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Clock Cafe; fresh face, familiar food

You will have noticed that where Lena’s Café was we now have a fresh face on the high street, but something seems familiar about Clock Café.

With the same set up of deli-style food served hot or cold, Clock Café has the same chef and management as Lena’s but has been given a much needed facelift (after a Porsche crashed through the window)!

Mixed salads on offer at the Clock Cafe

Though it doesn’t quite boast the same ambiance as some of the restaurants, pubs and cafés we have on West End Lane, Clock Café offers some variety, a low key and reasonably priced option, whether you’re eating in or taking away. I’d imagine this wil be a popular spot for those working in the area looking for a quick bite on their lunch break.

You’re spoilt for choice with the food options.  I highly recommend the baked cauliflower – bursting full of flavour, the greens and chicken in tomato sauce. It was extremely tasty; I’d go so far as to say delicious. The aubergine was quite salty, in fact, I dread to think how much salt went in a lot of the menu items. However, if you choose well you may end up with a fairly healthy, hearty meal. It’s a great grab and go or quick sit in place.

And more salads!

Those who were fans of Lena’s would be pleased to know that Clock Café hasn’t lost it’s ‘marketplace in the Mediterranean or Middle East’ feel, with vast trays of baklava and assorted nuts on offer (the nuts are new by the way).

And it does food to go.

Prices are cheaper if you take your food to go, choices include boxes filled to the brim with your own choice of main food items and salads, sandwiches, wraps and a soup of the day. They also have a nice selection of drinks, including coffee (of course).

It’s nice to have you back in the neighborhood, Clock Café.

A walk up West End Lane

Following our recent walk down the Kilburn High Road, we took a similar walk up West End Lane. Joining us was John Saynor, chair of WHAT (West Hampstead Amenity and Transport), which takes a keen interest in these matters too.

We didn’t really focus on the litter situation, because – dare I say it – it seems a bit better, although we aren’t counting our chickens, or the discarded fried chicken containers.  Instead, we focused on the street clutter and particularly the A-boards that can obstruct pavements.

Without getting too technical (and with apologies for those who read the KHR piece), I’m going to introduce the word ‘curtilage’ at this point. This means the space between your property and the public highway, but which is still your land. Within reason you can do what want – deck it, put up an A-board or set out goods for sale.

However, if any of these activities take place on the public footpath then people have the right to be miffed. In fact it’s a planning infringement that must be rectified. A well maintained high street keeps the pavement clear and makes sure that it is wide enough for pedestrians (including those with buggies, or in wheelchairs) to pass in opposite directions. There are London planning standards for this – the pedestrian comfort guidance, which recommends a minimum of 3 metres width for a busy pedestrian pavement like West End Lane.

Of course shop-owners put their A-boards out to try to grab some extra custom, a manager might change and not realise the rules (implicit or explicit) or a contractor will put out warning signs and leave them, so there needs to be regular vigilance to ensure that pavements don’t get overrun with signage or other commercial undertakings.

However, the situation is not always clear-cut. At some points the pavement is narrow and any obstruction is a potential hazard, at others it is wide and it’s not such a problem. The width of the curtilage also varies, so at some points, a shopkeeper can put out an A-board but in others, where there is no curtilage they can’t, which can seem ‘unfair’.

With all this in mind, we started our walk by the stations. For years, locals have been campaigning to ensure that the pavements around and between the stations are widened and kept clutter free to ensure easy (and safe) movement of pedestrians. There have been improvements over recent years, but the recent attempt by a phonebox company to install some phone boxes here would have undone all the hard work. Thankfully Camden turned the application down. The situation will also be improved when the Overground station is finished as it will be set much further back, removing a dangerous pinch point on the pavement.

Outside the tube station, we spotted these freebie newspaper containers. They don’t look great and cause a certain amount of disruption to pedestrians in a busy section.  In the past, they have been removed, but they seem to be creeping back. Who is responsible for sorting this out? WHAT takes an interest in these matters, but is it anyone’s responsibility to report infringements? Is it the role of the Neighbourhood Development Forum? What about the thousands of local commuters who walk past daily, or the local councillors, or street cleaners or community police officers?

We asked the local councillors about this and Cllr Lorna Russell replied that the Council do rely on members of the public to flag issues as they can’t have eyes and ears everywhere. However, many people don’t know what needs reporting and even if they do, don’t know how best to report it. Likewise, the councillors themselves report things – they are avid users of the Clean Camden app.

Sometimes an issue can be dealt with by having a quiet word. Other times official action is needed and the council has to take charge.

Here is a good example. This redundant sign (from the Overground crane works) was left there throughout the week even on the very narrowest sections of pavement. A quick call to the Overground building works team got agreement to store them during the week. Success! It’s since reappeared 🙁 and now sits off to one side.

Next up we cross the road to Banana Tree. The restaurant has just lost an appeal and will have to remove its decking. The pavement is not terribly narrow here, so some will judge this a little harsh. However, the restaurant’s A-board does narrow the pavement further.  As a rule of thumb, you’re not going to get an A-board and decking on your curtilage, you have to pick one. And it’s not clear where Banana Tree’s curtilage is, if it has it at all.

Some of you will remember that this time last year the Alice House had a similar issue with their decking. It was a bit different though, as it was clear it was on their curtilage and the issue was more about the height of the decking.

