One of the things I love about London is that it’s actually made up of many small areas, each with their own sense of community, culture, flavours, distractions and individuals. Last Saturday was quality time for Chun and me in the Shepherd’s Bush Market area. We were there to see The Beloved at The Bush Theatre (last day of the play, but recommended if it’s ever produced again, and reviewed far more eloquently that I’d be able to here).
The Bush Theatre
My first time at The Bush Theatre and I really liked this small space. The front of house and the theatre itself didn’t feel crowded – ok, it was a Saturday matinee – and the staff didn’t seem rushed. Sadly we didn’t have time to dine at the cafe/bar, but I liked the fact that their short cafe menu features special dishes tailored to the show. In this case, The Beloved’s Middle Eastern themes were reflected in Chicken Tagine and a Chickpea Stew. No idea if they were tasty, but at £7 including a glass of wine or a pint, it sounds like a good deal!
Next time, we’ll definitely make time to hang out there pre-theatre: it’s a light airy space, with wooden floors, mismatched vintage tables and wall of books, giving it that relaxed, homey feel. And the wine list curator has such a way with words that I want to check whether the wines live up to their descriptions, my favourites being the Muscadet and the Albarino.
Shepherd’s Bush Market
Our tummies were a rumbling after the show, and Shepherd’s Bush market next door was beckoning. It’s your ‘normal’ London market (read: Borough Market this ain’t) in that it’s a bit grimey, fruit n’ veg stalls are mixed with hoisery stands, mini kitchenware emporiums, fabric sellers and a rich range of ethnic grocers, primarily serving the local afro-carribean community.
We wandered down the market enjoying the sunshine and chatting to the vendors. I remember how embarrassed I used to be when my mum would strike up conversations with random strangers whilst on holiday. I used to find myself hiding behind her wishing she’d stop talking. And now I find it’s me rabbiting away! As Oscar Wilde says, all women become like their mothers…
But never mind that, becoming like my mother meant that we discovered the nut lady and her family who have been roasting and importing their nuts for 30 years. It meant that we discovered the unfriendly hat man (half way down the market) who wouldn’t let me try on a hat in case I made it dirty. How will I know if it fits or makes me look like a fool if I don’t put it on my head? And it meant we found the much friendlier ladies manning the hat stall by the entrance who didn’t deem me too filthy to try on their hats and to whom I will be returning for future hat purchases.
We also stocked up on dried hibiscus flowers, which make for an incredibly vibrant and piquant red herbal tea. But our discovery of the day was at….
Stand # 49: Falafel Hut
As I said, I’m becoming my mother, whose restaurant ‘trick’ in foreign countries is to ditch the guidebook and follow the crowds. Literally. On this occasion, that trick proved spot on (thanks Mum!) as we discovered a queue of 6 people waiting patiently at the stall and bums on all seats in their makeshift eating area. So we queued too and were rewarded for our efforts with a giant aubergine and falafel wrap.
Hopefully, the smile on Chun’s face is all you need to see to tell how darned delicious it was! I like that herbs, spices and a deep fat fryer can transform the humble chick pea into something so tasty. I’m sure it would convince even the Irishman (he of “I like chicks; I like peas; but I don’t like chickpeas” fame) to love these chickpea balls. The falafel was accompanied by hunks of soft fried aubergines, tahini, salad and red and green chilli sauce, encased in a wrap that wasn’t too thick, and toasted gently until crispy. A great mix of flavours and textures, and our only complaint, typical asians, is that we needed more chilli sauce but it was gladly and generously doled out.
So, if you find yourself at Shepherd’s Bush Market, say hi to the nut woman, give a shout out to the hat ladies, pass the stalls selling odds and ends, and mosy on down to Stand #49. There awaits a delicious wrap; just don’t forget the extra chilli sauce!
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Shepherd’s Bush Market. Address: right by the exit of Shepherd’s Bush Market tube (note, not Shepherd’s Bush). Good for random wanderings.
Falafel Hut: Stand #49 in the market. 4 out of 5. It was a whopper.