It’s probably fair to say that the most enduring global stereotypes of London run along its latitude: Westminster, Mayfair, Soho and the West End have more than enough London icons for the casual tourist. If you’ve watched My Fair Lady, been in a black cab, or watched a certain TV drama, then you’ve graduated to the East End stereotypes. In between these you have the City, with its bowler hats, braces and brollies.
For Londoners, the real divide, more often than not, runs north to south; a cleaner split than the East-West division provided by the Thames.
You don’t have to travel far from the river to be reminded of London’s status as a diverse cultural capital. While the West and East contain much that is peculiarly English, the North is often more of a global melting pot. If all roads lead to London, then a fair percentage of those lead to North London…and then turn into Kingsland road. On Wednesday I did the same.
First stop, Camden town, which is something of a bohemian centre, even if it has become a little samey recently - there are only so many leather bracelets, tattoos and ‘Keep Calm’ t-shirts a man can enjoy in one day. As ever in London, though, wander a few seconds away from the tourist traps and there’s something a little more interesting around the corner…usually in the form of a pub or a concert venue. The Roundhouse in Camden and the Forum just down the road in Kentish Town share band-hosting duties with ever other pub in the area. The general area is a haven for both up-and-coming and already-made-it indie rockers.
After a morning in Camden we were ready for lunch, but none of the carnival-stall food around there really appealed. I decided to put the oft-suggested idea of a ‘curry crawl’ into action, sneaking a taste of as many different dishes in one long walk as my stomach would allow. The West End has its Chinatown, but this feels less organic than the communities a little further up from Piccadilly. A walk up Kingsland, through Stoke Newington to Stamford Hill gave us the chance to sample a dozen different cultures, and their respective dishes, in one go. We started at Dalston Junction and headed due north.
A short detour off K road into Ridley street market is like stepping onto another continent. Walking along in my distinctly English Pin Collar shirt I felt like an Englishman abroad. I’m not a contestant on I’m a Celebrity yet though, so pig’s trotter soup can wait for another day.
I did, however, love the bright bold patterns being worn at almost every stall. West Africans aren’t afraid to rock a bit of colour, no matter what season it happens to be; one thing we definitely have in common (BLOGGED Winter Sun).
Back on the main strip, there are markets heaving with Ghanaian stews, Jerk chicken from Jamaica, Thai, Indian and Malaysian curries: I tried all of them. Chinese pork buns and steamed dumplings were a nice reminder of my recent Singapore trip, then a square or three of Turkish baklava to finish me off; from gourmet to gourmand in an afternoon.
Leaving Stoke Newington we arrived in Stamford Hill, the largest Hasidic Jewish community in Europe. In the interests of fairness we found a bakery and bought a little Matzen bread, but this would have to wait until Breakfast the next morning: I was already a very full English!
P.S the 'Pin Collar Shirts' Winter Sale finishes a fortnight from Friday. I'd hate for you to miss out...
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