Mile End Road

For me, this is a 1980’s stroll down reminiscence lane. For you, this is a tale of two sides of the road.

Go south and you are in a twilight zone of mid and high rise blocks liberally interspersed with unsavoury looking fast food joints. A place where obesity and Brexit may hook up for a sleazy night out!

This is where the old saying bears some truth… “What the Luftwaffe started the town planners finished!”

However, cross the road to the north side and you can stroll the Georgian terraces that surround Tredegar Square, a short distance from Victoria Park… undoubtedly a place where the metropolitan liberal elite hang out. So, if you find yourself in Mile End with a spare 24 hours on your hands, don’t be afraid, just find north on your compass.

Start with a fueling stop at The Greedy Cow, where a Kangaroo Burger hops off the menu to assault your gastronomic whims.

Yes, you heard right first time, it is pinned down for a reason…

Then you simply meander through the conservation area to find a range of traditional watering holes to quench that marsupial thirst. The Lord Tredegar is a great old Victorian boozer serving up a fine pint of Hophead pale ale…

Then there is the Morgan Arms, requiring a careful navigation to avoid the resident Greene King family! A one time great traditional brewery that has joined many others in spoiling the name of good beer with its capitalist quest to take over the world of ‘falling down lotion’…

And if the dawn of a new day still finds you in fighting fettle why not avoid the traditional Youngs beers and opt for a Proper Job IPA in The Coborn? Just don’t let on to a certain regular reader that it comes from Cornwall…oops!

Need something less alcoholic? Who needs those coffee chains when you can pop in to an authentic independent Italian coffee house?

Until we speak again, this has been a nostalgic gastronomic trip down memory lane. As for the present day… if you are looking to get Brexit done, it has all gone south.

Christmas in Peckham

How do you avoid the repetition of a traditional Christmas meal? Well, we’ve previously done Cardiff in July, Blackheath in June, central London in January… but here we were, planning on having our annual Christmas meal in December of all places! Trouble is, most restaurants seem to want to ditch what they are known for, and produce their version of what everyone is doing.

I have to admit, on this occasion I was doing the travelling, so it seemed only right to delegate the venue choice to the dude living locally. “Peckham…”, he suggested. Well, the first thing to come to mind was the song lyric “Is there life in Peckham?” Turns out, there really is, and amongst other contenders, it is alive and well at…

Artusi sign

On inspecting the online menu possibilities, it seemed like we were attending the first night of a somewhat far more adventurous Christmas menu than I had seen before. But, despite getting up my resolve to go for it, redemption came in the form of having to book it in advance. We hadn’t, so we were left to their very own tradition of setting out their Italian inspired menu of the day on a blackboard near the restaurant entrance…

Chalkboard menu

A Salt Beef starter arrived with just the right blend of soft melt-in-the-mouth tender brisket and tart pickled cucumber…

Salt Beef starter

The main dish of Rigatoni Sausage Ragu came in the form of small pasta tubes with smaller pieces of sausage in a delicate balance. Why get stuffed, when you can just enjoy a satisfying blend of complementary flavours? Though it is very clear to me that had Juno been present that Sea Bream across the table would not last the time it takes for a blog post snap…

Canelloni Sausage Ragu

Until we speak again, it seems there is life in Peckham, and it comes in a very satisfyingly un-Christmas package. Artusi is for any time, not just for Christmas!

Artusi entrance

Climate Change

Fossil fuel dependence is gradually waning, renewable sources are on the increase, and nuclear power causes its usual divisions of opinion. However, down on the south bank of the river Thames power is being restored through a wholly different climate of change… and an old icon is getting a facelift as well as a complete new purpose in life.

Until we speak again, Battersea seems to be the word for architectural puzzles these days… not just for dogs!

Kindness of strangers

Within all the horror of terrorist attacks, most recently Manchester and London in the UK, the abiding strongest message is the reporting of how strangers stop to help each other. But my recent travelling experiences to the USA have shown me that this is not only a response to terrorism.

Travelling solo to New Orleans and Chicago has left me with a great sense of how strangers are more than happy to meet, share thoughts and experiences, and are usually welcoming of people from different backgrounds.

So, to Victoria, Tom and Gayle in New Orleans, Laila in Biloxi, Steve in California, Bob in Massachusetts, Charlotte in Chicago, and Gayle and her sisters from Wisconsin… a special thanks for making a strangers travels a truly jazz funk of an experience…

Jazz Funk guys at RF's

And any blues were of the most welcoming kind (why, here is Buddy Guy in person!)…

Buddy Guy in person [2]

So until we speak again, to Jazz, Blues and all other musical cats everywhere, let the music do the communicating, as it spreads the love better than anything else! And celebrate the kindness of strangers.

Pursuit of elegance

Is this my best side?Emerging from the docklands of London, and moving to the docklands of Cardiff instilled in Juno the deep rooted need to pursue something not easily equated with the streets of former industrial heartlands… the embodiment of elegance. The interpretation of indifference has often been too easily attributed to the demeanour of cats, whereas for Juno the cool cat exterior was simply her way of communicating the natural superiority she felt over the humans whose mission it was to serve her!