Further up West End Lane, there was a particularly egregious example of a creeping A-boards by Bobby Fitzpatrick, right in the middle of the pavement! Naughty.  You can see how Bobby’s has put chairs and tables out on their curtilage, just as its predecessor La Brocca did, but that A-board is as cheeky as a 1970s comedy.

On the other side of West End Lane, Cedar restaurant too has decked out its curtilage but sometimes puts an A-board out too.

And right at the top of West End Lane, Schnitzel has three A-boards including one which narrows the zebra crossing.

Back down West End Lane, Lola’s is a recent arrival and it has started putting out an A-board too – sometimes partly on the pavement. Even though it has a relatively wide curtilage, it still had to apply for planning permission to put out tables and chairs, but again it’s the A-board that causes the most disruption, particularly because the public pavement is relatively narrow and busy.

There is good news here though, as a quiet word with one of the managers led to the compromise of putting the board as close to the planter as possible, which makes a significant difference.

It’s not all bad news. Here’s an A-board nearly placed on a premise’s curtilage. Gold star to West End Lane Books!

Outside the library we looked at the planting and seating.  It’s sad that this has been neglected since being installed a couple of years ago. Again there is a question of who is responsible for maintaining it.  It was originally installed when the Lib-Dem/Conservatives coalition gave areas the ability to choose projects they wanted, and this was one. Indeed it was very popular in this NDF survey. So it’s shame it’s been neglected.

We also noticed that some of the bus stops and seats were very grubby with an accumulation of dirt that a good jet wash would deal with. If it hasn’t been done by early March, then maybe it’s something for the Great British Spring Clean on March 2-4, 2018.

All in all, things weren’t bad (and better than the Kilburn High Road). But there is still room for improvement, though it remains unclear who is responsible for reporting the problems that do exist.

Vintage Porsche crashes into Lena’s cafe: Two injured

Shortly before 3pm on Friday afternoon, a vintage Porsche veered off West End Lane, mounted the pavement and crashed into Lena’s cafe trapping a female customer. The customer, Abigail Cinnamon, was sitting outside with a friend, Jessica Klein. The two 20-year-olds don’t live in the area but had decided to meet up for a ‘quiet coffee’ and chose West Hampstead.

They were sitting outside the cafe when all of sudden Jess, who was sitting facing down West End Lane saw a Green Porsche racing towards them and screamed. Abi, who was facing away from the on-coming car had a split second to register before it crashed into her, throwing her though the plate glass window.

“The next thing I knew I was underneath the glass, in a foetal position. It took a while for the firemen to arrive to get the glass off me. I didn’t feel any pain, however, as the adrenalin had kicked in”. The police and fireman arrived quite quickly but it took time for them to work out how to remove the sheet of glass and release Abi.

Once she was released she was taken to St. Mary’s hospital, as the hospital has a specialised trauma unit and a crew of 11 or 12 were waiting for her. She has two broken bones in her leg, which require an operation. Her friend, Jess, was less seriously injured suffering three fractured ribs and some scratches.

Police and ambulance on the scene of the accident. Photo: Cllr Phil Rosenberg

Police and ambulance on the scene of the accident. Photo: Cllr Phil Rosenberg

The driver was shaken by the accident but was unscathed. It is not entirely clear how the accident happened with some witness reports saying the car swerved to avoid a pedestrian. Violet Ceniceros, who had been sitting in Lena’s just five minutes earlier, was waiting by the bus stop by Sainsbury’s when the accident happened. She reported, that “the car turned left [from Dennington Park Road] on West End Lane from the junction and started speeding then went out of control and crashed into the café”.

A policeman on site explained that the 1967 Porsche was rear-wheel driven and probably ‘kangarooed’ (juddered) on acceleration causing the driver to lose control and for the car to veer across the road.

Councillor Phil Rosenberg who was holding a surgery next door in the Library was one of the first on the scene.  A nearby business owner who heard the crash thought it was a terrorist attack and sought cover at the back of the shop.

Porsche 3

West End Lane was initially closed, but after an hour was reopened to traffic.  The crash scene was still cordoned off with a lone policeman on the scene. He was waiting for the owner to arrange for his insurers to tow the car away.

The dramatic pictures and the novelty of the vintage Porsche have led to the story making both the BBC news and Saturday’s Times.

Bobby F’s timewarp bar opens on West End Lane

Photo: Jane Lucken (model: unknown)

Photo: Jane Lucken (model: unknown)

It’s been a long-time coming. La Brocca closed its doors in June 2015, but its replacement – Bobby Fitzpatrick’s – opens tonight. Bobby’s owners, ULG (who also run The Gallery and The Alice House), have opted for a louche 70s theme for the new bar.

West Hampstead Life was – of course – at the launch party last Friday and the first day of the soft launch on Monday. But what did our various correspondents make of the makeover?

Shalini:
Wow, there’s nothing quite like this in West Hampstead! A throwback bar where you feel like you’re at a party in That 70s show, or in the fully functional underground house-cum-fallout shelter like in Blast From the Past, that film where they thought the world had ended and they lived frozen time, gaudy décor and all.

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

The devil is in the details from old-fashioned hand dryers, amber soap and classic books by Fleming and Tolkien and that’s just in the loos! Clunky speakers and fuzzy, chunky TVs; there’s nothing chic about this shabby place, which all adds to the charm.

