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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gail Haslam is a writer, editor and blogger who also tries to fit in crafty endeavours when she has time, or the supplies threaten to take over the house again. At the moment she’s a social media consultant for a chocolate company, and does realise how lucky she is.
LLO: How long have you been in London, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
GH: I’m originally from Ireland. Almost straight after university I travelled around Australia for a year and then thought I’d spend six weeks in London, until Christmas. That was thirteen years ago, almost to the day.
LLO: One of the main topics on your blog, One Million Gold Stars, is food. Where are a few good places in London to pick up ingredients if you’re looking for something unusual?
GH: I’ve been cooking a lot of Mexican food lately and I’ve been buying all my dried chipotles and ancho chiles from Casa Mexico in Bethnal Green. They also do a fine line in Mexican pottery and Day of the Dead dolls, if you’re so inclined.
I’m a bit intimidated by the packed-to-the-rafters Vietnamese supermarkets on Mare St but Uyen from Fernandez and Leluu has volunteered to take me shopping and show me what’s what.
My boyfriend and I share the cooking in our house, but my favourite hobby is baking. I’m always on the lookout for supplies and tools. The Make Lounge, a creative workshop centre in Islington, carries ‘essentials’ like edible glitter and good quality paste food colourings.
LLO: I’m in London for one night only and need a good food and drink recommendation away from the tourist trail. Where would you send me?
GH: If you can get a table, I’d try Namo on Victoria Park Road and try the Ga hap la chanh – steamed chicken in lime leaves with ginger and lemon. So simple yet so good. Then on to Hemingway, further up Victoria Park Road towards Mare St. Enjoy a tipple while marvelling at the taxidermy.
LLO: If you’re out and about on a rainy winter day, where’s your favourite place to pop in and cosy up with a warm drink?
GH: I’ve a long standing affection for the the Cafe in Foyles on Charing Cross Road and fond memories of their hot chocolate. I’m lucky to have a great selection of cafes locally – the Pavilion in Victoria Park and a new addition, Amandine. Not only do they source ingredients like eggs from the Deli Downstairs, a few doors down, they even grow some of their own ingredients.
LLO: When you’re looking for a bit of Irish food or culture in London, where do you go?
GH: Ah – I’d have to admit that it’s not something I’ve ever looked for – too many other cuisines to explore here. I did have excellent soda bread at Corrigan’s recently (laced with molasses for a very defined sweetness) and it’s one of the things I do miss from home.
LLO: If you’ve had a long day so you’re not in the mood to bake, but you’re craving something sweet, where’s your favourite London bakery?
GH: Arianna Halshaw is probably my favourite baker. I’ve always ordered cupcakes and her infamous Rice Krispies marshmallow directly from her but I understand she’s now supplying cupcakes to The Espresso Room. Otherwise I’m rather partial to a cupcake from Ella’s Bakehouse in Covent Garden. Peanut Butter please.
LLO: What has been your most unusual eating experience in London?
GH: The ‘March Madness, April Fools’ themed night at Trail Of Our Bread, a local supperclub. It involved rabbit, absinthe jelly and the best surprise birthday cake I’ve ever had. It was shaped like a flowerpot, complete with crumbled Oreo “soil”.
LLO:Which area of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best part about it?
GH: East London, I’ve lived around here for ten years, gradually drifting from Shoreditch to Bow to Victoria Park. I love the park itself, and the fact that you can head out one gate and make your way to the Counter Cafe after a wander around Hackney Wick, or head around the perimeter and down the canal to visit Broadway market. Or venture right into the east side of the park and go and visit the deer. (Yes, really).
LLO: Tell us about a memorable moment that could only have happened in London.
GH: On Millennium Eve, we stood on Victoria Embankment, directly opposite the Oxo Tower and watched fireworks going off over three bridges, up and down the river. It was beautiful.
LLO: Best London discovery you think other people should know about?
GH: Wilton’s Music Hall. It’s the oldest operating music hall in the world, and it’s run by a very small but incredibly dedicated team who are determined to preserve this atmospheric, magical building for generations to come. As well as reviving old style vaudeville, it also stages productions for other larger theatres as well as live music and also acts as a film location. Visit for one of their monthly free cinema nights, to see archive footage of London through the ages.
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