Granville Arcade, the covered part of Brixton's amazing market, used to be a forgotten, dowdy spinster aunt of the younger, more vibrant Electric Avenue section. That all changed a few years ago and now you can't move on a Saturday morning without tripping over yet another new cafe, restaurant or retro clothing stall, jostling for space with the remaining grocers, fishmongers and haberdashers.
La Cabaña is a modest Colombian-Venezuelan eaterie near the Coldharbour Lane entrance. Snacks sell for £3, main dishes for £8-13 and there's a huge selection of interesting fruit juices; lulo, guanabana and the unusual Pony Malta.
1 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village, London SW9 8PR
+44 207 924 0992
Open Sun-Wed 09.00-18.00, Thur-Sat 09.00-21.00
Nearest tube; Victoria Line to Brixton, buses 3, 35, 133, 159
Google map: bit.ly/nkW5Dn
The Star at Night is a mixture of a bar, cafe, cocktail bar, bistro and crusty old pub, all rolled into one. It's usually frequented by gay clientele, but in Soho anything goes and it's one of the most relaxed and friendly places in town.
The short menu has over-priced tapas-style offerings in disappointingly small portions: Greek salad, smoked salmon, grilled Halloumi, tortilla and nibbles such as pistachios and olives.
The main reason to go is the great, chilled out atmosphere and the old-fashioned decor with an emphasis on old wood, which makes a change from the usual sleek, up-to-the-minute, minimalist places all around.
The Star also has a great collection of sign memorabilia, including a pet food advert, which the waitress claims is the 'most photographed sign in London'.
Drop by and you'll see why!
Don't let the Crossrail building works occupying 95% of the street put you off. The word on the street was that the Star would have to close, however they are digging their heels in and staying put, hopefully for a lot longer.
Located next to one of the tall arches announcing the start of London's Chinatown, De Hems is famous for being the only Dutch pub in the city.
However, it's also one of the most convivial in the area. Named after a Dutch sailor who bought the tavern in 1890, De Hems was a meeting place for the Dutch Resistance during World War II.
The place is packed with office workers, tourists and homesick Dutch folk, enjoying their favourite Dutch and Belgian beers (Leffe, Lindeboom, Kwak, Duvel, Hoegaarden and the almost hallucinogenic Chimay) in their special glasses: the Kwak test tube holder and strange shape is particularly entertaining. The food is traditional Dutch pub grub, such as bitterballen and the chunky chips are excellent.
11 Macclesfield Street, London W1D 5BW
+44 207 437 2494
Nearest tube: Northern Line to Leicester Square
Google map: bit.ly/nhVihF
Trying to keep the kids amused during the summer holidays?
Platform 9 3/4 is not the only weird feature of Kings cross, it is also one end of possibly the only place in the universe where you can go on an "Infinite Loop" by continuously taking the "Northbound" Tube.
Welcome to the twilight zone.
Go to King's cross and take the Northern line "Northbound", at the next stop get off at Euston. Now take the "Northbound" Victoria line, at the next stop get off at King's Cross!
You might think there's nothing more to Lucas Gardens than an elegant, Zen-like, ornamental garden and a few straggly weeds. However, venture into the Victorian park, past the strategically-arranged boulders and you'll discover that Lucas Gardens stretches back as far as the eye can see. It contains vast areas of grassland, where locals spread out and sunbathe, kick a football about or have a picnic, and finishes up in an elaborate children's playground. All that's missing is a ping pong table, so come on Boris, where are you with your Wiff-Waff project?!
Peckham Road, Camberwell, SE5
Buses: 12, 36, 171, 436 to Southwark Town Hall
Google map: bit.ly/nLjSgd
Gorgeous food on a mouthwatering menu: no wonder it's heaving at lunchtime. I choose the earlier breakfast with the divine eggs benedict, a huge variety of breakfasts, including the Full English, Veggie and Turkish (hash browns, halloumi, olives - yum), omelettes and sandwiches. For lunch, visitors are also spoiled for choice with spag bol, curries, burgers, panini, jacket potatoes and salads. This is all washed down with smoothies, drinking yoghurts and great coffees. Get in early to get a seat in this lovely bistro/cafe, with its foliage and scrubbed wooden tables.
