Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ajani's Grill Restaurant and Jazz

Ajani's owner, chef, designer and main waiter is Patrick. Patrick's a brave man. A Nigerian who loves Miles Davis as much as Fela Kuti he opened a restaurant in a tough year (2010) and on a stretch of the Hornsey Road with more boarded up shops than thriving ones. Instead of going for restaurant bland he painted it red, put jazz legend posters up and a piano in the corner until it looked, as someone online said, like 'a jazz place - dark walls covered in photos and jazz paraphernalia - with a New Orleans or Left Bank feel'.

For the first few months it seemed like he'd been too brave. Ajani looked welcoming, intriguing, romantic; and was empty or nearly empty night after night. But Patrick can cook. I mean really cook. I must stop ordering the bruschetta and ribs every time because I know there are many other tasty things on the menu, but they're so good that I struggle.

He slashed his prices, so the place went from pretty good value to amazingly good value and started getting rave reviews on and a hat tip from the Islington Gazette.

And he kept on going, getting more and more live jazz acts in, hosting an exhibition, organising a wine tasting, making running a restaurant look like the most rewarding job in the world. It looks like he's doing okay nowadays and long may that last.

289 Hornsey Road


07533 658 641

0207 272 55 66

Open Monday to Friday: 5pm to 1am

Saturday: 12 noon to 1am

Sunday: bookings only.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Jonathan Ward's campaign

The Islington Tribune ran this story last year: 'A SCHOOL governor has launched a fight to save a “Cinderella” street in Islington where dozens of shops have closed or are being converted into private flats.

Holloway resident and father of two Jonathan Ward has launched “Love Hornsey Road, N4,” because he is fed up with the way the area has been allowed to fall into neglect over the past few years

Building engineer Mr Ward, 42, took the Tribune on a mile-long walking tour of Hornsey Road from Seven Sisters Road to Elthorne Park.

He pointed out serious signs of “decay and neglect”, with bags of rubbish allowed to litter the street and in some cases almost one in two shops and businesses closed.'

Apparently, there was going to be a conference on on the issue in September 2010. Did it happen? Do you remember it?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Location Location Location playlet

I daydream about being a playwright. It's like my 'being an architect' dream in that I know I'd be no good, but sometimes a setting or a snatch of dialogue is perfect and I forget that. Last week Channel 4 took a trip down unshiny Hornsey Road and this happened:

Setting: flat above a takeaway

Characters: Phil, Courtney Love's future sister in law, and Hipster Couple with £230k

Accidental Playlet: ''The Hornsey Road. I'm sure you're familiar with it''

Kirsty (voiceover): 'Not the prettiest street'.

Phil (voiceover): 'It's not, but it has potential. I just hope they can see it'.

Phil to Hipster couple: 'The Hornsey Road. I'm sure you're familiar with it'.

Hipster couple: 'Yeah'.

Phil: 'I see this as a flat with a plan. Get in here, tart it up, and you can sell it up in three year's time and make some money on the way through'.

Phil (voiceover) 'This sort of plan to get ahead of the market is only possible because of the high demand for these flats in North London. It's not necessarily going to work in most parts of the country'.

Hipster couple: 'We kind of wanted to get off a dirty main road'.

They bought in Turnpike Lane.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hadron Cycles

This place feels too smart for the road. It has Pinarello bikes that cost thousands of pounds (and the tax-free cycle to work scheme is capped at £800) and good looking staff with views on triathlons.

But when I went in with my tatty old commuter bike, they were polite, and didn't try to sell me anything expensive. I think I'd misjudged them. It's not that they look down on anyone who can't race and repair a bike. It's that they're convinced that everyone would be happier if they did race and mend bikes. It seems to work for them.

167 Hornsey Road Open: Monday - Friday: 0800 - 1900; Saturday: 1000 - 1900; Sunday: 1100 - 1900; Bank Holidays: 1100-1700. Telephone: 0208 617 1033. E-mail:

Saturday, 17 September 2011

W Plumb Butcher's Shop

W Plumb butcher's shop is only open two days a year, during the Open House weekend.

Open House's anonymous reviewer writes "Grade II listed, ornate former Edwardian butcher's shop c1900 with art nouveau wall tiling, geometric tiled floor, scrolled meat rails and mahogany cashier's booth with etched and brilliant cut glass. Very well preserved."

Preserved in aspic. The shop closed decades ago and exists behind frosted glass. The cows were painted on Hampstead Heath. When were there last cows on the Heath?

The cashier's booth is made of mahogany and looks like the inside of an expensive suitcase. Richard Travers, the owner, is American and has hopes to sell tea and cakes, when the economy picks up. He'd baked cookies for Open House visitors.

In the meantime, I think he likes the quiet. He has breakfast there and holds parties sometimes. People passing by thought of things to do: someone suggested a supper club, someone else a cake sale, someone else told a story of a place a bit like it in Leeds that had been restored to glory. He nodded, and sounded interested.

I wonder if whoever commissioned the interior felt they should have been other than a butcher, or if they thought their trade deserved its own temple, or if they dreamt of selling spare ribs in the Alhambra.

A nation of shopkeepers is a complicated thing.

Where: 493 Hornsey Road
Open: Once a year.


I just came across Jane Hobson's W Plumb set on Flickr. Her photographs are far, far better than mine, so go look at them.