An Evening at Wimbledon

Wimbledon is underway. I hail from south-west London about 15 minutes away from Wimbledon, so I’ve always been relatively close to the action for such a major sporting event. I do appreciate sport, and living with a boy has made me enjoy different types of sport much more than I would of my own accord. There’s something about tennis though which I feel has broad appeal; it is a civilised game with headline names and celebrated venues. Wimbledon is particularly full of tradition across the spectrum of wealth, whether it’s Lanson champagne and Debenture annual tickets, or the queue at 5am and a bag full of sausage rolls. Unsurprisingly I fall into the latter category.

I’ve been to Wimbledon every year since 2010. The usual routine is a 4.45am taxi to the Queue, haul ourselves to the end, marvel that people camping are already packing up their tents, and buy the Guardian and use the associated blanket to spread out on the grass and possibly catch 40 winks. This assumes that the weather is splendid, and to be fair, every year apart from one has been sunny, clear, and a little cold. Getting your queue card and seeing that you’ve made the first 5000 is relieving and allows for a more relaxed queuing experience.

However, this year I’ve chosen to dedicate my annual leave to various international jaunts so instead I’m using my evenings to catch some of the action.

As I mentioned in my last post, the weather is blissful at the moment. I picked up a bag of goodies from Whole Foods in Fulham (sorry bank account), including some fresh lemonade, baguette, cheeses, plump cherries and ice cold watermelon slices. Worth it!

It’s £18 for a ground pass after 5pm for the first few days. If you’re going under a ground pass ticket, the first couple of days are the best to go because this entry gives you access to courts 3-18, and as a knockout tournament, this is when the majority of matches on these courts are played. The price of a ground pass decreases as the Championships progress to reflect that you’re less likely to see as much the longer the tournament continues. We gained entry at about 6pm and proceeded straight to the famous Order of Play board to strategise. The majority of matches were underway, and the big names had played earlier in the afternoon. We caught Richard Gasquet on Court 18 in a close match against the Australian Luke Saville, a highly charged match between Maria Erakovic and Yulia Putintseva on Court 19, and Marsel Ilhan versus the towering Jerzy Janowicz on Court 5. I have to say, when you have access to the Hill (the Mound now?), a picnic and good company, the fact that you’re not watching the headliners doesn’t matter. Every court has world class tennis and an excitement around it. Every court we approached was full to the brim.

Oh watermelon. How I adore thee. Ice cold, crunchy, juicy and pink. I’m convinced everyone was looking at me enviously. It may have just been the slurping.

If you’re planning on joining the Queue of an evening during this year’s Wimbledon Championships, I would advise getting there no later than 5pm, and earlier if you can on a day where big names like Mr Murray are playing. Bring a picnic full of your favourite food and drink to save pennies on the familiar food-van type meals on offer inside the grounds, and make sure you’re stocked up with cash. Although you’ll spend much of the day sweltering, don’t forget a jumper as it can get cool in the shade. Don’t waste any time in the shop – get to those courts. I think even if you’re not a fan of the sport, it’s difficult not to get carried way with the jovial atmosphere. I’ll be visiting again this week and then keeping up with it on the television box and at the various live sites around central London. I’m aware that Murray is looking on good form, but personally I’d love it if Federer had it in him for a win!

Clerkenwell, Sunshine and Stationery

What a day. Every so often the sun throws her English expectations out of the window and comes out in full force. Today was one of those days: blue skies, no clouds, warm breeze, people everywhere. It’s impossible not to be enamoured by a day like this in London. I spent the opportunity being outside as much as possible. Unfortunately a good part of this outdoor pursuit involved visiting a site I’m working on in Hammersmith, right on the Broadway. Heat and exhaust fumes don’t make for the most charming summer memories. But this afternoon when I skipped out of work I took a long walk to Clerkenwell.

One of life’s great pleasures for me is stumbling upon a new place. Luckily there are endless possibilities for this to happen in London. I found a green space called Spa Fields, just south of the wonderful Exmouth Market. It’s not the largest park in the world, and probably took me about 5 minutes to stroll through in its entirety. I thought it was incredibly characterful though, with some interesting landscape architecture elements including a rolling set of mounds comparable to a mini BMX track, a lavender plantation, vine covered arches and a pyramidal centre building. The yellow grass shows quite how warm it’s been recently.

 

What was noticeable about this park was the range of people using and enjoying it. There were locals and young people, office workers with their trousers rolled up and families. There are many playful elements wrapped up in this green space that make it seem a bit quirky.

Coming out of the park I headed towards Arlington Way, just past Sadlers Wells theatre on the way to Angel. I was intentionally heading here to visit the fabulous Present & Correct shop. Clerkenwell is so full of fantastic architecture. The street layout, other than the trunk-like Farringdon Road, is fine, organic and dense lending itself to a range of functions; churches and old school buildings are found in the centre of small neighbourhoods that are definable because of their common architectural features. One standout building for me was this residential complex on Rosebery Avenue called The Laboratory Building. Predictably it was an old laboratory. I loved the art deco features on this building, the curvature of the frontage and its floor-to-ceiling windows. If you look around the building these windows delineate the height of three floors, and all the floors have their own window type.

