Thursday, May 08, 2008

Edgware Road - the Middle East in London

DEC Burma Appeal - 23,000 confirmed dead and 1,5 million at risk.

Little Venice at dusk

Many years ago I attended a course in the outskirts of Guildford, as did two Arabic chaps from Saudi Arabia. They were staying in a hotel nearby, and were clearly missing home comforts, or indeed any life! I explained that they should head up to London, to Edgware Road (when was the article dropped?), where they should be able to find anything they missed from back home, except perhaps the Kaaba and vast oil reserves. The following morning, I arrived to find two very happy Arab chappies, grinning inanely and intending to move to a hotel in London and commute down for the rest of the week!

Even Barclays has all its signs translated

Little Cairo or Little Beirut, as it is also known, is a fascinating place, and brings the culture of the Middle East to us. You'll follow portly Eastern chaps with two or three burkha'd women following a metre behind, shisha cafes (with the pipes now outside - the anti-smoking laws caught shisha in their net), Turkish coffee, Arabic bookshops and hairdressers, gold and jewelry shops, restaurants, kebab shops of all kinds, Arabic supermarkets stocked with interesting goods.

Last night I picked up some hoummus, a lamb sandwich and some bread from a friendly chap in a supermarket in Seymour Street. Further along, one passes Iraqi restaurants, Persian cafes, Middle Eastern ice-cream, along with one of my favourite Malaysian restaurants, and a Burmese restaurant called Mandalay which I have yet to try.

Banking without profit, an unusual concept

The street runs from Marble Arch, at the top of Hyde Park, and runs NW out of London, first as Edgware Road, then Maida Vale (the bit I live in), Kilburn, Cricklewood, then, well I'm not sure, but it becomes a number - the A5. One assumes it runs through Edgware at some point!

It's wide, busy at all times of night (I rejected a potential flat immediately when I realised it overlooked the actual road), has the main police station in West London - Paddington Green Station, and is not a great place to enjoy a fine day (although Hyde Park sits at one end). That said if you need some food at any hours of day or night, it's the place to be!

Not just Arabic cultures here

Interesting factoid - there are apparently three golden triangles at the southern end of the road marking the site of the Tyburn tree, the main execution site in London. I'll have to look out for this tomorrow! By the way - Hugh Grant spotted heading into Locanda Locatelli last night (I was looking at the menu outside). No smile!

The other reason I'm often floating around this area is that one of my favourite pubs in London, the Carpenter's Arms in Seymour Place. With a fairly grumpy landlord and a delightful selection of bar-maids, this pub aces all others on one, some might say the most important, front - ale selection. A typical visit will reveal perhaps eight ales on tap, and through the evening new guests will come on and off the taps. Fantastic!

Amharic in a cafe window.. What does it mean, Farah?

Although I find the street interesting, my favourite Lebanese place remains Fresco in Westbourne Grove, for their food, friendly smiles and fantastic fruit juices. Still, only in Edgware Road do you find the variety, both in price and source geography. Plus, for me, it's about 5 minutes walk away!

Far from beautiful and rather busy

And in other news: English Wine Week - 24th May to 1st June - visit an English vineyard!

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