Posts filed under neighbourhood guide

Brook Green | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Brook Green is a neighbour to my own little hood, Shepherds Bush. Throughout the week, I find myself stumbling into Brook Green for various things and it’s amazing to me how it has such a distinct and different feel. Enjoy my friend Julie’s take on life in Brook Green. She’s the owner of the very cute and popular Instagram account, LondonIsPink, and you’ll see she has a gift of taking really pretty pictures. Julie is nice, has great taste, works and is a mom. Her vantage point as a resident of Brook Green will give some great insight to most anyone in their life stage!


1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Brook Green is a small family-friendly little village enclave, dotted with small locally-owned shops - an oasis sandwiched between two very busy urban areas, . The neighborhood is centered around a small Green space - which serves as sort of the social central for Brook Green-dwellers with a small cafe, playground, tennis courts, and open fields. It's one of those neighbourhoods where you can't walk down the street without seeing someone you know, and I love that sense of community that can be hard to find in a big city.  

We had previously lived in a north London village - Highgate - but I felt it was too quiet and after moving to the U.K. from a very urban part of Washington DC: we missed the international community. We were thrilled to find this little paradise so close to central London, and with a very big expat community. The French primary school, Jacques Prevert, has made Brook Green a little South Kensington with lots of French families. Brook Green has gorgeous houses with blossoming gardens, quaint cafes, and even our very own Fishmonger (I feel like this is a big deal, but maybe because I'm an American and it's a novelty!) It also holds the distinction of having the only Michelin starred pub, The Harwood Arms. We like to pop in for a loaf of fresh bread to takeaway, it's a nice little neighborhood secret! 

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Holland Park and High Street Kensington are both just around the corner, which provide us with pretty much anything we need, and more patisserie than should be legal. 

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Brook Green is a commuters dream! I'd say we're a solid 9. We're within a 10 minute walk from the Central, District, Piccadilly, and Hammersmith and City lines. We're also extremely well located for airport access, which is great as we travel frequently. We moved here to be closer to Heathrow, which is about a 30 minute journey on the tube, but we're also a quick train ride from Gatwick, via the overground. 

We're also next to the Overground - the hidden secret of London transport! About 2/3 of the stations have a lift, which comes in handy when traveling with a buggy. In 20 minutes I can be right at the foot of Hampstead Heath, ready for a romp through the fields or in 10 minutes I can be exploring the lovely Northcote road market in South London. Also worth mentioning - whenever there's been a public transportation strike, the overground has almost always stayed open, and can skirt you around the perimeters of London rather stealthily. It's also air conditioned, which can be a lifesaver in the summer.

I do a lot of walking (get in those 10,000 steps!), and if you like to get around by foot, Kensington, Notting Hill, and Chiswick are all within walking distance. 

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

Brook Green has no shortage of gorgeous colorful houses, but I'm obsessed with one particular tiny street with small cottages: Hofland road. It's very quiet, and simply stunning. In the Spring, all the houses are covered in wisteria, roses, jasmine, and other English garden beauties. Most houses are 2 or 3 bedroom, and don't have the soaring ceilings like many of the neighboring houses on surrounding streets, but I have to say I wouldn't mind foregoing some space for the cuteness factor! There is a very low turnover in housing stock, however, as we looked for about 6 months before settling on our current flat. I looked for ages on Hofland road, but sadly nothing came up for rent, and we can't afford to buy on that road. Cottages run a cool £1-1.5 mil.

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4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

We are zone 2, close to the zone 1 border. We definitely pay a premium for location and transportation access. For the price we pay, we could probably get a 3 bedroom if we went about a 1/2 mile west or south, but we're willing to pay the premium to be that much closer to proximity to the Central line (for my husbands commute), and the parks, shops, and restaurants we like. I also love a good walk around Holland Park, Notting Hill, and Kensington, and I love being within walking distance of all of these neighborhoods.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Brook Green is a charming laid-back village with a loyal group of committed localists. It's known for being a haven for families and you'll see lots of prams around the green or in the cafes. On sunny days the pubs and outdoor spaces fill up with City professionals that live in some of the areas lovely mansion flats. There's also a good arts community that have brought annual events to our neighborhood, like book fairs and music festivals. It's very Stars Hallow. I can't walk down the street without seeing a power mum scootering or walking her kids to school before jetting off to their impressive job, nannies pushing buggies and wrangling scooter-riding children, and so many dog-owners. I think we have two pet stores in our small neighborhood! People love their dogs around here. 

