London Rooftops: Peckham

One lazy sunny Sunday afternoon I needed something fun to do in the sun, but more than that I needed somewhere fun to eat. It’d been a weird week, one of stress at work and weird city humidity despite otherwise cloudy weather. Sometimes a gal’s just gotta treat herself after a hard Sunday morning doing some life admin!

So we found ourselves headed (after a moment of indecision about just going somewhere we know instead) to nearby Peckham, where two neighbouring buildings are head-to-head in the best rootop stakes.

#1: Frank’s Cafe, London

Offering the least-obstructed view of the city from the perfect vantage point of southeast London, Frank’s is an informal bar set atop the repurposed Peckham Multi-Storey carpark. It’s been an ever-popular evening spot, but now modern art installations combined with potentially the best views of London make the photo-worthy pink staircase (so many stairs…!) worth it.

We came here around lunchtime on a Sunday, which ended up being super quiet but great to explore the installations up top.

The drinks weren’t too pricey (around £7 for a cocktail) considering the view, we had so much fun perusing the skyline and testing our knowledge of the names of every individual building. This place seemed like it would get pretty busy later in the evening, but was pretty chilled at midday.


From here, we saw a neighbouring building with a similar rooftop bar so we went to check it out.


#2: Bussey Building Rooftop

We’re used to our local Brixton, Peckham’s more gentrified neighbour, so this was a nice chance to explore a similar-feeling area without all the added ‘jazz’. Peckham is more raw, less pretty and more attitude.

Up more steps we climbed, to the top of the Bussey Building where a cool oasis lay. Here was music (which sounded like one of my own playlists…) and a colour-block pop of fun. The drinks were slightly more pricey than Frank’s at around £8 for a cocktail (£5.50 for a glass of prosecco), and of course being behind Frank’s it does have a slightly more obstructed view. The vibe here was awesome though, really fun and summery. There was a food stall as well that served the BEST (but messiest) burgers I’ve ever had. 10/10 for fun

I’d recommend going to both to see which floats your boat more, but I get the feeling Frank’s is great for a night with a group of friends and Bussey would be my prefered place for a fun date night 🤗

Spotlight: Katharina Grosse @ Gagosian Gallery, London

There is a gallery space hidden down Britannia street near King’s Cross station (so near, in fact, there is no excuse not to go). It opens up into a maze of compact but seemingly vast expanses of pure white walls interspersed with swathes of natural light. I’ve been to galleries before, but this was on another level of pristine purity.

Katharina Grosse is a German-born artist whose work involves paint, stencils and negative space to produce striking, geometric pieces.

In ‘Prototypes of Imagination’, Grosse reveals the ways in which painting catalyzes the unfolding of multiple dimensions on a single surface

– Gagosian exhibition pamphlet

One almost falls into the first installation, the small antechamber of the entrance hall opening up to the largest room with no warning, no ceremony. The largest piece was canvas hanging from the ceiling, almost like a waterfall. One could peek behind it as there was no wall directly behind it, which added to the drama and impact on arrival.


In the adjoining rooms, huge individual canvases dwarfed the viewer. I felt truly moved by the scale of these pieces, the energy and emotion that weaved its way through the collection. Some pieces were hard, jagged, abrupt with pointy, straight lines. Some had colours flowing around areas of negative space.

There is no boundary between reality and imagination. To imagine is to realize. My pictures are prototypes of this recognition; they try out – and dramatically compress – the characteristics of reality. I build prototypes of the imagination so they can be reenacted and applied to other fields of endeavour

– Katharina Grosse


One piece (not pictured), brought up feelings of dread from afar with brutal lines and use of grey. On closer inspection, one saw the lichen-like dabbing of acrylic, that the grey was actually a silver sheen, and that up close it behaved completely differently.


If this collection explores imagination, then it inspires as much as it has been inspired. All the pieces were unnamed, unadorned, unexplained. Part of me struggled with this, I needed to know why that drip was there, what that shape meant. What did the artist feel in the exact moment of that brush stroke? Not being titled, though, seemed to almost be the title piece itself. Allow your imagination to be explored, each canvas said, and tell me what you think. I think in that lies the real genius of this collection.

Blending in and Belonging: a Third Culture Kid’s Story

I was born in urban Johannesburg, South Africa to Irish and South African parents. At the age of nine, the family relocated to suburban Athens, Greece. After a few years, we relocated to rural Ireland. I went from swimming pools to giant forests in my backyard with just a few years inbetween. The countries separate my developmental stages, child, pre-adolescent, adolescent, and young adult. Every move I sought to reinvent myself, but found myself mostly staying the same. The same, but indescribably different.

