May 15, 2004
Our High Street
What a gorgeous Saturday it was today! The Route79 tribe walked down to the High Street to get our weekly load of fruit and veg.
Haircuts and Breakfast Dosas
Click on the MORE below for more pictures taken down our local High Street.
Click on play in the media player below to listen to some music whilst reading and browsing the pictures in the article. The music is a relatively punchy number called Makhna from the film “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan”. It is a track heavy with Punjabi bhangra egde. Personally - I thought the film was pretty crap actually - but I think the soundtrack is good. This particular track is picturised to the best bit in the film: an excellent dance sequence starring the fabulous Madhuri Dixit.
Here is the run-down arcade within which you will find Udupi Palace, Bombay Gents Hair Stylist and Sara’s Ladies Hair Salon. I simply love exploring this place - it’s dark, it’s tiny, and the 4 or 5 shops that are in it are also tiny and no-frills - but it’s fantastically devoid all of all things “corporate” (with the exception of an ugly T-Mobile logo at an entrance to a mobile phone shop.) The Udupi Palace at the end makes fantastic South Indian idlis and dosas
- which if you “eat-in” you will get served at the green plastic garden table you can see in the picture at the end of the arcade. They also serve with a delicious cup of chai in a brown tinted transparent glass. There is even a little sink on a pedestal for you to wash your hands before and afterwards. Simply brilliant.
The arcade with the Udupi Palace at the end of it. Simply brilliant.
A strange looking vehicle parked just like an ordinarily good citizen - in the layby just outside the busy VB and Sons Asian foods store. The roads around here have been resurfaced recently - and this weird thing is probably a remnant of the construction work. But the workers have been and gone. Perhaps they forgot about this machine?
Construction work finished - machine forgotten?
Just across the way from VB’s is the Prince of Wales pub. It’s kind of like a landmark in the area - it stands proudly overlooking the busy Kingsbury Circle - and is often the first thing that catches the eye of first-time visitors to Kingsbury arriving by road - and this is because Kingsbury Circle is at the intersection of two perpendicular road routes: An East-West route with West Hendon/Burnt Oak to the East and Kenton/Harrow to the West. A North South route with Stanmore/Edgware to the North and Neasden/North-Circular to the South. There is also another road that hangs off the Kingsbury Circle rather grandly called “The Mall”. This road provides the setting for the spectacular, brand spanking new Jew’s Free School - as well as a route to Preston Road and Wembley.
Despite the imposing nature of the Prince of Wales - many locals will not be upset by the fact that the pub has been closed, boarded up and derelicted for several weeks now - and rumour has it that it is being demolished to make way for a Tesco Metro. (Did you know: The very first Tesco store was opened in Burnt Oak - just down the road from here - in the early 1920s.)
Prince of Wales public house - being replaced by a Tesco Metro?
Further down the High Street there’s an amazingly busy fruit and veg shop called (unsurprisingly) Kingsbury Fruit & Veg (KFV). This is the King of the half-dozen or so grocers on our High Street - it’s by far the busiest - and this is probably because my neighbourhood is dominated by Indians - and this fruit and veg shop caters precisley for the Indian population. The other fruit and veg shops also have a loyal following - but cater for different communities - e.g. just a hundred metres away from KFV is a grocer who seems to catering for the Lebanese/Syrian/Iraqi/Iranian community judging by the exotics in the shop - and further down is another one that seems to be catering for the central European community - e.g. Albanian/Kossovan/Bosnian etc.
Kingsbury Fruit & Veg - the King of all the grocers on our High Street
Kingsbury Fruit & Veg was even more crowded than normal today - there were piles of boxes of heavenly-tasting alphonso mangoes (specially imported from the very specific village farms in India where they are grown) going cheap. Every customer insists on the box being opened and the mangoes inspected for the texture, colour and smell prior to purchase. (Did you know: Mangoes are from the same family of plant as Posion Ivy.)
Lining up to buy Alphonso - the King of all mangoes.
The shop next door were performing an outside demonstration of a new “as seen on TV” electric gadget that can make perfect pancakes, dosas, roti and parathas. If you were patient enough to wait - the lady making the pancakes was filling them up with coconut and chillie chutneys before rolling them up and handing them out for people to try. Tasty.
We ventured up the High Street as far as Woolworths before turning back. Loaded with bags of fruit and vegetable - we loaded up with retro sweets from the Pic’n Mix at “Woolies” after having scanned the CD shelves for any interesting music albums. (Did you know: Woolworths is the biggest outlet for music sales in the UK?)
The wonder of Woolworths Pic’n Mix
And so - there is something quirky about the typical suburban London High Street - and you can definitely get a very good appreciation of the types of people who live and work in the neighbourhood - as well as their cultures, their tastes and the things that are important for them socially. Every London High Street is different. Every one of them a gem. I love my High Street.