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6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

As a freelancer, I work in cafes to stay productive, and Brook Green has a few great options. I absolutely love The Blue Corner, a relaxed family-owned cafe with great food and drinks and a strong wi-fi connection. It's owned by a mother-daughter duo from Portugal, and the ambience is so warm and lovely. Also sometimes they sell Pastel de Nata's - quite the treat! 

I also love the newest addition to our high street, The Corner House. It's a multi-use space, with a restaurant/cafe on the ground floor and the downstairs hosts a really darling play space for toddlers with an attached cafe for parents to relax with a cuppa and a croissant. They also have great studios with exercise classes for children and adults. It's a very relaxed and beautiful space and the food is excellent.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

We love The Bird in Hand, a really cozy little locals gastropub that has nice small plates and pizzas, and usually a little pup or two soaking up the atmosphere. In the last couple of months, TWO new pizza places have opened! Zia Lucia on Blythe road makes pizzas using 48-hour fermented dough. Farina & More is a family-owned Italian restaurant with friendly staff and delicious pizzas and pastas. Another spot we love is Kerbisher and Malt, a chippy on the high street known to be frequented by local celebrities like Simon Cowell. If it's a nice day, we'll get a fish and chips takeaway and bring it to the Green for a picnic. A favorite summer pastime! 

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8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN BROOK GREEN- AS A LOCAL?

My son has drama club in the neighborhood, so we usually drop him off, then hibernate at home if it's cold, or catch a "mini-morning" movie with my daughter at the nearby cinema. If the weather is nice, we head to the Brook Green Market. Everyone really comes together here on Saturdays and now that we have kids in school, we always run into someone we know. The kids play on the playground onsite, and the mums and dads have a bite and chat. It's a perfect way to while away a Saturday! We love to pick up fresh bread and some sweet treats, along with things for dinner. I especially love when the buskers show up, makes me feel like I'm in actual episode of Gilmore Girls. 

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Sometimes we head to the nearby Brook Green playground and let the kids have a run around. If we're lucky, we'll walk home via Blythe Road and stop for a little cake at the darling vintage-inspired Betty Blythe's tea room and have a peek next door at the newest arrivals at the mega stylish kids clothing and toy shop, Scandi Mini.

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If the weather is especially nice, we love to spend the day on the Hammersmith riverfront to admire one of London's prettiest bridges. We stop for a bite at one of the pubs - our faves are The Rutland Arms and The Dove - and walk across the bridge to explore the shore of the Thames. I love being so close to the river. Even though it's only a 20 minute walk from Brook Green, it feels like a different world on the riverfront!

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£8-13

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN BROOK GREEN?

Brook Green isn't big enough to have much outdoor space, but we have a few favorites. Obviously, the Green! We love to play and picnic on this gorgeous little space. Thanks to the annual community bulb planting, there are snowdrops, daffodils, and crocus in the spring, and big crunchy autumn leaves in the Autumn. We also have tennis courts and fields big enough for kids to play football. Also, the pubs on Masbro Road - The Bird in Hand and Havelock Tavern - both have outdoor tables where we love to have a lazy lunch on the street and visit with friends and neighbors and pet a few puppies. 

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11. WHAT ARE THE BEST LOCAL SCHOOLS IN BROOK GREEN? ARE THESE PAID OR PRIVATE?

In Brook Green, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to good schools. There are great options from top-rated community schools, a free school - the newly opened brach of the much-loved West London Free School, Kensington Primary Academy, and two religious-based schools, including Larminier & Sacred Heart which in recent years had nearly 200 applicants for 60 spots. Fee-paying schools include the well-regarded Bute House Preparatory School for Girls, the French primary school: Jacques Prevert, and St. James Primary and Secondary Schools, a vegetarian school where kids learn Sanskrit as part of the curriculum. 

