Friday, 3 June 2011

A North Londoner Ventures South To Find.....

By Alistair Martin

Below is an excerpt from the South-North London dictionary, in which various aspects of what Fulham and Putney residents love about their area are translated so that visiting North Londoners know what to expect:

Chic, swanky wine bars = pretentious hooray Henry hangouts full of self-aggrandising try-hards.

Restaurants that are simultaneously accessible yet exclusive = restaurants that serve accessible-quality food at exclusive prices.

Glorious guilty pleasure nightspots (gotta love The Fez!) = awful cheesy meat markets (Fez is the gateway to hell).

Raucous, carefree party venues = overcrowded Aussie binge-drinking dives

Great places to watch the rugby = pubs that don’t show the football

A real mix of cultures = there are both posh people AND Australians

A seamless blend of all the cultural brands you know and trust = a seamless procession of the same soulless chains that are steadily destroying the character of every other town centre in the country.

The fact is, while both North and South Londoners might agree that Fulham and Putney are the best areas with a SW postcode in which to go out, for many North Londoners that is tantamount to saying that Lashkar is the best part of Hellmand province in which to play chicken against the US drone attacks. Fortunately – and I say this with enormous gratitude as someone in a mixed-race relationship (I am from N16, my girlfriend is SW6) – last Friday’s opening party for Bloom in Fulham Palace village signalled the arrival of a venue that combines the best of both sides of the North-South divide, in a way that will delight patrons from all over London.

Even on a solely cosmetic level, the look is as clean and sleek as you’d expect from a venue on the Fulham Palace Road, but with an esoteric retro charm and bistro vibe that is more akin to the Shoreditch-to-Stoke Newington stretch of the A10. Though trendy, it was far from elitist – that local residents had been invited to the launch and were mingling with the owners alongside the usual gaggle of journalists, was an indication that Bloom is making a real effort to connect with its local area.

Developing such an interactive local base is something that just isn’t possible for the multinational chains that pepper so much of the area, while the emphasis of inclusivity over exclusivity is an approach actively eschewed by many local swank-spots with pretensions of grandeur.

Unusually for these launch events, I ended up staying at Bloom long after the free wine and cocktails and provision of delicious canapés dried up; the enchanting mix of earnestness, simplicity, stylishness and ingenuity proved to be as addictive as the soya and honey-marinated nuts on which I gorged incessantly between canapés and cocktails. Speaking to some of the Fulham Palace locals that night, it seems there has been a long-held desire for a local venue that takes the best aspects of the North London bistro and parcels it up in its own, unique South London package. Finally, that seed of desire appears to have flowered in Bloom.

Bloom, one of the best places in all London to eat, drink and relax = Bloom, one of the best places in all London to eat, drink and relax

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