"It's not much but it's ours"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


After yesterday’s return to South London a la recherché de hubcaps perdu and the shameful admission that I actually used to live there, it seemed only fitting that I spend today heading up to the other end of The Northern Line to two more of my old stamping grounds.

Back in the early 90’s I left publishing for an all to brief moment to go and work for a brand licensing company. I hated every last minute of it and six months later I scampered back into the welcoming arms of the first publisher who asked me.

The only good part about the whole wretched experience was that the owners of the company used to take us to lunch most days at a rather splendid food court off the top end of The Edgware Road where I had my first Bibim Bap, my first Pho and more dumplings than you can shake a won ton at.

Back then it was called Yohan Plaza. Now it is called Oriental City. But, not for much longer. Why? Because the good cretins of Brent Council have decided that what London needs is not one of its food treasures, but a B&Q. Patently it is more important to most people to be able to have a regular supply of Artex than a plate of Hokkien noodles.

If you have been reading along (and if not, why not?) you will know that I just got back from a few weeks in Australia. One of the things that really did impress me was their food courts which offer a bewildering variety of Asian dishes to a wide audience at very little cost. We have precious little of that in London and now, we are about to lose the one example we have.

They are fighting it, of course, and, if you look at the picture of their poster you can see the link to post a complaint to the council should you so desire. But, today, there did seem to be an air of inevitable despondency about the place. It was buzzing with a mixed lunchtime crowd and the stalls were all chopping, stir frying and steaming to full effect, but it just seemed a bit weary. The food was fine though and, for £11, I got a big plate of noodlage and some decent crispy pork in big enough portions to feed two people.

After lunch, I wandered through into the supermarket which also seemed to be weighed down under the burden of inevitable closure. Shelves once laden with the weird and the wonderful were empty and while there was still lots to look at and go “ what the fuck is that?” or “ who knew the Thai’s made wine?” It did all seem a little bit dispiriting.

So, it looks like another foodie landmark is about to fall off the map of London. Still, you all know now where to go if you need some polystyrene coving.

To make myself feel better, I stopped off on the way home at another area I used to call home, Golders Green. I don’t think I have walked down The Golders Green Rd for nearly twenty years since I lived there after leaving university.

Little has changed, it would appear. The local Jewish populace still seem to be the masters of the triple park and the sound of honking horns is as constant as it ever used to be. The other constant is Carmelli’s Bagel Bakery, a local institution.

People seem to think it has been there forever, but, if my memory serves me correctly, it only opened in 1986 (or this branch did) a fact I recall because I was their third ever customer. As I stopped en route from station to flat and pondered on what to have for supper, my nostrils were assaulted ( in the most positive sense of the word) with the waft of baking and I stepped in to buy my first ever onion bagel. What a memory.

Today, though, just four plain bagels and a few pictures. But, at least this place is unlikely to be replaced with a B&Q.

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Anonymous Silverbrow said...

Yup, you're right about Carmelli's, only going since the late 1980s. It's the only branch and the fat bloke with curly hair in your picture is the owner. He's regularly to be seen sweating into a vat of boiling bagels.

Darn shame you didn't stop off at Bloom's next door for a salt beef sandwich, i'd be interested to know what you think. If you fancy a tasting let me know.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 9:09:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I would certainly be up for a visit to Blooms. There are a few other things on their menu I want to try too

Name your day


Wednesday, May 30, 2007 6:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Oonth said...

The supermarket at Oriental City is definitely a pale shadow of its former self. I used to get some great ingredients there especially sashimi from the fish counter but on a recent visit I came away emptyhanded. And the whole place seems more run down than ever before, clearly they are fighting a losing battle to keep the developers away. Did you ever check out the Durian shop in the outside courtyard?

Saturday, June 02, 2007 1:21:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I did. It was closed when I visited last week, unfortunately. It looked a bit deserted, so i am not sure if it is still open. Shame


Saturday, June 02, 2007 7:49:00 am  
Anonymous Oonth said...

Like you, I despair about the absence of any {Asian} food court culture in London. There are all those stalls in the Stables market in Chalk Farm but I'm not sure any of them are actually worth frequenting.

Bon voyage and bon appetit for the sabbatical by the way. I've just started one myself after a 2 year stint in NYC and will be heading for Thailand/Asia next week. Trans-Mongolian, Camino do Santiago and lots of good eating/drinking are on my radar too.

Agreed that Whitecross Street is a winner by the way, I used to work near there and was a regular lunchtime visitor for both food and cheap CDs!! There's a fine chippie near the top end of the street, the name escapes me for the moment.

Saturday, June 02, 2007 11:21:00 am  
Anonymous Su-Lin said...

I haven't seen that durian shop open at all but I only ventured out to Oriental City for the first time last year. Shame it's closing...

Monday, June 04, 2007 12:10:00 pm  

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