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12. WHAT ARE SOME GOOD AREA THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS?

My kids obviously love the playground, which is absolutely jam packed with kids and mums and nannies after school! We love to spend rainy days at The Corner House play area, or the Hammersmith library. The Masbro Centre has lots of classes on offer for kids, and play-times and meet-ups for mums with new babies. If we venture out of our neighborhood, you'll find us at nearby Holland Park, Daunt Books on Holland Park's high street, and our new favorite - the newly opened Design Museum. We visit weekly! The museum hosts maker activities for kids 5-11 (sometimes younger, but typically these are geared towards school-aged children). They have building activities that my kids love to work on, and a new Explorers Trail to help younger kids explore the museum. My 6 year old son is obsessed with an activity to design the future underground train (future engineer!), and my 3 year old daughter loves to listen to the interactive exhibits. In the summer, the kids love to cool off in the water fountains outside on the plaza. It's a big hit with our family, and I don't think many families know about it (we don't see a lot of kids there) so I'm spreading the word! Go!

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Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | NOTTING HILL | ISLINGTON | BRIXTON | PutnEY



*images courtesy of Julie Taylor

Putney | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Today I’m happy to introduce Emily Murphy to you as our guest contributor. Emily is sharing her part of London with us: Putney! I seriously laughed out loud at some of her answers, and had a good time reading all about her life south of the river in Putney. (P.S. ... Is everyone enjoying this series as much as I am? I’m totally loving having so many voices talking about their hoods here on Aspiring Kennedy… brings me back to the old days of community blogging.}


PUTNEY 

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Putney is a lovely neighbourhood in southwest London filled with lots of green spaces, cafes, and families. It’s located on the south bank of the Thames, between Fulham and Wimbledon. I often say that Putney feels like a small town within London - everything you need is right here and it’s easy to go weeks without ever feeling like you have to leave. You’re also surrounded by green spaces on all sides - the river to the north, Wandsworth Park to the east, Putney Common to the west, and Putney Heath to the south. 

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2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

I’d say Putney is a 7. The train from Putney Station runs to Waterloo and is super convenient for getting into the city. There are two tube stations - East Putney and Putney Bridge (both served by the District line) - which take you right through central London. However, the District line is notoriously slow and always has problems (delays, improvement work, etc.). More often than not, I jump on a bus to get around. There are loads of lines that run through Putney, and a bus is the fastest and easiest way for me to get to other neighbourhoods in SW London like Chelsea or Clapham.

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3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

I’m particularly fond Putney’s pedestrian-only streets, like Quill Lane and Olivette Street. The rows of houses along either side are so cute and feel so much like London to me. I also love the houses on Deodar Road. They’re beautiful Victorian homes that back onto the river. 

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4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

Putney is expensive and we definitely pay a premium for living here. The houses are beautiful and the parks and riverfront are a real perk. Parts of Putney, like the Dover House conservation area, offer better value as they are further from transport links. For us, though, location was the most important factor - I’ve just had a baby and I know that I’m much more likely to leave the house if amenities are close by. Living in the centre of Putney means a much smaller apartment, which can sometimes be frustrating, but I do think the location makes it worth it.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Putney is full of families. The three types of people you’d meet on our high street are moms with prams, dads with prams, and nannies with prams. It can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, actually - I often struggle to find space for my pram in a cafe or restaurant because there are already so many inside! Putney High Street definitely lacks the charm of other neighbourhoods in London like Notting Hill or Hampstead. There’s always a lot of traffic (Putney High Street is regularly listed as one of the worst polluted streets in London) and there are more chains than cute neighbourhood places. However, if you go off the beaten path a bit, you’re treated by a really lovely vibe. Lower Richmond Road in particular is full of great cafes, restaurants, and shops. 

 

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

It’s hard to pick! My favourite is probably Blåbär on Lacy Road - they have the best cinnamon buns I’ve had in London, and the nicest staff. I’m also a fan of Artisan and The Bakehouse on Upper Richmond Road, and Ground on Lower Richmond Road (a great place to stop for coffee before a walk along the river).