I have always been confused about where home is to me, I both resent and exploit the eccentricities of my upbringing. When in one of My Countries, I tell people I’m from The Other. I have always wanted to belong, blend in, wave to neighbours in the street. I also like to be the new girl, the blank slate, the one who makes small, silly blunders of colloquialism and translation. I am a walking naughties flick chick caricature.

Learning about bugs, or something

I have reached a point where I have stayed in the same city for seven years, and the same country for ten (gulp). I have itchy feet, wanderlust, and dream of foreign shores daily. Yet I am still here. Here but not here. Always I wonder: do I not belong because I don’t put down roots, or do I not put down roots because I feel I don’t belong? I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer; and yet I remain untethered, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. I too am a Millenial, a member of Generation Rent, does that help me or hinder me?

Actual, barefoot me

I was born into Apartheid, was barely past a toddler when South Africa had her first black president. I have travelled deserts, walked barefoot without my feet touching shoes for days on end, and felt the feeling of nearly drowning many times in the Indian Ocean. I have seen wild fires ravaging parched land, ancient archaeological sites with marble smooth and shiny from millenia of footsteps. I have snowmobiled in Yellowstone, and skied in the shadow of Mount Olympus. I have made and lost more friends I can count; some great, some merely transient anyway.

How can I possibly tell anyone everything I have seen? Everything I know, everything I worry about? People who have stayed in the same city all their lives – with a back-catalogue of friends from playschool to present – how can I possibly compare, communicate? My language is Greek and English, art and Afrikaans, weather, music, starry nights and French and Spanish. I grew up bilingual but also learned foreign languages before both my parents. As a ten-year old my juice stall in a different alphabet, language and currency than what I was born into.

The final question, is can this void in me ever be filled? I plan holidays and I travel. When I travel, I travel incognito, with my local’s disguise. I dread someone finding out who I am – what I am – but what am I? What is it I live in fear of being discovered? A fake, a fraud? Or someone who knows ‘home is where you hang your hat’? Do I try and blend in, or do I open my messy self up for examination?

Do I tell them who I am?

A Perfect Brunch

Salon is a small restaurant in a covered market area in Brixton, South London. Self described as ‘fine dining without the fuss’, we put its menu to the test one dreary and slightly hungover Sunday morning.

Outside

You would be forgiven for walking past it without even realising, so unassuming is the store front, I have myself walked past it for the last few years. What initially started as a pop up above an artisinal cheese store became a permanent dining space, followed by the acquisition of a wine store next door.

The vibe is smart and polished, but relaxed and unfussy. Downstairs is a bar area, but upstairs is the dining room overlooked. The convivial atmosphere seems perfect for any occasion, a relaxed lunch with friends or an intimate dinner for two.

Menu

The menu is super varied, utilising local and seasonal ingredients. This is not your typical ‘brunch’ fare early on a Sunday morning, there wasn’t a waffle or pancake in sight. The oat milk flat whites arrived; simple and unadorned, and the food served by the chef himself.

Clockwise top to bottom: buttery corn bread, sriracha, kale and smoked salmon royale, sweet potato hummus on sourdough with confit bacon lardons, and hash browns.

Lemon meringue pie

Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs (we even shared dessert, I mean who has dessert at breakfast?!) but it’s so worth it – and at a fairly reasonable price. The flavours hung on the palate long after we’d left, this is not a meal you want to pop a mint after! It’s really special when you find a spot that really speaks to you, somewhere that you could both see yourself working in and yet also feeling like home. I look forward to visiting for dinner and a glass or two of organic wine!

We Came for the Porter: Tour of a Brewery in Hackney, London

At Christmas we were bought tickets for a tour of our favourite local brewery, 5 Points Brewing Company in Hackney, London.

Located down a small cobbled street, under the Victorian arches of a train station is a relatively small and unassuming brewery. Conceived only five years ago, this relative newcomer solidified it’s place in our hearts a few years ago after a particularly memorable afternoon of IPA at an outdoor event at their London Fields warehouse. 5 Points are strongly community-oriented: their brewery uses 100% renewable resources, and is a living wage employer. It’s clear that sometimes in business, small is better.

The selection

The tour started with tasting a selection of 5 Points beers at shared long tables, while members of the team talked about the history and brewing process. This was great as we got a chance to get stuck in and avoid any long lecture-style talks!