The Route79 tribe: we love our High Street
Posted by jag at May 15, 2004 11:58 PM
This is one of the wonderful things about London - the high streets are all unique.
In the rest of the UK, especially the North East, the high streets have become depressingly similar. Woolworths, Greggs, Burtons, the same travel agents and charity shops.
Out of town shopping has really done for high streets in the less populous areas, which is a real shame.
My home town (Chester-le-Street) in Co. Durham is a prime example. When I was a kid it was a thriving market town with some really interesting little shops. Now every other shop is a pub or charity shop with the rest being chain stores. Really souless :-(
One of the great things about the London high-streets is the diversity you can find between two areas next to each other. For example Pinner is very ‘villagy’ with little clothes shops and jewelers whilst about a mile away North Harrow has an indie supermarket and some nice little grocers doing indian and other asian foods. It’s nice as I get the best of both worlds within a few miles of home :-)
Hi James, re “provincial” towns outside London: I would agree with you - most of them are depressingly similar. There are some “gems” - if you care to look for them - but they are few and far between.
Yes - and your point about diversity is spot on. I think that this reflects the diversity in make-up of London - something not so apparent elsewhere in UK. I have to say though that Pinner is a nice area - it’s good to have a “villagy” feel with Indian shops not so far away too! :-)
How’s the sambar at Udupi Palace? But 3.75 for a paper masala? Even with my skills, I can become quite a rich man making dosas in London!
Hi Anand - yes - 3.75 UK Pounds is around 300 Indian Rupees! You could indeed become rich selling Dosas in London! :-)
The sambhar is good at Udupi Palace - best in London (and that’s despite the fact that the shop is as smaller than my bathroom!) - but that’s my own taste - I am more used to Punjabi food - so my appreciation (and ability to differentiate different tastes) of sambar is prob not as good as yours. But since we have a very high South Indian & Sri Lankan population around here I am guessing that it’s as good as it gets!
Thanks for the photos Jag, they’re fascinting - they remind me of my days living in Mile End - seems like ions ago.
I miss the UK Woolies - I used to wander in on a Sat morning and spend up large on CDs, magazines, girly stuff (moisturiser, nail polish) and of course, lots of chocolate, 30 going on 15 ;)
A lovely collection of pictures. I’m quite jealous as I’ve been planning to do a series about our Saturday morning ritual for weeks now. I’m always delighted to read about what pleasures you find in the everyday things that cross your path.
Hi Fi: Pleasure! Never too old to enjoy sweets and chocoloates I say! :-)
David: Many thanks. And many pleasures to be had indeed. I read your write-ups on Sri Lanka by the way - very good - just like being there. Please do write about your Saturday morning rituals - always fascinating to compare!
Lovely photos Jag.. yearning to visit Udupi Palace soon!
Chakra: Thx - and do be sure to try out Udupi Palace if you are in the area! :)
Brilliant parade of pictures Jag, very very good. Always a challenge for my internet connection though : ) No, I’m joking, it’s fine, what would you do without broadband these days …
Hi Konstantin - cheers! Isn’t everybody on broadband these days ;-)
I think your site is wonderful. I stumbled across it via another blog. I like all the little music bits and your pictures are great. I fear I may become a route 79 addict and have already stayed up far too late browsing!
Hi Astrid - many thanks for such kind words! Glad you are enjoying it.
I am currently doing an article on the possible opening of a new Tesco metro in Kingsbury for my journalism course. I was wondering if you could confirm that it is actually true or where you know I could ask…I would also appreciate any of your thoughts on the subject (or anyone else’s for that matter) as I may use your quote in my article…your help would be much appreciated!
ps. Great Website, I too am a great fan of Woolworths pic and mix!!
Hi Sandra - thank you for your comment! I cannot confirm that the pub is being converted to a Tesco - it’s just a rumour that I heard. You might have to enquire at Brent Town Hall - I’m sure you can inspect the planning register etc. to get some clues.
As far as I’m concerned - I’m not fussed by it becoming a Tesco - apparently the pub was a a source of irritation for local residents in the area - fights etc. but it seems that the pub used to be venue for some real big rock bands before they were famous - so it’s kind of sad when something so sigificant form many has to change. You can read more on Kingsbury and what it used to be like at:
Personally I don’t really care for Tesco Metro. I shop on the High Street a lot - and there is a wide choice of competitively-priced fruits, veg, meats, and other groceries on the High Street - so I’m not sure it will dent the competition - but I think it will prob attract the commuting types who “just need to pick up a bottle of shampoo on the way home” types - i.e. too much hassle to go to the nearby Morrisons or Asda - and for branded goods especially.(You wouldn’t get shampoo from Aldi - and Aldi closes early in the evenings anyway.) So - I think people might welcome a Tesco metro. I certainly would like to see something there other than a decaying old pub!