Willesden Green. It's not the sort of place that inspires emotions of hope, creativity and joy, right? And the truth is, that Willy G could easily be overlooked. But there are some gems to be found.
Walm Lane and the east end of Willesden High Road are starting to become a bit more gentrified, with a Costa and new Foxtons sprouting near the tube station (the latter, sadly, taking the place of the highly regarded Shish), and a couple of deli-cum cafes; all these have appeared in the last few months. This all suggests that the area is becoming a bit gentrified. Here are a selection of my favourite Willesden Green spots.
|Nest: take the Sunday papers|
Forget about Costa and head for Nest (Willesden Green station, Walm Lane) instead. It's a straightforward café beside the tube station, offering a standard array of paninis and sandwiches, full breakfasts (excellent), coffee, cakes and croissants, with large windows and comfortable sofas. No, not somewhere to make a trip to, but as a local café it's an excellent option: independent, rewarding and cheap to the point that you wonder where their profit margins are coming from - coffees are less than £2 and croissants £1, with a full English breakfast just £5.50. A solid Sunday papers option.
Another good place for a bite is Petra (19 Walm Lane).
|Petra: best of the kebab options|
Petra used to be known as Shawarma Express which was by far the best of the kebab options (although I never went to Shish). With a new name and, seemingly, new management, Petra is more expensive than it was in its previous incarnation but continues to offer good Lebanese food - ignore the Willesden Charcoal Grill down the road and come here instead. I tend to go fairly late when some things have sold out, but this isn't a kebaberie just for when you're drunk - they have tasty Lebanese options like sambousek.
There are loads of really good local food shops around - a mixture of long-established and new places. Two Middle Eastern supermarkets stand out. One is Al Thmarat (21a Walm Lane) - blink and you'll miss it; it's a tiny, cramped, shadowy place right next to Petra - the sort of Platform 9 3/4 place your eye slides past, but a treasure trove of pulses, spices, and jars of olives. Just up the road is Hamada (25a Walm Lane) - slightly larger and brighter, and a good spot to pick up some bread, baklava or a big bag of monosodium glutamate (no, really).
|Khan Halal Butchers|
More interesting still is Willesden Fisheries (1b Walm Lane). I keep forgetting to ask the guys who run it where they are from but my guess is possibly Mauritius, or maybe somewhere like Sudan. Anyhow, they have a great selection of fish - and it's different from most fishmongers in this country: there's no cod, haddock or sole - indeed there's hardly any flatfish at all - instead they have bass, bream, grey mullet and snapper, as well as African fish such as the river-dwelling tilapia.
|Moura Meat Centre|
So while the Foxtons and Costa might suggest that Willesden Green might at last be starting to turn into a bland middle-class suburb, which can only be a good thing for house prices, let's hope that the more esoteric options stay in place. In the next few weeks watch this space for a little review of a few more local options.
What the area badly needs, though, is a decent pub: Angie's is fun but not for the faint-hearted, while the Queensbury is just a sterile yuppie cliche. Hopefully we'll see a better option appearing in coming months.