Herb visits… S.E.H. Kelly

We spend a great deal of time celebrating traditional businesses and mourning those that pass, so it's particularly satisfying to find a brand new operation with the integrity and the ethos of an old one. One such is clothing manufacturer S.E.H. Kelly, whose studio and shop is a short walk from our own modest premises, and where we stopped in to have a cup of tea a while ago now, back before the leaves started to turn.

S.E.H. Kelly specialise in workwear for men, using only fabric and materials from the British Isles which are manufactured to exacting standards frequently in very limited runs. They operate on a small enough scale that should the fancy taken them, they can make use of finds such as a single piece of fabric that will make fewer than 20 shirts, and so that becomes the whole run. Which is something to bear in mind if you spot an item you like – this may be the last one ever made. We were particularly impressed with their horn buttons which come from a 150-year-old button factory in the Midlands, but this level of care runs throughout their business, and not just in the clothes they make and the austerely charming studio in which they labour.

On any Saturday and Sunday, from 12noon-5pm, you too can explore the creations of SEH Kelly at their workshop, and meet Sara and Paul, the delightful pair at its helm. We'd say a visit is a bit like going back to a better time, but it's better than that because it gives us all hope that good, modest businesses can prosper in the present day.

S.E.H Kelly, 1 Cleve Workshops, Boundary Street London E2 7JD. Tel: 020 3397 0449
Photos are courtesy Paul, SEH Kelly

Posted in England, Independent, London

Herb visits… Diwana Bhel Poori House

On Drummond Street, next to the supermarket where Patak's pickles were born is Diwana, serving vegetarian Indian food since the 1960s. Their buffet lunch remains one of the city's great food bargains, attracting nearby office workers, impecunious pensioners, weary travelers and plenty of regulars. In The Discriminating Guide to London (William Heinemann, 1977) it is described accurately if a little harshly: "small, very simple – even uncomfortable... we include it because of all the English vegetarian restaurants in central London none has been good enough to recommend. The food here is delicious and almost ridiculously cheap." The same is true today; it is an entirely unselfconscious timewarp, with its hard benches, stainless steel beakers and trays. The lunchtime buffet is far from the familiar pea and potato gloop of other similar establishments, with salads, curries, home-made pickles and chutneys, all of which are constantly refreshed, while "a la carte" bhel poori and dosas in the evening are also excellent.
With HS2 threatening to destroy Drummond Street and large swathes of Euston and Mornington Crescent, we urge you to visit while you still can. This is an area little known to those who neither live or work in it, but it has a large, settled residential population for whom life is beginning to look very bleak indeed, as shown by the video below and linked here.

Diwana Bhel Poori House, 121-123 Drummond Street, London NW1 2HL. Tel: 020 7387 5556

Posted in Drummond Street, England, Food, Independent, London, Restaurants

Herb visits… Pitt Rivers

Let us give thanks to Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers, whose formidable passion for archaeology and ethnology resulted in the core collection of the museum which bears his name.

Housed in a beautiful Victorian structure which sits at the end of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers is strange and wonderful. Elegant glass cases are packed with exhibits of varying provenance and vintage – musical instruments, masks, toys, clothes, weapons, coins. Drawers beneath the cases, some of which can be opened by visitors, are jammed with still more objects. The visitor is overwhelmed. The room is dark, totem poles loom; canoes, spears, paddles are suspended from the ceilings.

The collection rambles over three floors, each packed with yet more exhibits delivering a fresh sense of wonder and a different perspective on the peculiarities, idiosyncrasies and similarities of all humankind.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW

Posted in England, Museums, UK

Herb visits… B & K Salt Beef

Located on a busy street just off the arterial Edgware Road, it is not being unduly harsh to describe B&K's setting as lacking glamour. We will, however, gladly forego superficial charm when an establishment is so abundant as this in every other way.

Salt beef is brined on the premises, and cucumbers are pickled in-house - our New Green was tart and garlicky with a satisfying snap to it; salt beef was moist, aromatic and soft. In fact, we cannot recall a better or more substantial salt beef sandwich this side of the Atlantic.

It is a convivial place, unpretentious and friendly. Our fellow diners had the relaxed appearance of regulars, barely glancing at menus (“what do I need to see a menu for?”), with conversation flowing from both sides of the counter.

B & K Salt Beef Bar, Lanson House, Whitchurch Lane, Edgware, HA8 6NL. Tel: 020 8952 8204
Tue-Sun: 12noon–3pm and 5.30-9.15pm. Open for take-away all day.

There is also a second branch in Hatch End.

Below: Phil Rabin's, Great Windmill Street, W1, 1981. Photo by Flickr user chrisdb1.

Posted in England, Food, Independent, London, UK

Lament for Intoxica!

And so the news is out, after 18 years trading, Intoxica! of Portobello Road is to close. It joins a long, sad roll call of record shops we have loved and lost: Plastic Passion and its later incarnation as home of the feuding Bills, Minus Zero and Stand Out; Camden Town's hallowed Rock On; Dobell's; Ray's; At The Hop in Fulham; Spinning Disc in Chiswick and so many more.

We miss them all and dearly wish that Intoxica! was not joining this unhappy list. Intoxica! will be open until June, we urge you to pay a visit while you can.

Intoxica!, 231 Portobello Road Notting Hill, London W11 1LT. Tel: 020 7229 8010

Below: Dobell's, Shaftesbury Avenue in the 1960s

Below: a series of photos taken at Rock On in 1980 by Flickr user Affendaddy.

Posted in England, Independent, London, Shops, UK

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