Thursday 29 November 2012

Sesami, Railton Road, south London

A bustling deli stroke cafe in the pedestrianised section of Railton Road leading down to Herne Hill station, Sesami serves top notch sandwiches. The toasted panini (about £4) containing chicken, chorizo, mozzarella, roasted vegetables, pesto and (appropriately) sesami seeds is almost divine. The coffee is also good here. The only downside is, to eat in, you have to perch on a high chair next to one of the handful of tables at the scruffy back of the shop. In the summer, the aluminium tables out front are more appealing. The service by Sesami's multinational staff is pleasant and polished. 7/10

Sunday 25 November 2012

Walk through Barbury Castle Country Park, Wiltshire

This short, but satisfying, circular walk starts at the car park in Barbury Castle Country Park. From an elevated grassy ridge sheltering the car park, you can survey the big skies and open countryside to the north, across the M4 to the sprawl of Swindon. Follow the Ridgeway path west and you will soon come to the remains of an iron-age hillfort, complete with grassy mounds that kids will enjoy scrambling up and down. You then descend steeply down into the valley, go through a gate and follow a gravel path north east for about a mile or so. From here, you can climb up the steep, narrow road directly back to the car-park or you can turn east off the road on to a bridleway and extend the walk by about a mile by climbing up Burderop Hill. The full 3.5 mile route is detailed here7/10

Silks on the Downs, Main Road, Ogbourne St Andrew, Wiltshire

A smart pub-restaurant in horse racing country, the Silk on the Downs is a good choice for a leisurely family Sunday lunch after a stroll in Wiltshire's rolling countryside. Recently refurbished, the interior is decorated with racing paraphernalia, such as framed jockeys' colours and a crude picture of Frankie Dettori resembling Barack Obama. In addition to the half-a-dozen starters and main courses on the printed menu, there could be some specials, typically fish dishes, on the blackboard  The starters might include scallops (£8.50), soup (£4.25), mussels (£7) and a selection of antipasti, featuring cured meats, such as chorizo and Parma ham, served with a small  helping of feta and sun-dried tomatoes and a sliced baguette on a wooden chopping board. The cheese and meats combine well, but the plate is on the small side for £12.95.  The main courses on Sunday include roasts, such as a slow-cooked shoulder of lamb (£13.50) with rosemary, some leathery roast potatoes, gravy and a side dish of vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots and cabbage. The tender lamb is enticing, but may need more seasoning. The pork belly (£10.95), which comes with roast potatoes, vegetables and crackling, gets rave reviews.

England versus South Africa, Autumn Internationals

England lost 16-15 to South Africa in a wet, error-strewn and tense encounter. South Africa scored a fortunate try, England knocked-on frequently, missed two penalties and made a poor decision in the closing stages. With the score at 16-12 and four minutes left on the clock, England kicked a penalty for goal, rather than a line-out near the try line.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

The Blackbird Bakery, Railton Road, South London

A cosy little place opposite Herne Hill station, the Blackbird Bakery has a few tables where you can lunch on a really excellent cheese, ham and tomato toasted sandwich, packed with juicy, salty meat. Toasties don't get much better. The Blackbird also offers other appealing sandwiches (the chicken madras in olive bread is out of the top drawer), plus an array of breads, pastries and cakes. The coffee is good, but the food can be exceptional. Well worth checking out. 8/10

Thursday 15 November 2012

Autumnal Sunset in Brockwell Park

The end of a bright and chilly day in Brockwell Park, one of the best green spaces in south London

Sunday 11 November 2012

Columbia Road Flower Market, East London

On a Sunday, a vibrant and verdant flower market opens up in front of the quirky independent shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes on and around the early Victorian terrace of Columbia Road on the fringes of trendy Hoxton. As the sun sets, the boisterous stall owners start flogging three bunches for a tenner or even a fiver. There is plenty of prepared patter: One trader suggested feeding his Indian chilli plants to the mother-in-law in the hope that she won't wake up in the morning. 8/10

Arnold Circus, East London

Built to replace a notorious slum, the late Victorian Boundary Estate is centered on Arnold Circus - a raised circular park encircled by handsome five-story, red-brick housing blocks and school buildings, dating from the nineteenth century. Seven roads lead into the circus. Two flights of steps take you up through the well-tended borders and past the wrought iron railings to an elevated circular platform containing mature trees and an aging bandstand sheltering a table tennis table. This is a good vantage point from which to admire the harmonious and historic housing estate all around you.  The subject of an episode of the 2012 BBC series The Secret History of Our Streets, Arnold Circus has been home to generations of east end immigrants. 8/10

Leila's Shop, Calvert Avenue, East London

On the ground floor of a distressed Edwardian red brick block on the edge of Arnold's Circus, Leila's Shop is a cool and compact cafe. There are about half-a-dozen wooden tables inside, enclosed by white clapboard walls and a kitchen counter. This open plan arrangement, which means you can see the kitchen staff working away among the pans and other paraphernalia, gives the place a homely feel.  There are also a couple of tables outside, where you can perch on green plastic seats. The blackboards tend to offer simple dishes, such as a ploughman's lunch (about £7), sandwiches, porridge with prunes and molasses (£3) and fried eggs & sage (£5). If you are there in the afternoon, you might prefer one of the hefty chocolate brownies, served on a wooden chopping board, with your cup of tea or coffee. Leila's Shop's understated ambiance attracts an urbane, cosmopolitan crowd. 7/10