Monday, 24 August 2009

A Little Local Colour...

Ok, off with the slough of despond and on with life.

I did mention Tandoori roasted chicken and pickled green beans in my last post (not to be eaten together, if you've any sense) and I will post the recipes later this week, promise. In the meantime, I thought I'd start an occasional series on where I live in Crystal Palace in South East London.

Actually, intriguingly enough Crystal Palace doesn't exist as a place. Although it has a train station thus called, the area of Upper Norwood - its rightful title - was simply nicknamed after the Victorian Crystal Palace and the name stuck.

One of the nicest things about Palace is the village feel. There are more diverse restaurants (good ones, thank God) than you can think of, an excellent bookshop, nice cafes for coffee, a little bakery, boutiques and antiques and even a sex shop - no village is complete without one. One of the more contentious battles right now is the war between the community and the church in the hostile takeover of the bingo hall. Originally an art-deco cinema, there are plans to re-open it as such, which would be an enormous boost to the area and it would be nice not to have to go all the way to flipping Croydon for a film. However the church believes that what our ethnically-diverse community needs is yet another place of worship and goodness, they're being sneaky about it. Anyway, the battle rages on: you can sign up to the petition for the cinema here.

Another little-known fact, and one strictly for the Durrell (Gerald or Lawrence) fans, is that before the epic move to Corfu before the war, the Durrells lived in a little flat in the gardens of the Queens Hotel on Church Road and after Corfu they lived briefly again, whereabouts unrecorded, in Norwood before moving more centrally. This may mean little to the rest of you, but for me it's kismet, fate, meant-t0-be.... (MCD is quite aware it's only an accident of fate and birth and timing, goddamnit, that I didn't marry G Durrell first - lucky lucky man, the both of them....)

There are a few things missing in the Palace. A farmers market would be no.1 on my wish list. At the moment I go to Penge, which isn't far at all, but it would be nice to have one in Palace itself. There is a market every 3rd weekend, but it's that terribly tired formula of cynically-expensive French cheeses, olives, bread and salami, which is all well and good but not terribly useful when you're still forced to Sainsburys to complete the weekly shop. Hopefully it will grow and diversify, but the space in Victoria Place is a little limited, so who knows....

Apparently there used to be independent butchers, greengrocers et al, but with the reasonably recent opening of Sainsburys, they've gone. It's hard to believe, but there's not a single retail outlet selling fresh fruit and vegetables apart from Budgens (limited in the extreme) and the supermarket. Again, Penge has a remarkable butchers in Murray Bros, so this combined with the farmers market offers a decent spread. However, the farmers market is struggling slightly with lack of footfall - please, please, please my reader(s), support your local farmers market if you have one. Once it's gone, the council won't bring it back.

For a slice of life at the top of the hill, then, I'll be posting restaurant reviews, thoughts, events, anything going on really, as I get wind of it. Anything I've missed, chuck it over and I'll blog about it.

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