Locals dig deep to push Alliance fundraiser over target

The organisers of the campaign to raise funds to send the body of Natalia Czekaj back to her mother in Poland would like to express their gratitude to locals for giving generously to the cause. In total, they raised £8,400, which means that they can also help Natalia’s mother cover the funeral costs as well.

Dear Friends of The Alliance, Mill Lane, West Hampstead,

The sudden and tragic loss of Natalia has revealed that we are blessed with a local community full of kindness and generosity. The fund, originally set up to repatriate Natalia’s body to her mother in Poland, has been swollen by your goodwill to such an extent that we can hopefully now cover the funeral expenses as well.

Of course, we cannot ease the emotional suffering that sudden bereavement brings, but we have shown a devastated family that we care about their loss, and that Natalia was a loved and appreciated member of our community.

The funeral has been arranged for Saturday 31st January so it is our intention to close the fund on Friday 30th January.

Please accept our sincere thanks for your generosity and kindness; on behalf of Natalia’s family and the staff of The Alliance.


Alliance fundraising appeal to help Natalia Czekaj’s mother

On January 6th, Natalia Czekaj was found dead at her home in Harrow. Natalia worked behind the bar at The Alliance pub on Mill Lane where she was much loved. A 34-year-old man has been charged with her murder.


Locals are raising funds to help Natalia’s mother repatriate her daughter’s body to Poland, which she otherwise cannot afford. In a tragic coincidence, Natalia’s father, who was a policeman, was apparently also killed when she was young.

Michael Keating, landlord at The Alliance, is collecting money behind the bar, but a bank account has also been set up so people can contribute directly:
Account name: Natalia Fund
Account no. 63772314
Sort code: 20-74-63

Donations can be made online, or in person at any Barclays Bank. Barclays will transfer the money to Poland free of charge, and any other admin costs will be covered by the campaign’s organisers.

West Hampstead Life understands that some £600 has been raised already, but the target is £3,000.

One of the campaign’s organisers said “Let’s show Natalia’s family that we, as a community, sympathise with their tragic loss and stand beside them in their time of need. She was brave enough to try to make a life in our city and we should be generous enough to send her home with dignity.”

It would take only small contributions from all our readers to reach this target, and I can’t begin to imagine the emotions Natalia’s mother is feeling right now having lost her daughter in such a manner, and being unable to bring her home.

If you feel able to help, please do make a donation.


Tom falls between the cracks at The Alliance

A bit of a mixed bag at The Alliance on Mill Lane the other day. Let me explain.

Bread and olives were definitely of the ‘value’ variety; a warmed baguette with no butter or oil, with green olives of the brine / jar type; not a crime – but at £3, one might expect posher ones?

My main was a puzzling dish that was almost right, but just fell short: a generous sea bass fillet with a pleasingly crispy skin, placed on top of a tower of “crostini”, which was actually made up of an amusing series of toasted, sliced brown bread triangles! I’m not convinced this was chef’s original intention when the concept was conceived, but at least the toasts were nicely crisped. A caper vinaigrette and samphire worked well, though perhaps the orange-coloured sauce and dash of balsamic weren’t really needed; the chopped fennel was a sound idea but a touch underdone for my tastes. Overall, good elements, just a little over-complicated and confused.

Sea bass on toast

Sea bass on toast

Fries materialised rather than chips, because chef had “run out of them”, but with plenty of ketchup, that wasn’t too much of a problem.

Madame Fusspot was most definitely not pleased to find her risotto undercooked. This was a pity; with Parmesan, chopped peppers and char-grilled courgette neatly placed atop, the flavours were bang-on, but to send it out without finishing the cooking properly seemed altogether strange, though it has to be said this seems to be one of the most common, if inexplicable, eating-out errors.


All in all I just wonder if The Alliance – a welcoming, friendly pub that’s always relaxed and mellow – is caught slightly between trying to do pub grub and something a little more elevated, without quite finding the right balance yet. Or perhaps I’ve just been a little unlucky on recent visits?

Still, there’s leather sofas, live sport (on TV, not actually going on in the pub – unless you count Wine Olympics) – and a fulsome breakfast menu too. Eggs Florentine and coffee while watching the downhill would have been fab. Alternatively, a traditional, hangover-busting fry-up with perhaps a more conservative use for those funny triangles of toast!

Record breaking #whampgather

The trouble with taking over ever larger spaces is that it takes ever so slightly longer for you to feel confident that you’ll fill them.

As I rattled around The Alliance with a few early arrivals and a couple of helpful stalwarts I began to get that nagging feeling that maybe this was too ambitious. This was a large pub after all. Could we really fill it?

Such concerns evaporated all too quickly as locals started to trickle, then pour in. There was even a queue at one point. A couple of people got lucky as others dropped out at the last minute, and managed to squeeze in to the buzzing room. Mike, landlord at The Alliance, had ensured there were enough staff on hand and his manager Russell did a great job of making sure everything ran smoothly.

Bar staff were kept busy
Photo courtesy of Brad

DJ Stoney was plugged into the speakers while Nicky and Brad started working the room selling raffle tickets. Chris and Katie took over for the final push and after the money was all counted up we’d raised £600 for The Winch. That’s a new #whampgather record. Thank you to everyone who bought as many as they could afford and a massive thank you of course to all the businesses that contributed prizes (there’s a full list below). In total, 160 people came along – also a record – many for the first time. I hope we’ll see you all at another whampevent in the not too distant future.

£600 for The Winch
Photo courtesy of @Snowyt79

DJ Stoney
Photo courtesy of @Snowyt79

Raffle anticipation builds
Photo courtesy of @Snowyt79

Louise wins the star prize
Photo courtesy of @Snowyt79

For more photos, check out Mark’s complete set on Flickr.

Prize givers
If you ever think that West Hampstead is becoming too full of chains then bear in mind that every business that donated a prize is independent. Here’s the full list of contributors:

Forming the Mill Lane Pamper Hamper (our star prize) we had:
The Kitchen Table
Achillea Flowers
Mill Lane Barbers
Natasha’s Sports Massage
The Private Space
Vini Vivi
Prestige Dry Cleaning
Beauty Blossom

Restaurants and bars that contributed vouchers and meals:
The Wet Fish Café
Mill Lane Bistro
The Elgin
The Gallery

And other local businesses:
West End Lane Books
Rock Men’s Salon
Gloves Boxing Club
Monsters of Art
Dass Stores
Natural Shades