Yes, although I have decamped from London , my mind is still there.
Last week, I strolled along to Connaught Square/Connaught Village, the enclave near Marble Arch, bordered by the Edgware Road to the East, Bayswater to the West, Paddington and Sussex Gardens to the North and Hyde Park to the South. I once telephoned a real estate agent about a Des. Res that he had for sale in the area, “Where is it?” I enquired, Sussex Gardens was the reply. What? says I, the Hooker Street? well it is up and coming was the reply!
Well I guess it arrived along with the Blairs, he of Perma tan fame and their entourage of 4 policemen who guard then 24 hours a day, it was my stomping ground,my neck of the woods, my”hood” but I quickly moved on. But once in a while I go back, mainly to see the lovely Dion my hairdresser and to have a look around the old neighbourhood.
Well was I in for a surprise this visit, things have changed and for the better. Marcus, the coffee merchant is still there filling the air with coffee aroma, whilst he roasts his beans, as is the Duke of Kendal, which was our local pub, where on a Sunday night, June plays on the honky-tonk, whilst the locals take it in turn to sing their solo ” You can play with my cucumbers, but don’t touch me cabbages” being one of my favourites. Along with “My old man is a dustman” and “It is a long way to Tipperary”. Once when we were there, I wondered where all these kids who could sing came from? Well it was a Sunday night and all the cast of FAME turned out.
The Victoria ( another pub is still there) along with Noor-Jhan 2, obviously an Indian restaurant and Stuccico , a small Italian. An old favourite changed hands and is now an Argentinian called Malevo, and the wine merchant has become an Argentinian Deli called Abasto, whilst the dry-cleaners has become a Pain Quotidian and the pizza chain of Zizi has become a Japanese. This is interesting, it is labeled a IZAKYA, which apparently means “Roof of Alcohol” ( will have to check this with my Japanese friend).In Japan, many men work in the city, very long hours, and will sleep there in crowded almost dormitory type accommodation, they will drink in an izakaya, which also serves mediocre food which is usually salty and fatty.However the word izakaya has developed a different meaning in London, as Japanese casual dining with plates of food designed to share.
Another one to try is MaxiMini, it is owned whole or partly ( I am not sure) by Mr. Jimmy Choo. Are you surprised that there really is a Jimmy Choo? Did you think that it was Tamara Mellon who started the shoe company. Well, wrong, Jimmy Choo is alive and kicking and makes the most beautiful shoes, but custom-made for you. Somehow or other Tamara Mellon got his name and his ready to wear business but he is now Jimmy Choo Couture. So anyway he has a restaurant and it is called Maximini, it is a blend of Chinese and Malay cuisines and declares itself to be fine dining Chinese. The restaurant itself is simplistic and chic with old-fashioned colonial style and the menu looks great.
Then there is the tailors, which is now Cocomaya, a coffee shop come patisserie, it has become so successful that it has also taken over the premises of the greasy spoon next door, which shut, when the owner Mr. Singh ran off with his wife’s sister, leaving huge debts, or something like that according to local gossip.
Cocomaya the home of the Cronut, but they can not call them that as it is patented by the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. A Cronut is a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. It is croissant dough made to look like a doughnut and is deep-fried, and then filled and glazed. Other bakers have made similar products, the Dosants or the Doughssants, or Mister croissant Donut. Apparently at one stage these calorie filled extravaganzas were selling for over $100 each, whereas the original price tag was already hefty $5! So watch out Krispy Kremes, there are other sinful delights out there
So, from upscale Argentinian, to upscale Chinese to upscale Japanese the neighbourhood has indeed improved, but a good old faithful is till there.Colbeh is a tiny family run persian restaurant, which serves very good food, bring your own bottle and at this time of the year be prepared to wait for a table, if you come after the setting of the sun, it is Ramadan and the usual influx of people from the gulf know too well that this a great place to eat. A must have is their version of pita ? Bread, you watch it being rolled out, holes being put in and then flung against the inside of a very hot oven
Oh, I almost forgot the most exciting news, this picture tells a story, Jimmy is re-opening his shoe shop! Yippee! Not that I can afford them( but thank you #2 daughter who bought them for me)!