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

Putney has a few pubs that serve amazing food, and they’re your best bet for a good meal around here. My favourite is the Prince of Wales on Upper Richmond Road. They have a cozy dining room and serve excellent food (the steak and the burger are great). There’s also a lovely private dining room upstairs which is great for parties. The Jolly Gardeners (the fish and chips are my favourite in London) and the Coat and Badge, both on Lacy Road, are also excellent options. 

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN PUTNEY- AS A LOCAL?

We’d start the day with brunch at Tried and True - ordering either the buttermilk waffles or the skillet hash. It’s a really nice restaurant that is super family-friendly and always has the best atmosphere. Then, assuming the weather is good, we’d head out for a walk either along the river or through Putney Heath. We’d stop for an afternoon drink at The Telegraph, a great little pub in the middle of Putney Heath that makes me feel like I’m having a day out in the country. These days, our evenings are spent at home desperately trying to get our three month old to sleep, but if we had a sitter we’d probably go to Five Guys for dinner and then see a movie (they’ve just redone the cinema here and it is lush). 

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£15-21. It depends on traffic and surge fares. It’s cost us £40+ to get home before.

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN PUTNEY?

It’s hard to pick, as there are so many lovely green spaces here, but my favourite would have to be walking along the river. There’s a great walking path that runs all the way from Putney to Barnes (and beyond, I’m sure, but I’ve never made it further than that). Lots of doggies, space for the pram, and great views.

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Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | NOTTING HILL | ISLINGTON | BRIXTON


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


*images courtesy of Emily Murphy

Brixton | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

For today’s addition to our neighbourhood guide series, we are moving South of the river to Brixton. To be honest, the closest I’ve ever been to Brixton was today on the train back in from Canterbury. We were moving at a glacial pace through the Southern part of London and I was getting the best view of Dulwich, Herne Hill and then- Brixton! I was peeking at all the cute little cafes with gardens, lively shops and it seemed like such a vibrant and fun part of town. 

I’m happy to have Bethan introduce her part of London to you. She’s one of the people I met through blogging in the early days when I’d sit on my tiny blue suede love seat (seriously!) in Oxford and type away all day while Tyler was busy. We somehow got tagged in a book swap and sent each other books in the mail to read. I loved those sweet days of blogging- where people were just connecting and doing kind things like that, and I love that so many people from those days I’m still connected to in 2018. Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying: Thanks, Bethan, for coming to Aspiring Kennedy and introducing us to your lovely part of London.


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1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

I live in Brixton, a vibrant and colourful neighbourhood in South West London full of cool shops, restaurants, bars and local life. It's an amazing place to live and I feel really privileged that I can call it my home. Yep it's a little gritty, but that's one of the things I love about city living, and when things get too much it's easy to escape to the wide open spaces of Brockwell Park!

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We live in Poets Corner, a quiet residential area between Herne Hill and Brixton, and right on the corner of Brockwell Park. It's about a 10 minute walk to Brixton Tube along Atlantic Road, which is crammed with little shops and cafes - it's hard to walk down there without stopping for a coffee - as well as local butchers, fish mongers and veg shops, it's really eclectic! Off Atlantic Road is Brixton Market, an amazing treasure trove of shops and a really magnet for foodies - this is where both Honest Burger (best chips in London) and Franca Manca (best pizza in London) were born.

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Brixton Road is where you go for all the big chain stores (including the best H&M in town - seeing a theme here?!) as well as Morleys, the local department store and Ritzy, our local cinema, complete with bar! Branch up on to Acre Lane where you can treat yourself to an amazing brunch at the Blues Kitchen, or dig for bargains at the British Heart Foundation furniture shop or the TRAID clothing shop.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Brixton is a solid 9 - it's in zone 2 and on the Victoria Line, which speeds you quickly into the centre of town. Things do get slightly annoying if you need to go east, but who needs Shoreditch when you're in somewhere that's so cool and quirky in it's own right?! There are also loads of buses that connect Brixton with the rest of South London, as well as into the centre of town. Oh, and it's about a three mile walk to Victoria, which is pretty pleasant on a good day.

