Posts Tagged ‘house of dreams’

I’m reposting this short review of Crouch End’s lovely Hot Pepper Jelly café just because I happened to be there again the other day after a gap of far too long and you know what? It’s still great. What did I eat? The fantastic Hot Pepper Jelly sandwich of course (see below). Still unusual (I don’t know anywhere else that throws this oddball combination of awesomeness into a sandwich), still delicious.

As promised in my recent  Man vs Food post, today I returned to lovely Crouch End cafe, Hot Pepper Jelly on the Broadway, to take down The Inferno.

HPJ is famed for its awesome bacon, peanut butter and chilli-jam sandwiches, and on my last visit I noticed the addition of a new and hotter version, featuring a chill-jam made with scotch bonnets or habaneros, a chilli registering an impressive 350,000 Scoville units. This is for most people the hottest chilli you’re going to come across (although by no means the hottest around, about which more in a minute).

Here’s a pic of the little beauty:

which looks harmless and  pretty much like any of their other eats. It took a couple of bites for the chilli to kick in and it immediately had that unmistakable, fruity fire you get with habaneros. It’s not unpleasant (you know, if you like that kind of thing) and is certainly not just pure heat.  It was a delicious sandwich and I ate the whole thing with little problem. My mouth went a little numb, but in a good way.

To be honest I was a little disappointed it wasn’t hotter. But then I have recently, after a long search, managed to get my hands on some of the elusive naga or ghost chillies (in Tesco of all places!), reputed to be the hottest in the world (although some will tell you it’s the Trinidad Scorpion and yet others say the Hoxton Serenity) and coming in at a neuron-frying 1,000,000 Scovilles. I made my own ghost chilli sauce and of course couldn’t resit having a little bite of the raw fruit. Shitballs, it was hot! Within seconds my mouth was a sea of pain and within minutes my hands had pretty much seized up, I guess paralysed with whatever neuro-toxins I’d released into my nervous system. So maybe I’m getting a little used to this stuff. Either way it was still a truly excellent sandwich.

More local food challenges please – Crouch end cafes, take note.

In other news, House of Dreams is now on sale at the fantastic Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. And the charming waitress at HPJ took some of my House of Dreams postcards to display, and even said she’d put one up on the loo door – now that’s service!


I may have mentioned once or twice before that the life of a literary agent is not with out its perks. I get to spend a lot of time reading. The meetings I attend are usually held in upscale restaurants and groovy little cafes. People are willing to offer me all kinds of things¹ to gain access to the power they (mostly totally wrongly) believe I wield. But now and again, I have to pay. And it’s usually because of some dumbass client I’m representing who needs me to do something stupid. And to narrow it down to specifics, it’s usually my premier client, Callum Jacobs asking me to do something really stupid, borderline illegal or just plain hazardous to my health. But when a good client calls, a good agent’s only got one response.

Thus it was that I found myself on the night of the last full moon, dressed in a white satin robe, anointed in oil and chanting to the four quarters of Earth, Air, Water and Fire, deep in Queen’s Wood, N10.

But let me backtrack a little.

Callum had told me that as research for his next novel he needed to go and hang with some wiccans and had managed to track down a local group (coven?) who’d be meeting for a full moon ritual, as luck would have it, virtually in our own back yard. At these early stages I’d suggested, not unreasonably I think, that if he wanted to find out a little about the pagan faith he could just go and read a goddamn book, but apparently this was not what “real writers” do. It turns out that “real writers” are also massive pussies, as he insisted I go along too, in case, he said, they pulled some magic shit on him and he ended up converted or sacrificed or something similar. So he made the call and it was on.

We met the Grand Poobah and his fiendish minions in a local pub and it was immediately apparent that disparate group of oddballs though they undoubtedly were, they were all the sweetest, most charming bunch of oddballs you could hope to get naked in the forest with. After the usual slightly awkward chit-chat, and as the sun sank low behind the trees, we made our way deep into the heart of the ancient woodlands.

By the time we reached our destination it was getting pretty dark, and as too much artificial light was deemed unwelcome, (dampening the spiritual flow or something), there was fair amount of comical bumping into each other, cursing of tree-roots² and twanging branch-in-face moments. Waiting for us at the chosen hallowed spot was one more member of the group who I’m delighted to report, matched every stereotype I had ever had. Gandalf³ was tall, portly, with a thick grey beard⁴ and a huge wooden staff clutched purposefully in his hand. His voice was deep and sonorous and that it had a distinctive West coast US twang  barely detracted from the overall effect. To be honest, by this stage I was fully digging the whole party.

There was a fair bit of prep to be done, robing us all up, laying out the alter and sharing the ritual goblet of Gandalf’s tasty home made apple damson wine, (which some pagans seemed to have a little more of a thirst for than others and which at one point elicited from someone further along the fallen oak upon which we sat, a plaintive cry of “hey, dude, don’t bogart the chalice!”).

