Listen to a Londoner: Cemay Ilgu

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Cemay Ilgu, 28

Cemay has just moved back to London after seven years in North Cyprus and is very excited about it! She can’t wait to introduce the delights of London to her husband Berat and son Onur, as well as the newborn they are expecting any day now.

LLO:  Which part of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best thing about it?
CI: I guess Hampstead High Street, which has a lot of great childhood memories for me. The best thing about it is the combination of little pavement cafes and cute little boutiques – it’s not the most affordable of places, but it has a certain ambience that I like every now and then.

LLO: I’ve got one night in London and want to stay away from the tourist trail. Where would you recommend I go to eat and drink?
CI: Ah, there are so many places! But I guess the one place I know that has it all is The North Pole Bar, in Greenwich. You start off in the main bar for a pre-dinner drink, then go up to the Piano Restaurant, and then if you have the energy after the gorgeous food (or you just want to work it off!) you can go down to the South Pole Club and dance the night away! It’s a complete night out in one venue.

LLO: You’ve got a small son and another one due this week! Where’s the best place in London to take the kiddies?
CI: We took Onur, who’s now 21 months, to the Science Museum last month and he adored it. It’s great fun for the kids but they also get to learn stuff – a perfect combination!

LLO: After living abroad for quite a while and coming back to us, where’s the best place in London to go to get a taste of the food you’d find near your other home in Cyprus?
CI: Absolutely without a doubt it’s Kervan Sofrasi Restaurant, on Hertford Road in Edmonton. Not only is the food affordable, but it’s just outstanding quality. If you like Turkish food, I could recommend no better place.

LLO: Where’s your favourite bakery in London and the best thing they serve?
CI: I am a sucker for Pain au Chocolat, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than they serve at Maison Blanc, on Hampstead High Street.

LLO: You’re about to move house. Any flat-hunting tips for people just moving to the city?
CI: Don’t stick to just one agency and try not to limit yourself too much in terms of area – London has a fabulous public transport system and you’re always within reach of somewhere with great transport links – the best properties are often found a little way off the beaten track.

LLO: A new home means decorating… What are the best London shops to deck out the new place?
CI: For us normal folks, you can’t go wrong with Ikea! I’ll be honest, that’s where I have done most of my shopping! But I mixed and matched with bits and pieces I’ve found in places like Camden market, and charity shops are also great for sourcing one off pieces – we once found a 70’s style padded cocktail bar for a bargain £20!

LLO: Best place in London to go on a romantic date (when you get someone to watch the little ones!)?
CI: One of my favourite places that appeals to the Princess Jasmine in me is Pasha, on Gloucester Road. It feels really decadent. The food is exquisite, mostly Moroccan/Middle-Eastern cuisine, but it’s just a lovely, romantic place – all soft lighting and belly dancing!

LLO: What excites you most about being in London again?
CI: Honestly? The diversity and vibrancy, the way that you could do something new, eat something new, discover something new every day for years on end and never get bored! Very different to North Cyprus!

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
CI: A little Italian restaurant called Polpo on Beak Street in Soho. It’s tiny – seats about 50 people, and it doesn’t take bookings so you just kind of turn up and wait, but the food is out of this world – served in small tapas-like portions so you can try a bit of everything, and it’s a really lovely place to socialise with friends, so different as it’s designed to be like a Venetian wine bar. A fabulous little find! Prices are pretty reasonable too for London.

Thanks Cem!

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Little Londoner with a Big Heart

It doesn’t seem so long ago that my brother and I would set up a lemonade stall on our suburban New York street waiting for thirsty grown-ups to walk by and pay us a few cents for a glass. Usually, it was just a few stragglers and grandma dressed up as a stranger trying to trick us into thinking she was a real customer. At the end of the day, we would take down our lopsided “Lemonade 4 Sale” sign, divvy up the coins and head to the Corner Store to gorge ourselves on penny candy.

