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Spring Cafe, Forest Road

In food, Uncategorized on July 15, 2017 at 11:56 am

Today was a rare Saturday where I get a lie in at my flat and not my partner’s. So I decided to treat myself to breakfast at Grill on the Hill and form an opinion for a review.

They were shut. On a Saturday morning.

Being the ‘adapt and overcome’ type I moved on to Spring cafe, half way down to Blackhorse Road station. I must have walked past a thousand times, usually late in the evening when they are shut. So today became the day to give them a try!

The décor is very ‘caff’. Lots of London pictures like they want tourists to feel at home.

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The ‘London’ tablecloths

I ordered a set breakfast. Eventually. The staff member who took my order assumed I was trying to order off the other breakfast menu. When I said the set 3 breakfast I had to then describe the contents as the staff member wasn’t tall enough to see the menu board over the fridge. Ho hum.

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There are also impressive indoor plants!

While waiting I noticed they have a 4/5 council rating, which is respectable.

My fryup was typical of other local eateries. The bubble n’ squeak was particularly chunky, with plenty of veg in it. At one point they propped the front door open; like cafe 56 I don’t think exposing your customers to extra bus fumes is particularly helpful.

I think I have a softer spot for Rodi and Jessies but Spring is a reasonable fall back option.

The Great Get Together

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2017 at 8:56 am

Before anything else yeah, I know I didn’t write about the Art Trail. We just did a few of the showings on Hoe Street on the first weekend, as well as seeing a few around town. Look, if you’re the sort of person who reads local blogs you already knew and probably planned out a whole weekend to see as much as possible like artistic Pokemon. So lets just take it as read, m-kay?

On the anniversary of the murder of MP Jo Cox there was a nationwide celebration of community and we had one here in Walthamstow town square. I arrived with my partner just as Stella was opening the event. We gratefully had some of the free food laid on by Deja Vu Garden (who I must try soon) and settled in a bit of shade. The DJ played music, kids played, people lounged. I grabbed a beer (and water) from the supermarket and just chilled.

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The first of a number of local musicians.

There were performances over the afternoon from local singers, the Rose & Crown choir and some drummers. My partner and I had a walk around the stalls and made a donation to the wonderful local food bank Heat or Eat. There was a van where locals could randomly meet others from the community.

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I reckon we had a couple of hundred people at peak

As the evening wore on we came to the point where the Muslim community was about to break it’s fast. There had been a number of tickets to join them for Iftar but for the rest of us lovely Sodo pizza and Roosters chicken put on plentiful free food. The food was preceded by statements of community by Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Humanist representatives.

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Council leader Clare Coghill joined in too.

Even as the evening came to it’s end at 10PM there was still food being handed out including lovely cups of dates.

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Stella helping to hand out food while having a bop

It’s easy to talk about community but I wonder if we could have had a bigger turn out. I’m sure team running it did everything they could to publicise it but I suspect there are many people here who are so disconnected they don’t follow local blogs like this or chat on Walthamstow Life. I hope at least some of them were passing and came and sat a while. I hope they’d feel like they belonged.

‘Twas Ever Stow’ Exhibition

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2017 at 7:05 pm

There was a little craft market today in a car park on Hoe Street. Just a half dozen stalls but cute (apparently they may be there on future Sundays). But while there we were handed a flyer on a new free exhibition in the council shop on Hoe Street (where they have the pop ups) so we dropped in for a look.

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No photos were allowed inside so this is the sign in the window

The show is a celebration of the local shopping streets of High Street and Hoe Street. There are some paintings and lots of photos from each street showing the history of their development. There are quotes from local residents on display on what it was like to shop here plus focuses on a few key shops (surprisingly Sainsburys is one).

It’s a nice little exhibition and well worth dropping in to see.

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And local stained glass in the other window.

Oxjam

In music, Uncategorized on November 22, 2016 at 11:21 pm

I posted a little while back about Oxjam, a charity music event supporting Oxfam. My partner and I got to go along for a couple of hours and I had a really great time.

In my 20’s I went to a lot of pub gigs and I had a thrill of nostalgia as we went up to the Rose & Crown’s function room, made our donation and got the traditional stamp on the back of the hand. We’d come in as the Wondersmiths were playing.

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The Wondersmiths clearly loving what they do

They’re  a melodic punk band to me. The singer reminded me a lot of Jordan Pundik from New Found Glory. As ever witha  pub gig the sound balance meant he was drowned out sadly, but performed with much zest!

The room was pretty full with around 30 people, although I later realised the back function room had been opened as a bar with some more in (I went downstairs to get real ale off the taps).

After a break it was time for Velodrome. I did not realise at the time but this was in fact organiser Katherine Evans! I wish I’d known, I’d have loved to meet and congratulate her. There was some wonderful unintentional comedy while her sound tech tried to stop the speakers from exploding.

