Saturday, 23 July 2011

Willesden Green: on the up (1)

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).
Hamada
Hamada has some meat options, but for a proper butcher try Khan Halal Butchers (1f Walm Lane) which has a solid array of beef, lamb and chicken, alongside some fresh vegetables. Forget about the two local Sainsbury's - even the larger one is pretty disappointing and more expensive than the local shops.



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.
Willesden Fisheries
Finally, round the corner next to Geezers barbers is a relatively new butcher - the Moura Meat Centre (10 Willesden High Road). This serves the local Portuguese community well (chorizo discussions were conducted in painfully slow English) but has some really interesting Portguese/Brazilian meat and sausage options. Well worth a look.
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.

7 comments:

  1. You missed the relatively new Queensbury deli - delicious home-made food, cakes and Monmouth coffee all at modest prices (and open til 10pm). It's the nicest cafe I know outside of central London. And long-standing authentic sushi restaurant Sushi Say, which alone draws people to Willesden Green, always deserves a mention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If this is the niciest cafe you no outside central London, you really need to get out more!!

      Delete
  2. I really agree regarding a good pub!

    The options there don't compete with the bars of Kilburn or the pubs of my area (anything between Kingsbury and Pinner on the 183 route!)

    I do like the area though and agree it is becoming more gentrified.

    I have been getting my hair cut at Andy's... oops... Geezers for years! ;)

    Between Geezers and the Lloyds TSB is my father's business; Roshni Gifts and Jewellery.

    He's been there for circa 30 years, previously known as This & That.

    I still work there on Saturdays, but never stick around Willesden for a bevvie; always back in my area!

    Chiraag G

    ReplyDelete
  3. I didn't mention the Queensbury because I haven't been there yet! Like the look of the place next door to it, too. This is part 1 of 2 though...just need to go and try a few other places as well...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'd say you're far off the mark with referring to the Willesden Charcoal Grill as "nasty." Have you ever actually eaten there?!? The food is excellent and well priced, the place is spotless and the staff very friendly. One of my favorite restaurants.

    ReplyDelete
  5. second that, just got a steak there last night. brilliant place, although the 'rare' steak had no hint of red

    ReplyDelete
  6. There's also a new cafe opened across from the big Sainsburys called Dempseys. It serves lovely coffee and breakfasts that are great value for money as well as providing Willesden with the best Irish stew I've had in ages.

    ReplyDelete