Nestled snugly in between Turnpike Lane and Manor House tube stations is a road which I hold responsible for the weight gain of my mid twenties. It took me years to pluck up the courage and venture so far from my usual West London hang-outs, that is, after being discouraged by the notorious name the press dubbed Green Lanes: ‘The Murder Mile.’ But that’s old news now for long gone are the days of turf warfare. Green Lanes has always been a hive of multi-cultural activity, and now its my number one destination for a temporary fix of the balmy Med.
Easily accessible by Underground (Turnpike Lane and Manor House stations) and Overground (Harringay Green Lanes lands you smack bang in the middle), perhaps if you’re as much of a culture addict as I am its best to arrive with an extra pair of hands to help carry all your goodies back home. Perhaps the first thing that will you notice as you enter the zone is how villagey it feels. There is a distinct lack of supermarkets (bar one), with grocery shops, butchers, jewellers and restaurants dominating the stretch. Green Lanes is a social hub of the community, with services and advertisements for cultural events and concerts in most shop windows. Turkish and Greek languages are prominent here, displayed on shop signs and heard in spoken word or blaring from passing car stereos.
Elderly flat-cap wearing compatriots greet each other then enter into social club doorways, to pass the afternoon playing cards and sipping tea in delicate glasses. Cypriot Yiayia’s (grannies) stand proud behind counters with pressed aprons and coiffed hair. Proud gypsies haggle and barter for gold in the area’s many jewellers. Their long skirts flap behind them as they vacate with a caravan of children and buggies. Excited gaggles of women fill hair salons, perhaps getting ready for wedding partys in one of the borough’s many banqueting suites. Young brides-to-be can be seen through dress shop windows, trying on spectacularly embellished dresses. They’re surrounded by gasping family members. Towering cakes line bakery windows, some so over the top that they incur laughter from passers-by. In the stretch’s many grooming shops rows of brooding men await their turn in the barber chair. These are the scenes which make Green Lanes a timeless adventure. Bulgarian and Albanian drinking dens with unpronounceable names are open late on the stretch and packed with groups of youths, engrossed in seemingly important conversation. I chuckle to myself passing Plovdiv, that name is just so.. well, funny! Then there’s Vllanzia and Korca which occasionally pull the curtains when guests for a post wedding knees up pile in. Synthesizer and clarinet music float out of the doorways and down the road, adding to the exciting atmosphere of the area.
A great place to forget your troubles in the Duke of Edinburgh pub behind Wood Green shopping centre. At the back of the pub you’ll find a huge terrace (named Ortakoy after one of Istanbul’s most beautiful waterfront areas) packed on weekend nights with shisha smoking fun seekers.
On Sundays family groups fill Harringay’s eateries on their weekly outing, and what better place for it; Green Lanes is a gastronomical experience you’re sure never to forget. When I used to live in West London, the long journey to Green Lanes helped build an appetite. Met by wafts of meaty charcoal smoke, I was more than ready to eat once I’d reached the main hub of the area. I almost always started at Hala. Hala has the best Gozleme in town, lovingly prepared by two friendly ladies sat in the restaurant window. Hala is unpretentious and homely. As well as Gozleme, Hala offers an array of dishes. Manti, Turkish style meat dumplings covered in garlicky yoghurt, is one of their many specialities, as is Pide (Turkish style pizza with various toppings), tasty grilled meat and stews. As with all Mediterranean hospitality, a warm welcome is on the cards here; Wash your meal down with a Turkish tea or two. Or if you want a more formal sit down dinner try Antepliler just down the road, whose red brick oven produces steaming Lahmacun by the dozen. Specialising in Gaziantep cuisine, Antepliler is extremely buzzy on weekend nights. They also have a nearby take away, soup / tripe eatery and tea / baklava cafe. Antepliler have recently opened a sister restaurant catering for a well – heeled Islington crowd although I fear it’s more expensive and less authentic.
Why not cleanse your palate with a mountain of watermelon after your meal in Gokyuzu, whose waiting staff are friendly and attentive. Admittedly Gokzuyu has become something of a second home recently. For £6 a huge plate of 4 varied types of Meze is enough to satisfy one as a main, or two as a shared starter. Aubergines in tomato sauce, strained yoghurt with dill, sour bulgur wheat salad and humus never cease to satisfy and please, and comes with plenty of bread and salad. If you love meat, Gokyuzu is your place – try the mixed grill; a tower of juicy grilled meat resting on nutty bulgur pilaf. Much like all their dishes the portions are incredibly generous. From the meze to the mountains of fresh bread stacked high on the domed brick oven, every thing you order here tastes great. The staff at Gokyuzu make this place memorable; despite the queues of waiting customers they’ll accommodate you with a smile. There is even a secret room at the back of the restaurant for over-spills.