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

I would love to live in Trinity Gardens, a lovely square of quaint terraced houses tucked back from the chaos, yet just a few minutes from the Tube. Although saying that I do really love the knot of streets around Poets Corner where we live at the moment because it's got a really similar vibe and is packed with cute colourful houses and quirky street art. 

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

London is always going to be expensive, but I’d say living in Brixton is pretty good value, so around a 7. You do pay a premium in comparison to other areas of South West London, but when you consider the transport links and local amenities it’s worth it. 

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Brixton is eclectic!! Walking down Atlantic Road you’ll run in to everyone from sassy teenagers to elderly ladies having a chat, hipsters comparing notes on coffee shops to families pushing buggies loaded with shopping and tourists paying their respects to Bowie. Every type of person is here and that’s why I love it!

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6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

I love Parissi, a really gorgeous little cafe which makes the most delicious food (especially their homemade croissants, which are amazing!) and serves up AllPress coffee!

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

There are so many well-priced yet amazing places to eat in Brixton, and food is a real focal point of the area. I love to head to Pop Brixton to induldge my indecisive side and gorge on a smorgasboard of street food from dumplings to pinxos. I also really love Fish, Wings and Tings for a taste of the Caribbean culture which has been hugely influential in the area, and I love both Joint and Brixton Grill for their ribs! 

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN BRIXTON AS A LOCAL?

Most Saturdays I start my day with a workout at Brixton Rec Centre. I love this place! It's a cheap and cheerful municipal gym that attracts people from all walks of life, everyone is friendly and the only person taking selfies is me! After my sweat session I'll usually head out to run errands, picking up flowers from the stall outside the station, maybe some veggies from one of the shops along Electric Avenue or candles from Article, before grabbing a coffee and cake at Parissi, it's important to refuel properly!

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Once I'm home, and my boyfriend Mike is up, we might head out for some lunch in the market, somewhere like The Joint in Brixton Market - I am on a one woman mission to find the best ribs ever, and these come pretty close - before heading to Brockwell Park to walk everything off, possibly with a stop at Brockwell Blend on Tulse Hill for another caffeine hit. Brixton has tonnes of independent cafes, which is great for coffee lovers like me! Just a little further up the hill from Brockwell Blend is The Sympathetic Ear, a fab little bar that specialises in local (and not so local) beer, so if the mood takes up we might nip in there to check out what they've got on tap!

Brixton never stops, and things are just as vibrant in the evening as they are during the day! On a Saturday night we tend to head to bars like 384 or Shrub and Shutter where the bar staff mix up inventive cocktails, or if we're feeling less fancy we might head to Effra Social, a former social club that's been converted (in the loosest sense of the word) in to a bar cum club with some serious cheesy disco vibes. For a more low key evening we might meet friends KaoSarn for Thai (it's BYO, so a really economical night out), or head to a house party (London's expensive, sometimes you need to economise!).

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

I am a firm fan of the night bus, it’s an experience in itself, but when I do get an uber it will usually be £15-20.

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN BRIXTON?

Brockwell Park is absolutely amazing! Haul yourself up to the brow of the hill and there are some seriously impressive views across the city, the mini train keeps kids (big and small) amused for hours and the Lido Cafe is an awesome place to grab a coffee and some lunch. My only word of warning is the park is hilly, so keep that in mind if you fancy a run! 

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Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | NOTTING HILL | ISLINGTON


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


*professional shots by Anna Rachel Photography
*other photos by Bethan Taylor

Islington | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Today, we get to continue on with my guide to various neighbourhoods… but not written from my perspective! These area guides are written by people who live and love these little pockets of London. Today, we are headed Northeast to the hip area of Islington. You’ll get a good perspective of what makes this place unique from a former New Yorker-turned-Londoner. Erin Moore shares a bit of her life in London’s beloved neighbourhood of Islington.

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1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Our neighbourhood is a good mix of the practical and the frivolous. It’s very friendly and a little gritty, in a way that a former New Yorker can appreciate.

