20 June 2015

London Wanderings: Hampstead Heath

When I realised my last "wanderings" was 3 months ago, I knew I needed to get out there and have a little adventure. I chose to ignore the stubborn overcast gloom and resist the temptation of new Orange is the New Black episodes to mooch around Hampstead, instead.

Even though I live 6 miles away, the joys of public transport meant it took just over 50 minutes to get to Hampstead tube station. But I knew it would be worth it.

We didn't really have a "plan" as such. There were no museums we wanted to visit or sights we wanted to see. All I really knew is that I wanted a good cup of coffee and a slice of cake... and I had a place in mind. Don't I always?

We stopped off at a café called Ginger & White, located about 5 minutes down the hill (Hampstead is ALL about the gradients, so wear comfy footwear) on Perrins Court.

At 2:30pm on a miserable Saturday, it was packed, but the café is tiiiiny. Saying that, cafés are plentiful in Hampstead, so the popularity of the place speaks volumes.

 My friend's americano

Something that usually puts me off with "artisan" coffee is that it's very... potent. And the potency means it's very strong, and within half an hour my heart feels like it's going to fall out of my chest and my head feels like it's full of bubbles. It's not a great feeling.

However, this coffee was very much to my taste, and the brownie was delicious. It seemed ever so slightly dry on the outside, but as soon as I cut in I was rewarded with an almost gooey texture which was complimented perfectly by the tart raspberry. It was just what I needed.

Americano, raspberry & white chocolate brownie, courgette & cinnamon cake, soya latte

We eyed up our neighbours's pickings, and were delighted to see that the dippy eggs came with dinky crochet hats. And we were also keen on the homemade baked beans with chorizo & scrambled eggs. It looked so so good.

Done with coffee and cake, we moved on...

We came across the Hampstead Community Centre, which was hosting a mini market accompanied by - you guessed it - a little café. What can I say? We were lured in by the scent of cheese.

It turns out the market is a weekly occasion, occupied by local start-ups. There were three in particular we absolutely loved.

First was Roxy's Cakes, all of which are gluten & wheat free, and organic. She set up the company originally for the cakes (the name gives it away, I know), and then realised the potential to create unique jams to go with them. We sampled the raspberry & cinnamon option with a piece of bread and it was seriously yummy. Although admittedly I'm a sucker for both raspberries and cinnamon... There were other fun infusions on offer including blueberry & thyme and blackcurrant & chilli.

Then we were introduced to Hibiscus Lily, "lovingly homemade" condiments and preserves, What tickled our fancy, however, was the fudge. On their website they only offer red velvet and vanilla fudge, but if you visit them at the stall you can find flavours including "chocolatey cardamom & coffee", "chai latte" and "pistachio and rose". Corrr! Hungry yet?

Finally, we were treated to the lovely couple behind "Pulse" - Ayshé and Mark. We tried the "leek-y tray bake" and my goodness, it was good. We spoke to them about the inspiration behind their business, and they said they really wanted to show people that a vegetarian, organic isn't just lettuce leaves - and it can taste fantastic. Everything is homemade in their kitchen, and will stay fresh for up to 5 days. It's a great idea for lunches for people on the go but who don't have time to rustle up something exciting and tasty. If you go, try the "Fruity Chickpea" and thank me later!

You can't go to Hampstead without exploring the heath, so we placed our faith in Citymapper and navigated our way there, admiring the beautiful houses and gardens on the way...

They certainly brightened up the stubbornly gloomy day.

We thought we'd struck lucky when we came across The Affordable Art Fair, before realising it was £15 entry, each. Ouch. A light reminder that "affordable" is a subjective term, especially somewhere like Hampstead.

But the best things in life are free, right? So we made the best of the situation and enjoyed a scenic amble around Hampstead Heath.

(Definitely almost fell in...)

If you ever feel like London is too busy, too stressful, or - let's face it - too smelly, I strongly suggest you visit one of its parks. People forget that London is home to some beautiful, peaceful scenery, and that's such a shame. We agreed that it was incredibly cleansing to breathe in some fresh air, and it was so peaceful. It gives you time to think and reflect.

It also made us realise how unfit we were, but hey.

Having no idea which route we'd taken, we felt very disoriented when we emerged from the Heath onto Heath Villas. But we had the pleasure of walking past some serious BNOH (big names of Hampstead) including D. H. Lawrence's and George Du Maurier's former abodes, as well as the home of the creator of the newspaper, Alfred Harmsworth Lord Northcliffe! Both former literature students, we may have been a bit starstruck.

 D. H. Lawrence's home
George Du Maurier's palatial home

Alfred Harmsworth Lord Northcliffe's former home

And I took a few more photos of the beautiful houses, because I'm a property nerd.

Can this please be my house?

It turned out we'd done a loop, coming full circle and approaching Hampstead station from the opposite direction. Weirdly convenient, huh?

All tuckered out, we spotted the Everyman Cinema and put it on our - by now a very long - list of places to visit next time. Because, oh beautiful, leafy Hampstead, there will definitely be a next time.


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