Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Lost: Christmas Spirit. Found: At A Street Market?

By Laura Collins.

Just a few days until Christmas and my festive cheer was severely lacking. Despite London’s increasingly early start to the seasonal festivities (I think I saw my first Christmas card back in October) I hadn’t been able to muster the merry tidings and joy that seem to ooze out of every corner of the city.
With limited shopping days left before the big day, I thought it was about time I pulled my finger out, shook off my Scrooge-like persona, and got into the festive spirit. I decided to head to a Christmas themed street party and market on Ritherdon Road, Balham. That would surely get me in the mood.....or so I thought.

Disappointingly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What promised to be the answer to all my Christmas problems sadly wasn’t. The Christmas “street festival and market” was held in an attempt to spread seasonal jollity and to showcase the local shops. I admit that the mulled wine, minced pies and festive gifts on offer did add a certain seasonal element but the mere handful of stalls made it more a fete than a festival/market. Had I done my research on Ritherdon Road, I would have found that it only offered a small number of shops, hence the low amount of stalls and the fact that it took just 10 minutes to get from one end to the other. In hindsight, research is definitely something I should have done when coming all the way from North London!

The items on sale varied from jewellery and second hand bric-a-brac to food and homeware. Had my family have appreciated pretty trinkets, tempting cakes and wooden nativity scenes, I probably would have indulged in some spending but sadly I fear these gifts would’ve sat at the back of the cupboard. Despite having no intention to buy, I still took pleasure in scanning the stalls and happily soaked up the community atmosphere. I also enjoyed indulging in some very welcome food tasting, trying everything from cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to chocolate, caramel and dates.

All these testers gave me an appetite so it was time to find something more substantial. Luckily, the street event was sponsored by neighbouring restaurant, Locale, a busy Italian that seemed to offer the ideal answer to my growling stomach. Once again, however, my solution wasn’t perfect.

Although warm and welcoming, Locale was packed to the rafters with exceedingly loud children – a tell tale sign of the crowd that the restaurant attracts. This buzzing atmosphere may suit young families but it wasn’t top choice for my guest and I, especially when we had to shout across the table to hear each other.

That said, the food and wine at Locale were top notch and did detract from the playground environment that surrounded us. The scallops wrapped in pancetta are a must for any seafood lover and the 12oz steak was also a winner. When I left I was full of good food but sadly not full of my desired festive cheer.

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