We live on Pentonville Road near Angel. On our side of Pentonville Road is Amwell Street, a lively and charming street of small shops where we run into our neighbors. Across Pentonville Road, we have Chapel Market, which is an old-fashioned street market with everything from produce and home goods 6 days/week to an organic farmers’ market on Sunday mornings. You can buy a school uniform, a wedding dress, the Sunday paper or a 10-foot ladder, no problem.

Around the corner, Upper Street has every chain store and restaurant you could wish for, including a huge Waterstone’s, along with some really wonderful independent businesses. For example, behind Angel lies Camden Passage, a tiny street lined with antique shops and an outdoor antique market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are some enticing little cafes (Austrian coffee house Kipferl and the Coffee Works Project); Paul A. Young, a first-rate chocolate shop; and the Camden Head (check out their beer garden).

 Photo courtesy of  Kipferl

Photo courtesy of Kipferl

 Photo courtesy of  Pan Pan

Photo courtesy of Pan Pan

 Photo courtesy of  Angela Coomey

Photo courtesy of Angela Coomey

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

I’d say Islington is a 9. At one end of Upper Street, Angel Station is on the Bank branch of the Northern Line. 19 bus lines connect through that one busy corner.

At the other end of Upper Street, Highbury & Islington Station has the Overground as well as the Victoria Line. Seven minutes to Oxford Circus from the furthest end of this neighbourhood is not bad!

But the real reason I give Islington such a high score is its proximity to King’s Cross/St. Pancras. Just half a mile or a couple of bus stops away, you have access to the Circle, Hammersmith and City, Northern and Metropolitan Underground lines, not to mention the Eurostar, Thameslink, East Midlands Trains and Southeastern.

If you don’t mind walking, you’ll find Islington surprisingly central. In about half an hour on foot, you can be at the South Bank, or the West End, or Shoreditch.

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

I enjoy living on the Pentonville Road because there’s never a dull moment. The downside, of course, is noise and pollution. There are a couple of streets, out of the fray and yet still close to Angel, that are appealing. Colebrooke Row has some of the loveliest Georgian houses around. Duncan Terrace has a ribbon of garden running through it. Noel Road is just as pretty and its gardens back onto the Regent’s Canal.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

Anyone living in London is paying a premium, but Islington is definitely in the mid-range of crazy. It is about 1,000 pounds per square foot, which makes it better value than West London (Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Camden and Hammersmith and Fulham are all more expensive), but worse value than East London (Hackney, Tower Hamlets) and most places south of the Thames (Wandsworth, Southwark, Richmond). Islington is more expensive than it was a few years ago, but with Google and other tech companies moving to King’s Cross and Old Street, and London’s centre of gravity shifting east over the past decade, it still seems like a good location/investment. 

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MIGHT SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET.

On Upper Street you’ll see mums with prams, young City types on their way to work, and many chuggers and buskers: all ages, all races, all income levels. Many people living here are the second or third generation (or more) of their families to live in the neighbourhood, so there’s a community feeling.

Although Islington is a magnet for nightlife with clubs (like O2 Academy), pubs (the Castle and the Albion are two favorites for outdoor drinking), the Almeida Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, it is also casual enough to enjoy this place as a local and be spontaneous. You don’t have need reservations to get into most of the restaurants. 

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD?

There are countless great coffee shops—so many that it’s hard to keep up with the rate they open. I really like Saint Espresso. They happen to have the best brownies: sea salt caramel (gluten free but you would not guess if they didn’t tell you). Another favorite is Ground Control on Amwell Street. Further afield, Sunday is a beloved coffee/brunch spot. It’s been discovered, though--don’t say I didn’t warn you…

 Photo courtesy of  Saint Espresso

Photo courtesy of Saint Espresso

 Photo courtesy of  Saint Espresso

Photo courtesy of Saint Espresso

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD?

