Archive for September, 2012

Today I stopped by  The Rocking Chair Cafe, latest in a never-ending stream of coffeebars to appear on the bloated, Crouch End restaurant scene.

I love the ridiculous over population of these quirky little Indy cafes in the N8 ‘hood, I do. And it seems as though the upscale residents around here can support  a lot of them, but, you know, they’re not all gonna be winners.

From the outside, on the little strip along by Kiss the Sky and opposite Rock Around the Clock, The Rocking Chair Cafe looks just peachy. It’s got that whole, let’s-get-a-bunch-of-mismatched-furniture-from-wherever-we-can thing going on, and the menu makes a a big fucking deal about organic produce and an ethos that promotes environmental niceness and blah blah blah, you know the kind of thing. Nothing against that, of course, but always a bit suspect to labour it quite so much I think.

There was nothing about the place I liked.

The afore-mentioned furniture was uncomfortable, with the table legs just getting in the goddamn way of your feet. The coffee was just coffee, and I had a latte which they served in a tall glass – man, I hate that.

I ordered a plate of organic scrambled eggs on toast, always a good test of a kitchen, right? These failed on pretty much every level: under seasoned, overcooked and hard, served with a side salad (WTF!) and the toast was burnt ( and which, the burnt toast, they tried to hide under the scrambled egg)! I mean come on, my kid can make freakin’ toast!

And you know how the guy in the apron who runs Riley’s just exudes an air of trust in what he says, I just didn’t buy these guys’ organic claims.

And then… then… whilst I’m composing this very post, the waitress sweeps in and clears away my UNFINISHED coffee! Now most times, anybody tries that with me and they’re likely to lose a goddam finger at best. Irony was, I was so busy writing about how I didn’t really like the place, I missed her swipe my Joe.

Only good thing about the place was eavesdropping the group of new mums with tiny babies who were meeting at the next table. Man, I miss those cosy chats about sleepless nights, electric vs. manual breast pumps and poo.

I still asked the cafe owner to put up a postcard advertising House of Dreams, though!




When Riley’s ice-cream cafe opened in Crouch End central many people were either hostile, taking over the site of the much loved Prospero’s Book as it did, or just plain bemused: how can they sustain a business that sells something you’re only going to want to eat for at best, a couple of months of the year? Almost 2 years on and they’re still here.

Now I don’t much care for ice-cream, it’s a little too cold for my liking although I understand some people go nuts for it, and not just kids apparently. But then of course Riley’s does sell other things. They sell great coffee, with the toasty, biscuity taste my regular readers will know I dig:

and one my most recent visit I also took down a truly great little square of rich, squidgy chocolate brownie (visible just behind the macch in the pic. I suspect this was made by the cute waitress who served me, as when I paid she asked if I liked it, to which I replied “Yes, I  totally fucking did,” which was nothing less than the truth but may have come over as a little too effusive for her to feel comfortable continuing the conversation, so I can’t say for sure). Riley’s do a kind of half-hearted menu of soups and plates of cold meats/cheeses etc, which suggests to me that they don’t have a proper kitchen, but there are always some nice looking cakes and whatnot, and of course, the main event ice-cream, in a bunch of not-too-weird flavours and all made on the premisies, so they say. And I believe them.

And I’ll tell you why.

The other reason I really like Riley’s is because of the dude who runs the show. He is genial, clearly on a second career having probably made a shit-ton of cash in some far more serious line, banking or similar, and is very, very definitely from a good public school. He is friendly in a totally relaxed, not getting in your way kind of fashion, happy to talk but never going to bug you if you just want to do your thing, looks like he probably has more than a smattering of ancient Greek and… always wears a kick-ass apron. Got to love a dude in an apron. And when he says something is true, you just kind of have to believe him.

There’s free WiFi and groovy pictures on the walls and places with cushions or without depending on your mood and space, lots of space.

Shit, the place could even convince me to like ice-cream… eeughh!

So at last, after several months of major-league heel-dragging, proof copies up the ying yang and an entire change of printing process, my debut novel, House of Dreams, is now available to the masses in paperback form, on Amazon.

Buy me, you fuckers!

It is of course also available in the fantastic independent book stores, The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green and Muswell Hill Bookshop in, er, Muswell Hill.

And if you buy a copy of the paperback and let me know, I’ll give a FREE e-copy of it too!

BTW, I am writing this post from superb Crouch End Cafe, Rileys. Long overdue for a review, so watch this space.

I had breakfast at the Olive Tree Cafe in Crouch End at the weekend.

This was once the lovely Spanish restaurant Cafe Solo, owned by the same people that run N8’s fantastic tapas bar, La Bota. Before I had kids I used to meet my wife at La Bota when she’d get back from the late shift in the newsroom and we’d eat chicken livers and drink white rioja (okay I’d eat most of the livers…and drink most of the white now I come to think about it).

Anyhoo, Cafe Solo has for sometime now been a Mediterranean (?) cafe, with the kind of bizarre assortment of cuisines on the menu that would normally make you highly cautious, but you know what, it was pretty good. Kid 1 had a baked potato, which was huge and although hard to fuck up and not much of a test of a kitchen, seemed fine. Kid 2 had plain toast and packets of sugar (I know, but what are you gonna do?). I had a roast veg panini that was all kinds of melty and nutty and rich to the point I was sure that they’d sneaked some meat juices in their somehow. And then there was my wife’s breakfast… with olives. It’s a Turkish thing, and along with the olives was some haloumi and melon and salami and bread. It was as though someone had just  closed their eyes and stuck their hand in a big bag of groceries and pulled out whatever. But it was a tasty combo.

The coffee pretty much sucked balls, though.

Debut novel from North View author

Posted: September 8, 2012 in Writing

Check me out! Making the news down in the ‘hood.

Debut novel from North View author.

And in The Muswell Hill Bookshop too!

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Writing

Just a quick post to say I am now repped in not just one but TWO genuine bricks & mortar bookshops. As well as Wood Green’s Big Green Bookshop, you can now find House of Dreams in The Muswell Hill Bookshop, in, er Muswell Hill.


What? You’re still here? Go and buy a copy!

I visited local indy bookshop hero, Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green the other day and had a long conversation with the chatty Tim, the upshot of which was that they now stock the paperback of my début novel House of Dreams.

Here’s the little fucker!

He suggested the idea of attending one of their writers’ workshops (I would sooner rub pure capsaicin into my bell-end, no offence meant to writers’ groups, they’re just not for everyone) and even mooted the possibility of having some kind of book launch there, which I quite like the idea of although is a little daunting.

Anyone got any experience on that kind of thing they wanna share?

In the meantime, go to the Big Green Bookshop and ask for House of Dreams by Callum Jacobs, and if they’ve sold out, tell them to get more copies in!