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Velodrome opens her set.

Wow, what a set. With a couple of costume changes (I am so very annoyed the photo of the Tiger onsie did not come out) she was reminiscent of Bowie or Freddie Mercury. Playing guitar and bass with her laptop she reminded me of Laptop (Jessie Hartman’s solo project). Musically her dulcet tones and rhythmic guitar brought to mind The Nields on the guitar songs, but also The Knife on the more electronic tracks.

I was so very happy to be able to buy a CD of her music on the way out. Although tape albums were available; very hip. I was tempted, but having hundreds of tapes accumulated through my teen and student years I try to at least move forward with my technology. (I’m enjoying listening to the CD as I write this).

Sadly I was limited to just a couple of hours of this all evening gig. And I really mean that; I am genuinely sad I missed all the other bands. Very well done to Katherine, the volunteers and the bands involved. I’d love this to be an annual event. It’s exactly the sort of thing I hoped to find when I started this blog.

Oxjam Walthamstow

In music, Uncategorized on November 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm

So Katherine Evans reached out to me about her upcoming charity event and it sounds rather spiffy!

“I’m single-handedly organising Oxjam Walthamstow, a charity fundraising gig in November at Ye Olde Rose and Crown pub. It’s a special Oxjam because as well as raising money for Oxfam, I am primarily promoting local female and LGBTQI artists. It’s going to be a very interesting if not slightly bizarre evening, with live drama, hip hop, female punk bands, and experimental rock.”

The event is on Saturday 19th November from 6PM and donations will be taken on the door.

There are more details of the event in the facebook page including a list of acts who are appearing:
And the Twitter account is here:
https://twitter.com/E17Oxjam
Go see!

Pillars Brewery Launch Party

In Drink, Uncategorized on October 16, 2016 at 3:44 pm

You may have noticed my posts display a certain love of all things ale as well as local. So I was  most excited to receive an invite from Kayleigh Bell to the launch party of Four Pillars Brewery (now rebranded to just Pillars Brewery). So stopping off at Central station to meet my beer geek friend Helena who came as my +1 off we went to the Ravenswood Industrial Estate.

(I hope there was never a wood full of ravens that was demolished to make an industrial estate. That would be sad.)

You know the phrase “So new the paint was still wet”? Well…

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Shiny new!

The door to Unit 2 was unadorned but on entering the smell of fresh paint was most clear 🙂

On entering we were greeted by the effusive Omar Razaq, brewer and ‘co-pillar’, who gave us a very warm welcome and led us to the bar, telling us about their beers. The brewery does have a standing tap room serving all their beers on draught.

Pillars Tap Room

The tap room. From here, off to the right of this shot, you can see all their fermenters while you drink the produce.

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Ooh, check out your fancy taps!

So, lets go through the lovely beers. I consumed one of each as I am a dedicated reviewer. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Pillars founder Gavin (I didn’t get his business card, sorry Gavin!) who explained them to me:

  1. Untraditional Lager (4.5% ABV) this is an ‘Indian Pale Lager’, cold fermented for 8 weeks. It’s intended as a session beer and is wonderfully well rounded. Many IPAs tend to jack up the hops to compensate for mediocre undertones but Untraditional lets them play the same rhythm as other flavours. Currently this is the flagship brew which is going out to the restaurant and pub trade (I saw Joe, the owner of the Rose & Crown, there). There are no immediate plans to sell to the off licence trade as bottling/canning is an extra complication to a new business but Gavin seemed open to the idea in the future.
  2. Pillars Pilsner (4.5%) I think Gavin was trying to tell us this was going to be called ‘Pillsner’ but the clever wordplay got a bit lost. This is a ‘Work in Progress’ beer that may be part of the product line up but currently is just being sold through the tap room. It’s the most typical of the line up but is a very nice, light colour, quality Pilsner that I can see doing very well in restaurants.
  3. AmarilloFest (5.6%) An Oktoberfest style lager made with a rare box of American Amarillo hops. This was a bit of a special one-off brew and my favourite of the evening. Deeper flavour with the higher ABV giving it more body and caramel solidity. Again, this one is destined purely for the tap room.

Gavin went on to explain that along with their ales Pillars tap room will also carry local wines (a couple of reds, whites and a rosé) and some local spirits (although not gin to avoid annoying the neighbours at Mother’s Ruin). They will also have bar snacks including crisps made at a nearby farm!

One interesting point in the conversation is why they chose the Ravenwood estate. I assumed that they wanted to be in that creative nexus but apparently there is a shortage of small industrial space in Walthamstow. When Unit 2 became free they snapped it up, despite being a bit bigger than they were planning for.

Which was a surprise, looking at their beautiful hardware.

