Ottolenghi's Shakshuka at Nopi

Great breakfast (again) at Nopi on Sunday morning. My daughter loved the lamps and her dish of donuts, orange creamy sauce, blueberries. I loved the Shakshuka; my second at Nopi and still better than any I've had in Israel.

Connaught Village Summer Festival

Yesterday, after collecting my daughter from school, we fell into Connaught Village Summer Festival, an annual festival to celebrate Connaught Village. Most tourists would be, Huh what is Connaught Village? It's essentially Connaught Street, a W2 street just off Edgware Road/ Marble Arch, which five years ago was another 'village' style essentials street: hair salon, cafe, launderette, a few restaurants, an antique shop: much like thousands of English 'village high streets'. But nowadays, it's a great little area, put on the map when former PM Tony Blair bought a house on Connaught Square - you know when he's there, because there will be a mob of gun wielding police officers covering the front and back entrances of his house. The joke goes that neighboring shops don't bother with any insurance because they've got their own free armed security forces year round!
Before Tony Blair, the street's celebrity resident was shoe designer Jimmy Choo, who has his bespoke shoe studio on Connaught street. Next door to him is Cocomaya, a luxurious patisserie in the luxurious Paris patisserie style (only with a sense of humour), where my wife goes at any given opportunity. I like to sit outside Cocomaya when it's sunny (unlike now when it's raining mad dogs) and have a coffee and watch Connaught street's little daily soap opera play out. Over the road, there's Markus coffee, an old style 'smell the beans' coffee place, a newsagent where I scan newspaper headlines (though it's far from relaxing with Tony's forces staring at you) and a new kid on the block, Casa Malevo, an Argentinian restaurant we haven't tried yet, mostly because I don't know how as vegetarians we'd get on in there. We sent a visiting friend from L.A there recently (a big carnivore) and he loved it.
Round the corner, where the Connaught street hub spills, with Cocomaya wrapping around, there's Green Cardamom gallery, who have little shows by artists from Israel, Pakistan, India, Lebanon and so on. Anyway, so at the Summer Festival, I finally saw Jimmy Choo in the flesh, after years of walking past his studio. He was in the window of his studio with customers. He and Cocomaya didn't set out a stall for the festival - it would be uncool. Down the street, near the cutesy hair salon where my daughter gets her hair cut, there was a live band, doing their best to give off an image of 1968/ 1970 hairy-ness a la Fleet Foxes and to the right of their mini stage, an amazing bespectacled older woman, dressed in what I would call all white Thatcher-wear, juggling very passionately along to the music. She became the star attraction of the festival (as the mini crowd of adoring fans suggests), not the band. She's in the pics below, doing her thing. I love people like this, who let go - it reminds me of Vincent Cassel in Black Swan telling, ordering Natalie Portman to loosen up, to let go....

Golborne Road

It had been a while since I'd been to Golborne Road. A couple of years ago, when I was going to Morocco quite regularly and coming back craving different ingredients, specialties, I was going every week, to buy Aicha jams, tomato puree; Moroccan olive oil; amazing coffee imported from Tetouan; to pick up freshly made M'Tissimen pancakes from L'Etoile; Moroccan oranges from the fruit and vegetable market and so on. I also liked visiting the studio of designer Rana Salam, who designed the amazing identity for Comptoir Libanais. Sadly for us, though not for her, Rana moved to Beirut. As ever in London, a lot happens in nine months - for various reasons, I hadn't been up to Golborne since August 2010 - and I was surprised to see the Moroccan presence turned down, as the Portuguese presence before it had been turned down. In its place, a creeping gentrification: the odd gallery or two, a clothing boutique, two Soho style coffee places conflicting with the rough and ready old school Portuguese and Moroccan cafes, an interiors shop called Phoenix on Golborne, far removed from the usual scruffy 'flea market' antique furniture shops elsewhere on the street. It was always going to happen, especially as more and more Notting Hill/ North Ken couples seem to move North to Kensal Rise/ Green and Queen's Park when they have kids, creating a need for the Portobello trends of recent years to follow them up there. Inevitably, the top of Ladbroke Grove and Golborne will in time become the smooth segue between the two neighborhoods , which is already sort of happening at the top of the Ladbroke Grove with Tom Dixon's water tower home in the making and his shop/ restaurant (although when I had dinner there, I found it chronically disappointing) and now over at Golborne, with the slow gentrification. That said, for now, my favourites are still there on Golborne: Lisboa with its heavenly Pasteis de Nata; Le Marrakech and Le Maroc with their Moroccan deli treats; L'Etoile patisserie with the Moroccan sweet tooth goodies.