Sunshine in the Ol’ Smoke
London, in Summer 2013, is a special place to be: there’s the annual tennis tournament at Wimbledon; London 2012 Olympic anniversary events; a royal birth and perhaps best of all – a heatwave. And I mean a proper heatwave, with temperatures over 30°C!
Now the UK isn’t very well equipped to cope with such temperatures and travelling on the tube can be akin to melting in a bath of sweat with strangers. But on the plus side, there are plenty of cool places to go and hang out in the sunshine… if you know where they are.
Londoners are spoilt for choice when it comes to parks and green spaces – it’s probably one of the greenest cities in the world. Parks in zones 1 and 2 include
- Hyde Park
- Kensington Gardens
- St James’s Park
- Green Park
- Regent’s Park
- Hampstead Heath
- Battersea Park
- Clapham Common
The moment the sun comes out, Clapham Common (where parakeets can be spotted; reportedly descended from escapees while filming The African Queen in the 1950s, or so the story goes) is transformed into a mass of picnic parties with internationally accented folks organising rounders, throw-the-flipflop and even poking a toe in the paddling pool. With so many good traditional pubs nearby, the Common is a great place to chill out and watch the world go by, before heading along Old Town to seek a cheeky beverage or two.
Nardulli ice cream
Don’t even think about joining in any antics on Clapham Common without a visit to Nardulli, a new gelateria with 24 flavours to choose from including cookies, fig roll, macadamia, nutella, cardamom and all the usual suspects too. At only £2.30 for a small cone, it’s well worth every penny.
Three Nardulli ice creams, right (top to bottom): peanut, nutella, macadamia
So we’ve spent most of the year complaining it’s too cold. And now it’s hot, we want to enjoy the sun but stay cool at the same time.
Perhaps you’d like to sip a chilled vinho verde Portuguese wine, part-shaded by some big old trees, and munch on salt cod, grilled sardines or king prawns piri piri, in a fairly tranquil location that isn’t overcrowded?
Come closer and I’ll let you into one of London’s better kept secrets…
I visited Portugal (Lisbon) for the first time last year in May. The hospitality, cuisine, wine, glorious weather, sights and culture were so impressive we returned to experience a different part (Porto) in October.
On my return from Lisbon, I set myself the task of finding a Portuguese bakery in London selling pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). It wasn’t hard.
It turns out that Lambeth (you know, the borough that brings us the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks from the London Eye, and covers the area from the South Bank down to Clapham Common) contains Little Portugal, an area near Vauxhall where an estimated 27,000 Portuguese people live (probably the largest Portuguese community in the UK).
So it’s hardly surprising that there are several Portuguese bakeries and restaurants here. I chose Luis Deli out of convenience. It’s a two minute walk from Vauxhall Station, situated in the arches on Albert Embankment, selling Portuguese tarts/cakes, cheeses, meats, a good selection of wine (for example, Esporao Reserva at about £8 a bottle) and more.
Luis Deli is part of the ‘Madeira London’ group, comprising Cafe Bar Madeira, Casa Madeira (restaurant) and Pico Bar & Grill. They’re all situated in neighbouring arches, with plenty of outdoor seating on all-weather plastic grass stretching along the embankment in front of them.
Grilled salt cod + pizza from Casa Madeira, tarts from Luis Deli
At Casa Madeira, there’s a happy hour on wines and beers early evenings on week days, very friendly service and an extensive menu (tapas and starters from £2.50, and main courses from various grilled fish or meat dishes to pizza and burgers).
Madeira London really utilise their outdoor space. There’s nothing pretentious about this place so if you’re after a sophisticated, gourmet dining experience, then this may not be for you. But if you’re after an uncrowded, leafy and relaxing space in which to drink and eat good value food with friends, that’s close to public transport, why not give it a try?
~ LardButty’s photos of Madeira London