Love Walk Cafe & Deli
81 Denmark Hill, London SE5 8RS
+44 207 703 9898
Open Mon-Fri 07.00-19.00, Sat 08.00-19.00, Sun 09.00-19.00
Overground to Denmark Hill, bus 35, 45, 68, 468
Google map: bit.ly/pdCHli
Few of the visitors who flock to Greenwich ever set foot in neighbouring Deptford despite the fact that it too has a bustling market, historic buildings and an interesting maritime past. A good way to explore all this and more is on a new walking tour which uses information from Charles Booth’s famous study of poverty in Victorian London as the basis for an examination of how Deptford has changed over the centuries. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, the walk is a great introduction to Deptford’s ethnically diverse high street, fascinating past and award winning modern architecture. I live nearby but still learned a lot when I went on the walk recently. It is led by Sean, an actor and historian, who not only knows his stuff but can present it very well and also includes a visit to the area’s best pub. It's good value too at £10 for a three hour walk.
A walk along a relatively unknown and unloved part of Hackney, inner London mainly known for flyovers and geezers. You go past a lot of derelict, delapidated industrial plants. This is coupled with an artistic quarter where urban artists are living cheek by jowl with new build nouveau rich apartment blocks. With the Olympic Site and Westfield development to one side. There is an awful lot to see.
The artistic area, all around the factories and estates, offer galleries and bars and cafes. And the natives are friendly having been priced out of Shoreditch/Hoxton.
Hackney Wicked is an open weekend of the residents' work on display.
Also see Folly for a Flyover - an arts centre built inbetween two flyovers of wooden bricks - offering cinema, children's art sessions and a cafe.
it is worth visiting the British Library, King’s Cross’ original main attraction. The exterior may be unattractive but the interior is a temple of calm and the King’s Library (a tower of old rare books) is quite awe inspiring. Currently the library is holding a free exhibition called Out of this World which is an enjoyable exploration of the most influential works of science fiction.
Caledonian Road which has a number of sophisticated eateries. If you’re just after a pick-me up visit the fun and friendly Drink, Shop, Do a bright open space with knick-knacks to look at and admire and a great selection of cakes.
King’s Cross is one of the most rapidly and drastically changing places in London. St. Pancras station has been beautifully restored but this was just the beginning of a two billion pound development of the area which now includes a new St Martins campus, housing, offices, gardens, shops, art centres all of which make it worthy of its very own postcode. What’s more the development appears tasteful and ambitious; perhaps a sign of how cities will be developed in the future.
All in all it’s a good time to visit the area and make up your own mind about the dramatic developments. Visit the German Gymnasium, the development’s marketing suit, which not only provides images and models of what the area will look like but also has a great exhibition space invariably showcasing work of value (it’s currently showing the first UK exhibition of recently discovered street photographer Vivian Maier). It also overlooks the site and you can see progress in action.
I love mooching about in second-hand bookshops and London is packed full of them. I discovered a great place recently when sheltering from the summer rain after a lunch in Greenwich.
Halcyon Books is lined up to the high ceiling with shelves bursting with second-hand, out-of-print and new books on every subject under the sun.
It is possible to browse online and buy via email but there's really nothing like the smell of dusty old books to inspire and excite. It doesn't travel through the ether.
On my visit, all the second-hand books were selling for £1 each and I picked up some incredible bargains: a giant English-French-English dictionary and a massive Readers' Digest Complete Atlas of the British Isles. Two quid well spent!
There are so many great pubs in Camberwell, it can be hard to choose between them, but the Hermit's Cave has something extra: cider!
The small, slightly cramped pub has on tap about a dozen ciders, still and sparkling, and several versions of scrumpy, cloudy and clear.
Many come from Somerset, home of the legendary apple juice and it's a great place for a refreshing drink after doing sport in the summer sun, after all, apples are part of the necessary five (fruit) a day.
28 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8QU
+44 207 703 3188
Open Mon-Sat 11.00, Sun 12.00-22.30
Google map: bit.ly/n2dPRO
Buses 12, 35. 36, 45, 68, 171, 345, 436, 468 to Camberwell Green
This delightful Turkish cafe and restaurant has long been a favourite with Camberwell foodies, but it has recently reopened after renovation and is even better. Vast trays of sticky baklava and other tasty pastries, drenched in honey and speckled with pistachio nuts, fill the window and it's virtually impossible to pass by without being tempted inside for a bite. Tadim serves everything from pizza to meze, moussaka to croissants. There are toasted sandwiches, strong, thick coffees and a huge range of vegetarian delicacies. Tadim is a really friendly place, summed up by their motto: 'Love all & serve all'. Sweet.
