I’ve dissed Harlesden in previous blogs, so I thought I would clarify just how I feel about the place in which I’ve lived for four years.
Harlesden is a part of north-west London where every man has the freedom to do exactly what he wants. This manifests itself in the form of dropping litter, leaving mattresses on the street, driving like a cretin, and flying helicopters over my roof at 2am.
There are a lot of nice people in Harlesden. The people that run Team Harlesden 2010 and those at www.harlesdenlife.net/ are trying hard to make it a better place in the face of frankly impossible odds. I should probably try and help out, but I’m behind in three or four TV series at the moment, so I can’t take anything more on.
Several people write blogs about Harlesden and its vibrant diversity. Much of what they say is true. There are the bright sparks, the Portuguese cafes and the Brazilian quarter, amongst the darkness of The Misty Moon and The Royal Oak, outside of which I once picked up an Irishman that had fallen nose first into the kerb.
In general, though, Harlesden is rubbish. Literally.
Food wise, the place is pretty bleak too. How mush fried chicken can one town eat!? Answer: Enough to support 37 separate establishments.
What Harlesden does have in its favour is an excellent selection of fishmongers and butchers, that far surpasses anywhere nearby. As the main supermarkets haven’t really made it here, the local businesses have survived, and this means a lot more than you’d think.
John Line has a queue of about 200 customers outside every Saturday morning, and his competitors don’t do badly either. There’s loads more choice than at supermarkets. In fact, the meat that I cannot recognise by name or appearance far outnumbers that I can recognise.
Old people love obscure flesh, or rather obscure organs, so I leave them to it and ask for legs, shoulders and rashers. I once bought lamb that was hanging from the ceiling, which Sainsbury’s definitely does not have.
This Sunday, we went to the High Street fismongers and bought three sea bass for a fiver. Here they are:
We roasted them with red onion, capers, olives, and cherry tomatoes, and served with sauteéd courgette and corn on the cob. It kind of looks like the sort of meal I remember that you get at a holiday resort in Spain – a messy plate overflowing with simple food, and absolutely no nod to presentation. It was delicious, though!