Cecil Day-Lewis’s Tree

Posted by Colin

Where: Corner of Crooms Hill and Burney Street, Greenwich, SE10

Daniel Day-Lewis is currently starring in cinemas as former US president Abraham Lincoln in Speilberg’s epic biopic. And it would be a real shock if he didn’t pick up his third Best Actor Oscar for the portrayal. Back in November I read a fascinating article in the Evening Standard where his sister, Tamasin, recounts their childhood together and their relationship with their father, Cecil, who became Poet Laureate in 1968.

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It is lesser known that the children spent their early childhood in Greenwich and that Cecil was the first President of the Greenwich Society. In recognition of his work for them, the Society planted a tree in his honour in 1973 (a year after his death from pancreatic cancer in May 1972).

And yet, you could easily hurry past the tree and miss the plaque at its base – especially in the months when leaves carpet the land around it. If you’re in and around Greenwich – perhaps heading to the Park – then spare a second to find the tree planted for a national poet whose son is favourite to soon add to his collection of golden statuettes.

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Shad Indian

Posted by Colin

Where: 96 Tooley Street, SE1 2TH
Cost: Mains approx £9-£13 per person
Website: www.shadindian.com
Food Rating:
Service Rating:

Ruth and I are in mourning. Our grief has led to a I Live By The River first – two ratings for a restaurant, one for the food and one for the service. On Saturday night we took two friends along to Shad Indian on Tooley Street, our favourite and local Indian restaurant. We’ve eaten here many times before and its our Indian of choice when it comes to takeway. No longer.

We had originally booked for 8pm but it became clear that it would be touch and go if one of our friends would make it on time due to a delayed train. So we duly called the restaurant and asked whether it was possible to delay our table by 30 mins, to which they said it wouldn’t be a problem. We get to the restaurant and are told they don’t have a table for us because we booked for 8pm and no-one had informed them of our call. After a discussion in front of most of the restaurant, the waiter said he would go and find out what was happening. After 10 minutes we had to ask again because no-one was forthcoming. Eventually, we were shown to a table at around 8:50pm and the head waiter told us he was going to “kick the arse” of the person who’d taken our phone call.

A different waiter took our orders. The first two people ordered different things and the waiter made a sarcastic comment about how the chef “would be pleased” that he’d have to cook different dishes. I was next and I ordered the Seafood Bhuna and was asked whether I really wanted that as the chef “always overcooks it”. Having eaten there before, I knew how good the food is and so I suspect he was trying to get me to order a dish that was quicker to cook. He then left the table and we had to get him back to take the final person’s order.

When the food arrived it was, as usual, delicious. The seafood bhuna was beautifully spiced and the seafood perfectly cooked. I would recommend the food to anyone. At the end of the meal the head waiter came back and asked how things were. I calmly explained that the service had been poor for the above reasons and that it was a shame because we were regulars and the food was so good. He snapped back at us, cutting me off mid sentence and saying “if you’re going to go down that route, I’ll give you 10% off and that’s it”. I thanked him and asked him whether, in two hours, he’d managed to find out who took our original call and why we’d been messed around. He said that he’d been too busy to find out. I said we wouldn’t be coming back again.

Verdict:

Delicious food that isn’t too expensive, we’d rightly loved this place for ages. However, we just feel let down by the way we were treated from not dealing with our phone call properly to originally missing someone’s order. And I have never ever been to a restaurant before where you order a dish and the waiter discourages you from ordering it apparently because the chef is incompetent. Maybe they don’t need to look after their regulars because of their location on such a busy street, but it is such a strange way to run a business.

So we’re now on the lookout for a decent Indian restaurant in and around SE1. Got any suggestions for us?

Zucca

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bermondsey Street, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15 per person
Website: http://www.zuccalondon.com
Twitter: @ZuccaSam
Rating:

Walking along the foodie’s paradise that is Bermondsey street, its hard to know where to start. Behind almost every door is a tempting restaurant, gastro pub or cafe seeking to tempt the passerby. Not that you can usually just wander in – the growing reputation of the street means its increasingly hard to get a table without a reservation.

Zucca, a modern Italian restaurant, is one place well worth making an advance booking. The decor is minimalist and fresh, while the food offers some of the finest Italian cuisine around. Perfectly cooked fish sits alongside rich ragu on the ever-changing seasonal menu – not a pizza in in sight.

The highlight of our meal (just) was the starter of crisp ‘Zucca’ fritti (deep fried winter squash)- unusual and incredibly moorish. Get a bowl for the table to share and watch them disappear!

Verdict:
Delicious Italian food, friendly service and reasonable prices (for the area). It’s a great place to go for a special occasion, or just a low key lunch if you want to sample delectable treats on offer.