The only modern hints were the gorgeous cocktails, with twists and classics and all new Bobby creations, served in old fashioned drinking glasses of course! But they serve beers and shooters too, and unpretentious comfort food and the friendliest staff to make your evening a winner.

I would definitely bring my friends back to this groovy bar, it will certainly leave an impression and have you holding back on all the Austin Power’s quotes!

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Mark:
I liked it. I was concerned it was going to be over the top and too faddy but actually it went to the edge but not over it. It’s been very well done. I hope for West Hampstead that it does work, ULG has a good track record. It’s doing something different from the prevalent Brooklyn industrial chic, zagging while the others are zigging. As for the food – the burger was good but I’m not sure recreating 1980s deep dish pizzas is such a good idea – they weren’t that good to begin with. And a mention for the staff were friendly and professional and helped create a good atmosphere.

Jane:
I have many happy memories of La Brocca, so my first ten minutes was spent gasping at how much it has changed. But I’m up for evolution and soon started smiling at how they have brought Bobby’s home to life. I’d have loved the job of sourcing all the crazy bits and bobs – where did they find that hand dryer?! I applaud the owners for moving beyond the too-common industrial luxe aesthetic and creating somewhere genuinely fun and different. The cocktails are excellent, if crazy, just like the whole place really!

Photo: Tom Vanheems

Photo: Tom Vanheems

Tom:
I can see Bobby Fitzpatrick being a hit with the locals. A huge amount of work has gone into the crazy, amusing and even atmospheric 70s design, so that it feels welcoming rather than just a novelty. I sense this will create a good vibe and an inviting place to hang out; the sense of fun and originality is tangible.

Food is well-priced, with fresh, flavoursome American-style pizzas (think soft-base like Franco Manca rather than the old Italian style of La Brocca) – perhaps would be good to see some sides of fresh greens or something, to balance things out a little? Hopefully the wine list will expand beyond the two reds and two whites currently available, though I can confirm that both are very drinkable!

Rejoicing in Amy Werner’s rehabilitation

Almost exactly four years ago there was a tragic accident on West End Lane. A Mercedes driver in his 80s careered off the road and onto the pavement near Dynham Road. Desreen Brooks was killed as her husband managed to push their toddler son out of the way. American student Amy Werner, off to meet friends in Camden, was extremely seriously injured.

The incident shook everyone in West Hampstead. It happened on a Saturday evening, there were lots of people around. The random nature of who was affected, and the severity of the crash led to a heartfelt outpouring of support for those involved.

Amy was taken to St Mary’s and her parents – Rich and Regina – flew out from their small town of Dover in Vermont to be with her. They would spend a month by her bed as Amy underwent major operations. Lots of West Hampstead Life readers wanted to know how they could help and as a result I was in regular contact with Rich. Nicky and I went to visit them and Amy. Even knowing what her condition was, it was a shock to see her in the ward, lying there in an induced coma. I couldn’t really comprehend what it must be like for her parents.

Amy eventually flew home to the US, where her extensive treatment and rehabilitation has continued. We wrote a follow-up article. I stayed in touch with Regina via Facebook for a couple of years, actively at first, then more just checking in once in a while and eventually glancing at posts. I could see Amy was doing ok. After what seemed an age – in fact two years after the incident – the driver was sentenced to 18 months in prison (later reduced to 12) for killing Desreen Brooks, though acquitted of GBH against Amy due to a lack of concrete evidence.

Then last week Regina popped up on Facebook, saying that she and Amy were going to be in London this week for a slew of medical appointments, and that Amy would love to meet me properly.

“You look a lot better than when I last saw you”, was my predictable opening gambit as this lively and articulate 27-year-old came down the steps of their Bayswater accommodation.

Amy, Regina, Amy’s aunt Cathy and I spent a very pleasant evening in Notting Hill. I didn’t know what to expect from Amy. I knew that she’d lost the sight in one eye, but wasn’t sure whether any other effects would still be visible. They were not. She’s clearly itching to get back to the life she had planned when she first moved here – just a matter of weeks before the accident. I’m not sure her mother is so keen to let her daughter quite so far out of her sight again, but Amy’s irrepressible personality would be hard to contain for long I suspect.

Four years on, both Amy and her parents remain very grateful for the warmth, support and generosity that the whole West Hampstead community showed them. I’m sure you will all want to send Amy the very best wishes …. and maybe we’ll see her again in London before too long.

Amy and I finally get to meet properly

Amy and I finally get to meet properly

Looking back at West End Lane in 1916

One hundred years ago, West End Lane was a very different place – though there were some similarities with today’s busy commercial street too. At the end of this article is the street directory from 1916.

Looking down West End Lane from West End Green (1927)

Looking down West End Lane from West End Green (1927)

There were far fewer eating places and bars in 1916 than there are today – though some still exist. The dining rooms at Nos. 291 and 327 are still restaurants (One Bourbon and Thunderbird Bar respectively). The Railway Hotel is still there at No. 100, having gone through several changes, and The Black Lion is much older still, though in 1916 it was just another unnamed beershop. Further down towards Kilburn, another unnamed beershop at No. 12 was the Bird in Hand, which is now a residential building.

In 1916, coal was still an important domestic fuel, brought by train and unloaded in West Hampstead’s extensive railway sidings before being delivered to your door. Coal merchants were prominent either side of Iverson Road and opposite, at Nos.144, 154 and 156.

