Category Archives: food

Urban Farms in London

I wrote a guest post for the wonderful Polis blog last week, please support me and take a look on their site! A small taste is below:

Recently I’ve noticed that London embraces urban farming in a way I haven’t seen in other cities. Last month I attended the Oxford-Cambridge Goat Race at Spitalfields City Farm in East London, a popular annual event that raises money for the farm. It is housed on a side street off the trendy and boisterous Brick Lane, and like many other city farms in London, offers a study in how to effectively utilise small amounts of urban space.

Spitalfields City Farm resides alongside a small park and a residential area, including council flats and primary schools. Ever present is the sound of the Overground as trains rush past, visible behind the small playground and vegetable patches. It is a farm that is connected to its community and surroundings. Contained within the farm is a small menagerie of rare breeds, a weekend community market as well as allotments and a greenhouse. Throughout the week, people can easily buy a range of eggs, plants and compost, as well as other locally made goods. Most of the other urban farms around London follow this same template, acting as hubs of community activity and knowledge exchange across central and greater London.

For the rest of the article, please go to Polis blog.

London Links

London links for this week:

Not Your Mother’s Afternoon Tea

Like any proper expat, Anglophile and daughter of Southerners, I love tea. I am obsessed with tea and all of its wondrous variations. I have a growing tea collection in my kitchen, with fancy Fortnum & Mason white teas, traditional PG Tips and Yorkshire tea, darjeeling, and zanier flavours such as Boston Tea Party (not that one) Pomegranate Green tea and Qi Spicy Christmas tea. I indulge in organic iced tea from Borough Market (fact: not as good as homemade orange pekoe tea mixed with lemon and too much sugar) and love trying new biscuits that will go with all of my teas (I am also a Biscuit Bandit Queen). I even look forward to autumn and winter because I can drink as much tea as I crave ( I don’t use sugar, so it’s healthy! No, it really is.) As you can see, I am crazy about tea. And yet- there is  something that slightly irritates me about the expectation to do trad afternoon tea when visiting London (or England as a whole). It just seems so limiting and ignores the vast, multicultural tea cultures that exist in the city. So I am making a list of other teas that can be found in London. Remember, these are just a few examples, sometimes the best thing to do is explore and try a small place that’s out of the way. Enjoy!


  • Vintage Patisserie– Expensive, but offers one of a kind service with music, vintage hostesses and handmade cakes and pastries
  • Volupte– A burlesque cabaret club that offers ‘Afternoon Tease’ on select dates. Your tea and scones also comes with a special burlesque performance. Expensive, but also includes the show.

East Asian (green, white and bubble teas are common):

  • Bubbleology– London has recently discovered bubble tea and has gone mad for it! With affordable prices, this is a great cafe to discover the quirky loveliness of  bubble tea houses.
  • Jen Cafe– a well-known Chinese restaurant that has some of the best bubble tea in the city
  • HK Diner-Another well-known Chinatown restaurant with lovely traditional Chinese tea
  • Necco– a cutesy, kawaii Japanese cafe that offers a range of teas with tapas and other dishes for a reasonable price.
  • Note: Chinatown is best for a variety of trad tea

Moroccan/Lebanese/Arabic (sweet mint tea is traditional):

  • Momo– this swanky bar offers a twist on Afternoon tea with Moroccan pastries and traditional mint tea. Average afternoon tea cost
  • Pasha– another fancy restaurant, this houses the Kemia Lounge where you can get trad tea and pastries, along with other small dishes.
  • Maroush– a chain of restaurants and delis that offer teas,  juices and a wide range of North African food
  • Note: Places like Edgware Road are great for Moroccan/Lebanese food

Indian/Southeast Asian (chai, darjeeling):

  • Dishoom-one of my favourite restaurants,this has some of the best decor I’ve ever seen (60s Bollywood kitsch, divine!) It also has a range of chai and lassi to accompany a wide range of food.
  • Imli-A reasonably priced modern Indian restaurant that offers trad teas with yummy tapas.
  • Chor Bizarre-London’s first Indian tea bar, Chai Bizarre, is run in the afternoon with a separate menu. Picked by a tea master, teas are paired with specific pastries to best explore the flavour. Expect to pay average afternoon tea prices.
  • Note: Places like Southall and Whitechapel are great for Indian dishes, though Brick Lane is more tourist-based and the food can be lacking.