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Cold fermenters

Currently they have 120 hectolitres of capacity which ferments each batch for 8 weeks. That’s 780 hectolitres a year according to the simplistic maths. That sounds like a lot to me!

The evening progressed with fancy canpés and more chat. I had my coat off a bit but soon needed to put it back on like all the other guests. Gavin told us they had electric heating but it wasn’t yet ready due to technical issues. But the excellent soundtrack, delightful finger food and of course fabulous beer made for a great evening.

Having to walk Helena back to Central for her trip home we decamped at 10pm but ended up chatting outside with Omar again and Rob, one of the Wildcard bar staff. The warmth and joy of the indie beer scene was very evident and we spent quite a bit more time learning of other brews to try and pubs to try them in.

I think Pillars have placed themselves perfectly. Geographically their tap room will add to the mass of the social sun that the estate is becoming. The business ideals seem sound and I can see Untraditional doing very, very well in London’s pubs and eateries. And finally in product; IPA’s as a beer style are currently immensely popular. Their tap room is serving a very different lineup from Wildcard (although I can see them becoming two bars of the same ‘venue’).

The official launch of the tap room will be at the end of October.

Save Higham Hill Library Campaign

In Uncategorized on September 17, 2016 at 8:50 pm

So my local library is under threat of being sold off to developers. There is a campaign to save (Facebook group) it with a petition in progress.

When I spent 3 years out of work the library was a refuge. I’d read papers in there and browse books. In Winter it was simply somewhere warm I could sit for a few hours when I couldn’t afford heating.

Please sign the petition and spread the word.

Studio 69

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2016 at 6:20 pm

I got my first tattoo today. At 43 years old I got inked at Bell Corner.

The tattoo is personal, and one I’d wanted for a long time. Quite a while ago Studio69 was recommended by a few people in the Walthamstow Life FB group and I made a note. I dropped in a few weeks ago but both the tattooists were away on holiday. But I was impressed by the assistance and advice of their colleague so a few days later committed to an appointment with a £20 deposit.

While it was the first tattoo I have number of body piercngs and I can say that the professionalism of the staff there impressed me. A frank discussion of potential health issues as revealed on an obligatory form (I ticked a couple of those boxes). And a discussion of what I wanted, and the best way to achive it.

My tattooist, Desmond, was very friendly and constructive. His work area was clean and well organised and it was clear that he took good care of his equipment. He stopped often to check I was okay during the process.

I’m clearly no expert on the field but my experience here was totally positive. I’m really happy I could get the work done locally. Apparently they have been there for over 6 years and such a creative place fits in well with the Bell Corner regeneration.

Central Parade and Today Bread

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2016 at 4:44 pm

After a long run of successful pop up businessess in the council owned shop on Hoe St they’ve decided to go large and turn the big unit on Central Parade into a hive of startups (God, I remember when it was the benefits office while I was out of work 2008 to 2011). According to local artist Antonietta Torsiello (who I’ll return to later) the venue is a project with an organisation called Meanwhile Space who turn unused buildings to profitable community use.

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Minimal decor of a new venue. The room in the background is the shared working space area.

But initially we were there for lunch at the cafe run by local bakers Today Bread (Check out how rough their website is). While it’s clear in the picture it was busy it was not too bad for a Saturday lunchtime. While in the queue my partner went and grabbed a menu…

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Meaaaaat… must have meaaaat sandwich…

“Meat sandwich”. Nope, not at all ominous. Did not have me wondering where all those missing Walthamstow cats are, nope…

So we got to the front and the meat sandwich of the day was a sliced italian procsetto (sp?) with beatroot. Sadly they later found they were out of meaaaaat (sorry, just sounds like that in my head) so my partner joinded me in a cheese and onion pickle sandwich as she didn’t fancy the third and final vegetarian option. There are a few small cakes too but it’s nowhere near the spread you get at Indulgence. I had an Earl Geay tea and my partner a coffee. We camped on the stools next to the window to watch life go by. Already out were jugs of tapwater and fresh little glasses; always a classy touch. My partner really liked the coffee and thinks it may be the same nutty blend used in No 56. When they brought our drinks over we also got the wifi password which is always appreciated.

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Cheeeeese sandwich (okay, you’ll just have to imagine that running joke is being said by a zombie)

And the sandwich was really nice. The cheese tasted really good, not cheap supermarket gumf. And the bread, as one would hope, was excellent. Obviously more expensive than a sandwich along the high street but not overpriced and a genuine pleasure.

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Retail units

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Art and display cases

After the nice lunch we had a browse at the display cases around the cafe area showing local products and a look in a couple of the retail units. Which is where we met Antonietta who told us about her work and sharing the unit with another artist. My partner was very taken with one of her African prints which had red telephone boxes as a motif and treated herself to some art! Not what we expected to do today.