The seven large houses between Acol Road and Woodchurch Road (38 to 50 West End Lane), were destroyed by a V1 flying bomb on 20 June 1944. This was the first of nine Doodlebugs that landed in West Hampstead and Kilburn. This one killed 18 people and caused huge damage. It was left as a bomb site until Hampstead Council opened Sidney Boyd Court in 1953. Sidney Boyd was a doctor, local councillor and mayor of Hampstead for seven years throughout the war.

The railways that define so much of West Hampstead’s landscape were of course already up and running by 1916, and all three stations existed, though the train lines were all different. The Jubilee Line was the Metropolitan Railway. The Overground station was “West End Lane” station on the London and North Western Railway, while the Thameslink line was the Midland Railway.

Today, we all know that estate agents dominate West Hampstead. A hundred years ago there were just two: Ernest Owers at 106 West End Lane (now Benham & Reeves), and Massey, Souray and Co. at 247 West End Lane (now Insight Opticians). Massey, Souray and Co. later moved to No. 192 – where Parkheath is today.

Ernest Owers and Williams had opened in 1872 and was influential in the development of West Hampstead and Golders Green. In December 1931, Ernest Owers was the victim of a violent attack at the West End Lane office. He had notified jeweller Ernest Phillips that the mortgage on his shop must be paid off. Phillips came to the office yelling at Owers, You are a robber and a thief and I shall put you away. Then he suddenly threw nitric acid into Owers’ face, which narrowly missed blinding him. In court, Phillips said he was sorry, but the judge said a severe punishment was called for and sentenced him to three years imprisionment. Ernest’s wife died a few months after the attack, while he moved to Brighton where he died in 1938. Ernest was an extremely wealthy man and left the equivalent of around £19 million and as he had no children, most of the money went to hospitals and other good causes.

No.90 West End Lane was the West Hampstead Police Station which opened in 1882 at a cost of £3,971. This is now a council-run hostel (on the corner of West End Lane and West Hampstead Mews. The police station had an inspector’s office, a charge room, a waiting room and three cells. The largest cell was known as ‘the drunk tank’. The police station moved to its current location in Fortune Green Road in 1972.

Perhaps the most striking difference between 1916 and 2016 is the huge variety of independent shops that existed a hundred years ago; from the usual grocers, butchers and bakers; to boot makers, a photographer and a cycle shop. Charles Debenham at No.222 was a member of a photographic family; his father William Elliott Debenham had studios at 158 Regent Street and Haverstock Hill. In 1916, much of their work would have involved photographing members of the armed forces, leaving for the Front. Edward Pond at No.349 had taken over from the Delevante Cycle Works which opened in 1892. Pond, who diversified to include motorcycles, traded here until 1939.

Today’s West Hampstead Fruit and Vegetables, at No.243 was a chemist for many years. Alban Atkin took over from a homeopathic chemist in 1904. A local councillor, he is buried in Hampstead Cemetery and was succeeded in the business by his son of the same name. The shop closed around 1990 and was a timewarp right to the very end, with large glass fronted wooden cabinets and beautiful glass apothecary jars. The dispensary was at the far end of the shop, under a huge clock. The window display was a low key one, and for many years its centrepiece was a red neon sign advertising Yardley cosmetics.

There were also a large number of doctors and dentists scattered along West End Lane. The large houses attracted professionals.

Given today’s debate about 156 West End Lane, it’s interesting to see that back then it was the home of the Canforde Lawn Tennis Club – which was on open land behind 156, though only from 1914 to 1917.

Here is the full street directory. It is a little hard to follow in places, as it swaps between the east side and west side. However, the cross-street names and of course the numbers, make it reasonably easy to decipher. One road name change: Chislett Road was renamed as a continuation of Companyne Gardens in 1936.

1916-wel-part-1
1916-wel-part-2
1916-wel-part-3
1916-wel-part-4

An Insight into: Peppercorns

Health food store Peppercorns used to be located opposite the tube station, but when Ballymore began construction of West Hampstead Square, it had to move. Now it’s up by West End Green. We spoke to the owner Mukesh Patel, who has been there for 20 years.  He runs it with his brother Nilesh, who joined him in 2002.

What brought you to West Hampstead?

I had been working in the area since 1982, down on Belsize Road. I had a newsagents and nearby there was a health food store called Abundance, which sold natural foods. I thought it would nice to work in a business like that, that you really care about.

How did I end up at Peppercorns? It  was started in 1982 by the Steeles, a New Zealand couple. She was the first person in the UK to import Manuka honey and by the mid-90s they were expanding the wholesale side of the Manuka business. In 1996 they put their two health food shops up for sale; one in Hampstead and one in West Hampstead. I happened to be reading Dalton’s Weekly and saw this health food business for sale – in West Hampstead! It was local, I was interested so I came to check out the place – with my bank manager.

Mukesh at Peppercorns

Mukesh at Peppercorns

What is your first (fondest) memory of the area?

I can’t remember, it’s that long ago! I remember that Abundance sold muesli by the kilo [Ed – or lbs as was then], which I saw when I went in to buy my veggie lunch.

What’s surprised you about how West Hampstead had changed?

I remember passing down West End Lane and it was a bit run down. There was Atlanta and Jenny’s burgers where Nando’s now is. It was quite down-market, but it has really gentrified.