The four light beers

First up was the pils, robust and dry. This was followed by various iterations of a pale ale: XPA, pale and IPA. The surprise favourite at this stage was the XPA, or extra pale ale. It was crisp and bright with a citrus flavour and grassy smell. The pale ale packed a bitter punch, and the IPA was a welcome burst of almost creaminess with an almost perfumed finish. It’s worth noting that all the beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized, which is really evident in the strong character of all the brews on offer.

The resident packaging expert talking through the merits of cans vs bottles

Last up were the two darker options, the brick field brown ale and the all-time best: the railway porter. Both had rich, creamy coffee and chocolate flavours but the latter is just dessert and alcohol all in one neat package.

Brown ale

Most suprising was the relative small size of the brewery, the main floor occupying only one or two railway arches. We were given tbe opportunity to walk through the process from beginning to packaging (cans are superior for preservation than bottles due to better blockage of beer-damaing UV rays), leaving me feeling like I could hold conversation with even the biggest beer buffs.

The brewing process, from start to finish

Included in our tickets was a ‘beer haul’, AKA a goodie bag of cans to take home and continue our beer education. Beer homework, if you will. Possibly the best part of the goodie bag was the bag itself, a gorgeous sturdy tote perfect for next weekend’s farmers’ market!

We left having made new friends with two older east London gents, and with an extra free beer ‘for the road’ (I prattled on and on about the porter so one of the tour facilitators opened a ‘spoiled’ bottle for the walk home). The staff were really passionate and knowledgable; promoting an almost dream lifestyle of working with friends, being paid to drink beer, creativity and fulfilment.

Where do we sign up?

Sudden Stranger

A Self-Care Story

I read a great article by Brianna Wiest that really reflected and changed how I think about the pervasive ‘self care’ trend. Here are some of my thoughts:

I had a week off, alone, at home. Initially for myself I had planned sauna trips, gorgeous home-cooked meals, long baths, reading novels, and generally frolicking around like women laughing alone with salads. I was going to CARE for myself, love myself and feel great.

However, what I did this week ended up being way less cute and instagram-worthy. I trawled through the depths of my email inbox to deal with outstanding queries, delete old and unneeded emails (625 – ASOS I’m looking at you), and categorised emails that I needed to keep.

I was alone in the house for the longest time in years (a normal everyday reality for lots of people so no self-sympathy!) and it became apparent that I had to just sit in to the quiet. I booked dental appointments, did university coursework, and reflected on past conversations and situations. I repotted plants that were beyond pot-bound (bad mom!), and made plans to re-seal the bathtub (ok I’m behind schedule on that one). I reached out to people I hadn’t spoken to in a while, I also removed from social media those that do not do me any good.

That all sounds pretty normal, and not really noteworthy. But that is the point. I’ve learned that self-care is dealing with the shitty things that are at the top of your to-do list but the bottom of your priority list, and as Brianna Wiest said, it’s often ‘parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness’.

 


Matcha

This resonates so much with me, because if we’re honest it’s easy enough to agree to a salt bath and have a macha latte and just feel grateful. However I guess the real work is dealing with the difficult stuff, being assertive and your own advocate, working to build a better future for yourself. Ignoring credit card debt, toxic people in life, renewal notices and moulding bath seals doesn’t make you feel better long-term because the weight of this cosmic to-do list still rests heavy in the back of your mind, and eventually they will surely catch up to you in bigger and badder ways.

I agree that self-care is owning up to and reflecting on past mistakes, and pushing yourself to do the best possible in any given situation. Sometimes it is a lie-in if that’s what you need, but sometimes it is getting up early for a dreaded gym workout because that may be what you need too. As Poorna Bell points out, it’s also knowing and respecting your own limitations. It’s being kind to yourself when you’ve scheduled to go out but really can’t face it, and I think a big one is knowing when you need some extra support (a cleaner, a friend, a therapist).


I also loved the idea of ‘building a life you don’t have to escape from’ from Brianna’s article. I think with all the great talk occurring about mental health these days, self-care (the REAL self-care) could be one piece in the puzzle of improving symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. Putting yourself first, and truly sorting out controllable aspects of your life, really seem like a great recipe for calm to me.

It IS easier said than done, but that to me is the point. I feel that sifting through the crap, making the right choice even if it is the harder one, and putting yourself first at the end of the day really proves to yourself that you are worth it.

And yes, you are most definitely also worth a matcha latte and piece of cake after all that hard work.

A week of winter hibernation

We were on leave this week, and a planned Berlin trip scuppered by Ryanair cancellations lead us to have the sweetest week off at home. Doing next to nothing, hanging out, laughing, eating and sleeping. Little did I know that that was exactly what I needed after a very stressful and exhausting few weeks. I have just started a more senior role, and my final MSc module has just begun. It’s safe to say that I have had a decent amount of things on my to-do list.