Aside from the obvious restaurants on Green Lanes there are other experiences not to be missed. A recent discovery of mine is Nawroz. Situated at one end of the stretch nearer Turnpike Lane station, this ‘Middle Eastern’ restaurant offers home cooked Kurdish food. Its bread, fresh and bubbled from the tandoor oven is a meal in itself, and comes accompanied by a thick yellow lentil soup. This is offered on the house, even before orders have been taken. Nawroz has some of the best Mezze style dishes I have tasted – the cuisine is mostly recognisable if you’re a Middle Eastern food fanatic; Kurdish cuisine is like a cross between Turkish, Persian and Arabic food – the dishes mostly recognisable, that is if you are a fan of such cuisines. Try the Kubbeh – something like a cross breed of Arabic Kibbeh and Sicilian Arancini – minced meat encased in rice, then deep-fried. Of course the meal wouldn’t be complete without tea served by friendly waiting staff.
Cigkoftem (a franchise chain mostly in Turkey and Germany) is a small fast food joint which offers Cig Kofte, raw beef kneaded with bulgur wheat and strong spices thus curing it, alike to Lebanese Kibbeh Nayyeh . Served with lettuce and lemon wedges, they make for a spicy snack for adventurous taste buds. Mezzo cafe is a charming cafe with a shisha terrace where you can enjoy kahvalti – generous Turkish style breakfast of eggs, spiced beef sausage, cucumber, olives, tomatoes, bread and jam. Try the ‘menemen‘ here, a traditional breakfast dish of tomatos cooked with eggs and either cheese or meat – perfect mopped up with bread and washed down with Turkish tea.
The exteriors of the green grocers lining Green Lanes are stacked abundantly with many varieties of economically priced fruit and veg. Amongst the many bakeries of the area, Yasar Halim is always a must. Trays of fresh Baklava (try the green pistachio rolls), bread and cream cakes are constantly churned out by a huge kitchen at the back of the shop. Go around Bayram and you’ll need some patience as people push and shove to get served. Its supermarket next door offers everything from fresh produce to rare and exotic food stuffs like Mastika and Molokhia leaves, or ingredients which might terrify the faint hearted like whole skinless sheep heads and tripe. For dry food such as nuts & dried fruit or Helva & Turkish Delight (Lokum) head to HotNuts more or less opposite Harringay Green Lanes Overground station.
For everything under one roof head to Sama. It would be easy to walk right by the entrance, you must look for a blue sign outside an alley way. This Aladdin’s cave sells most home products you can think of. Dried and jarred goods, herbs, spices, pickles, cheese, grains, olives, oil, coffee, evil eye charms, charcoal, evil eyes, sparkly hankies for wedding dances, home and kitchen ware, carpets and just about anything you could ever need in your kitchen! Its well worth a trip here – you can easily pass the time wandering up and down the well stocked aisles even just to satisfy food curiosity.
Of course this wonderful area is not all about its ethnic minorities. A favorite place of mine is the Salisbury Pub on the corner of St Anne’s Road. This iconic building houses a hive of social activity. Not only is it packed on weekend nights with the young and not so young bohemian types of Harringay, with weekly activities (swing dancing, drumming workshops etc) it seems the Salisbury is central to the area’s community spirit.
I recently moved to Harringay from West London and although I was apprehensive I’m glad such a warm and colourful place is now my home. I feel part of a community and welcomed by those warm smiling faces I’ve known for some time. Used to Mediterranean honorable & protective ways (special thanks to Murat, my fiance’!) it made perfect sense when Dalston’s Turkish / Kurdish community actively protected their properties during in the London Riots. With a serious lack of police presence and protection the shop owners of Dalston took to the streets in a bid to drive away the troublemakers. I am pretty sure if the trouble had flared up to the same extent in the Lanes, the same would have happened. Although I am an avid supporter of Harringay, there is a visible lack of Police. I feel protected there never the less because there would always be someone to turn to in Murat’s absence; the same ones who bid good morning / evening / afternoon and whose doors seem to always be open.
If you’ve always wanted to discover Green Lanes, now’s your chance. The area’s annual Food Festival is a good opportunity to get acquainted to local business, and gives a chance for residents to come together and celebrate Green Lane’s colourful heritage. Check out Harringay Green Lanes Food Festival here. Go with an empty belly and dancing shoes: The first year I went I ended dancing to live Turkish music outside Yasar Halim bakery.
Check HarringayOnline for up to date events in the area.