Londoneer: Samosa Session @ Chilli Chutney

I’m glad that I’m a bit of a foodie, because here comes my second restaurant blog entry of the week. Courtesy of my friends at Qype (and TikiChris in particular) I was down in Streatham earlier this evening at Chilli Chutney.

You can find Chilli Chutney amongst a small group of bistros just down the street from Streatham’s 1930s era Odeon Cinema, and it’s not at all what you’d expect. In fact, there’s no flock wallpaper at all – instead you’ll find a bright and airy modern space where you can even take a seat at the window to watch the world go by. The differences don’t stop there either, as this restaurant specialises in cuisine from Lahore, located in Pakistan’s Punjab region, so apart from the usual staples you’d expect to find there are a whole range of specialities, some of which are new to me, and I thought I was quite well-versed in food from the Indian subcontinent.  

My main reason for being here tonight was to take part in a samosa-making event and so, after some introductions and a few samples of the restaurant’s dishes (including some slices of a very-moreish Roghni naan unique to the region – a soft, flat bread made with yoghurt and eggs and dusted with sesame seeds) we were invited to gather round for instruction on how to make the perfect samosa. Using a blend of eight spices, plain flour, water and the filling (in this case lightly spiced potato and peas and, for the meat lovers, lamb mince and peas) some of the restaurant’s expert chefs lined up to show us how it was done. They certainly made it look very simple and straightforward, but then I hadn’t taken into account the fact that these guys produce several hundred of these little parcels each and every day. My clumsy attempt, in contrast, was a disaster – I ended up with a scotch-egg shaped lump of pastry with a big bulge of filling in the middle which bore no resemblance to the delicate triangles the chefs were rapidly piling up on the table!

After the samosas that we had prepared were cooked and served we then sat down to sample some more of Chilli Chutney’s signature dishes. We were presented with a delicate lentil dhal and also an aromatic chicken achari (another speciality of the house), along with some more bread, including what I was reliably informed was a stuffed naan, but what a surprise! Clearly the cooking techniques from this region differ from what I’m used to, because instead of the bubbly, soft bread that is served at my local restaurant (and which, frankly, I find a bit sickly) this was dense and firm with a thin uniform layer of filling running through it. Like the rhogni we had tried earlier, it was very, very good indeed. 

In summary, we had a very pleasant evening in very nice surroundings, and the food and service at Chilli Chutney was excellent. In fact, …

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TheLondoneer: Visit The Incredible Edible Gingerbread House @ The Brunswick Centre

From tomorrow, for just three days, a magical gingerbread house will be on show at the Brunswick Centre over in Bloomsbury in aid of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

For young visitors, there will be a trail leading them inside the Brunswick Centre where they will discover a giant edible gingerbread house. There’ll be giant gingerbread men, accordion players and storytellers to entertain the children and of course there will also be opportunities to eat yourself silly! Created by Alma-nac Collaborative Architecture, the gingerbread house will have three distinct types of tiles you can munch on – traditional gingerbread, vanilla and chocolate short pastry, while overhead meringue clouds will hang from the ceiling. There are other interesting things to discover, including some chocolate furniture and a gingerbread-making class led by Lily Vanilli, but I don’t want to completely spoil the surprise for kids who head along. Tickets to enter the gingerbread house will only be £2, with another £2 donation for any children taking part in the gingerbread-making sessions. Just remember that it’s all been set up to help this important children’s charity. Enjoy!

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The Affordable Art Fair

Thousands of pieces of original artwork of all kinds will be on display and available for purchase, ranging in price from £50 to £3000 (although what’s affordable about 3 grand I’m not quite sure!). There will also be lots of informative talks and hands-on demonstrations themed around the idea of ‘Park Life’, including mural painting, printing and lots of activities for kids. The Fair had 25,000 visitors last year and the organisers are hoping for even more this time around. Entry price is £12 to £15 per person on the door, but you can book more cheaply in advance by calling 0870 7772255 or by visiting their website here.…

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London’s Weekend Of Festivals – E17, SW8 & N1

This weekend marks one of your last opportunities to enjoy some community-organised music and merriment in London this year, but never fear – people in the East, the South and the North are all catered for with three festivals across the capital.

From Friday 6 September to Monday 9 September, over in E17 it’s the music-focused Stow Festival which takes place at pubs, bars and cafes across the area – most of the gigs are free! On Saturday afternoon you can also check out the Walthamstow Acoustic Massive who will be taking over the town square (that area between Natwest and BHS), and there’s a musical tour of Walthamstow taking place at 2pm. You can follow their Twitter feed to keep up to date.