At the moment, I’m most into The Little Viet Kitchen, where the Vietnamese food is spicy, light, fresh and intense; Bellanger, an Alsatian/French brasserie owned by the same group at the Wolseley, the Delaunay and Fischer’s, but easier to walk into on a weekend; the Quality Chop House in Exmouth Market (try the mince on dripping toast); Moro and Berber and Q Shawarma Bar, other great places in Exmouth Market; and last but not least, for a romantic date, Trullo.

 Photo courtesy of  Clerkenwell Boy

Photo courtesy of Clerkenwell Boy

 Photo courtesy of  Bellanger

Photo courtesy of Bellanger

 Photo courtesy of  Bellanger

Photo courtesy of Bellanger

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN ISLINGTON- AS A LOCAL?

Many Saturdays, my son and I start in Myddelton Square having a chat with our dog-walking neighbours . He plays at the playground. Then we spend the rest of the morning shopping, for family lunch or a dinner party or (usually) both. Here are some of the places we go…

We buy meat and bread from the Quality Chop House Shop and, if they have them, their addictive confit potatoes, and chicken liver pate. 

On the way back toward Angel, it is fun to stop at Made in Little France, where they have 300 different French wines, including some on tap. 

We love the charcuterie (and, weirdly, we discovered the most delicious pasta) at Coq Epicier. They also have a small selection of bread and pastries—the best at this end of Islington. The have regional French food and drink and they couldn’t be friendlier.

Fish comes from Moxon’s, just across Camden Passage, or Steve Hatt (Nigel Slater’s favourite fishmonger for a reason, but the queues can be hard for a 2-year-old to withstand). 

We buy most of our fruit and vegetables from Chapel Green Fruit and Veg on Chapel Market. It is probably the place in the neighbourhood my kids are most excited to go because of how welcome they are. Often they are offered a banana or some friendly banter here. We all love it.

We might pick up lunch from Ottolenghi. I cannot walk past their window display without stopping, at least to look.

Or we stop at Udderlicious for ice cream. They let locals vote online for the flavours they want to try at the shop in the coming month, and even nominate new flavours. My favorite is the dark chocolate sea salt sorbet—you’d never know it is dairy-free.

A real treasure in the area is Belle Epoque Patisserie — one of the best pastry shops in London, for sure, and my pick for a celebration cake or leisurely tea with a friend. It is nearer the Highbury end of Upper Street. They have éclairs to swoon for, my son’s beloved mini chocolate madeleines, and really great bread.

Islington is an amazing place to be if you like to eat. We also have two great movie theaters, useful shopping (high end, low end and everything in between) and all the entertaining people watching you could ever want. We have good locally-owned hardware and cookware shops, drycleaners, and pharmacies as well as a giant Boots, and plenty of big gyms to choose from. Parking is easy. It is by far the most practical neighbourhood we have lived in since moving to London ten years ago. 

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

An Uber to Oxford Circus would cost 8-11 pounds from Angel.

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN ISLINGTON?

You can find patches of green in the form of pretty garden squares, most of them open to the public. Part of Islington skirts the edge of the Regents Canal. Its main park is Highbury Fields, about a mile (straight up Upper Street) from Angel Station. There are plenty of small playgrounds around Angel: in Myddleton Square, Barnard Park and Culpeper Park (with its sweet community garden and tadpole pond). If you head down to Granary Square, the newly developed area behind Kings Cross along the canal, there are jumping fountains, a playground, a terrific ice cream place called Ruby Violet,  and Word on the Water (a bookshop on a barge). 


Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | Notting Hill



Notting Hill | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

For a long time, Notting Hill was a big part of my life and identity. Since moving away, I’ve become a bit detached from those streets and people, but I still feel a fierce connection with the tiny area of London that we spent so many major moments of our life. I wouldn’t ask just anyone to represent Notting Hill here with you.. .unless I trusted them completely. And luckily, I have Amber here to talk you through the neighbourhood. Not only do I trust Amber to know exactly what kind of food/bakery/pub is in sync with my tastes… but I also would trust her with prettttty much anything else in my life. She’s my best friend here in London, she’s the nicest person anyone knows (seriously- ask anyone who has met her), and she’s got the best taste. She has recently started blogging again (YAY!!!!) and you can get a taste for how special this lady is there on her blog, Cobblestone Collective. Okay, enough gushy talk. I love her. She loves me…. But you’re here to hear about Notting Hill and why it’s great. So, with that, I’ll pass it over to Amber.