The arrival of the big chains does make it a bit like every other high street, a bit of a monoculture. The worrying thing is that it really makes it difficult for the independents to pay the rent.

Gail’s probably paid a bit over the market rate but other landlords see that and think they can raise the rents they charge. Independents can’t survive if they can’t afford to pay the rent.

What’s for lunch?

I buy my own ! We have loads of healthy, vegetarian takeaways.

If I don’t eat here I used to go to Dylan’s or sometimes to Bella Luna who do a very good pasta lunch special.

West Hampstead in three words?

Lively, friendly and increasingly health-conscious

Colour Division closes after 42 years

West Hampstead became a little less colourful last week. Ironically, it was with handwritten note not something printed that Colour Division announced last week that it was closing.  It will be missed.

Colour Division makes a sad announcement

Colour Division makes a sad announcement

Colour Division was not just one of the longest standing business in the area (it was set up in the mid-70s, under Edward Heath’s government during the three-day week), it was also one of the most social businesses with a loyal customer base.

David Jacobs, who we all knew as Dave, explained that although he was really sad about having to close the business, “since it happened there has been a fantastic response from customers and suppliers”.  It was a tough decision for him to make, but it has been made a little easier “knowing that people really feel for you”.

When Colour Division celebrated its 40th anniversary, Dave was open about how the business was facing challenges. Colour Division had changed with the times: when it first opened, its customers were photocopying letterheads and fanzines (iD magazine was first printed here), but more recently it had moved heavily into digital printing, colour photographic prints and Linked-in portraits.

However, the world was changing faster than Colour Division could keep up with.  Dave looked into other options, including clients investing in the business and moving to a different location (he had at one stage thought about moving into the Sherriff Centre). But moving the equipment alone would have cost £20,000. To survive, the business needed an injection of capital, which the banks were reluctant to lend.

Dave and Steve in happier times back in 2014

Dave and Steve in happier times back in 2014

Other factors he cites are the tough parking enforcement regime and lack of pay & display bays, which he estimated cut revenue by 25% in recent years. And of course, like so many other traditional businesses, printing has been disrupted by online competitors. Vistaprint alone did $1.2 billion of business in the year to June 30th.

Rising rents didn’t help matters, although Dave was at pains to point out how supportive his landlord had been in trying to find a solution. Even so, annual rent of £30-40,000 plus business rates of £15,000 meant that Colour Division’s fixed costs were substantial for what is essentially a low-margin business.

What does the future hold? At the moment, Dave is dealing with the insolvency, not something he has experienced before! When things quieten down he plans to more photography and maybe do something with his nephew or brother (with whom he started the business). Both of them are in the printing business.

Whatever Dave decides, West Hampstead wishes him – and Steve and Debbie – all the best.  Without you West Hampstead will be, well, just a bit less Colourful.

An insight into: Insight Opticians

One of the things that gives West Hampstead its character is the independent shops and local groups. We though we’d plan a series (and let’s see where this goes) asking them a few questions about their experiences of the neighbourhood.

Where better to start for an insight into West Hampstead than with Kiran Vyas. Kiran has just celebrated 30 years on West End Lane running Insight Opticians.

Kiran at Insight

Kiran at Insight Opticians

What brought you to West Hampstead?
Chance brought me to West Hampstead! Back in 1986, Julian Leveson, who had previously run the business passed away suddenly. Julian was from South Africa and his family didn’t know what to do with it. They asked a friend for suggestions, that friend happened to be a friend of mine, so he asked if I was interested in buying it.

At the time I had just qualified and was working at my brother’s practice down in Wimbledon, but was looking to open my own practice. I was living in Edgware (where I had relocated after being expelled from Uganda in 1972, and still live) and so having the option of my own optician’s practice closer to home was good timing.

There has been an opticians on this site since 1948. It was originally opened by Irving Shoot, who owned it until about 1965. He sold it to Daniel Martin, who moved to Canada. Daniel sold it to Stephen Isaacs, who made millions as For Eyes opticians. Julian bought it in about 1980. I then took it over and renamed it Insight Opticians.

What is your fondest memory of the area?
There are a number of shops I remember, but the one I miss most is the old apothecary, where the fruit shop is now. It was a quirky little shop with old wooden fittings run by an interesting old fellow called Arthur who was a herbalist as well as pharmacist. Unfortunately, he got robbed and was tied up; he sold up shortly afterwards.

Insight at 30

Insight Opticians – Happy 30th birthday!

What’s surprised you most about how West Hampstead has changed?
In some ways it is that the community feel that was there then is still here today. Since the arrival of the chain stores it is becoming a little more impersonal but change is inevitable – a necessary evil. The older population still retains this community feel. The challenge is to change the business in a way that encourages the new younger clients, but still retains the older clientele.

What was for lunch?
We are spoilt for choice! The neighbouring Banana Tree is always good, Lena’s up West End Lane is good and the fruit and vegetable shop is also good and is an inspiration to become healthy.

West Hampstead in three words?
Awesome, vibrant and friendly

West Hampstead welcomes Gail’s

Not just a bakery, but another cafe

Not just a bakery, but another cafe

So, Gail’s opened on time (now that is a surprise for a building project round here) and West Hampstead got all excited. The opening offers added to the buzz but Twitter was all aflutter.