On Saturday afternoon from 12 until about 5:30, SW8 gets in on the action with the Stockwell Festival, which takes place at Larkhall Park. There are three spots when you can enjoy live entertainment – the main Stockwell Stage, the Community Performance Quarter where you can learn some drumming and zumba, and the Cabaret Tent (which is over 18s only so expect things to get a tiny bit saucy – there’s a burlesque workshop if you’re brave enough). Again they also have a Twitter feed to follow.

On Sunday the third annual Cally Festival arrives at Caledonian Park in N1 (regular readers will remember that it hosted the remarkable BABEL late last Spring). Again split across three stages – the Main Stage, a Youth Stage (based in an old Airstream trailer) and Story Street, which is an area set aside specifically for kids, there’s something for everyone. The Cally Festival also involves a street market which will offer everything from gourmet food to garden plants.

Whatever the weather there’s no excuse not to get out and about this weekend, unless you live in West London that is – but you guys had the Notting Hill Carnival recently so it’s only fair that the other points of the compass get in on the act, right?…

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Cool Places To Buy Kitchenware & Kitchenalia In London

London is a hub for quirky, effervescent, unique shops, market stalls and charity outlets that sell a range of fantastic items for every room in the home.  One place that I like show my personality is in the kitchen, and for this reason I have become an expert of some of the more cool, and occasionally wacky, shops in which to find some fabulous kitchenware to really stamp originality on my home.

Palmers Green (North London) offers a superb selection of charity shops where, if you take your time and peruse carefully, you can pick up some unique items for your kitchen which are unlikely to be found in your friends’ kitchens! Likewise Portobello Rd has some marvellous second hand stores which can lead to amazing discoveries that can add character to your kitchen without breaking the bank.

An expert in this field, Vincent from leading design company Increation shares the fact that:

“One of my favourite’s stores is Divertimenti. It’s a pleasure to spend time browsing and cooks heaven.”

Check out the shop the next time you are in town and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

If money is no object then luxury stores such as Harrods and Liberty might have what you’re looking, as they juxtapose the traditional beside the unusual, creating ideas and must haves for all types of people.  My favourite purchase of late was a moustache corkscrew from Liberty which always raises an eyebrow at dinner parties!

If you find yourself in Islington make sure to pay a visit to the Gill Wing Cook Shop – the proprietor used to run the Cookshop at Harrods.  This delightful store offers possibly one of the best kitchenware range in the city and caters for all types and tastes.  The reason I am drawn here time and time again is because of the vast knowledge that the stop manager and assistants possess – no question goes unanswered and they really can help with any and all of your kitchenalia needs.

Covent Garden market still holds a host if unusual finds for the kitchen and taking a stroll up Kensington High street or Oxford Street will lead you to Urban Outfitters – true, they’re mainly a clothing retail outlet but on occasion they stock some fab kitsch items that can really brighten up a kitchen.

If you want to give your dinner parties a Japanese twist, head along to the Japan Centre on Regents Street where a fascinating choice of Miso bowls, chopsticks and Sukiyaki pans await you. Once you have all the utensils that you need to cook Japanese food, they can also supply some of the key ingredients to help you make a fabulous meal.

Finally, to really put a piece of London next to your breadbin you may want to consider a trip to the one of London’s major museums. Once you have finished marvelling at the beautiful works of art you can investigate the shop – you’ll be surprised at the number of …

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TheLondoneer: ‘Set Sail’ Landing in Trafalgar Square On Thursday – ‘World Stage’ Tour

I’ve just heard about a rather fun new acoustic pop band, ‘Set Sail’. Consisting of 3 young Australians, this coming weekend they will be on the London leg of a 48 city, 5 continent trip which for obvious reasons they’ve dubbed the ‘World Stage’ tour.

[EDIT] I’ve been in touch with ‘Set Sail’ and they are now performing on Trafalgar Square at about 1pm on Thursday, and are hoping to do a complete set of material. If you pop over to their Facebook page or their YouTube channel you can see what they’ve been up to so far. There has been what looked like a great little impromptu performance in a Berlin park (which attracted some rather colourful dancers), they’ve had problems with overzealous police in Paris and they’ve even been entertaining other passengers on the flights they’ve been taking to reach all of the destinations on their tour…

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TheLondoneer: What’s In a Name?

Specifically Londonderry, which we visited on Tuesday. Republicans, some of whom who have scored out part of the name on many of the road signs heading out from Belfast, know it as “derry”.