Arlington Way itself is a typical Islington street in many ways. On one side there is a 60s style fabricated estate development, with traditional two-up two-down town houses opposite. A number of these town houses have ground-level retail functions with beautifully decorated frontages. There are also some vintage features that have remained such as a traditional painted wall advertising funeral services.

Present & Correct was really the highlight of my day. It’s a beautiful and tiny shop devoted to stationery and products associated with everyday artistry. It’s full of unique designs with a quality and bespoke feel. The shop is also immaculately presented. I would like to devote a whole post to this shop soon. If you are a fan of the genuinely written word as I am, check this shop out for yourself. It’s probably my favourite shop in London at the moment.

My purchases. Detail is everything. My shopping bag from Present & Correct comes complete with a record card a la 1950s library. And yes I continued to Angel and stopped off at the Hummingbird Bakery for my favourite pick, the black bottom cupcake.

Here is today’s haul. It consists of a Palomino Blackwing 602 graphite pencil, a “from the desk of” stamp and Lion ink pad and a vintage telegram. I’m going to save the telegram to write a letter to someone that I know will appreciate this as much as I would! Honestly, if I received a letter like this from a friend, it would be in a frame and up on the wall. I’m intending to do a review of the Blackwing soon.

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful London evening!

Oh and also, while I was loitering in Spa Fields, I read an interesting Guardian article which is essentially a dummy’s guide to building a city. I’ll probably write a response to this article in more depth but as an urbanist I think there are some good points here, but also some critical considerations missing. Disaster-proofing for example. Thoughts welcome.

 

 

Dalston Street Feast

Although I don’t venture there often, Dalston seems to have a unique character. For a friend’s birthday at the weekend, I ventured to Dalston Street Feast, which is a collection of pop-up restaurants housed within a derelict set of what appears to be warehouses. So derelict in fact that there were a few buckets collecting drips at the Camden Town Brewery bar!

Vital Statistics

Where: 3 minutes walk from Dalston Junction Overground station.

When: All summer long, until the weekend of the 25th September. 5pm – midnight with a £3 charge after 7pm.

What to expect: Burgers and sliders seem to be the order of pop-up food these days, regardless of cuisine. My quest for mac and cheese left me desolate (a homemade version is probably a future blog post in the making). Expect to pay about £5 for a dish and wait a couple of minutes. There is more table space than you’d possibly expect from a collection of pop-ups, so this is a positive for groups.

Try: Breddos Tacos. Just zingy, meaty, spicy deliciousness.

Tips: We arrived just after 7 and I feel this was a good time. The crowds grew rapidly until we left at about 9 to go elsewhere, and associated disbenefits of this become known (bigger queues, less table space, longer waits). Treat yourself to a cocktail at The Gin Store next to Bleecker St Burger.

The Dalston Lane Mural, painted in 1985 by Ray Walker.

Our first stop was a “Bill” burger from Bill or Beak. This came highly recommended from one of our group, and although it was a little on the small side, it didn’t disappoint. The “Bill” is a brioche bun filled with shredded duck and pork, crispy tempura shallots, a Vietnamese potion full of aromatic flavours and various garnishes such as coriander and spring onion.

Next up, a “Proud Boy” from Hank’s Po’ Boys. This was a delicately flavoured blackened piece of white fish, served with a creole dressing and slaw in a brioche bun. I really enjoyed this and it was a bit bigger than most other dishes we saw being served for £5. The fish was meaty and had a real smokiness to it, and held its shape well in the bun, thankfully saving my dignity in front of friends.

 

Mama Wang’s is the trader of the week this week. They seemed to be popular for their hand-pulled noodles, but in the spirit of trying as much as possible, I went for two steamed buns filled with lamb and crispy sesame bottoms. Luckily they were freshly cooked as we rolled up. The buns were very soft and the sesame crispness added a pleasing texture and sweetness. Hoisin on the side is always welcome (with anything frankly). The filling was minced lamb, and for some reason I was expecting shredded lamb. The bun as a whole succeeded in being quite fragrant. Next time I would definitely like to go for some of those noodle boxes too.

After trying a few snack-sized offerings, it was time for more of a meal. Two of us shared this jerk platter from Mama Jerk’s, consisting of a quarter leg of jerk chicken, rice and peas and a salad-slaw combo. All topped off with hot sauce and tropical mayo. I am a big fan of spicy food, and I would have preferred a bit of extra heat from those scotch bonnets. However there’s no denying that the chicken was full of warm flavours.

I disappointingly didn’t manage to get a photo of my final course, which was two meaty tacos from Breddos Tacos. Specifically a pink steak taco and a crunchy nut chicken taco. The old adage saving the best for last is not lost at Street Feast because these were absolutely delicious. Both tacos were big enough for four big mouthfuls and the meat was so tender and juicy. I topped them off with some chilli salsa for an added kick. If there’s one pop-up you stop off at, make it Breddos.