It’s good to see that it has branded itself differently here to its other outlets – apparently it’s part of its approach to fit in locally to each area (though as the tweet below suggests, it may have some work to do in that regard.)

As with their other branches it is both a both a bakery and a café.

What was also noticeable yesterday was that the staff were in casual clothes, but it turns out they were mostly extra staff drafted in to help for the opening. Today when things were calmer, staff were back to black with maroon Gail’s aprons.

The manager said they were pleased with how things went. These upmarket grocers are on the pricey side…

…but if the Hampstead Butcher and Providore is anything to go by it seems that West Hampstead’s growing affluence means they’ll do just fine.

A really rubbish article

West Hampstead street rubbish

No, not a slipping of standards, but an article on something dear to your hearts: rubbish on West End Lane. The amount of rubbish on our busy commercial streets was an issue raised repeatedly at Neighbourhood Development Forum meeting, but fell outside its scope. And the saga of the Sainsbury’s bin, remember that?, also captured the strength of local feelings. In a bid to clean up West Hampstead, Camden Council is introducing time-banded collections on the commercial parts of West End Lane and Fortune Green Road (but not Mill Lane, yet).

From the 6th June, commercial and residential waste can be put out only at certain times and will be collected shortly after. Twice a day on West End Lane and three times day on Fortune Green Road. Camden has told businesses and residents this is happening and has liaised with private contractors about it. The hope is that this education campaign, and the fact that it is their own best interests, will persuade businesses and residents to get in the habit of disposing of their waste correctly. Camden is taking a zero-tolerance approach and will issue fixed penalty notices to offenders but really hope that this is not necessary.

Time-banded collections are used elsewhere across the borough (Camden High Street, Kentish Town Road, Hampstead) to manage the problem of litter on busy commercial/retail areas, which are also residential areas (particularly with flats above shops). It seems to work elsewhere, so we are hopeful that introducing it on West End Lane and Fortune Green Road will improve the litter and fly tipping situation.

Blackburn Road has its own  problems. Will Camden extend the scheme?

Blackburn Road has its own problems. Will Camden extend the scheme?

The cause of the rubbish problem on our main streets is two fold, firstly commercial waste, which is generated by local shops and businesses. This can be collected by a number of contractors, not just Camden Council, which has little control over when other licensed waste collection companies collect their waste. So it could be there all day. It is also possible that some businesses are trying to avoid paying for waste collection and are just dumping their waste. That said you would think there was a fairly strong incentive for businesses, as they would presumably prefer their customers didn’t have to wade across mountains of trash – it is not really conducive to a pleasant retail environment.

Second problem, flats above shops generally lack any outside bin to store waste until a regular weekly collection (unlike those who live in purely residential streets). Residents therefore tend to leave tied-up supermarket bags of rubbish at random times of the day, seven days a week. These bags also seem to contain a large proportion of potentially and easily recyclable waste (bottles, can and plastic) which if recycled at, for example, the West End Green recycling centre, would reduced the amount of rubbish. Camden recycles 26% of its waste (by which of course I mean our waste) which is well short of the target of 40% by 2020. The North West London Waste authority NWLA, of which Camden is part, has an even higher target of 50% by 2020.

Here’s hoping for a cleaner and greener West Hampstead Life.

Veolia truck

End of an era: La Brocca changes hands tomorrow

La Brocca open for brunch on the Locke's last day

La Brocca open for brunch on the Lockes’ last day

Tonight will be the last time David Locke presides over the bar at ever-popular wine & sports bar La Brocca.

After an incredible 24 years of being open 7 days a week, this West Hampstead institution that’s as well known for its jazz as its rugby nights (and early mornings), will be changing hands.

The Urban Leisure Group, which owns both The Gallery and The Alice House in West Hampstead as well as five other bars, is taking over as of Monday morning. Hezi Yeichel, from Queens Park-based ULG, told us that the company “plans to run La Brocca in a similar way to as it is now”, and will be keeping the pizzas going. The name La Brocca will also continue for the time being.

David and his wife Edda, who have run the place since its inception are not being forced out. They are retiring. David, to the surprise of many, is 71 and the time has come for a change of pace. He is understandably emotional about the end of an era, but will have many fond memories of the bar from England’s rugby world cup win to many of the jazz nights that have livened up West End Lane over the years.

Back in 2011, when West Hampstead Life spoke to David on the bar’s 20th anniversary, he told us, “The jazz is a love but it doesn’t make me money. You want to know how to make a million pounds out of jazz? Start off with two million.”

Simon Whiteside (right), next to David Locke

Simon Whiteside (right), next to David Locke, Chris Lowe on trombone and Dominic Howles on the bass. Photo via Eugene Regis

Today, local jazz maestro Simon Whiteside who has played regularly at the bar for years, put together an impromptu surprise concert for David.

Simon said afterwards, “La Brocca has been a wonderful bar & beanery for many moons supporting jazz musicians by providing a venue where it felt comfortable & inspiring to play. David & Edda have run a great place for more than 20 years and I’ve been privileged to be part of the music scene there. In that time La Brocca has seen births, deaths, marriages & jazz careers born & built. I’m glad I was able to play a tune today in honour of one of the true arts venues founded & run on family principles.”

In the short-term, David and Edda are off to their second home in Cyprus for the summer. Tonight, we can expect a few glasses to be raised in their honour. They have most definitely played an enormous role in making West Hampstead the place it is.