Pizza in a Big Red London Bus

Posted by Colin

Where: Big Red Pizza, 30 Deptford Church Street, SE8
Cost: Pizzas between £6.50 and £10 per person, cocktails £6
Website: www.bigredpizza.co.uk
Twitter: @thebigredpizza
Rating:

Pizzerias are so ubiquitous these days that you’d think it would be hard to do it a little differently. Fortunately, the folks behind The Big Red in Deptford have managed just that – they’ve set themselves up in a old red London bus. The inside has been converted to provide tables around the retro brown and orange seating. The bus itself is surrounded by a modern and comfy looking terrace.

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On arrival we were shown to the front of the upstairs of the bus to seats gazing out the front window.

In a nice touch from the friendly staff, they double checked whether we were OK with these forward facing seats. We decided to start our meal off with a cocktail and plumped for a mojito each. Whilst they were tasty, they seemed to have been watered down a little to fill the glass and so ended up being a bit thin. Serving them in a smaller glass and not adding the water would have been a better move – a minor point though.

Our starter of garlic pizza bread was absolutely lovely. The pizza dough tasted fresh and perfectly cooked with a good hit of garlic. For mains we had the Flemenco (tomato, mozzarella, morcilla and chorizo) and Classic Marinara (tiger prawns, mussels, octopus, squid, cuttlefish, rocket and cherry tomatoes).

Despite loving seafood, I don’t normally go for it on a pizza – but then I don’t normally have dinner in a old London bus. I was warned by the waitress that the seafood toppings would be cold, but what I hadn’t counted on was that this would quickly cause the base and cheese to lose heat. But that was my fault and other than that the pizza was top notch.

Verdict:

Perhaps the quirkiest and most unique pizzeria in London. Delicious pizza dough that tasted wonderful and avoided the criminal offence of making the cheese on top too greasy. The staff were friendly and informative and the atmosphere inside the bus was really fun. It would be a great place to take a group of mates for either pre or post night out food. You can even hire the whole bus and it would make a cracking location for birthday celebrations.

Cutty Sark Tavern

Posted by Colin

Where: 4-6 Ballast Quay, SE10
Cost: Mains approx £10 per person
Website: www.cuttysarkse10.co.uk
Twitter: @CuttySarkPub
Rating:

I miss Summer. With the weather getting ever colder I long for the longer days when you can stroll down by the Thames without wearing countless layers. On such balmy occasions there is hardly a finer place in London to sit and watch the world go by than at the Cutty Sark Tavern slightly downstream from Greenwich.

A firm favourite of ours, we had never actually been along during the dark months of winter. So when the pub suggested via Twitter that we should come along and try their new venison pie, how could we resist?

Sunset from the Cutty Sark Tavern last year

Sunset from the Cutty Sark Tavern last year

Whilst we normally sit outside in the summer, winter brings a chance to soak in the beautiful dark wood interior.

Sitting upstairs also allows you to gaze out of the window across the water in the same way you can from the benches outside.

We decided to go for two starters to split between us: salt & pepper squid, coriander, chilli & lime along with Gressingham smoked duck, heritage beetroot, walnuts and watercress. The starters were nice enough, but didn’t set the world on fire.

However, our mains of venison pie were divine. They came out in their own individuals pots complete with lids. Lifting the lid revealed a gorgeous shepherd’s pie but with venison mince instead of lamb. The potato was creamy and smooth and the venison the perfect hearty antedote to the winter blues.

I am pretty sure there were even little bits of dark chocolate hidden amongst the filling. My only criticism was that it was a little over seasoned, with the pepper taste a tad too strong.

Verdict:

A pub for all seasons. In summer make sure you’re there to sip a cool glass of wine as the sun sets behind Canary Wharf. In the winter move inside to take advantage of the beautiful Georgian interior and their hearty selection of beautifully cooked fare.

The Deptford Murals – Part 2

Posted by Ruth

Earlier in the week Colin posted Part One of our Deptford Mural tour, after coming across the London Mural Preservation Society (@L_MPS), an organisation seeking to protect London’s fantastic murals. Here I’ll tell you about two more of the murals we came across in Deptford.

Partially hidden by a row of council bins, the third mural we saw looked a little shabby to begin with. However, on closer inspection the ‘Pink Palace’ mural has a wealth of interesting detail.

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Created in 1983 by a group of artists and local residents, the mural is the pink facade of a house, with images of cherubs framing the top of the building.

It is these cherubs that provide the intrigue. Far from angelic, these creatures are pictured as swigging gin, another reading the Beano, and a third posing as ‘Mr Universe’. For this reason this mural was absolutely my favourite.

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The final, and largest mural, named ‘Love Over Gold’, was painted in 1989. It was commissioned by Dire Straits (who grew up in the area).

The creation of the mural, led by Gary Drostle, involved local primary school children. It depicts issues relating to wealth, disability and equality, and includes an especially moving poem written by a 9 year old child, depicting the “tall tower blocks, cold and grey” in the area.

These murals are important, not only because they add vibrancy to the area, both also because they distil messages of struggle, warmth and humour into the streets of Deptford.