The other units seemed to be a photographer, a wedding dress designer and a crafts/gifts shop.

While browsing a map of the venue there seem to be office and studio spaces downstairs plus the shared work space.

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There’s not much segregation between the work space and a room full of young families and hard, flat walls. I suspect headphones are very useful.

Overall I think it’s a very positive venture. I was visiting family in Stoke-On-Trent last weekend and this is the sort of venture that could really boost an area hit by the recession like that. I’m glad we have one here; despite gentrification there are still plenty of people who need support to get their dreams off the ground.

Walthamstow Garden Party 2016

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 at 9:56 pm

When I started this blog during a period of unemployment I intended it to be a look into the stranger side of the stow. Well, I never made it to the fetish clubs and here I am writing up another Garden Party. Not really much in the way of rock n’ roll investigative journalism. Sorry.

But it does give me a place to talk about the fun, neat stuff we do have!

So there has been a lot of discussion online about the queuing on Saturday. I arrived with my partner and her elderly parents at 12:05 as we had scooched in quickly at this time last year. We arrived to find a long queue had already formed and joined it half way down Winns Terrace. It sat still for ages. Fortunately that whole stretch is shaded by trees in Lloyd Park so we were comfortable on a very hot day and my missus was quite happily catching Pokemon. Eventually we got moving and entered the park at 1PM. There was an odd segregation of families with prams/pushchairs and the rest. The reason soon became evident with the bag search and body scan at the entrance. We were swiped all over with a metal detector; a sad sign of the times. I suspect the sniffer dog was a bit overkill. But then we finally got in!

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So by this point were were ready for lunch and wanted to get fed before the inevitable massive lines. My partner and I went for Peruvian burgers; which only really differed from regular burgers by virtue of the crunchy, vermicelli like fried potato. They were nice and and the in laws enjoyed their sandwiches.

Fuelled we progressed to some of the stalls. Rather shockingly this year while we were given a map at the entrance there was no listings of timed events! According to the Barbican stall the listing was available online or we could photo their lamianted hand made one. Maybe a budget cut?

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The poetry tent

So we had a wander around South Field. The poetry tent seemed well attended and the blackboard outside listed a full day of performances. There was a ‘comedic’ trampoline act (sarcastic quotes intended). I took the opportunity to duck into the Wildcard tent to grab a pint of King of Hearts while they were quiet; £5.50 a pint feels like a festival price, but 50p of that does go to the Garden Party fund for next year.

Settling on the grassy knoll (sadly uncut on the sides; was such a nice perch last year for so many) we watched a Tai Chi group perform. Then the Walthamstow Acoustic Massive set up and launched into their cover of Hotel California. Sadly at this point my partner and parents had enough of the sun and voted to leave meaning I had to miss the WAM’s cover of ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’, which was totally epic last year. Mind you, this year they were a bit smothered by the booming PA of the big tent a hundred meters away 😦

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The WAM

So off we wandered to the food tent, followed by the local groups tent. I had great chats with volunteers for the St James St and William Morris ward Big Local organisations which have both won £1 million development grants. As I live on the edge of the WM ward I’m really glad to hear of their work. St James St are already revamping shop fronts and interiors.

My partner wanted to look in the flower garden and we had a nice stroll through the flower beds failing to recognise any plants.

As we’d returned to near the entrance we took the opportunity to browse the arts and crafts tents (“The home of those who make an create”, y’know?) and checked out the Thams tile installation which was being built. It seems like visitors can make a tile using artefacts found along the Thames. It was a nice piece, I thought.

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The Thames installation in the front garden

At this point we gave up and retreated to Peaky Blenders for tea and coffee and a much shorter queue than the beer tents. But the weather had taken it’s toll on the in laws and they bid us good day.

In an effort to see some music we went to the big main Barbican tent where a band consisting of two drummers and a keyboard player were playing some sort of dance music (remember, I can’t tell you who they are, no listing). The keyboard player at the front was trying to be a bit of a poser, but that fails unless you are Rick Wakeman. Anyway, it was a all a bit samey so we headed to the dance tent where my other half had a bit of a rave reliving her yoof. I sat on a bench and wrote my notes for this review; my yoof was all metal and mosh pits.

I have to wonder at the demographic mix; There seemed to be lots of young families, hipsters and, unlike the Stoneydown park festival, teenagers. With the event appearing in Time Out and being tweeted by Eurostar it was widely publicised. There were still long queues visible outside. Is is choking on its own success?

So, more food. We queued for jerk chicken. They were out of peas and rice but did us plain rice with a dumpling. They also had no soft drinks left. Hopefully that was indicative of all the stalls having a prosperous day.

At which point we felt worn out by a long afternoon in the sun. We left and meandered home, feeling good. Very well done to all involved in running the event!