The Saturday before our week off was my husband’s birthday. Family dinner at Ceviche (one of our favourite restaurants – try the Lomo Saltado flame-grilled steak and Don Ceviche) was followed by drinks in a craft beer pub with friends. This, of course, ended with a rowdy late-night pizza session at Voodoo Ray’s Dalston.

Monday was his actual birthday, which brought us to St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields after a lazy day at home; and a fabulous 4 plate sharing meal of smoked mackerel, ox heart & chips, butternut & pearl barley, and a beautiful lamb stew. We paired this with a dry (and strong!) crisp rosé.

St John Bread & Wine

Drinks at Black Rock Bar in Spitalfields never disappoints for whiskey fans. It was voted UK’s Best Specialist Bar 2017 in the Class Bar Awards, and this is definitely well deserved. The staff are always so knowledgeable, and they just do make the finest cocktails around.

Black Rock whiskey bar

Tuesday brought another cosy day in, followed by a Queens of the Stone Age gig at the O2 (this doesn’t sound like a very relaxing week so far, but I swear we did very little during the days!). They played a furiously tight and yet chaotic set, my favourites being ‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’ and ‘Sick Sick Sick’. The sound was incredible, and even from our seats the heavy bass was deeper than anything I’d heard at a gig before.

QOTSA at the O2

Wednesday and Thursday were more home-based. I desperately needed to find time for some quiet so enjoyed having the TV off (once I’d finally finished Netflix’s Punisher), and listening to the birds out in the large oak tree in our garden. I tried a gym session but my body was telling me it needed rest, so I did more stretching-based movements instead.

Friday, we relished in another lazy lie-in, and a slow meal at a great local Pho place (apr and concisely named) Pho in Balham, South London. The spring and summer rolls (not pictured – eaten too quickly!) were fresh, tasty and just what we needed. The beef steak pho (look away vegetarians!) was so warming with plenty of five spice and star anise – of course I then add a good shot of sriracha to make things interesting! The lunch deal was fantastic, £20 for a two course meal for two.

Pho

We stopped in at Milk Cafe down the road for a relaxing post-lunch coffee. I was disappointed to find out their only milk alternative was soy, so opted for a black espresso instead. The vibe was great though, as was a cute little card served with our coffees explaining the flavour profile of the blend used.

Milk Cafe

Today was a day that felt lazy and like time wasted, but how often do people dream of an aimless lunch on a weekday, watching the world go by? We laughed and strolled and actually tasted the flavours of our food, more than I can say I’ve done in weeks.

Slow in the City – the beginnings of winter

Today we nipped out to Pop Brixton for some food. It is a lively market created from the skeletons of repurposed shipping containers, filled with nearly any kind of food stalls you’ve ever wanted to try. It’s somewhere we’ve always popped to as it is so nearby, but I never really took the time to take it in before. It definitely has settled in since it’s inception, and seems to fit right into the Brixton backstreet where it kind of stood out before.

There are also things I don’t like too much about the place (the whole idea of it feels a bit too hipster and like a symptom of gentrification at times, thus making me feel uncomfortable for being a part of that process), but there are things I like about it too. I like that it’s a place that is trying to give something, however small, back to the community it sits in. A lot of the stalls in Pop Brixton use compostable food packaging, and/or reduce food waste by donating extras to a local food pantry. Even if it is just a hipster fad, hopefully these little things will become the absolute norm in large city society.

Pop Brixton, made out of shipping containers

It was also a nice surprise to find a little herb garden out the back, like a return to something more simple than having an imported Belgian blonde beer alongside your Japanese gyoza. It may just be for that ‘rustic’ vibe, but I enjoyed perusing the chard, Thai basil, strawberry, coriander (nearly dead as usual – how does anyone succeed in growing one of them?!) and various salad leaves.

Top and bottom: makeshift planters at Pop Brixton

For him, the Miso pork ramen was on the menu from Koi Ramen; and for me some fantastic real-deal tacos from Maria Sabina (slathered in so much hot sauce that the chef showed concern. Edit: I not only survived but LOVED it!)

Koi Ramen Bar

Brixton Village market, a lot quieter than it’s newer, flashier cousin, had some pretty chilli peppers that I might go back for some day this week – I bet they’d make a mean hot sauce!

Brixton market chilli peppers

Walking home past Electric Avenue

 

Now to return home after a very low-effort afternoon, and think about the Thai basil I could be planting in my teeny-tiny window box ready for next summer.

Sudden Stranger, 2017