Candlelit vigil at Cross Bones Burial Ground

Posted by Ruth

Where: Redcross Way, SE1
Website: www.crossbones.org.uk

Many of us are keen to be remembered after we’ve gone – regardless of the life we’ve led, whether we were rich or poor, achieved great things or not. Sadly, most of us (in a few generations time) will not be, and there are many that were forgotten even in their own time. A candlelit vigil held at Cross Bones cemetery on the 23rd of every month seeks to redress this.

The gates of Crossbones taken by us during a daytime visit

The gates of Cross Bones taken by us during a daytime visit

Cross Bones is a disused burial ground, originally established as an unconsecrated graveyard for “single women” – the prostitutes licensed by the Church to work in Bankside, but not permitted a Christian burial.

Its exact date of origin is unknown, but the site was written about by John Stow in 1598.

Later it became a pauper’s cemetery, eventually housing approximately 15,000 burials, before closing in 1853 due to public health risk.

The land was subsequently sold, and was all but forgotten until numerous skeletons were unearthed during the extension of the Jubilee Line in the 1990s.

The gates of Cross Bones are now adorned with flowers, ribbons and trinkets, creating a beautiful and meaningful memorial. Led by local writer John Constable, the Friends of Cross Bones hold this monthly vigil, for people from all walks of life to gather and remember society’s outcast dead.

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Far from being a macabre affair, the vigil was inspiring and moving, with strangers huddled together listening to local performers sing and recite poetry (including two odes penned by a young girl).

John Constable recounted a poem gifted to him 16 years ago by the spirit of the ‘Winchester Goose’ (one of the prostitutes allegedly buried at Cross Bones). The vigil ended with a collective non-denominational prayer, and an offering of gin – likely to be one of the few comforts to the Cross Bones residents in their lifetime.

The site is now owned by Transport for London and the Friends of Cross Bones are currently campaigning for there to be a permanent memorial garden to mark the site. Given the level of development in London Bridge that is no easy task, but an imperative one. For Cross Bones is as important a place as any of London’s gilded Victorian cemeteries, and an important place to remember those on the periphery of society – both in the past and present.

You can find a link to the Friends of Cross Bones’s petition to protect the site here

The First Couple of London Bridge

Posted by Colin

Couple1 Living in London Bridge, I’ve often seen this sculpture of a man standing on his plinth, surveying the scene of tourists and office workers hurrying around the shops and cafes of More London.

But often being one of those hurrying past I’ve never stopped to look at the plaque on the floor which reveals the name of this work: Couple. Now obviously that implies more than one person, but I’d only ever seen a man.

Intrigued, I actually took the time to have a bit of a look around and his partner had been there all along, I was just in too much of a rush to notice.

Unromantically she stands on the top of the public toilets. Despite her unglamourous footing, she has an amazing view of the Shard in front of her and, having been put there in 2003, she must have had a front row seat to watch London’s tallest building increasingly tower over her. If only she could turn round she’d also be able see Tower Bridge in the distance.

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This enchanting couple are carved out of wood and are the work of Stephan Balkenhol and the more I look at them the more I like them. If you’re ever in the area, stop by and say hello.

The Deptford Murals – Part 1

Posted by Colin

Over the past few weeks we have been digging around on Twitter in an attempt to unearth some more unheralded parts of the Capital. In doing so we came across London Mural Preservation Society (@L_MPS), whose aim it is to protect and celebrate these large works of art.

The handy map on their website showed us that four were to be found all within walking distance of each other in Deptford, South East London. Wanting to go Christmas shopping in Greenwich Market anyway, we took the opportunity for a quick tour. I’ll mention two of them here and Ruth will wrap things up in a later post.

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We first came across one of the newest additions to London’s mural scene – the Deptford Marbles at 494 New Cross Road.

At 9 metres x 4 metres, it covers an entire wall at the end of a small row of shops.

What is particularly clever about the piece is that it incorporates three large beams that were already attached to wall, seamlessly making them look a deliberate addition to the work. Painted in 2007 by Patricio Forrester, the mural envelops passers by making them seem part of the scene.

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A short walk along the always vibrant Deptford High Street, with its market stalls, fishmongers and butchers, brought us to another Forrester artwork – His and Hers on Giffin Square.

A surreal effort, he has transformed two chimneys into a couple with a necklace and tie hanging from a pair of chimneys. With a shocking pink background it is an unmistakable part of the bustling retail precinct.

According to the LMPS website, the necklace and tie took just one day to paint – at cost of £150 – thanks to donations from local businesses.

Ruth will pick up the story soon, but we’ll definitely be searching out a few more of these pieces of street art from the LMPS’s wonderful map.

Read Part Two

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

Posted by Colin

Regular readers of the blog will know that there are scarcely two things in the world I love more than the night sky and the London skyline. So it is no surprise that I couldn’t resist taking this photo last Thursday evening, combining those two things in equal measure.

The picture shows London’s tallest building, The Shard, alongside the world’s tallest hospital tower, Guy’s.

To the right, and less rooted to the Earth, is our planet’s nearest neighbour, the Moon. Even further to the right, the solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter, appears as a starlike white light.

This juxtaposition of Earth and sky, of London and space, is right up my street.