On my latest work trip back to the place of her origin… Newham, East London, I was determined that some of that elegant demeanour should rub off. I and my trusty companion journeyed forth through the Isle of Dog’s and Wapping’s of the former maritime powerhouse that was once the world famous London docks, in search of elegant vitals in sublime surroundings. In the depths of the memory banks reminiscence of one St. Katherine’s Dock kept re-surfacing:

St Katherine's Dock [1]

 

Kilikya's [5]

 

A wide range of budgets and ethnic sources of restaurants and bars are available in these relaxing surroundings, but recent Turkish delights from Islington were over-powering the decision-making equipment, particularly when Kilikya’s Turkish Restaurant hove into sight, occupying a central position in one of the former dockside buildings.

The table offered a mesmerising view of water-bound tranquility…

Kilikya's [4]

… while the interior presented a subdued atmosphere conducive to the forthcoming art of consumption. The success of the pursuit had finally been confirmed by a casual glance at the wine menu, offering Cankaya, a Turkish white wine accurately described as dry, light
and elegant!Kilikya's [2]

We had most definitely achieved that ‘mission accomplished’ vibe, and it was time to surrender to the inevitable Turkish delights on offer. A selection of succulent olives and side of flatbread set up the palate for a feast. Iskender Kebap, a mix of marinated cubed chicken & lamb delicately spiced with an addition of yoghurt, a Biber Dolma presented stuffed red peppers, and even chips to die for!

Kilikya's [3]

As a midsummers evening began to give up its visual splendour we had a last opportunity to take in the elegant surroundings we had enjoyed for the past couple of hours…

St. Katherine's Dopck [4]

And all of this happened within the shadow of a true London architectural icons…

Tower Bridge at night

Until we speak again take Juno’s lead and bring some elegance into your life.

Turkey, anyone?

Juno was never oneJuno and turkey to miss the lip-smackingly tasty opportunity of turkey…

But even she would have been proud, if initially confused, of what her native London has recently served up under the name of Turkey.

To begin with there was the strangely un-metropolitan surroundings offered up by a gentle stroll along the Regents Canal between Mile End and Angel. Who would think from the following view that you were in the centre of one of the world’s largest and most recognised cities?

Regents canal [1]

But gradual progress was to take us into something more akin to metro-land as we approached the newly gentrified Islington…

Regents canal [2]

Upper Street is widely known as one of London’s premier eatery locations, with much of the world’s cuisines represented along its mile. Yet, as with Broadway in New York, you can be well served by a glance just a few yards off the main drag, as we were to be on this occasion. From Istanbul to Beirut was a call not to be missed… conjuring up all of the culinary allure of a Turkish and Lebanese fusion.

Kilis Kitchen [2]

Kilis Kitchen comes with nothing but the highest of recommendations; small but intimate at the front but with a lighter additional room to the rear.

Kilis Kitchen [3]

But you need time to takeKilis Kitchen [4] in the fabulous menu (and even try the Turkish red wine).

Dolma (stuffed vine leaves) with Sucuk (spicy lamb sausage) made a tasty mix from the starter…

Kilis kitchen [5]

 

Then comes a shish kebab to make you forget whatever it is that those fast food take-aways churn out. Succulent tender char-grilled lamb skewers proved a truly mouth-watering taste; but I am sure Juno would have turned up her nose at the lightly grilled green chilli pepper, and the tastiest of side salads, let alone the basmati rice (to her it would have been a waste of plate space better devoted to meat and more meat!).

My vegetarian companion was equally complimentary about the char-grilled halloumi starter and pan-fried marinated sardines main course. What’s more, the evidence emerged that Turkish-Lebanese combinations have learned the art of perfect chips!

Juno readyThis meal left both of us feeling like Juno’s more usual post-banquet pose…

But we had to make do with another stroll along the busy boulevard of Upper Street as it teemed with the late evening diners.

Until we speak again, don’t be drawn to the main drag when some of the real jewels are often just left-field.

Historical perspective

Juno had always been a studentNewspaper of architecture, and was often an avid reader of the appropriate pages of the Observer newspaper. Originating from London, with an unexpected relocation to Cardiff later in life, she was quick to spot a derivation of architectural style and panache.

Renzo Piano, a man with so many bars named after him, has seemingly managed to find time to dabble in the art of skyline altering. A recent London contribution has added to the view of many a bed-ridden Guy’s Hospital patient…

The Shard October 2014

But, it takes the sharp eye of a cool cat to see the origin in the originality of such dramatic design. The City United Reformed Church in the back streets of Cardiff city centre was hardly the place were a young piano might have been playing (you can take or leave the pun as you please). But, had he looked up he just might have seen a crane, or even a dark shape against the sky. Could this really have been the origin of what would later become The Shard, piercing the London skyline, and creating shock and awe for so many bored rail commuters?

City United Reformed Church [1]

Until we speak again may all of your imaginary coincidences be pleasantly weird.