And what of the enormous bull’s head that adorns the wall upstairs? “We only had it on loan,” says David. “It’s going back to its owner”. Just another big gap that the new owners will have to fill as we say farewell and good luck to the Lockes.

David Locke in 2011. Photo Moya Sarner

David Locke in 2011. Photo Moya Sarner

Adios to businesses on one block of West End Lane

The rapid rise of the West Hampstead Square towers is the most visible sign of change in the neighbourhood, but the retail landscape is changing fast too. Foxtons in, Mamacita and Social out, Holistic… no-one seems quite sure.

Most of the changes are happening on the strip of West End Lane bookended by Tesco and Sainsbury. Clothes shop Social closed its doors for the last time on Monday after 10 years.

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Next door to Social, hair salon Holistic has been told it may also have to close and find new premises. Hakki, the manager at Holistic, said that the landlord, who also owns Social’s premises, has a potential tenant interested in taking both units and turning them into one large double shop (the unconfirmed rumour is that this might be a chain bakery). However, Hakki hopes to hear in the next few weeks that the salon will be able to renew its lease and continue operating where it has been for 19 years, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Finally, Mamacita announced on Twitter that it was closing, after less than two years in West Hampstead. The owners have told West Hampstead Life that although they can’t reveal the identity of the new tenant, it should be another independent business.

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What would you like to see opening on West End Lane? Over to you in the comments below or on the forum.

West End Lane could soon be clear of agents’ boards

Last February, we reported on local resident Alan Grogan’s campaign to rid West End Lane of the large number of estate agents’ boards that were attached to many properties along the road. Many agents responded swiftly to our article and, within a couple of weeks, had voluntarily removed their boards from buildings. However, quite a few of the signs still remain up more than a year later.

This week, just as Foxtons added to the glut of estate agents on West End Lane, Alan got the news he’d been hoping for. Camden Council has submitted the Regulation 7 Application to ban all estate agents’ boards for the stretch of West End Lane between the tube station north to David’s Deli. This means that barring any major objections, the proposal should pass in the next few months.

Alan said that he is hoping the ban will come into effect “in time for the summer and we’ll have a very, very nice looking high street”.

Two of the signs still on West End Lane that would have to come down if Camden’s proposal is passed

 

 

 

Butcher and deli opens on West End Lane

Hampstead Butcher_meat

The Hampstead Butcher and Providore opened its doors this morning fulfilling the wishes of many people over the years who’ve demanded a butcher return to West End Lane. It’s the second bite of the cherry for owner Philip Matthews, who came close to opening in West End Lane a couple of years ago.

The business, which continues to operate its Rosslyn Hill branch in Hampstead, has taken over the greengrocer’s site next to The Wet Fish Café. Alongside the fresh meat, the shop also has a charcuterie and cheese section (which I suspect may outperform the meat), a selection of deli items both fresh and tinned, and a reasonable selection of wine and beer (predominantly from popular local brewery Camden Town).

Photo via Simon Whiteside

Photo via Simon Whiteside

There was a steady trickle of people investigating the shop on this drizzly morning though it was noticeable that the farmer’s market was positively busy, while owner Philip Matthews prowled around with his snagging list clipboard. The floor apparently isn’t right, and the original floor tiles need an additional treatment (though the casual observer would never know).

Hampstead Butcher_wine

The great challenge the Hampstead Butcher faces is whether enough West Hampstead residents are willing to pay frequently for the high quality traceable meat it sells. Matthews will be hoping that the clamour for a butcher over the years will marry with the tough economics of delivering high quality fresh meat. He also offers a home delivery service. For West Hampstead, it’s another sign that the area is increasingly seen as one of growing affluence.

Hampstead Butcher_sausages

Sensibly, the shop will stay open reasonably late in the evenings to capture the commuters returning from work. The opening hours are 10am-8pm weekdays, 9am-8pm Saturday and 9am-6pm Sunday. Due to a lack of space, the butcher’s popular tasting sessiona and events will be available only in its Hampstead branch for the time being.

Remix latest victim in West Hampstead burglary spree

Remix’s new bar/salon on Broadhurst Gardens is the latest victim in a spate of break-ins to West Hampstead businesses that’s now reached double figures in the past few weeks.

Remix_bar

Remix’s new premises on the north side of Broadhurst Gardens was the latest target after its salon opposite had already been hit

After West End Lane Books and La Brocca suffered burglaries at the weekend, Remix’s new premises was burgled in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Intruders broke in at the back of the building and stole the till, a company laptop, alcohol from the salon’s new bar, and hairdressing equipment. Salon manager Nick Petkov said he was bemused by some of the items stolen, which included scissors, clippers and top-of-the-range shampoo.

Danny Van Emden from West End Lane books said it was “utterly inspiring how lovely everyone’s been”, adding that since the incident in which £140 was stolen but no books were touched, sympathetic customers had brought biscuits, croissants and flowers, and that the shop had received around 400 supportive tweets. “The response of our customers, both in person and on Twitter, mitigated the sadness we felt on Saturday morning.”

A couple of doors down, La Brocca was also broken into on Saturday night, and had bottles of alcohol stolen.

Other West End Lane businesses that have been targeted recently include Toomai, hairdresser Holistic, health food shop Health Town, Remix’s other Broadhurst Gardens premises, Pro Arte the violin shop, the Sherriff Centre, and a couple of businesses on Finchley Road.