On Sunday, heading back over to Brick Lane from Columbia Road Flower Market with my visiting family, we stopped by a small girl with a little wooden bear stool selling tiny cupcakes she decorated herself. She was 8-years-old and standing there alone by the pathway. She wasn’t at all intimidated by nine adults towering over her asking questions.

“How much are your cupcakes?”
She replied, “They’re a donation.”
“How much do people usually donate?”
“About one pound,” she said.

Photo taken by Pat Sadler

After she answered more questions about the treats topping each one – dark chocolate, sprinkles, Smarties, we asked what she was going to spend her money on.

“I’m not keeping it,” she explained slowly. “It’s for a charity, for an orphanage in South Africa, for children, so they can have a nicer place to live.”

How precious is that?  

Listen to a Londoner: Janine Clements

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers.

Janine Clements, 37

Janine Clements is a freelance journalist, travel expert and mummy blogger who has been living in London for 12 years. She has lived in Holloway, Maida Vale, Westminster and now Fulham, where she has lived for four years with her husband and 2-year-old daughter.    

LLO: Living in London for 12 years, what are the best and worst changes you’ve seen in the city?
JC:
 The increase in gun and knife crime and scary dogs, but better transport facilities and better shopping with the arrival of Westfield. All the attractions have definitely become much better at catering for young children.    

LLO: Top three favourite things about living in Fulham?
JC:
Lots to do for children (e.g. Fulham Palace, Coffee and Crayons, Gambados, various parks). It’s got great pubs such as The White Horse and The Sands End. There are lots of families around so there is a real community feel.    

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog http://21stcenturymummy.com.
JC:
My inspiration from my blog came from the fact I love writing. I decided to set up a blog that was an account of my take on life as a modern-day mum, as my daughter, who is two, grows up (and I grow older!). I also wanted to help other mums by providing useful information, advice and opinions, reviews and an insight into parenthood for other people to read. My blog covers everything from news and reviews of the latest products to family travel.  

LLO: Do you think London is a child-friendly city and why (or if not, what would make it more so)?
JC:
London is an exciting and vibrant city, and yes, I think most parts are very child-friendly, there’s so much to do for all age groups.  

LLO: If I had one day in London and wanted to explore the bits that don’t show up in the guidebooks, where would you recommend?
JC:
The parks are all fabulous. I love Holland Park, St. James Park and Kensington Palace Gardens. Battersea Park Zoo is fun for younger kids.

LLO: As a travel enthusiast, have you found a place in London you can go to feel like you’ve travelled without actually having left the city?
JC:
I’ve always been a big fan of Little Venice and its waterways and canal boats. It is so peaceful and very different from inner London. Or further out is Richmond Park, acres upon acres of parkland and loads of deer. 

LLO: What’s your favourite kid-friendly restaurant in London and another one you love when you’ve got a child-free night out?
JC:
Konnigans in Wandsworth is great for brunch. It’s got a relaxed atmosphere, good food and great kid’s menu. For the two of us it would be Tsunami, a fabulous Japanese restaurant. There’s one near Tottenham Court Road and another in Clapham.

LLO: Do you have any advice for travelling mums about to pop over to London for a week with the kids?
JC:
There are so many things for kids. Popular things to do include Buckingham Palace, the London Aquarium, and the Science Museum. Depending on the age of your kids, a West End show is a great idea. Hamleys or the toy shop at Harrods is also fun. When it’s sunny, the parks are fabulous too.

LLO: Favourite London discovery or a place you’ve heard is really cool but haven’t had a chance to check it out yet?
JC:
I’ve heard the Victoria and Albert Museum is great for kids, but I haven’t been yet.

LLO: Describe your perfect Spring Saturday in London.
JC:
Head outdoors if it’s sunny, so my 2-year-old can run around and burn off some energy. Somewhere like Fulham Palace or Cannzaro House (in Wimbledon) or Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. Each has a nice cafe to grab lunch at too.

Thanks Janine!

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