Notting Hill, W11

1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.

Notting Hill is a vibrant, quirky, charming neighbourhood with a great mix of cobble-stoned mews, posh flats with glossy front doors, and of course the rows of candy-hued houses. The world-famous Portobello Road market is the heartbeat of the neighbourhood -- sprawling two miles from Notting Hill Gate up past Golbourne Road. The mix of fresh food, baked goods, fruit/veggie/flower stands along with tables of vintage silver, antiques and furniture attract locals and tourists alike. 

2. On a scale of 1-10, how connected would you say where you live is? What are the major lines that run to/from you?

I would say Notting Hill is about an 8 on the transportation scale. Although there are many ways to access the neighbourhood, there are also little pockets throughout that are a bit harder to reach. Notting Hill Gate Station (Central, Circle & District Lines) will easily take you into Central London, and some of the stations further north (Westbourne Park and Ladbroke Grove - Hammersmith & City, Circle Lines) are a straight shot to some of the major train stations (Paddington and King's Cross). The hardest places to quickly reach are right in the middle of Notting Hill, but the buses will help get you to where you need to go, or walking the winding streets can have its charm too!

3. In a dream world, what would be the perfect street or area to live in within your neighbourhood? Why?

As cliché as it is, I'm a sucker for St. Luke's Mews and especially the pink house where the famous Love Actually scene was filmed. Although I am drawn to just about all the little hidden gem mews streets in Notting Hill. They become their own little communities in the midst of a bustling city -- neighbours pull out bistro tables and enjoy the little slivers of sunshine while sipping tea, kids play and dogs lounge around on the cobbled streets - my kind of place! 

4. On a 1-10, how would you say the value for square footage is? Do a pay a premium for where you live or would you say it’s a better value than other areas in London?

Because of the location, famous name and accessibility to shops/restaurants/markets, I would have to give Notting Hill a 5 on the value scale. People generally don't move to this neighbourhood looking for good value and spacious flats, but more for the charm and eclectic culture so it tends to be on the pricier side compared to other areas in London.

5. What’s the general vibe of the neighbourhood? Give us three people we might see on your high street?

One of the things I love the most about Notting Hill is the mix of artists, professionals, tourists, celebrities and plain old families - like us! On any given day, you could see a tourist stopping to ask for directions to Portobello Road, a guy wearing a beret and sneakers carrying a huge instrument down the street like it's the most normal thing in the world, or a frazzled mom pushing a stroller with a babbling baby and toddler somewhere nearby picking gum up off the street (or maybe that's just me ;)

6. What’s your favourite place to get coffee in your neighbourhood?

Lately, I've been loving the cozy courtyard and rose lattes at Farm Girl Cafe. If you are lucky enough to snag a table outside, the heaters and fur-lined seats will keep you warm in any weather (except maybe the pouring rain) - and the coffee, juices, avocado toast, and berry donuts will keep you fueled to catch up on some emails, people watch or chat with friends. 

A close second would be Fabrique bakery - with their gorgeous (and delicious) Swedish cinnamon buns, cute mis-matched floral plates and friendly service, a coffee here is such a treat! 

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7. What’s your favourite place to eat dinner in your neighbourhood?

If I'm looking for a quick, casual, yet delicious and satisfying dinner, I head straight to The Chipping Forecast for some of the most delicious fish and chips in all of London. Perfectly crunchy chips, butter lettuce and avocado salad, and ever so slightly mushy peas accompany white, flaky fish in the perfect amount of batter. If you save room, the sticky toffee pudding is not to be missed! 

If I'm wanting a little something special or romantic, we head toward Granger & Co. Famous for their breakfast, we also love to tuck in here in the evening to enjoy some of their unique Aussie inspired dishes for dinner. The large windows, buzzing atmosphere and candlelight lend to a perfect backdrop for long conversations with friends, or a special date night out.