Where are some tea places that you really like?

Tips for travelers and expats

1. Do not eat biscuits right before going to bed, your stomach will thank you.

2. Always check TFL to make sure that the train/tube is still going to your stop. You can easily waste an hour of your life and lose your mind if you choose to wing it.

3. During the winter, your new best friends are a cup of tea, biscuits and a hot water bottle. Honestly, these things may have saved my life on numerous occasions.

4. Sometimes the best way to continue enjoying London is to leave for a few days.

More Carolyn Steel

I love this idea!

The Thames Gateway, after all, is ‘gateway’ to London, currently one of the least sustainable communities on the planet. In this context, calling the capital’s fluvial hinterland an ‘eco-region’ seems a bit of a stretch. Creating a few parks and ‘ducklands’ to absorb the inevitable flooding that will hit the region due to global warming, does little to alleviate the effects of the vast, pullulating metropolis just a few miles upriver. Surely a more ‘sustainable’ approach to London’s gateway would be to acknowledge its ancillary role as neighbour to the biggest, baddest city in Europe and address some of the latter’s more genuinely unsustainable practices?

Here’s an idea. Plans for the Gateway have stalled because people have stopped paying ridiculous prices for houses. But Londoners still need to eat. So, rather than wait to build more dormitory towns at the edge of an already bloated, non-productive metropolis, why not grow food for it instead? Not just on the odd token site for a few years, but all over the region, long-term, on a commercially viable scale? Stop flogging publicly-owned land to developers so that they can sit on it until it becomes profitable again, and make the land available at token rents to anyone who wants to farm it? Generate jobs for local people growing, harvesting, packing and cooking food, and sailing it upriver to sell at markets along the Embankment? Use the city’s sewage to fertilise the soil? Return the Thames Gateway, in fact, to what it was for centuries: London’s market garden and breadbasket? That way, the region could become an exemplar, not of urban renewal, but of rural, making London a model of post-industrial sustainability in the process. Just a thought.
More from her blog here: Hungry City

‘Sitopia already exists.’

Taken from Sociological Images:

In the past year, food and sustainability within an urban context have become very important to me. I grew up as a product of typical urban, lower middle class American food consumption- I didn’t care much about it’s origins to an extent, only its convenience. This also led me to not really care about food at all and its relation to my general health, which led to extremely unhealthy eating habits. As I got older, this changed slightly and I tried to expand my culinary palette and started buying vegetables at the local market (though I have to state that at this point I was living in a rural suburb.)

Once I moved to London and had to fend for myself, I began to really analyse and adjust my relationship with food. When I graduated and moved to west London, the garden became a vegetable patch complete with a compost bin. For a large percentage of the year, the house became somewhat self-sustaining, with most veg and herbs coming from the back yard. The household also began to shop at local markets as well as supermarkets. I tried to buy seasonal fruits and started looking at where my food was being raised. I also seriously started questioning my meat consumption, which has caused me to limit how much meat I eat (though I was always a rubbish carnivore). What I enjoy about living in London is that it is fairly easy to buy local and British, which not only helps farmers but helps combat deforestation (and the loss of animal habitats), forced labour, and the loss of food in other nations. Most importantly, I started to care about food, how it sustains me and my role in promoting positive and negative food practices. I realised that I couldn’t continue to be complacent in bad agricultural and meat policies by ignoring the issues at hand. I am now cheered every time I hear about urban argricultural movements and developments, from urban farms and vegetable plots to urban beekeeping and gardens created in low socioeconomic areas. So many of our issues with food are tied to class, culture and consumerism, so I am glad that it is finally starting to be addressed in a productive and open way. I am still learning about food and consumption, but I feel that I am gaining the right tools to understand and do my part.