41 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR
+44 207 277 2910
Open daily 08.00-23.00
Buses 12, 36, 68, 171, 345, 436, 468 to Camberwell Green
Google map: bit.ly/qVNbNK
Clinging on for grim death to the back of the Elephant’s concrete behemoth shopping centre, the Charlie Chaplin is certainly an experience. Whether it’s one I would recommend to those of a delicate constitution is another matter, but for thrill-seekers, those intent on exploring the seamier side of London life and drinkers who can’t face going home after all other pubs in the area have long since closed, it’s the perfect venue for a bizarre night out. As soon as we walked through the door, it was clear this was no average pub. I nearly jumped out of my skin when greeted by a large mannequin with a zombie face who could have been an extra from Michael Jackson's Thriller video: surely this wasn’t Chaplin? A plaque on the corner of Walworth Road and East Street market announces that the great silent film era entertainer was born just down the road. The interior is quite run-down but there’s a pool table and a darts board. There’s also a complicated code for the ladies’ loo, which is a good bonding method with the scary, yet surprisingly friendly locals. A cat appears at closing time to shoo off stragglers complete the ‘American Werewolf in London’ ambience. You have been warned.
26 New Kent Rd, Elephant & Castle, London, SE1 6TJ
+44 207 703 6117
Nearest tube: Northern or Bakerloo Line to Elephant & Castle
Open until midnight
Google map: bit.ly/pXlWgI
The café has all manner of taste treats to tempt art lovers inside its bright white walls. The café is at the front, with a massive shop window facing the street. The cakes are homemade and the snacks and sandwiches are prepared from fresh, healthy ingredients. The menu changes regularly. The gallery behind supports local artists and emerging talents. There are often private views and anybody can pop in.
70 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8QZ
+44 207 358 4475
Open Mon—Sat 09.00—18.00
Buses 12, 36, 436, 345, 171, 68, 468 to Camberwell Green
Google map: bit.ly/qa7iD4
This small, bright café serves Vietnamese sandwiches, baguettes and coffee at a bargain £1 a cup. Everything is freshly prepared and great value. The famous Bahn Mi sandwich combines delicious Vietnamese ingredients such as pickled cucumber and carrot, fish sauces, coriander, marinated beef and caramelized roasted pork with ingredients dating back to French colonialism in Vietnam; pate, mayonnaise and long crusty baguettes. A really great venue for morning coffee or a tasty lunchtime snack.
75 Denmark Hill, London SE5
+44 207 703 2531
Open Mon—Sat 09.00-17.00, for breakfast & lunch
Getting there: bus 35, 45, 68, 345, 468 to Denmark Hill
Google map: bit.ly/qDDJYU
Gallipoli Bazaar offers delicious Lebanese and Turkish dishes in a luxuriously decorated setting. The restaurant is long and thin but crammed to the rafters with shining lamps, mirrors, cushions, exotic paintings and dimly lit to give all diners a flattering hue. The daily specials - I had grilled red mullet - are highly recommended and they do a splendid falafel. Belly dancing is a new feature too ... and shisha pipes for puffing on outside on the pavement terrace.
I never thought a pub in St John's Wood could be such good value, but it is connected to a Sam Smith's brewery and when I ordered a pint of bitter and the charming landlord said '£2.11', I nearly fainted and had to be revived with a stiff drink. Situated in the leafy, upmarket suburbs, not far from the Beatles' Abbey Road pedestrian crossing, this pub is a little run-down, with frayed carpets and not much in the way of decoration. Sam Smiths' pubs also have a 'no music' policy, which is a refreshing change. There's a good selection of pub food and it's a good old unpretentious boozer, packed out on a Friday with locals and office workers, even a soldier came in dressed in full uniform with medals gleaming, to complete the military motif.
Last night I finally made it up to the 10th floor of Peckham's multi-storey carpark, after several failed attempts, to discover another world ... hundreds of art students milling around, drinking pale ale and cocktails, munching on scrummy nibbles, flirting, discussing the art installations, but most of all, gazing in wonder at the magnificent view: all of London laid out in 360-degree spleandor, shimmering in the sunset, from the O2 arena, past the Shard, St Pauls, the London Eye, the Post Office Tower, before spinning around to catch the Crystal Palace tower in the corner of the eye. Frank's Bar is part of the Bold Tendencies art project and 15 artists have been commissioned to produce and show work in 2011. The bar stays open throughout the summer.
Frank's Cafe and Campari Bar
10th floor, Peckham Multi-storey carpark,
95a Rye Lane, London SE15 4ST
+44 758 288 4574
Open July 1 to Sept 30, Tues-Sun 11.00-22.00
Food served 12.00-14.30 & 18.00-22.00
Bus 12 to Rye Lane
Google map: bit.ly/n7IQZY
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