Coffee with a local in London

Wednesday, 4 April 2012 2:45 PM is a little closer to home this week, in the UK's capital - London as we find out some of the city's best kept secrets from local Esme Fox. 

So, you’ve brought me to your favourite cafe - tell me about it.
This is the Charles Lamb Pub in Islington; many people just hang out in pubs here, like they would do in cafes in other European cities. It’s one of London’s more traditional pubs with a homely feel. Here you can sit down and play board games, eat Sunday lunch or hang out with the resident dog.

Mmm... this is good, what are we drinking?
The pub is well known for the fact that they sell beers from small local micro breweries all over the UK, which they change twice weekly, so I like try something different each time I come here.

What are your favourite local dishes?
In London, almost anything can be considered a local dish, from Indian curries to Japanese noodles or Lebanese falafels, however if you’re talking about traditional London food then you have to try jellied eels (an acquired taste, but worth trying) or pie and mash. Roast dinner is a popular dish too, especially good to eat in a nice cosy pub on a Sunday afternoon. For dessert in the winter time, crumble is a particular favourite and in summer, it has to be strawberries and cream or Eaton Mess – crushed meringue with strawberries and cream.


I’m getting hungry just thinking about it, where else would you suggest I go to find these?
For traditional London food such as jellied eels and pie and mash you need to head to the East End a great little place is G. Kelly noted eel & pie shop which has been around since 1937. For traditional Roast dinners can be found in traditional pubs all over London, but for some of the best you have to head away from the busy touristy pubs in the centre of the city and out to the local districts where Londoners go. One of my favourites is The Garden Gate near Hampstead Heath, which does delicious roasts and also has an excellent beer garden - perfect for the summer. For locally made products such as cheeses, breads, wild game and home brewed cider, head to the vibrant Borough Market.

The sky is blue and the sun is shining, what’s the best thing to do on a day like today?
You should definitely check out some of London’s parks, which really come alive when it’s sunny (which is not that often, so you’d better make the most of it). Even though it’s one of the biggest cities in the world London has a lot of green spaces. One of my favourites is Hampstead Heath which has wild forest parts, large green spaces, lakes and even swimming ponds. It’s a great place for nature walks, picnics or celeb spotting; this is where London’s elite like to come for their piece of the outdoors too. Another place I like is Richmond Park, which is huge. I love walking along the river and spotting wild deer which are common place here, it’s just like being in the countryside.

And if it rains?
That happens pretty often here, but no need to worry as there is plenty to do and luckily London has some of the best museums in the world. Some of my favourites are the Victoria and Albert, The Natural History, The British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery; however there are plenty of quirky museums to discover too that many tourists don’t know about. For an odd but intesting collection of stuffed animals and musical instruments head to the Horniman Museum and to see how some of our favourite packaging from Cadbury’s to Marmite has changed over the years, visit the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising.

If there’s one thing I should do while I’m here, what is it?
Walk along the River Thames, many of the major tourist attractions are along the river, including The Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London, as well as the more unknown areas and small alley ways around London Bridge. The river changes so much along the way, you’ll really get a feel for what the city is like at different points. It’s a lively place in the summer with lots of street performers, stalls and musicians, and in the winter it’s a beautiful place to watch the city lights from. 

Give me a local tip that other tourists wouldn’t usually know...
Head away from the central touristy areas and explore some of my favourite districts of High Gate, Hampstead and Hackney. Quaint pubs and small boutiques greet you in Hampstead while Highgate Village has a pretty countryside feel, as well as the interesting Highgate cemetery where lots of historic figures are buried. In Hackney you’ll find many places to eat and independent cinemas, it has a grungy, edgy feel.

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