treat to get a quiet(er) viewing of the show before the crowds. Oh, and I was allowed to snap photos!
Besides the comic-strip ‘war and romance’ pieces he’s best known for, this show does a great job of displaying the other sides to Lichtenstein’s work, and across 13 rooms charts out the many phases he evolved through during his life’s work.
Feeling hungry? Time for a little round up of things I’ve been eating on my way round London lately…
First up, Sweet Thursday, a new neighbourhood pizzeria not too far from me in De Beauvoir town. There’s a wine shop out front and a big clay oven out back: my kind of place. The pizza menu’s small but the pizzas themselves certainly aren’t: you could definitely share one with a few of the antipasti-type sides for dinner. They are the properly charred and chewy-crusted types too, with lovely flavourful toppings. Will be back soon.
I had to run an errand in South London a few weekends ago, so we popped to Brixton Village to make the most of this rare foray. I loved how vibrant and energetic it was, with all the hip new popup places like Wishbone, Bukowski and Honest Burger elbow-to-elbow with the Caribbean grocery stores and kitschy gift shops. Unfortunately I don’t think we picked the best place for lunch – the Mexican was the only place without a queue but it wasn’t anything special. Coffee and a brownie in Federation afterwards made up for it, though, and we’ll just have to go again to try Mama Lan’s noodles, Okan’s okonomiyaki or the best-ever pizza at the original Franco Manca.
Finally, Josh’s parents kindly treated us to lunch at La Porte Des Indes at the weekend. To be perfectly honest, it’s not the kind of place I would usually choose – the bonkers French-colonial decor, high prices and Marble Arch location put it off my radar. But I was extremely pleasantly surprised by our lunch: they do a buffet on Sundays with street food starters, curry mains and fresh little fruity desserts. I went back to the starters table twice: each little dish, from lentil dumplings in fiery soup to mini beetroot dosas to crispy spinach fritters, was a tiny taste ‘pow’! Of course I then sampled three curries for main and couldn’t resist the vibrant dessert table either, so left feeling very full indeed.
That’s it for indulgence for the rest of the month now – we’re off to Barbados at the beginning of March (!) so it’s health kick to get beach-ready before then. Um, anyone have any foody tips for Barbados?!
More snow photos? Oh, go on then. We took a slightly bracing walk into Abney Park Cemetery yesterday – it’s basically on my doorstep and I’ve never visited it in seven years of living in the area. Shameful, as it’s really beautiful; ‘like Narnia’ as Josh put it. It’s much bigger than I thought, with loads of pretty trees and some beautiful old grave monuments, and even a somewhat creepy abandoned church in the middle. It didn’t really stop snowing here all day, so it got pretty thick.
Beautiful type on these 19th century graves
Trying to throw snowballs through the church windows!
Sarah and I popped down to God’s Own Junkyard on Wednesday night, a fabulous pop-up collection of new and vintage neon signs, movie props and retro advertising signage on Beak Street, Soho. The curator/artist Chris Bracey collects junked signs from movie sets then repairs and resurrects them into brand new art pieces. The temporary exhibition/shop is only there for another couple of weeks, and I highly recommend visiting while you can – as you can see it’s quite stunning.
The popup shop at 47 Beak Street is open until January 25th; check the website for opening hours.
We took a lovely long North London walk in the sun on Saturday. Here’s a little map of where we went, and Instagrammed-guide below.
Kicked off with a hugenormous doorstop sourdough sandwich and tasty Nude flat white at the darling Maison D’Etre on Highbury Corner. From there we walked up Holloway Road, stopping at Ooh La La vintage shop on the way. Lots of furniture and curios to be found for reasonable prices.
We dodged the football crowds streaming out of Arsenal and cut back towards York Way, admiring the pretty houses with gorgeous front gardens – it’s always remarkable to me how many beautiful leafy streets London has tucked away. We made a special trip over here because Josh wanted to stock up on beers at Kris Wines. They didn’t disappoint, with a huge range of bottles from American rarities to Danish Mikkeller and local heroes like The Kernel all well catered for.
Right next door is a fabulous vintage store I’d never even heard of before called Paul’s Emporium. Piled high with ephemera, statues, furniture, lighting and signage, it’s a real gem. I’ll be back soon for another rummage for sure.
We then meandered down the quite unlovely and industrial York Way back to Kings Cross, stopping for a cider and coffee-infused IPA at the new Caravan (the food here is fantastic too, by the way). It’s good to see this area regenerating – with the pretty Regents Canal basin and new St Martins campus, it’s getting quite lovely and improvement works are still going on.
Final stop was a quick duck into the Relic Antiques Warehouse behind the station, which I’ve been meaning to go into forever. It’s pretty small with a rather quirky range of stuff – giant beaded peacock head anyone?
I hope there’s chances for a few more London walks before the cold sets in. Anyone else got a favourite neighbourhood for a weekend wander?