As I’d only heard about the city as part of the history of the Troubles I had no concept of what this little place was going to present to us, and I have to say it was a total surprise, most of it pleasant.

I wasn’t aware, for example, that the city has an entirely intact city wall, completed in 1618 to protect the inhabitants from raiders, which is pierced by seven gates in all. Again, the influx of European money is clearly in evidence here as well, as the entire area around the old Guildhall is being refreshed to turn it into an Irish version of a traditional Italian piazza. Even without stepping inside, the Tower Museum is also a remarkable sight.

There’s also a small but perfectly formed Cathedral, dedicated to St Columb, which overlooks the part of the city that continues to show evidence of the Troubles, the Bogside. The problems in Northern Ireland are historically deemed to have stemmed from here after the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ which took place in the summer of 1969, and during which over 1000 people were injured – curb stones on the estate resolutely remain painted in red, white and blue to this day.

If you’re visiting Northern Ireland then the city really has to be on your itinerary but, given its tiny dimensions, an afternoon should give you enough time to see it all.…

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Dalston’s Secret Green Space – The Eastern Curve Garden

The garden is built over the route of the old railway line which used to link Dalston Junction with an old goods yard up until the 1960s, and this forgotten patch of land was then used for storage for many years. In 2009 architecture collective EXYZT acquired the site for the construction of the temporary ‘Dalston Mill’ (seen here on the Barbican’s page from that year) and in 2010 the garden appeared.

Today the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden features a popular open air cafe, raised beds for the growing of vegetables and flowers and lots of green space in which to relax – something that’s in short supply in the centre of Dalston. The most recent addition to the garden is the Pineapple House, a much-needed greenhouse to allow the green-fingered volunteers to propagate new plants before they’re introduced to the harsh Dalston climate! The garden plays host to lots of organised activities too, for both children and adults – see the events calendar for more details.

The garden is in a very unusual spot, hemmed in by buildings on two sides and a car park on the other – it’s a lovely little oasis of calm with a ‘secret garden’ quality to it, given that you enter via an anonymous door off the main road. In terms of its unique features, it can certainly lay claim to having the most unusual scarecrows in London and there’s also a rather unique take on the ‘firepit’ concept over on one side! The garden also features a couple of works by street art favourite, Stik, as well as some unusual stone heads that are dotted around here and there.

 
 

 
 

 
 

If you’re local, the voluntary group that runs the site is always looking for helpers, whether you’re comfortable pouring tea or handy with a trowel – you’ll find the sign-up form here.

In a rather troubling development, the Hackney Citizen reports that the future of the Eastern Curve Garden is currently in doubt, as there’s been a lot of new development in the immediate area in recent years and long-standing proposals call for the removal of the garden and its replacement by a shopping street. Let’s hope that local councillors see sense and leave it exactly as it is – this is a wonderful resource for locals and visitors alike. I imagine that it will be absolutely thronged with people this weekend if the warm weather arrives as promised…

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Londoneer: Pretty Flowers and Little Lambs, Urban Style

I went for a walk down to Brick Lane and over to Columbia Road flower market with a friend today. It gave me a chance to indulge in a bit of gratuitous photography, including some great examples of urban art:

We also wandered around Hackney City Farm for a while, which I’ve visited before, but this time the brand new lambs were tottering about- they must have been born in the last week or so – everyone say ah 🙂

We finished up at the Flea Pit coffee shop/bar/performance space on Columbia Road, and left very disappointed. We were served by an extremely sullen waitress and had a *ten minute* wait for two very mediocre coffees. If you happen to be down this way on a Sunday morning I’d patronise one of the many other venues around – not this place… being “organic” is no excuse for absolutely attrocious service.…

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Londoneer: The NME Small Venue Awards – Bush Hall for the London Prize

You might know that the NME have an annual award to celebrate live music venues across England. Several places in London are up for the award this year including the Bar Fly in Camden and the celebrated 100 Club on Oxford St. 

 
 

My vote will be going to Bush Hall however, the beautiful and intimate little venue on Uxbridge Road just down the street from Shepherds Bush Market tube station. It’s incredible inside – covered in elaborate plaster mouldings from floor to ceiling it’s like stepping back into the late 19th century. I’ve seen several bands there in the fairly recent past, most notably a manic performance by the wonderful Liam Finn in late 2009 which was breathtaking!

If you’re interested in supporting London’s smaller live music venues (and frankly there’s nothing like being up close and personal to your favourite artists in an intimate setting, compared to somewhere corporate and vast like the O2 for example) then please make your vote count. The competition closes on 10 June, so get online and pick your favourite venue on the NME website here.…

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