And then it was on.

By candlelight we gathered amidst the trees, we called to the spirits, we sang , we danced⁵ and we ate the blessed cakes and wines. Nobody got naked, nothing was rent in twain with a bejewelled athame and no diabolic forms were conjured from the earth. About which I was relieved and disappointed in roughly equal measure.

Can’t wait to see what he turns it into in the next novel. Working title, I’m told, Voodoo Economics.

And on that note, Callums’ first novel is currently free to download at Amazon.


¹ So far in my career I’ve been offered amongst other things, money, clothes, a year’s free coffee (there’s a lot of would-be writers serving up your daily cup of joe), a bicycle, a date (although not with the person who wanted the favour but an allegedly willing friend of theirs!), drugs, and eternal gratitude (yeah, that was really gonna work!).

² Hardly in the right spirit!

³ Obviously not his actual name, but if I call him this you will totally get the picture of what he looked like.

⁴… and his beard may well not have been grey, it was just way too dark to see,  but if I say it was I know I’m painting the right picture here.

⁵ Which amounted to, the singing and dancing, a slightly awkward conga line as it might be performed by old people who were reciting rather cheesy poetry as they wiggled along.

For a limited time, you can get FREE copies of both my good buddy Callum’s books, House of Dreams and The Geek Manifesto, by visiting Indie Book Bargains.The only catch that is you have to write a review.

Be nice.

The other day I mentioned that after donating a copy of my novel, House of Dreams, to Crouch End cafe Harris and Hoole, some fucker had stolen it.

Well it’s back on the shelves! Faith in human nature, restored – boo yah!

A couple of days ago I received the first abusive email via my website. This was not the first abusive email I have ever received of course, that would be insane. I have had all kinds of  bile and invective thrown at me over the years by a whole bunch of people for a whole bunch of reasons, who hasn’t? As a literary agent I guess that I get these more than most.

But this was different. This time it wasn’t on behalf of one of my clients, it was down to my own work,

This time it was specifically because of my novel, God Steals Gin.

I won’t reprint the whole email, but the gist was that my book was a pile of crap and I was a cunt for writing it. Actually that was pretty much it. Not a lot to go on.

At first I was a little hurt. But then after a few minutes I decided this was actually pretty cool. Someone had been incensed enough by my writing to take the time to contact me and tell me it sucked.  I don’t suppose the little fucktard had read the book or anything, but still, a reaction like that’s got to show I’m doing something right.

I’m guessing Franzen, Eggers, Self and co. get this kind of thing a lot.

For 48 hours only, and starting right now, Sunday 25 Nov 6pm, you can get a free e-book copy of my buddy Callum’s novel House of Dreams at Smashwords. Just go to the Smashwords site and enter coupon code EQ53D at the checkout. What you waiting for?

And watch this space. My own foray out from under the shroud of the lit agent and into the murky world of the novelist is looming on the horizon. God Steals Gin, a fast-paced, wholly ridiculous, 100% true and deeply offensive novel, will be out soon.

And of course I’d love to know what you think of it.

I posted my initial thoughts on Crouch End newbie, Harris and Hoole the other day, which were not unfavourable,  and having since returned several times feel it’s due for a more considered review.

First up, I still like the place and mostly this remains down to the décor, with the bare bricks and brushed steel, urban industrial thing it’s got going on and which I think they kind of went for at this place, but with much less success. The coffee, which for me works much better in a long coffee like a latte than in a macch is pretty good and they draw a lovely pattern with the foam, look:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the coffee, but in truth I’m no expert, you know like some people who get all autistic about different blends, roasts, barometric pressure of drip and whatnot. If it tastes good I’m fine, and the H and H coffee is good. I’ve come to realise since starting this blog, that the space, furniture and general feel of a place are just as important.

I’ve tried their panini, which looks like this:

and was good, fresh and nothing special but better than ‘bucks, and as you can see comes with a coffee cup full of crisps(!) My six year old son took one bite of the crisps and spat them out on the floor (yes, literally), but then I think he was expecting ready salted and he got salt and vinegar. The crisps were fine, he just doesn’t like to be surprised when it comes to food.

I think giving you one of those little drug-dealer circa 1994 pagers is a bit stupid and I’m guessing they’ll drop that pretty soon. I’ve also found out that they’re part-owned by Tesco, which I’m not really sure how I feel about.

But here’s the big issue.

As I mentioned in my last post, seeing that they have bookshelves, I donated a brand new copy of my novel, House of Dreams, for customers to flick through and then hopefully go and buy here, or maybe here. And then what did I find when I returned the following week?  It was gone! Nowhere to be seen. Now I’m guessing that someone stole it. Which has me all conflicted. A bit fucking cheeky, but I’m glad someone liked it enough to nab it. If anyone can solve the mystery and tell me who took it and get them to return it to H and H, I’ll give you your own free copy.