Tim Khoshsima of Health Town said that his shop’s front window and glass shelves were smashed, and thieves made off with the till and items of stock including protein supplements and beauty products. He said “I love West Hampstead as an area to do business, but this has made me realise we need to be more careful”. He added that he planned to take more precautions agains burglaries, including fitting a shutter.

Sergeant Ian Hutton from the West Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood team believes the burglaries may be linked, and the burglary squad is investigating. CCTV footage exists of at least one of the break-ins, in another case, the CCTV unit itself was stolen.

Sgt Hutton advised businesses not to keep large amounts of cash on premises, as this is the main target for thieves. He also advised that if people see anything suspicious especially at the rear of shops that they call the police then, not leave it until the morning. If you are suspicious, 101 is appropriate, but if you believe a crime is taking place 999 is the correct call.

The police can also give free crime prevention advice to any business that requests it. Just call 101.

Toomai thieves steal cash, champagne and… prawns

Burglars broke into pan-Asian restaurant Toomai on Sunday night, making off with the weekend’s cash takings and causing damage to the premises.

Sachin Mulane, proprietor of the West End Lane restaurant, said that the intruders had entered the building by climbing onto the roof and breaking a window to gain access to the kitchen at the back. Guglee, also co-owned by Sachin, was broken into earlier this year.

Although they were unable to open the locked till, they took envelopes of cash from the basement office, as well as five bottles of champagne and, bizarrely, a bag of prawns that had been left out to thaw. A cash collection towards a staff Christmas party was also taken.

Worse than the missing cash, Sachin said, was the chaos and vandalism he discovered throughout the premises. Electronic point-of-sale equipment was damaged, and the kitchen’s order printer destroyed. Food in the kitchen that had been prepared in advance had to be discarded in case it had been tampered with. The thieves had even tried to remove the large TV screen in the front window, but were unable to wrench it off its metal pole.

Despite the setbacks, Toomai was open as usual for lunch on Monday.

The waiting is over. Waitrose is here

Waitrose_front

You’d think it was the second coming. Excitement levels on Twitter – where usually everyone is so level-headed and calm, right? – have been reaching fever pitch. But even yesterday it looked as if the fitters had their work cut out to get West Hampstead’s newest supermarket ready in time for this morning’s 7am opening. The mad dash to get the place finished has been disruptive for local residents, who have complained about lorries blocking access to the mews to the side of the building during the works.

Photo courtesy of Richard Clegg

Photo courtesy of Richard Clegg

Waitrose_window

Spit & polish…

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Hoovering up the crumbs

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The store manager is now open

Jennifer Brown, Chair of the West Hampstead Women’s Centre, and Geoff Berridge of the West Hampstead Community Centre were there for the ribbon cutting. Waitrose West Hampstead will share £6,000 and 100 staff working hours a year between these two organisations and the C4WS Homeless Project.

Store manager Nicky Clifford-Goss, flanked by Jane Brown and Geoff Berridge and assorted staff (sorry, partners)

Store manager Nicky Clifford-Goss, flanked by Jane Brown and Geoff Berridge and assorted staff (sorry, partners)

The new store, which has taken over from Pizza Express (causing the buggy brigade to both fret and rejoice simultaneously), does not, unsurprisingly, have a fresh meat or fish counter. So, the Hampstead Butcher & Providores should manage to cling on to that business when it opens across the road in a week or so’s time. There is coffee though, out of a machine and free to myWaitrose card holders, and some seating outside at the front, which may not please West Hampstead’s café owners, despite Waitrose’s development director Nigel Keen stating that he welcomes the chance to “play our part in ensuring [West Hampstead] remains a vibrant village”.

Local resident and early-riser Mandira Bhimjiyani was excited by the new store. “I love a good Waitrose,” she said. “Any supermarket that thinks tiramisu is essential is ok with me.”

Inside, one quickly realised how rarely you see a fully-stocked supermarket. The shop seemed to have a reasonable range of products, including a few things for the anti-Waitrose brigade to mock, such as milk alternatives and the world’s pricest mac & cheese.

Full fat also available

An oddly precise price

An oddly precise price

Little Waitrose, as the retail chain’s convenience store format is branded, has been some time in the offing. It’s never entirely clear why the levels of reverence Waitrose elicits are directly proportional to the dislike heaped on its rivals – especially Tesco. Yes, it probably sells slightly better quality food but perhaps people are genuinely impressed that even though it’s a chain, it’s a chain owned by its employees. We wrote about the original John Lewis, whose son lived in Kilburn, back in May.

The store’s opening hours are 7am to 10pm daily. Deliveries – always a bane for local motorists – have been planned to cause less disruption than Tesco’s, though will be early for local residents.

Waitrose_lorry

Is it a posh hotel? A boutique? No, it's a Little Waitrose. Photo via @bubela

Is it a posh hotel? A boutique? No, it’s a Little Waitrose. Photo via @bubela

Train to teach in West Hampstead

With excellent employment prospects, good starting salaries and highly rewarding work, becoming a teacher is a viable option for those with degrees either looking to go back to work or changing careers.

LDBS SCITT, one of the UK’s most dedicated teacher training institutions, has recently relocated to West End Lane. Providing a highly personalised teaching approach with trainees spending more time in school classrooms, its employ