Sunday, 28 September 2014

Whitewebbs House to Leila's Shop

"You should go to Whitewebbs," said the nice man at one of the offices I work in. "It's a pub now – they have an all-you-can eat lunch on Sundays." Not sure what this says about his opinion on my appetite(!), but I'm always up for an old house, so off we went last weekend to Enfield to take a look.

Surrounded by well-visited woods (think dog walkers, young families and running clubs) on one side and a golf club on the other, all on what must have been the estate's once-upon-a-time grounds, Whitewebbs House is now a Toby Carvery pub ( I can't offer an opinion on the food or service, since all I did was wander in and take a look at the pretty downstairs rooms, which still give a hint of what it might have been like to live here back in the day (fyi, the mansion was built in 1791 and, as far as I can find out, has no historical significance beyond being a rich person's mansion back in the day, though a nearby house with the same name, which was demolished before this one was built, had 'an association' with the Gunpowder Plot [think Guy Fawkes], but that's really not a lot to do with this!). Still, it's a terribly pretty building and, if you enter by Clay Hill and park in the running club's car park (they didn't seem to mind when we did this), you get to see the matching pretty little lodge, now painted pink, that must once have guarded the entrance to the house.

It's not far from London – maybe a 20-30 minute drive if you're already on the north side – and makes a nice, if quite populated walk – you're not going to stumble over any wildlife here, aside from the ducks in the pond or an irate golfer who's missed his shot.

The best place these days, if you want to find 'authentic' oldie worldie stuff, is probably East London. Just off Shoreditch High Street, on Calvert Avenue, E2, nearly at Arnold Circus – which is a wonderful architectural/city-planning bit of space to sit in and gawp at what is arguably the world's first social housing development – is Leila's Shop (

It's so pretty, you just want to walk around and look at the displays. And, if you like what you see and feel hungry, you can pop next door and eat some of it in Leila's Café (open 10-6, or 10-5 on Sundays).

My wandering companion bought walnuts and a little jar. Not walnuts in a little jar, walnuts and a little, empty jar. To put tea in, she said. It's that kind of shop.

I'm getting fast and loose here with the photos I took, but you get the general idea: food out with it's brothers and sisters, not wrapped up in loads of packaging; the whole looking like a child's version of what a shop should look like. Although it was an idealised version of what we imagine British shops once were, it struck me as very French: the essence being that things should be lovely for the sake of being lovely and enjoyed. At any event, if you're in the area, definitely worth stopping in, if only to take a look. Though you couldn't go wrong buying a couple of those artichokes. We heard they were making soup out of them next door, but – alas – had to go back to work.

And now to thoughts... What a week! Crying tired, my mother used to call it, and she wasn't wrong. Working 'til 6pm in one office, then battling against the commuters of Liverpool Street into central London for an evening shift in another office, where we've been working on a magazine redesign. Yes, it looks amazing. Yes, of course it's going to be a huge success. But, after working weekends as well as evenings, last night saw me unfit for anything. Enough. Done. Kaput. I thought, as you got older, you were meant to work less? Hey ho, it should hopefully settle down this week and then, next weekend? Off to Dunwich, in Suffolk, on England's amazing east coast. Watch this space...

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