Tag Archives: Islington

Jobs to do in another life

On Saturday I was visiting my Mum in Lewes and popped into Cook to pick up that night’s dinner. If you haven’t come across Cook, it’s a small chain selling frozen ready meals using the same ingredients and techniques you would at home, so everything looks and tastes homemade. Prices are around £3.85 a portion, making it cheaper than buying the ingredients and creating the dish yourself. They’re a complete godsend if you’re ill, a new mother or, like me, too bone-idle to cook.

They also do a party range, where you can buy dishes such as large sides of salmon, honey-glazed gammon with cloves, or puy lentil and aduki bean salad. The salads cost £15.95 for what they say is 16-20 portions (so I will call 15). But even so, that’s a little over £1 a portion, which has got to be worth paying if it saves you standing over the hob cooking lentils for 20. Oh, and the dishes taste great. The chocolate mousses are so good my babysitter pigged both of them.

So, as you can tell, I’m sold on Cook. I was telling the man in the Lewes shop this and he in turn told me that he used to work in the City but, seeking a change of lifestyle, bought the franchise on the shop. It was the best thing he ever did, he said. Obviously the first question I wanted to ask was, how much money do you make? But there seem to be rules against asking that sort of thing, so I dressed it up, saying, “I don’t know anything about franchises, do they give you a good deal?”

He immediately guessed what I was getting at and said, “Oh yes. We far exceeded expectations in the first year, and we’re doing so well we’ve bought the franchise on a shop in Hove.” I then whinged about the fact that all their London shops are South West (they’re all in places like Clapham, West Dulwich and Barnes) and he was very encouraging, suggesting that I tell my friends to buy their own franchises and open branches across the rest of London.

I came away thinking that, since the product is so good and well-priced, it would surely be a guaranteed money-spinner. Admittedly Shoreditch isn’t the right location, and the rents in Islington or the City would probably cancel out any profit, but in somewhere like Queen’s Park or West Hampstead they would be all over this. I would be, anyway.

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Pubs for parents

Easter weekend was mostly spent in pub beer gardens, which was a treat, and painting chairs, which wasn’t. On Saturday we went to the Florence in Herne Hill, a fairly unremarkable pub except for the genius addition of a dedicated kids’ playroom, which allows parents to eat, drink and chat, while keeping an eye on their shouty offspring through the glass wall that separates playroom and pub garden. It’s brilliant, and I wish more pubs would adopt the idea, because Herne Hill is frankly a shag to get to.

The three pubs we went to – the others being the Stag in Hampstead and the Albion in Islington – all had one thing in common: shit food. When did pubs revert to serving deep-fried brie and overcooked roasts? I thought we’d gone beyond that one. I blame the annoying trend for British nostalgia food, but that’s another story. Anyway, we spent a lot of time eating food we could have made better ourselves, which is always a pisser when they’re charging £15-plus a main. The worst was the Albion, not just for the food, but for the service, which was downright poisonous. Never before have I seen I barman respond, “I don’t care” when a customer (rightfully) complains that he’s been waiting 15 minutes to be served. The waitress made us start a tab and, when my friend was overcharged to the tune of £25 on hers, stropped as if she was asking for the refund purely to inconvenience her. It was beyond cheeky, and not the first time I’ve had a bad experience there. It’s so annoying when pubs think that a nice garden and splash of Farrow and Ball gives them the right to behave like total arseholes. Grrr.

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Filed under General rants and moans